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The Eastern Mediterranean: What’s next for NATO and the US?

The Eastern Mediterranean: What's next for NATO and the US?

 

While the Mediterranean has for a long time been the ‘NATO sea’, today the status quo has changed and given way to incipient chaos. Tensions have flared between two NATO members, Greece and Turkey, and the dispute has spread across the Eastern Mediterranean to the point that the region could potentially rekindle the fire of military conflicts. As such, the Turkish-Greek skirmishes seem to have opened Pandora’s box in a region where a bazaar of interests collide, a scenario which leads one to ask: What is next for NATO and the US in the region?

 

By Lorenzo Giuglietti

 

In September 2020, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced a vast rearming programme designed to serve as “a national shield”.[i] Not only is this related to NATO’s Article 3 obligations, “maintain and develop their [i.e., member states’] individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack”,[ii] but it also upholds the burden-sharing pledge sought by the United States. The odd thing, however, is that the programme aims to secure Athens from threats sparked by a NATO ally: Turkey. Tensions have flared between the two NATO members, and the dispute has spread across the Eastern Mediterranean to the point that the region could potentially rekindle the fire of military conflicts.

After a long period of relative calm, the revival of ancient antagonisms fomented by recent events has led to the emergence of critical rifts within the Atlantic community. The “unacceptable behaviour” of Turkey has to be stopped with a “clear and firm” response, asserted Emmanuel Macron.[iii] Indeed, the entire Mediterranean area remains a geopolitical flashpoint, and the skirmishes have not been evolving in a vacuum. The fallout from the Syrian civil war has been affecting US-Turkey relations, whereas the maritime boundaries issue has given rise to a stark competition between Greece and Turkey. In the meantime, Europeans are concerned about geopolitical, energy, and migration issues. Due to Turkey’s participation in the Libyan civil war and the correlated rivalries—the bitter Turkey-UAE confrontation as well as antagonism with France, Russia, and Egypt, and ambiguous relations with Italy—“Europe risks being sucked into a wider Middle East conflict”.[iv] In addition, the region appears as a thoroughfare for migration, a key artery for those populations fleeing theatres of war.

For Washington, the wider Mediterranean region is a vital geographical nexus and its stability has been the priority of the US since the Cold War period.[v] This comes along with Washington’s recent engagement in regional energy competition,[vi] despite the United States’ waning engagement in the area.[vii]

Moreover, beginning with Operation Active Endeavour and during Operation Allied Protector in Libya in 2011, NATO has left its footprint in the region, and since 2016, NATO has increased its attention on its Southern flank. However, while NATO and the EU have striven to incorporate the region into their sphere of influence, the region has never been fully stable. During the Warsaw Summit and then in Brussels, security in the MENA region, migration control, and fighting terrorism were listed among NATO’s top priorities. In this regard, as stated by Secretary General Stoltenberg, the Eastern Mediterranean’s relevance for the Alliance is two-fold: contain Russian expansionism and endeavour to preserve security and stability in the South.[viii] While the Mediterranean has for a long time been the ‘NATO sea’, today the status quo has changed and given way to incipient chaos.

As such, the Turkish-Greek skirmishes seem to have opened Pandora’s box in a region where a bazaar of interests collide, a scenario which leads one to ask: What is next for NATO and the US in the region?

This article embarks on, first, an analysis of the operational theatre, illustrating the current state of affairs in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea as well as the regional power games. Then, it addresses NATO’s presence, priorities, and strategies in the area while also focusing on NATO’s shortages and critical issues. Finally, the paper illustrates possible future scenarios in the Eastern Mediterranean and the roles of the US and NATO in the future.

 

The East Med: A catalyst for escalation

Tensions between Turkey and Greece reached their apex in August/September 2020 when their competing ambitions on gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean coupled with Turkish hydrocarbon explorations close to the Greek island of Kastellorizo raised the bar of the competition.[ix] A head-on collision seemed to be within the realm of possible conflicts,[x] and the military engagement of third countries—the UAE, France, Egypt—as well as the launch of parallel naval exercises out of Crete have led NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to calm things down.[xi] Even though talks within NATO faced stalemate, on 1 October Stoltenberg established a military deconfliction mechanism designed to facilitate de-escalation between Ankara and Athens.[xii]

The area remains an epicentre of great power competition marked by the footholds of Russia and Iran as well as the US strategy. In this puzzling regional scenario, the Eastern Mediterranean is a hostage of geopolitical narratives of the past and of a new power game. Nevertheless, frictions have stepped up as consequences of economic reasoning, too, particularly the energy breakthrough stemming from hydrocarbon explorations. Gas discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean have led to hopes about a historical turning point: the region’s volatility initially diminished,[xiii] but this optimism quickly faded into ancient regional antagonism. The ‘gas rush’ has triggered multiple national drilling surveys and led to the formation of blocs of countries: Europe, America, Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, and Jordan have refused to stand by and watch and thus have kicked off plans to delimitate their drilling zones through gunboat diplomacy. Among them, Cyprus is experiencing the most serious situation as Turkey did not recognise the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Nicosia—a vital zone also because it serves as a transit for the EastMed pipeline. Consequently, when foreign companies gained the authorisation to conduct explorations in the Cypriot EEZ, Turkey did not hesitate to obstruct those activities, as in 2018 with Italian oil company ENI.[xiv] The reiteration of Turkey’s actions has led to international condemnation of those illegal acts,[xv] and the hydrocarbon question has become thornier since the EU and the US have great interests in this business.[xvi] Turkey’s assertive stance has alarmed Washington and Brussels, the latter declaring the illegality of Turkish explorations and imposing restrictive measures on Turkey.[xvii] The EU has made clear how the Eastern Mediterranean and gas drilling are a priority of the Union as an integral part of its energy security and supply plan.[xviii] The situation further escalated in late 2019 when Turkey signed an agreement with the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) on the EEZ’s borders, threatening to violate Greece’s sovereignty.

The bright tones, however, cannot bury the harsh reality. Although Europeans have shown solidarity with Greece and Cyprus, reactions are mitigated by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s trump card: migration. The management of migration flows is still in the hands of Ankara, who has already weaponised this critical dossier to achieve political gains vis-à-vis Europe.[xix] The situation has been even tenser as Europe’s relations with Turkey worsen. Brussels has raised concerns over Turkey’s authoritarian swing, and European governments are wary of reliance on and partnership with Turkey.[xx] However, Europeans do not have the capacities or the unity to fill the gap and effectively balance Turkey.[xxi] Brussels will not adopt severe restrictive measures at the risk of alienating Ankara.

 

A bazaar of colliding interests

The United States

In this fragile and erratic situation, the US still holds a pivotal role. Despite Washington’s lack of engagement in the region[xxii] and the American pivot to the Indo-Pacific, [xxiii] the US continues to promote its stabilization strategy, and it aims to protect American interests in the Levant.[xxiv] In this regard, the maritime dimension is essential in order for the US to fight its enemies, such as Iran[xxv]; contain competitors, such as Russia and China; and boost relations with partners.[xxvi] This “new containment”[xxvii] strategy first led to the deployment of the USS Truman Carrier Strike Group, which has since returned to Norfolk, Virginia, in May 2020.[xxviii] Washington has also attempted to reinforce bilateral bonds with Greece[xxix] and Cyprus[xxx] through economic and security agreements as well as to keep Turkey within NATO and pull it away from the Russian sphere of influence.[xxxi] However, US relations with Turkey remain strained due to the dissimilar and contrasting strategies they respectively seek in Syria; the S-400/F-35s issue; the reciprocal mistrust emerging after the 2016 coup d’état; and now the energy dispute in the Eastern Mediterranean as well as the re-emerging conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia.[xxxii] Efforts toward cooperation have been made on the US part, but Washington’s potential sanctions on Turkey for the latter’s purchase of the Russian-made S-400 missile system cast a shadow over bilateral relations.[xxxiii] The US Congress fears serious consequences from imposing sanctions on Turkey as Erdogan has claimed that US sanctions would potentially lead to the ejection of American personnel from bases on Turkish territory.[xxxiv]

The energy sector remains of critical importance for America. The US has been strongly supporting the EastMed pipeline, as well as Europe’s LNG policies and firms operating in the region, in order to reduce Europeans’ dependency on Russian gas. After the so-called “shale gas revolution” and the possibility to enhance energy cooperation with more gas discoveries in the Mediterranean, the Obama administration created the ‘Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs’ to supervise energy diplomacy with a keen focus on the Eastern Mediterranean.[xxxv] The export of cheap LNG in the MENA region as well as the construction of energy infrastructures, such as in Egypt and Israel, are US key priorities.[xxxvi] American LNG also competes with locally produced (Israel, Egypt, Cyprus) and transiting hydrocarbons (Russia).[xxxvii] Therefore, the US has partially acted as a bystander and has orchestrated few regional energy cooperation initiatives. As such, the US did not take part in the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum and, despite the critical role of US diplomatic support, most of the gas integration projects are financed by the European Investment Bank (e.g., LNG facilities, Greece-Bulgaria Interconnector, TAP). In addition, Washington has not taken a definitive stance in the Turkey-Cyprus dispute, thereby taking a step back from its traditional role as mediator. Lastly, there is a lack of a long-term strategy in the region, as the US has preferred to narrow its focus to specific projects rather than broader engagement.[xxxviii]

Russia

In this intricated context, Russian expansionism represents an important factor in the regional equilibrium. The rising role of Russia in the Mediterranean basin and its stance towards Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey has drawn the attention of the international community. The strong historical ties Russia has with local actors date back to the 19th century. Moscow’s main goal has always been to have access to the Mediterranean Sea. Side-lined from the area after the collapse of the Communist system, the revamping of geopolitical competition in the MENA region has encouraged Russia to re-conquer its place in the sun.[xxxix] Before 2015, Russia’s presence in the Eastern Mediterranean was thin, which since has changed.[xl] Its intervention in Syria constitutes the emblem of its desire to extend its influence in the region, establish A2/AD capabilities in Syria, and shape the balance of power—the support that Russia has provided to the Bashar al-Assad has reversed the fortunes of the conflict. However, Russia’s involvement is motivated by its aspirations to expand its capabilities at sea, too. The Russian installations in Tartus naval base in Syria have been constantly bolstered, finally becoming a Russian naval hotspot in the Mediterranean.[xli] In 2018, vessels from the Northern, Baltic, and Black Sea fleets joined the forces in Tartus to take part in naval exercises.[xlii] Nonetheless, those vessels have not reversed course to their home bases, raising doubts about Russian regional ambitions via maintaining a consistent naval presence in the Mediterranean. Moreover, Russians have sought to consolidate their presence through accessing Cypriot ports and jeopardizing the West’s consolidated position in the area.[xliii]

Turkey

Since 2016, Turkey has become even more assertive in pursuing its Grand Strategy in its neighbouring regions. After a period marked by the lack of direct military involvement, Ankara swiftly ceased to be a bystander, and the instability in its neighbourhood, coupled with the failed coup d’état in 2016, persuaded Turkey to actively enter into the regional power game: first, to erase any possibility of seeing the rise of a Kurdish statelet on its borders[xliv]; second, to gain ground at the expense of the Syrian regime. In this context, Turkey has encountered much friction with the US, in whose strategy the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara considers as one and the same with the US-listed terrorist organization the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), holds a crucial role in countering the Islamic State (IS) and the Assad regime.[xlv] Conversely, Turkey finds some room for manoeuvre with the Kremlin, at least to a certain extent, in Syria, thus facilitating tactical and short-term cooperation on the ground. In this regard, Ankara has been playing a risky game. Turkey has been floating between two worlds: on one hand, remaining in the Atlantic security architecture, on the other, flirting with Russia. With Turkey’s adventures in the Eastern Mediterranean, it is clear that the Turkish Grand Strategy cannot be seen solely confined to land. The Turkish Naval Forces has fostered its own plans to expand into the Mediterranean Sea, known as the Mavi Vatan (Blue Homeland) policy.

Turkish naval engagement relies on economic rather than geopolitical reasoning. First, Turkey’s bellicose attitude is driven by its willingness to claim its continental shelves as its territorial boundaries. Following the Cypriot war in 1974 and the splitting of the island into two state entities, the Republic of Cyprus and Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Turkey does not recognize the former, and it has promptly derailed any NATO attempt to integrate Nicosia into the transatlantic architecture.[xlvi] Presently, the Cypriot conundrum concerns Turkey’s non-recognition of Nicosia’s sovereignty over the gas discoveries as well as the Ankara’s refusal to recognize Nicosia’s EEZ.[xlvii] Accordingly, Ankara, which is not part of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), has defined its own territorial waters differently from the boundaries set by the convention, setting out a deal with Tripoli. Second, Turkey feels left out from regional energy cooperation plans. Indeed, in response to the Cypriot stalemate, Ankara was not invited to the East Med Gas Summit in January 2020, practically isolating Ankara. Third, the recent gas discoveries represent a great opportunity for Turkey to secure and diversify its energy supplies. Ankara is still dependent on both the Caucasian energy routes and Russian gas. The recent escalation between Armenia and Azerbaijan has proved the fragility of these routes. Apart from launching the trans-Caucasian TANAP project and its renovated engagement in the Black Sea,[xlviii] Turkey aims to assure access to gas fields by launching naval drilling campaigns in the Eastern Mediterranean. In this sense, Turkey has launched its ships at sea to reaffirm its sovereignty, defend its ambitions, and seize the opportunity to reclaim contested gas fields.

Greece

Greece finds itself in the eye of the storm. Historically, Athens has been able to build good relations with both Western European countries, the US, and Russia.[xlix] Over the span of the last two decades, Greece has gained increased importance because of its crucial position in transiting gas coming from Russia and Turkey as well as for the EastMed pipeline consortium. However, the gas rush and Turkish ambitions to expand its territorial waters has led Greece to defend its sovereign EEZ against Turkey. Energy explorations have been complicating relations between Greece’s neighbours. Ankara has repeatedly trespassed into Greek waters and launched a drilling campaign in territorial waters claimed by Greece and Cyprus.[l] Europeans have been supporting Greece in condemning Turkey’s unilateral activities,[li] and the EU has discussed imposing sanctions against Turkey.[lii] Meanwhile, the US has increased its military support to Greece.[liii] Yet, Western countries have not fully coordinated their strategies with each other, and the conflict remains unresolved. 

 

NATO in the Mediterranean basin

The spillover effects of the Syrian civil war in the region have led to the explosive situation in the Mediterranean Sea. The influence exerted by global actors has internationalised the Eastern Mediterranean confrontation—a chessboard wherein actors steer their power game strategy. Along with this, recent hydrocarbon discoveries have been adding fuel to the fire insofar as the future economic prospects for Europeans, littoral states, and the US are concerned. The area appears as a tinderbox where regional and global concerns are intertwined.

A renovated strategy in the South

In this context, the Alliance plays a primary role. It is clear that the Alliance has to tackle the issues in the Eastern Mediterranean within a precarious context. Nonetheless, NATO is not new to operating in this area. Since 1994, the Alliance has strengthened its bonds with regional actors across the Mediterranean Sea, encouraging the development of partnerships to stabilize the area.[liv] These initiatives have been encouraged through the expansion of NATO’s strategic objectives, which have progressively encompassed an array of security challenges. The 2010 Strategic Concept stressed the Alliance’s three main pillars: collective defence, crisis management, and cooperative security.[lv] The instability spreading across the MENA region has alarmed NATO’s Southern allies, who have stressed the need for safeguarding their security. Embracing an all-of-the-above approach, the idea of “projecting stability” has taken hold in order to stabilize the Alliance’s periphery,[lvi] since “when our neighbours are more stable, we are more secure”.[lvii]

The Warsaw summit upheld the crucial posture of NATO’s Southern flank in view of countering terrorism, fighting IS, and facing migration flows.[lviii] As such, since 2016 NATO has assisted in the following operations: the deployment of the Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2)[lix] in the Aegean Sea directed to enhance the efficiency of Greek, Turkish, and Frontex’s operations and conduct reconnaissance, monitoring, and surveillance activities; the launch of Operation Sea Guardian to counter terrorism and smuggling activities on the other shore of the Mediterranean Sea; tailored NATO items to build counterterrorism capabilities; and the creation of Hub for the South in the Joint Force Command Naples.[lx] During the Brussels summit in 2018, these elements became pivotal for NATO’s actions in the south, when NATO endorsed a Package on the South in order to “strengthen NATO deterrence and defence against threats emanating from the south; contribute to international crisis management efforts in the region; help our regional partners build resilience against security threats, including in the fight against terrorism”.[lxi] The great advantages that NATO disposes of are, first, its established experience and capabilities; second, the fact that it is a bridge between Europeans and important partners, such as Turkey; third, it serves as a coordination platform and crisis-management forum. Moreover, as the presence of Russia potentially may lead to “transpose some of the re-emerging East–West confrontation into the MENA region”,[lxii] NATO’s presence in the Mediterranean basin has acquired greater significance for Allies.

 

NATO’s shortcomings

Looking south, NATO has encountered several challenges. First, NATO has never fully articulated the “projecting stability” approach, which has remained vague.[lxiii] The Alliance has tailored several partnership programmes directed at strengthening relations with partners to incorporate Mediterranean states—e.g., the Partnership for Peace, Mediterranean Dialogue, Istanbul Cooperation Initiative—but still, countries along NATO’s Southern flank have proved to be less inclined to adapt to NATO’s position. This is coupled with the absence of joint NATO-EU engagements to fight the root causes of instability, which remain outside of the Alliance’s competences.[lxiv]

Furthermore, the framework within which the Alliance has been operating is more complex than ever before, and the appearance of Russia in the Eastern Mediterranean requires new approaches.[lxv] The Russia factor may move NATO’s strategy in the region from “projecting stability” to collective defence. The deployment of anti-aircraft defence systems in Syria and the Russian naval presence in Tartus reduce the room for manoeuvre of NATO’s partners in the Middle East. The picture becomes even more serious because of Russian ties in Libya.

Lastly, there are endogenous factors that give the Alliance a headache, as discussed above. The Turkish question is paramount, and friction between Ankara, Athens, other European countries, and Washington should not be underestimated. This situation jeopardizes the NATO SNMG2 mission in the Mediterranean, possible future coordination to cope with Russia, and the Alliance’s cohesion in face of common threats. Even more, the explosive situation in Libya hinders Operation Sea Guardian’s effectiveness and NATO’s ability to safeguard members’ security.

 

What is next for NATO and the US?

In this puzzling context, NATO has emerged as an institutional hub able to involve the US as well as initiate a strategic-dialogue between Western countries and Turkey.

Although NATO’s involvement in those initiatives is evidently more in the interest of its European member states rather than the US, this does not mean that America neglects the Turkish issue. Despite the retreat of the US from the MENA region, Ankara remains a partner for the US, and Americans cannot afford to lose Turkey.[lxvi] However, the US remains vague about its engagement and, it is unlikely that Washington will take the lead over any de-escalation initiative. The 2020 US presidential election candidates, moreover, seem to have slightly different approaches towards the current conflict. While Trump’s administration has been showing a softer approach vis-á-vis Ankara,[lxvii] conversely, the rival Joe Biden has been more critical of Turkey’s stances, also condemning President Erdogan for undertaking provocative actions in the East Med.[lxviii] The fragile balance in the region has been recently marked by the persistency of the Ankara-Moscow axis[lxix]; nevertheless, Turkey hangs in the balance. Ankara and Moscow remain historical competitors and “distancing itself from the Euro-Atlantic alliance would also leave Turkey vulnerable to Russian designs and meddling”.[lxx] Accordingly, it is unlikely that Turkey would risk opting for a geopolitical realignment with Russia and Iran—not least due to the chaotic situation raised in Libya—yet fully re-anchoring Turkey to the West remains arduous, and Europeans hold the hot potato. While Europe is torn due to differing stances towards Turkey-related dossiers, Germany has been playing a mediator role between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, filling the role the US used to play in the past.[lxxi] Accordingly, Europeans should maintain a dialogue with Ankara backed by a concrete agenda. In other words, Europe should seize the opportunity to come out of its shell and start developing a set of policy options to face the problems in its own backyard.

In this sense, NATO plays a crucial role in preventing confrontation. As it does for the US, Turkey remains a crucial actor for the Alliance, able to stabilize the situation or act as a spoiler: “for NATO, Turkey is a window to Eurasia, while for the EU it is an important trade and energy hub”.[lxxii] NATO has already proved to be the most suitable forum to develop pre-emptive mechanisms and to avoid the spectre of a confrontation that can potentially spiral into open war. The success of the military deconfliction mechanisms should pave the path to restore cooperation within the Alliance, and joint naval exercises may also help the normalization of Greek-Turkish relations.[lxxiii] NATO’s maritime presence could be a valuable resource, and the Alliance’s presence at sea could be a starting point for NATO to expand its role in the Eastern Mediterranean. Operation Sea Guardian has contributed to achieving tangible results: to secure the area, coordinate allies, develop a modus operandi with the EU, and establish partnerships with third countries. However, it shall not become an end per se, since NATO has to develop a new strategy to cope with the appearance of Russia and the spread of instability in the region. NATO member states, to a greater or lesser extent, share interests in the area both to counter Russia and to project stability—e.g., Eastern and Southern allies, respectively. The Alliance should, therefore, renovate its strategy and act as a facilitator to escape from the current impasse, re-establish internal unity through dialogue, and restore its role in the region.

About the Author

Lorenzo Giuglietti is currently working at KPMG EU Office in Brussels. He recently graduated from the College of Europe's EU International Relations and Diplomacy Studies programme, writing his dissertation on "The European Union in the Southern Neighbourhood: Institutionalized cooperation with the UN and NATO" under the supervision of Professor Simon J. Smith. Prior to this, he worked at FINABEL-European Army Interoperability Centre as a research assistant, covering EU Security and Defence, NATO operations, EU-NATO cooperation, European standardization processes, and defence industry issues. Lorenzo has also worked as a policy analyst for a member of the Italian Parliament and at the Permanent Representation of Italy to the EU.

 

Notes


[i] “Greece-Turkey tensions: Greece announces military boost”, BBC News, September 12, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-54132044.

[ii] NATO, “The North Atlantic Treaty”, April 4, 1949, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/official_texts_17120.htm.

[iii] “Macron: Europe must have a 'more united and clear voice' with Turkey”, Euronews, September 10, 2020, https://www.euronews.com/2020/09/10/macron-europe-must-have-a-more-united-and-clear-voice-with-turkey.

[iv] Asli Aydıntaşbaş, “Best to sit and talk: How to solve the conflict in the eastern Mediterranean”, Friends of Europe, September 24, 2020, https://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_best_to_sit_and_talk_how_to_solve_the_conflict_in_the_eastern_me.

[v] Jon Alterman, Heather Conley, Haim Malka, Donatienne Ruy, “Restoring the Eastern Mediterranean as US Strategic Anchor”, CSIS report, New York & London, Rowman and Littlefield, May 2018, p.4.

[vi] Baconi, Tareq, Pipelines and Pipedreams: How the EU Can Support a Regional Gas Hub in the Eastern Mediterranean”, ECFR Policy Brief 2017, London, European Council on Foreign Relations, 2017.

[vii] Jon Alterman, Heather Conley, Haim Malka, Donatienne Ruy, “Restoring the Eastern Mediterranean as US Strategic Anchor”, op. cit., p.61

[viii] SG Jens Stoltenberg, “Keynote speech”, the Global Security 2020 (GLOBSEC) Bratislava Forum, October 7, 2020, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/opinions_178605.htm?selectedLocale=en; Deputy SG Mircea Geoană, “Keynote speech”, the Atlantic Forum’s conference ''Transatlanticism 2020, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/opinions_178550.htm?selectedLocale=en.

[ix] “Turkey-Greece tensions escalate over Turkish Med drilling plans”, BBC News, August 25, 2020. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-53497741.

[x] Jonathan Marcus, “The Eastern Mediterranean tinderbox: Why Greek-Turkish rivalries have expanded”, BBC News, August 25, 2020https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-53906360.

[xi] “NATO Secretary General discusses situation in the eastern Mediterranean with President Erdogan”, NATO, August 28, 2020, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/news_177661.htm.

[xii] “Military de-confliction mechanism between Greece and Turkey established at NATO”, NATO, October 1, 2020, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/news_178523.htm.

[xiii] Valeria Talbot, “Turkey and the West in the Eastern Mediterranean”, German Marshall Fund, Policy Paper no. 6, June 2020, p. 15.

[xiv] Michele Kambas, “Standoff in high seas as Cyprus says Turkey blocks gas drill ship”, Reuters, February 11, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-cyprus-natgas-turkey-ship-idUSKBN1FV0X5.

[xv] “Total, Eni stake new claim in Cyprus gas and oil search”, Euractiv, September 19, 2019, https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy/news/total-eni-stake-new-claim-in-cyprus-gas-and-oil-search/.

[xvi] W. Mallinson, P. Kanevskiy & A. Petasis, “Then Is Now, but the Colours are New: Greece, Cyprus and the Evolving Power Game between the West, Russia and Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean”, in Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies, vol. 22, 2020, p. 324.

[xvii] Council of the EU, “Turkish drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean: Council adopts conclusions”, July 15, 2019.

[xviii] Theodorus Tsakiris, Sinan Ulgen, & Ahmet K. Han, “Gas Developments in the Eastern Mediterranean: trigger or Obstacle for EU-Turkey Cooperation?, FEUTURE, no. 22, May 2018, https://feuture.uni-koeln.de/sites/feuture/user_upload/Online_Paper_No._22_D5.6_final_upload1.pdf.

[xix] Kati Piri, “Blame Europe, not just Turkey, for migration deal collapse: Chaos on Turkish-Greek border is also the result of Brussels’ failure to deliver on its side of 2016 deal”, Politico, March 5, 2020, https://www.politico.eu/article/blame-europe-not-just-turkey-for-migration-deal-collapse/.

[xx] Valeria Talbot, “Turkey and the West in the Eastern Mediterranean”, op.cit.

[xxi] Jean-Paul Chagnollaud, “La Méditerranée Orientale, Condensé des Rivalités Internationales”, Revue Défense Nationale, vol.7 no 822(2019), p. 63.

[xxii] Mark Landler and Helene Cooper, “In Latest Shift, Trump Agrees to Leave 400 Troops in Syria”, The New York Times, February 22, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/22/world/middleeast/trump-troops-syria-.html.

[xxiii] Jean-Paul Chagnollaud, “La Méditerranée Orientale, Condensé des Rivalités Internationales”, op. cit, p. 59.

[xxiv] Vincent L. Morelli, “Tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean Focus on the Politics of Energy”, CRS Report, March 1, 2018, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/IN10864.pdf.

[xxv] Who attempts to reach the Mediterranean via Hezbollah in Lebanon and Damascus, Jean-Paul Chagnollaud, “La Méditerranée Orientale, Condensé des Rivalités Internationales”, op.cit., p. 58.

[xxvi] Jon Alterman, Heather Conley, Haim Malka, Donatienne Ruy, “Restoring the Eastern Mediterranean as US Strategic Anchor”, op. cit.

[xxvii] Michael Mandelbaum, “The New Containment. Handling Russia, China and Iran”, Foreign Affairs, March/April 2019, p. 123-131.

[xxviii] “USS Harry S. Truman Operates in U.S. Sixth Fleet”, U.S. 6th Fleet Public Affairs, December 1, 2019, https://www.c6f.navy.mil/Press-Room/News/News-Display/Article/2029160/uss-harry-s-truman-operates-in-us-sixth-fleet/

[xxix] Ensign Drake Davis, “USS Ross departs Rhodes, Greece”, USS Ross (DDG-71), April 5, 2019, https://www.c6f.navy.mil/Press-Room/News/News-Display/Article/1806365/uss-ross-departs-rhodes-greece/.

[xxx] The 1987 arms embargo against Cyprus has definitely lifted, US Congress, “S.1102 - Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act of 2019”, June 25, 2019, https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/1102/text.

[xxxi] W. Mallinson, P. Kanevskiy & A. Petasis, “Then Is Now, but the Colours are New: Greece, Cyprus and the Evolving Power Game between the West, Russia and Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean”, op.cit., p. 326.

[xxxii] Jakob Lindgaard and Moritz Pieper, “Four cases that have raised the question of Turkey’s NATO future”, in Cecilie Stokholm Banke, Turkey’s NATO future, Danish Institute for International Studies, 2020.

[xxxiii] Amanda Sloat, “How to save the US-Turkey relations: for the sake of the Alliance Erdogan must fold”, Foreign Affairs, July 30, 2018.

[xxxiv] Sebastian Galy, cited in Jack Ewing, “Tariffs Won’t Stop Turkey’s Invasion of Syria, Analysts Warn,” New YorkTimes, October 15, 2019.

[xxxv] Baconi, Tareq, Pipelines and Pipedreams: How the EU Can Support a Regional Gas Hub in the Eastern Mediterranean”, op. cit.

[xxxvi] “New Global Gas Market”, in 2016 Columbia Global Energy Summit Conference Report, Columbia Center on Global Energy Policy, available at http://energypolicy. columbia.edu/sites/default/files/energy/2016_CGE_Summit.pdf, p. 6.

[xxxvii] Baconi, Tareq, Pipelines and Pipedreams: How the EU Can Support a Regional Gas Hub in the Eastern Mediterranean”, op. cit.

[xxxviii] Nikis Tsafos, “The United States in the East Med: A Case Study in Energy Diplomacy”, CSIS, November 4 2019, https://www.csis.org/analysis/united-states-east-med-case-study-energy-diplomacy.

[xxxix] Ibidem, pp. 307-311.

[xl] Jean-Paul Chagnollaud, “La Méditerranée Orientale, Condensé des Rivalités Internationales”, op. cit., p. 61.

[xli] Ibid, p. 60.

[xlii] “Russia to hold major naval exercise in Mediterranean Sea”, New York Post, August 30, 2018, https://nypost.com/2018/08/30/russia-to-hold-major-naval-exercise-in-mediterranean-sea/.

[xliii] “Russia, Cyprus sign military deal on use of Mediterranean ports”, Reuters, February 26, 2015, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-cyprus-military-idUSKBN0LU1EW20150226.

[xliv] See “Who Are Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) Rebels?” BBC News, November 4, 2016, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-20971100; “The YPG-PKK Connection,” Atlantic Council, January 26, 2016, https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/menasource/the-ypg-pkk-connection/.

[xlv] Jean-Paul Chagnollaud, “La Méditerranée Orientale, Condensé des Rivalités Internationales”, op. cit., p. 58.

[xlvi] Damon Wilson, “NATO membership for Cyprus. Yes, Cyprus”, Atlantic Council, April 1, 2019, https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/new-atlanticist/nato-membership-for-cyprus/.

[xlvii] Baconi, Tareq, Pipelines and Pipedreams: How the EU Can Support a Regional Gas Hub in the Eastern Mediterranean”, op. cit.

[xlviii] Esmira Jafarova, “Azerbaijani gas in Turkish market, perspectives for partnership”, Euractive, August 25, 2020, https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy/opinion/azerbaijani-gas-in-turkish-market-perspectives-for-partnership/

[xlix] W. Mallinson, P. Kanevskiy & A. Petasis, “Then Is Now, but the Colours are New: Greece, Cyprus and the Evolving Power Game between the West, Russia and Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean”, op. cit., p. 318.

[l] “Turkey-Greece tensions escalate over Turkish Med drilling plans”, BBC News, August 25, 2020.

[li] “France hosts Med leaders for summit on Turkey tensions”, Euractive, September 10, 2020, https://www.euractiv.com/section/global-europe/news/france-hosts-med-leaders-for-summit-on-turkey-tensions/.

[lii] “Europe’s south tells Turkey: resume talks this month or risk sanctions”, Euractive, September 11, 2020, https://www.euractiv.com/section/global-europe/news/europes-south-tells-turkey-resume-talks-this-month-or-risk-sanctions/

[liii] W. Mallinson, P. Kanevskiy & A. Petasis, “Then Is Now, but the Colours are New: Greece, Cyprus and the Evolving Power Game between the West, Russia and Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean”, op. cit., p. 326.

[liv] Antonio Marquina, “NATO’S Southern Flank and the threat of disruption”, Journal of Transatlantic Studies, no. 17, 2019.

[lv] Jeffrey A. Larsen and Kevin Koehler, “Projecting Stability to the South: NATO’s “New” Mission?”, in Eugenio Cusumano & Stefan Hofmaier, Projecting Resilience Across the Mediterranean, Palgrave Macmillan, 2020, pp. 37-38.

[lvi] John R. Deni, “Staying alive by overeating? The enduring NATO alliance at 70”, Journal of Transatlantic Studies, issue 17, 2019, 157–173

[lvii] SG Jens Stoltenberg, “Projecting Stability Beyond Our Borders”, Speech at the Graduate Institute in Geneva, March 2, 2017, https://www.nato.int/cps/ic/natohq/opinions_141898.htm.

[lviii] Ian Lesser, “The NATO Warsaw Summit: Reflections on Unfinished Business”, The International Spectator, vol 51 no. 4, 2016.

[lix] The NATO International Naval Group is the standing maritime immediate reaction force currently patrolling the Aegean sea, NATO, “Standing NATO Maritime Group Two Conducts Drills In The Aegean Sea”, https://mc.nato.int/media-centre/news/2016/standing-nato-maritime-group-two-conducts-drills-in-the-aegean-sea.

[lx] Antonio Marquina, “NATO’S Southern Flank and the threat of disruption”, op. cit., p. 230.

[lxi] NATO, “Brussels Summit Declaration”, July 11-12 2018, para 57, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/official_texts_156624.htm?selectedLocale=uk.

[lxii] Jeffrey A. Larsen and Kevin Koehler, “Projecting Stability to the South: NATO’s “New” Mission?”, op. cit., p. 47.

[lxiii] Ibid, pp. 40, 42.

[lxiv] Tommy Steiner, “NATO and its Middle East and Mediterranean Partners: Taking NATO’s Role in its Southern Flank to a New Strategic Level”, German Marshall Fund, 2017.

[lxv] Antonio Marquina, “NATO’S Southern Flank and the threat of disruption”, op. cit., pp. 231, 232, 235.

[lxvi] Jon Alterman, Heather Conley, Haim Malka, Donatienne Ruy, “Restoring the Eastern Mediterranean as US Strategic Anchor”, op. cit.

[lxvii] Humeyra Pamuk, “Analysis: Biden presidency for Turkey would mean tougher U.S. stance but chance to repair ties”, Reuters, October 29, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-usa-election-turkey-analysis/analysis-biden-presidency-for-turkey-would-mean-tougher-u-s-stance-but-chance-to-repair-ties-idUKKBN27E1J9.

[lxviii] “Biden blames Turkey for 'provocative actions' in east Med”, Daily News, October 7, 2020, https://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/biden-blames-turkey-for-provocative-actions-in-east-med-158909.

[lxix] Jeremy Bowen “Syria war: Russia and Turkey agree Idlib ceasefire”, BBC News, March 5 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-51747592.

[lxx] Jon Alterman, Heather Conley, Haim Malka, Donatienne Ruy, “Restoring the Eastern Mediterranean as US Strategic Anchor”, op. cit. p. 51.

[lxxi] Asli Aydıntaşbaş, “Best to sit and talk: How to solve the conflict in the eastern Mediterranean”, op. cit.

[lxxii] W. Mallinson, P. Kanevskiy & A. Petasis, “Then Is Now, but the Colours are New: Greece, Cyprus and the Evolving Power Game between the West, Russia and Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean”, op. cit., p. 326.

[lxxiii] The SNMG2 would offer a suitable chance to involve Turkish and Greek forces in the multiple exercise cycle, https://defpost.com/nato-snmcg2-maritime-group-exercises-with-turkish-greek-navies-in-aegean-sea/.

Image Credit: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-53497741

Sunday, 1 November, 2020 - 17:15