Saturday, September 12, 2020

US eyeing Greece as ‘alternative’ if Turkey closes Incirlik Airbase: senator

US naval base on Souda Bay
Although the US and Turkey have been allies since the latter joined the NATO alliance in 1952, tensions between the two nations have grown in recent years as the interests of Washington and Ankara become increasingly contradictory.

Whether in Syria, where Turkish forces raced past American outposts to attack US-allied Kurdish militias last October, or when Ankara bought Russian S-400 air defense systems over US objections and was removed from the F-35 program in response, fears have only increased that the fraught relationship could imperil the key Incirlik Air Base, which has served as a military logistical hub for NATO in the region for decades.

“We don’t know what’s gonna happen to Incirlik,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s subcommittee for Europe, told the Washington Examiner for a Friday story. “We hope for the best, but we have to plan for the worst.”

“We want to maintain our full presence and cooperation in Turkey,” Johnson continued. “I don’t think we want to make that strategic shift, but I think, from a defensive posture, I think we have to look at the reality of the situation that the path that Erdogan is on is not good.”

“We’re already looking at Greece as an alternative,” Johnson added.

 The US naval base on Souda Bay is the only deep-water port in the eastern Mediterranean capable of docking US aircraft carriers, so the base on Crete’s northern coast is already a very busy place.

Adjacent to the Souda Bay facility is Chania International Airport, which is also used as an air base by the Hellenic Air Force. However, given that Chania is already Greece’s sixth-busiest airport, taking on the increased workload of handling the US planes that would have once flown into Incirlik could be a daunting task...

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