US Senator Robert Menendez reiterated his position that he would not approve the sale of F-16s to Turkey, explaining that “what we have seen is a Turkey that threatens another NATO member country, the Hellenic Republic and threatens without justification, without cause.”
“So in my mind it would be problematic to sell military hardware when it takes actions like this and when it clearly manifests again and again some of its intentions,” added Mr. Menendez speaking to MEGA.
According to him the sale of the F-16 can be released “if and only if the Turkey abandon its aggressive stance against both the Hellenic Republic and Cyprus, as well as other actions in the Eastern Mediterranean that are contrary to our national interests and national security.”
The American Senator on the occasion of his attitude State Department who so calls her Hellas as well as her Turkey to tone down or find a peaceful way to resolve their differences, states that “this is not acceptable when it is one and only one side that is attacking”.
In his estimation Robert Menendez Erdogan’s rhetoric of hatred and threats towards Greece is due to the internal problems it is facing and he believes that the US should stand by Greece if it is attacked – which he does not think is likely – as “efforts are being made to ensure that this moment it will never come because it’s not in anyone’s interest to come and I don’t think Turkey has the leverage it once had in the entire US Congress.”
Robert Menendez’s MEGA interview
Question: What will happen with the sale of F-16s to Turkey
Menendez: Regarding the f16s, I would like Turkey to be different than it is under the leadership of President Erdogan. To be a reliable ally in NATO, to follow international rules, not to be aggressive towards its neighbors, not to arrest and imprison journalists and lawyers. Don’t suddenly declare one of your main political opponents guilty, to disqualify him from the election and more. So, in that context, I’m against the sale of the F16s, because at the end of the day the reality is that we haven’t seen Erdogan’s Turkey live up to those expectations.
What we have seen is a Turkey threatening another NATO member country, the Hellenic Republic and threatening it without justification, without cause. So in my mind it would be problematic to sell military hardware when it takes such actions and when it clearly manifests some of its intentions over and over again. Perhaps the Biden administration will use my stance on the sale as leverage to get Turkey to behave differently, and if that happens, so be it, it could be a positive development. But right now I intend to continue to do what I’ve said I’m going to do, which is to not approve the sale. Accordingly, I will not proceed with approving the sale at this time.
Question: But even if the Biden administration uses your stance to pressure Turkey, even if Turkey agrees to end its threats against Greece, how could you ensure that it respects and honors that commitment after the sale? ;
Menendez: Yes, of course it’s not just words. Actions would also be required and we need to think about what are the conditions that would apply and the actions that would be required on the part of Turkey to ensure that the Turkish government takes responsibility to implement its obligations in such a sale. We’re nowhere near that right now. We can get to that point if and only if Turkey abandons its aggressive stance against both the Hellenic Republic and Cyprus, and other actions in the Eastern Mediterranean that are contrary to our national interests and national security.
Question: Senate, every time the State Department is called upon to take a position on threats against Greece, the response in recent years has been roughly the same: “The United States encourages the two allies to resolve their differences through dialogue on the basis of international law.” . In recent months, however, things have changed: in Greece we wake up almost every day with crude threats of invasion. Erdogan and his officials say “we will come one night”. My question is whether you think perhaps the time has come for the State Department to take a more nuanced stance instead of keeping roughly equal distances from a threatened country and a threatening country.
Menendez: First of all, I think President Erdogan’s rhetoric is outrageous, but I also think it is just that: rhetoric. And I believe he is using this rhetoric for internal consumption because he has a tragic track record to show the Turkish people. The Turkish economy has collapsed and because of that, the Turkish people are suffering, so they need to be distracted, so this rhetoric is part of the effort that I think he is making at the political level. It’s not acceptable, but I think it’s just rhetoric. Having said that, it’s not acceptable, and I think the State Department—and this is a problem I’ve historically had with the State Department—can’t call on both sides to tone down or find a peaceful way to resolve their differences when it is the one and only one side that attacks.
If the Hellenic Republic were to act in the same way as Erdogan is behaving towards Greece, then I would call on the Hellenic Republic to find a way to proceed with reconciliation based on international norms and international law, but this is not happening. Greece does not overfly Turkish airspace. Greece does not invade Turkish territorial waters. Greece does not threaten Turkey’s sovereignty and security. So it is wrong to call both sides on this when only one side is aggressive and that needs to change. It’s an effort that we’re still making to get the State Department and the US administration to change course because I think when we’re talking about authoritarian people, sometimes you might think that all their comments are just rhetoric, irresponsible hate speech, some sometimes however you have to wonder if there is a chance they mean what they say and that is a risk we cannot afford to take.
Question: And if that is the case, Senator, if Turkey carries out its threats of war against Greece, what can we expect from the United States?
Menendez: First of all, let me say that I do not expect this to happen, and I believe that we have worked together to build a stronger US-Greece defense posture, which is incredibly important for the United States, but it is also very important for Greece. Why am I saying this? Because when Souda is an important base for the United States, when Alexandroupolis has now become a strategically important location not only for defense but also for energy purposes, when the joint American-Greek military exercises assume very important dimensions, all this sends a message to Greece’s neighbors, in this case also Turkey, for the risk of possible military action against Greece because now it is not only Greek interests that are affected but the interests of the United States could also be affected. Secondly, I believe, as I also said to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, that NATO should discuss what would happen if the unfortunate day comes when one NATO member country unprovokedly attacks another NATO member country. It seems to me that it is the aggressor who should be punished and it also seems to me, from an American perspective, that when you have two allies in NATO but one is the aggressor and is clearly the one who caused the consequences, then the United States should stand by of the country that has been attacked.
Question: Do you think this opinion is shared by others? What do you think;
Menendez: I think that at the end of the day, the view that you stand on the side of the – and I use this word for lack of a better – “victim” and not the aggressor is the most prevalent. I believe that efforts are being made to ensure that this moment never comes because it is in no one’s interest for it to come, and I do not believe that Turkey has the sway that it once had in the entire US Congress.
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