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Op-Ed by AHI President Published in The National Herald
October 19, 2004—No.59 (202) 785-8430

Op-Ed by AHI President Published in The National Herald

WASHINGTON, DC—The following Op-Ed article by AHI President Gene Rossides appeared in The National Herald on October 16, 2004, page 11.

Greece or Turkey: Who is Best for U.S. Interests?

By Gene Rossides

Greece or Turkey—does it make a difference for U.S. interests? Yes, it does make a difference and a big difference for U.S. interests.

Greece is a loyal ally and has been throughout the 20th century and into the 21st century. In World War I, Greece sided with the allies and played an important role in the Balkans, while Turkey fought against U.S. as an ally of Germany. Greece’s actions also prevented Turkish troops from reaching the Western Front and saved many American and allied lives.

In World War II, with Europe under the heel of Nazi Germany and with Britain fighting the Axis powers alone, Greece’s courageous reply on October 28, 1940 of OXI (No!) to Mussolini’s surrender ultimatum echoed throughout the world and give support to Britain and the forces of freedom. The defeat of Mussolini’s army by Greeks forces, actually pushing them back into Albania, gave the first taste of victory to the allies against fascism.

Greece’s success against Mussolini forced Hitler to change his plans and divert valuable troops, arms and equipment to invade Greece in the spring of 1941. Hitler’s invasion of Greece delayed his invasion of the Soviet Union by several weeks, from April to June 1941, and required the diversion of valuable troops and equipment. That delay has been credited by military experts and historians as one of the main factors that prevented Hitler’s defeat of the Soviet Union.

Karl E. Meyer, in the New York Times editorial footnote, stated that Hitler believed that the several weeks it took Germany to subdue Greece was responsible for his losing the war against the Soviet Union. (April 16, 1994, A20, col. 1)

But the glory of Greece’s actions in World War II did not end there. During the harsh Nazi occupation, Greek resistance activities forced the Germans to retain a large number of troops in Greece which otherwise would have been deployed to the Eastern Front and in North Africa, and could have tipped the balance in both of those campaigns. Six hundred thousand Greeks, 9 percent of their population, died from fighting and Nazi Germany’s starvation policy.

Greece’s actions in World War II have been characterized by General Andrew J. Goodpaster (U.S. A. Ret.), former Supreme Commander of NATO, as a turning point in the war.

While the rest of Europe was rebuilding following World War II, Greece was involved in a civil war from 1946 to 1949 against communist forces supported by Stalin and Tito and supplied by them from the Skopje area of Yugoslavia. Greece’s defeat of the communists, with Greek blood and American military aid provided under the Truman Doctrine (but without American combat troops), was called by General Goodpaster an historic turning point in world history. Stopping the communist takeover of Greece, including Crete with its Souda Bay naval base, prevented Stalin’s domination of the Aegean Sea and Eastern Mediterranean and the strategic encirclement by the Soviet Union of the Middle East oil resources including the Persian Gulf area.

The American Hellenic Institute held a two-day conference in Washington D.C. March 12-13, 1997, commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Truman Doctrine. One of the conference sessions was titled: "Greece’s Strategic Importance: the Military Dimension." The Honorable Lawrence J. Korb, former Assistant Secretary of Defense, and Admiral Henry C. Mustin, U.S. Navy retired, outlined Greece’s strategic importance then and now. They stated that Greece’s importance is greater now than in the Cold War because the center of attention has shifted from the Central Front in Europe during the Cold War to Southeast Europe, including the Balkans, and the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas.

Turkey was a disloyal ally during the Cold War in the second half of the 20th century and is a disloyal ally in the 21st century as the Iraqi War of 2003 proved. During the Cold War, Turkey actively aided the Soviet military to the great detriment of U.S. interests. In the 21st century Turkey’s disloyalty to the U.S. regarding the Iraqi War has been well documented.

During World War I, Turkey fought on the side of Germany against the U.S. In World War II, Turkey in 1940 abandoned its treaty with Britain and France to enter the war on their side, remained neutral, and profited from both sides. In fact, it is well documented that Turkey supplied Adolph Hitler with chromium, a vital resource to Nazi Germany’s armament industry and war effort, which prolonged World War II by seven months! See F. Weber, The Evasive Neutral 44 (1979) and the book by Hitler’s armaments chief, Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich 316-317, 405, 550 note 10 (1970).

Greece is a strategic ally of great importance to the U.S. interests, and has proven its reliability. The Souda Bay naval base in Crete is the key base in the Eastern Mediterranean for the U.S. Sixth Fleet, and the air base in Crete is of significant importance. The Souda Bay naval base is worth far more to the U.S. than all the base facilities in Turkey put together.

Greece’s role in the Balkans makes it the key ally for U.S. interests in furthering economic and political progress and stability in the Balkans.

Turkey was of minor strategic importance to U.S. interests during the Cold War and is of minor strategic importance today as proven by the Persian Gulf War of 1991 and the Iraq War of 2003.

Greece is a democracy. Turkey is a partial democracy as stated in Freedom House’s annual survey.

Greece is a law-abiding nation. Turkey is an aggressor nation, which continues to occupy 37 percent of Cyprus, now in its 30th year.

Greece’s citizens have full legal, political, cultural and human rights. Turkey is a terrorist nation, which uses torture on a national scale against its citizens, has thousands of political prisoners in jail, commits ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity and genocide against its Kurdish minority of 20 percent, jails journalists and restricts freedom of speech, press and religion.

Successive U.S. administrations have followed a double standard on applying the rule of law and human rights criteria to Turkey and have appeased Turkey at the expense of Greece and Cyprus, all to the detriment of U.S. interests.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Greece Monteagle Stearns, in his book, Entangled Allies (1992), criticized U.S. policy of tying U.S. policy on Greece with U.S. policy on Turkey. He stated that the U.S. should have a Greek policy and a Turkey policy and not make our policy on Greece dependant on our policy on Turkey.

In the presidential debate on foreign policy on September 29, 2004, President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry discussed the major issues of Iraq, North Korea, Iran and did not deal with secondary issues such as Cyprus, the Aegean, Macedonia or Albanian issues or U.S. relations generally with Greece, Cyprus and Turkey. That is understandable. However, the winner in the presidential election race on November 2, 2004 will have to deal with these issues.

Although, the Cyprus issue is a secondary level issue, the democratic principles involved—the rule of law, majority rule and protection of minority rights, opposition to aggression and occupation—are frontline, major issues of global importance for the U.S.

Greek Americans should be the active in the presidential campaign by making sure they are registered to vote, by voting on November 2, 2004 and by voting and calling the two candidates and asking for their views on Greek issues and any other issues of concern to you.

Gene Rossides is President of the American Hellenic Institute and Former Assistant Secretary of the United States Treasury.


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