M. Rubin: The USA should give better weapons to Greece than to Turkey

More broadly, he proposes for Greece and Cyprus an agreement along the lines of the strategic choice that the American bureaucracy has adopted for Israel since the 1960s.

If the US gives Turkey F-16s, then give Greece F-35s and enhanced anti-aircraft missiles, Michael Rubin, Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, advises the US government.

Speaking to Kathimerini, he explains why the US Congress should not follow President Biden in his promise to Erdogan and emphasizes that if the upgrade of the Turkish F-16s finally goes ahead, then it should be accompanied by the supply of F-35s to Greece along with enhanced anti-aircraft systems. More broadly, he proposes for Greece and Cyprus an agreement along the lines of the strategic choice, which the US bureaucracy has adopted for Israel since the 1960s.

Propose that the US secure an arms advantage for Greece and Cyprus in the SE Mediterranean vis-à-vis Turkey. Is this an Israel model? What is your reasoning?

Yes, you could call it the Israel model. The root of the matter is that with Israel, at the height of the Arab-Israeli conflict in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, the United States cultivated both Israel and many moderate Arab states as allies against the greatest enemy of the Cold War: the Soviet Union. Washington then neither wanted to go aggressive with Israel against the Arabs, nor to allow the Arabs to exterminate Israel.

Beginning with President Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s, this led to what we know as the Qualitative Military Edge: If the United States needed to arm the Arab states to defend themselves against the Soviet bloc, then it would ensure that Israel would have better weapons even if it could never overcome the total number of Arab tanks, aircraft, artillery or troops. This is why, for example, Israel received F-4 Phantoms in the 1960s and in some cases over a decade before potential belligerents. It was also why President Ronald Reagan’s decision to sell AWAC early warning aircraft to Saudi Arabia was so controversial at the time, because it was seen as violating the Qualitative Military Advantage agreement.

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What began as a de facto formula eventually became entrenched in the bureaucracy, so that a Pentagon committee had to sign off that any potential sales or transfers to Arab states did not infringe on Israel’s qualitative military advantage.

Do you think the US should meet Ankara’s equipment requests, such as upgrading the F-16s? In this case, how will the advantage be secured for Greece?

I happen to think that Turkey does not need the F-16s and their upgrades that Biden promised. First, Ankara is more likely to use them against Greece, Cyprus, Armenia, Syria or the Iraqi Kurds than against threats to NATO, and second, the best way for Erdogan to boost Turkey’s readiness would be to free his pilots from prison.

Fortunately, we have separation of powers in Washington, so Biden alone cannot order the sale, and I doubt Congress will go along with it. But, if the sale goes through, then Greece will not only have to get F-35s, it will also have to get enhanced anti-aircraft systems to ensure that every square inch of its Aegean islands remains secure. Turkey can complain, but it has no one to blame but itself: if they didn’t threaten Greece and occupy Cyprus, then they would have nothing to worry about.

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