US Lifted Arms Embargo in Cyprus – What Does It Mean for Turkey?

  • US plans to expand US military bases in the region.
  • Turkey lost all their advantage in the Eastern Mediterranean.
  • Erdogan also lost allies, especially since escalation of the conflict in Syria.

Cyprus is celebrating the lifting of the arms embargo by the United States. The motivation behind lifting the  embargo is to prevent Turkey’s expansion in the Mediterranean. It is not a surprise, since Turkey escalated the conflict in one of the Syrian regions. Additionally, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan can not be trusted by the West. Even though Turkey is a part of NATO, it is a wild card.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Erdogan tries to play both sides East and West. Yet, similar to Putin, he wants to resurrect an old empire. While Putin wants to restore the Soviet Union, Erdogan wants to rebuild the Ottoman Empire, one of the bloodiest and ruthless empire of all times. However, the latter has zero chance of occurring at this time. Turkey is experiencing turmoil within because Erdogan’s opposition is displeased at the actions in Syria. There is a possibility of a new coup.

The United States and Greece signed an agreement at the end of 2019 pertaining to the expansion of US military bases in Greece. The agreement includes building new US facilities. The arms embargo on the Greek community of Cyprus has been in effect for more than 30 years, since 1987.

US authorities made this decision due to valid reasons. One of the reasons that Turkey was the most important ally for the US on the southeastern flank of NATO. The US decided then to support Turkey, but now has decided to refuse to support it, dissatisfied with the fact that Turkey de facto took a foreign policy position in opposition to Israel, and therefore the US in the Middle East.

Additionally, the US will create a US Energy Center in the East Mediterranean. In January 2020, it was announced that Israel, Greece and Cyprus were ready to start implementing plans to build the EastMed gas pipeline from the Eastern Mediterranean to Europe. According to Greek media, its length will be 1,900 kilometers, and it will become the longest underwater gas pipeline in the world. It is expected to be commissioned in 2025-2026. It will supply gas to Europe via the southern corridor.

EASTMED Pipeline.

Turkey tried to interfere with such decision but it clearly failed. At the same time Turkey is looking for allies. Erdogan severed ties with Russia and made Kremlin very angry pertaining to the situation in Syria. Turkish bravado and expecting Putin to compromise was a pipe dream. Putin is not a leader who will be taken off course by Turkey; Erdogan played his cards wrong. He kept playing both sides and in the end he lost support from both the West and East.

Turkey has lost certain advantages in the Mediterranean, which in turn is hurting Erdogan’s approval with the populous. Either he will be removed by a coup or he won’t be re-elected in the next presidential election.

It is the beginning of the end for Erdogan and his grandiose ego and plans. At best he will have to bow to Russia now and there is no guarantee of gaining any alliance. He lost and the lifting of the arms embargo is a fait accompli for any chance of Turkey gaining a geopolitical advantage under his leadership going forward.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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