Speculation is growing that the US could be preparing to withdraw the 50 nuclear warheads it currently stores in the former Armenian town of İncirlik in Turkey’s Adana province near the Syrian border, to Greece.
The İncirlik Airbase has been under joint Turkish-American control since 1955 and is one of the most strategic assets to the NATO alliance as it is at the doorstep to the Arab World and was a suitable location to store American nuclear bombs aimed against the Soviet Union and its successor state, Russia.
However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s “disturbing” foreign policy has spurred US officials to intensify preparations to withdraw from İncirlik Air Force base, according to a senior Republican senator and American analysts speaking to Washington Examiner.
“We don’t know what’s gonna happen to İncirlik,” Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee for Europe, told the Washington Examiner. “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 said. “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 Erdoğan is on is not good.”
Erdoğan has not shied away from expressing in the past that he could kick out the Americans from İncirlik, meaning that up to 50 nuclear nuclear warheads could be needing a new home in the region.
“We’re already looking at Greece as an alternative,” Johnson said while considering a prospective exit from İncirlik.
“It’s very unfortunate the path that Erdoğan is taking Turkey, or has put Turkey on,” Johnson said. “It’s disturbing. It’s very concerning, which is one of the reasons we certainly are increasing and improving our military cooperation with Greece … beefing up our presence in Souda Bay, because our presence, quite honestly, in Turkey is certainly threatened.”
This statement by Johnson comes at a time when Erdoğan has raised the stakes in the East Mediterranean by continually violating the continental shelves and maritime spaces of both Greece and Cyprus, the former also being a NATO member.
Erdoğan has found himself very alone in this escalation as he has not found a single state that has openly supported his aggressive actions against Greece and Cyprus.
Even for Cyprus, it has been a whirlwind as it is put in centre attention.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Cyprus days ago to confirm and consolidate their historically rich ties, particularly in matters of weapons procurement considering the US has maintained an injust arms embargo against the island country.
Today and four days after the Lavrov visit, without prior arrangement US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will arrive in Cyprus. Next are the Foreign Minister’s of France and Austria to visit.
Cyprus of just over a million people is catching attention, and highlights how important its veto on EU sanctions against Belarus got attention.
The Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ senior Turkey analyst Aykan Erdemir, who is also a former Turkish lawmaker and is a critic of Erdoğan, said ““Washington is not necessarily thinking of one alternative to İncirlik, but a number of rebasing options which are complementary as a contingency plan to İncirlik.”
“This has been going on for quite some time, in steps. I would definitely argue that it’s nothing new, but it might be changing qualitatively in terms of the nature and the extent of US presence and investments in these alternative sites,” he said.nuclear bombs