Garo Paylan, an Armenian-Turkish lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), in a speech in parliament on January 19 stated that Turkey’s misguided foreign policy has caused the US and Russia to increase their influence in the region and said Greece had to ask for help from the US because of a Turkish threat.
Paylan, who criticized the American military presence in Greece, was repeating the propaganda arguments frequently used by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan about supposed US military bases in Greece.
Claiming that the real winner of the tension between Greece and Turkey is the United States, Paylan stated that a quarrel between the Turkish and Greek leaders had led to a rise in nationalism.
“Look, the US quadrupled its number of military bases [in Greece], and the number of American soldiers has also increased,” said Paylan.
The supposed US military bases in Greece are frequently brought up by the government-funded Turkish media and nationalist circles that support the government. Claiming that US bases are targeting Turkey, pro-government experts give contradictory figures for the number of bases. Paylan also seems to have been influenced by the government’s rhetoric and pro-government media coverage when he claimed the number of US military bases had quadrupled.
Erdoğan, following a Cabinet meeting last May, harshly criticized Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who asked during an address to the US Congress that the US decline to sell dozens of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey.
The US got its share of Erdoğan’s anger as he criticized the US’s growing military presence in the neighboring country. “There are nearly 10 [US] bases in Greece,” he claimed. “Who is being threatened with these bases? Why are these bases being established in Greece?”
Erdoğan had previously stated that Greece itself had become a US military base. “At the moment, I can’t count all the American bases in Greece, there are so many. … It almost looks like Greece itself is a US base,” Erdoğan had said.
However, there’s only one actual US base in Greece, at Souda Bay, which the US has operated since 1969. American forces have been granted access to four additional Greek bases according to the US-Greece Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement (MDCA) signed in October 2021 and ratified by the Greek parliament on May 13.
According to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, the defense agreement will permit the US military to use Georgula Barracks in Greece’s central province of Volos, the Litochoro Training Ground and an army barracks in the northeastern port city of Alexandroupoli, apart from the naval base at Souda Bay on Crete.
Some pro-government experts attribute the increasing American military presence in Greece to the uneasy relations and a crisis of confidence between Turkey and the US in recent years. According to them, the US has disrupted the balance that had been carefully maintained since the Cold War between its two NATO allies in favor of Greece instead of Turkey.
However, it is not the first time that Paylan has used the rhetoric of the Erdoğan government. At a parliamentary session on November 22, 2022, during which the budget of the Ministry of Defense was negotiated, Paylan accused the Gülen movement, a group critical of the Erdoğan regime, of involvement in an incident in which two policemen were killed in the Ceylanpınar district of Şanlıurfa in 2015. After the assassination of the police officers, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) claimed responsibility but later announced that it was not involved.
However, Paylan’s party, the HDP, still argues that the murders were organized by Erdoğan, who lost his parliamentary majority in the general election of June 7, 2015. The HDP, like opposition parties, claims that the murders took place in order to end Erdoğan’s negotiations with the Kurds in order to get nationalist votes before the new elections on November 1, 2015, due to the failure to form a government. The association of the Gülen movement with such an incident that would benefit the Erdoğan government the most had never been mentioned before by anyone other than Paylan.
After the policemen were killed, the Turkish army bombed PKK targets in Iraq. Between June 7 and November 1, Turkey witnessed a bloody period in which 862 people, both civilians and soldiers, lost their lives. In the elections held on November 1, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) regained its parliamentary majority and came to power without the need for a coalition.
Paylan had lambasted opponents who criticize the Turkish government at meetings abroad during a parliamentary committee session last year.