Special to the Hellenic News of America
If elected to Congress, I plan on playing an active role in foreign affairs issues. An important area of focus of mine will be the Eastern Mediterranean, a critical geo-strategic region at the intersection of North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. The United States must have a foreign policy towards the region which reflects both our values and interests. NATO ally Greece, and strategic partner Cyprus, are increasingly crucial to the projection of United States and Western interests in the region, especially as Turkey has drifted away from the Western alliance under the rule of its authoritarian and Islamic fundamentalist leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
To that effect, I look forward to strengthening the U.S.-Greece, U.S-Cyprus relations, and holding President Erdogan accountable, once in the Congress. I will join the Congressional Hellenic Caucus as well, which will allow me to work with similar-minded individuals to achieve these objectives. In addition, I will engage with Greek-American and Cypriot-American organizations, stakeholders, and constituents, to advance our shared interests.
Greece and the United States enjoy strong relations across a variety of sectors, including defense, trade, business, energy, tourism, and people-to-people ties. Greece has been an increasingly important defense partner of the United States in the region, with the United States and Greece signing an upgraded Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement (MDCA) in October, 2021, which will enable U.S. forces in Greece to train and operate from additional locations in Greece. Greece’s naval bases, such as Souda Bay, as well as key ports, such as Alexandroupolis, are absolutely critical to United States military operations and projection of influence vis-a-vis the Balkans, North Africa, and the Black Sea. Greece is a pillar of stability defending Europe’s Southeastern flank, which is more important than ever given Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Greece’s efforts to assist Ukraine, in coordination with the United States, further buttresses the role of Greece as an important and reliable United States ally.
As a member of Congress, I will promote the U.S.-Greece relations, including our critical defense relationship. I will work to be actively engaged in the appropriations process to ensure that United States-Greece defense ties are properly supported, including through foreign military sales (FMS), foreign military financing (FMF), and International Military Education and Training (IMET). To that effect, I will support the full implementation of bi-partisan legislation passed into law in recent years, including the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act of 2019 and the U.S.-Greece Defense and Interparliamentary Partnership Act.
This year will mark the 48th anniversary of the illegal Turkish invasion of Cyprus. Turkey has kept an estimated 40,000 soldiers on the island since invading. The United States must refocus on the Cyprus problem, especially given President Erdogan’s broader hegemonic ambitions in North Africa, Southern Europe, and the Middle East, which threatens both regional interests and the United States. I will work with colleagues in Congress to pressure Turkey to end its occupation of Cyprus, so we can have a Cyprus whole, free, and at peace. Cyprus deserves to be reunified under a just settlement.
I will also promote the need for Cyprus to be viewed through a multi-faceted lens. The Republic of Cyprus is a critical geo-strategic partner of the United States, and must be treated as such. Cyprus should not be viewed as “parochial” or reduced to an “intercommunal conflict,” misguided and antiquated viewpoints which appease Turkey and fail to recognize Cyprus’ strategic import. Cyprus is the junction point between Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, with proximity to Israel, Lebanon, and the Suez Canal. We can no longer ignore Cyprus’ geo-strategic value.
Furthermore, Cyprus has the potential to play a critical role in diversifying Europe away from Russian oil and gas. To this effect, Cyprus will play a leading and instrumental role in the creation of regional infrastructure projects, including the Euro-Asia interconnector, Euro-Africa interconnector, and the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline. The Biden State Department has displayed an incoherent policy towards Eastern Mediterranean energy, which only serves to appease Turkey and the Russian Federation. By contrast, I will promote Eastern Mediterranean energy as a national security priority for the United States and Europe. To this effect, I am strongly supportive of the Republic of Cyprus’ rights to develop its significant oil and gas resources in its territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and oppose any irredentist claims by Turkey to the Republic of Cyprus’ natural resources.
The East Med Act pushed the United States to lift the embargo and it’s time to facilitate arms to the Republic of Cyprus so that Russian made arms can be transferred to Ukraine.
Lastly, I will also focus on the humanitarian challenges Cyprus faces due to Turkish occupation, including the issue of “missing persons” as a result of the 1974 invasion, which includes several American citizens. American citizens cannot simply be murdered by foreign militaries without accountability, and I will work to ensure the recovery of any outstanding American citizens.
GREECE, CYPRUS & ISRAEL
During the past decade, Greece, Israel, and Cyprus have established a close trilateral alliance on a government-to-government level, with collaboration across a variety of sectors, including energy, security, trade, defense, and people-to-people ties. The energy triangle that Greece, Cyprus, and Israel form, in conjunction with Egypt, will allow for the formation of an Eastern Mediterranean energy corridor which will be very important in helping wean Europe off of Russian oil and gas. Legislation such as the East Med Act created a “3+1” mechanism and made clear that the United States Congress formally endorses this regional alliance. I fully support the “3+1” mechanism and the alliance between the three democracies and pillars of stability in the Eastern Mediterranean, Greece, Cyprus, and Israel, and will advocate for additional legislation to further bolster regional frameworks and synergies.
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM FOR THE ECUMENICAL PATRIARCHATE
Religious freedom is a fundamental right. Unfortunately, Turkey’s persecution of its religious minorities has become systemic, especially under the reign of President Erdogan, who seeks to destroy Turkey’s traditional secular forces and transform Turkey into an religious fundamentalist nation.
As a member of Congress, I will call on Turkey to respect human rights and religious freedom, especially that of the Ecumenical Patriarch, the leader of over 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide. More specifically, I would urge the Turkish government to recognize the legal personality of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as well as His All Holiness’ ecumenical stature and role.
While Turkey is a member of NATO, President Erdogan is deeply rooted in the religio-nationalism of the Muslim Brotherhood. President Erdogan wants to establish Turkey as the hegemon in North Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Middle East, and is willing to flout the international rules-based order to achieve this vision.
To that effect, in addition to the occupation of Cyprus and violations of Greek airspace, the Turkish government has engaged in the following provocative actions in recent years:
• Actively supporting Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood to the detriment of Israel.
• Transiting mercenaries, including jihadists, into conflicts in Libya, Syria, and the Caucasus region, helping to further destablize already tumultuous areas.
• Allowing itself to become a transit point for ISIS.
• Invading Northeast Syria to attack America’s Kurdish allies, the Syrian Democratic Forces.
• Displaying hostility to America’s regional allies, including Egypt and the Gulf States.
• Assisting Iran in evading American sanctions, most notably through state-owned Halkbank
• Purchasing Russian S-400 missile systems, which undermines Turkey’s obligations to NATO.
• In 2017, President Erdogan’s bodyguards assaulted American citizens on American soil, bringing Turkey’s authoritarianism to our country.
• Unfairly imprisoning American citizens, most notably Pastor Andrew Brunson, as well as giving a U.S. consulate employee in Turkey a nine year prison sentence in 2020 under dubious circumstances.
The previous examples are just a few of the Turkish government’s many transgressions, not to mention Turkey’s democratic backsliding and innumerable human rights abuses. As such, I fully approve of the decision to remove from the F-35 program, and would work to block any attempts for Turkey to re-enter the program, or obtain F-16’s. Should Turkey purchase additional Russian equipment, further sanctions should be imposed. Moreover, I support a full congressional review of the U.S.-Turkey relationship, and want to explore if Turkey is in violation of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), due to its violations of Greece’s airspace as well as support for international terrorist groups such as Hamas. Violations of the AECA can result in the suspension of arms sales and the imposition of additional sanctions. Lastly, I support the decision of Congress and the administration to recognize the Armenian Genocide, and would support other resolutions recognizing the ethnic cleansing of Greeks from Anatolia and condemning the Smyrna Catastrophe.