News reports proliferated around the world following the May 22 mid-air collision between a Greek F-16 and a Turkish F-16, as reporters and pundits speculated whether this would be the spark that ignites the on-hold, but long simmering dispute between the two Mediterranean countries. The accident resulted in the death of a Greek pilot. Initially both countries rushed to blame one another—the Greeks said it was their airspace, while the Turks claimed it was international and the Greek pilot interfered with a Turkish exercise. US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said on May 23, “The Aegean is a small area and we all the know the differences that exist between Greece and Turkey on this. And so what we would like to see is that these two NATO allies work together to de-conflict, to make sure that they don’t have these kinds of accidents.” We doubt they were paying attention to McCormack, but the incident turned out to not be the straw that breaks, as officials from both countries quickly defused the issue.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.