Since Athens realized, or rather accepted, that Turkey seeks to achieve victories by demonstrating military power, seizing Greek sovereign rights without a shot, tactics have changed. The countdown has begun for the change of the regional framework which Erdogan carefully constructed and within which Ankara moves, seeking hegemony in the region.
By Zacharias Michas*
The signing of the partial demarcation agreement between Greece and Egypt threw Ankara off. Turkey had devised – in substantial co-operation with the German factor – a Greek-Turkish dialogue for a peaceful settlement of the problems with Greece. The reaction of the Turks to the Greek-Egyptian pact proved in practice that the Turks had exactly this dialogue in mind. They rushed to accuse Athens of violating the agreements, as if the suspension of the government function in the field of foreign policy had been agreed somewhere!
According to the Turks, the signing of the Greece-Egypt agreement constitutes a violation and escalation! The signing of the Ankara-Tripoli memorandum, for them, is neither! Nor, of course, the decision to send “Barbaros” to the Cypriot EEZ. It is noteworthy, however, that Erdogan takes care to keep Egypt out of the picture, stating that it has not violated Turkish rights by signing the agreement with Greece!
Ankara conveniently chooses, when it comes to her relations with Egypt, to call out that “the glass is half full”. According to this logic, Turkey should consider it reprehensible that Cairo recognizes that the Greek islands are entitled to EEZs. Foreign Minister Cavusoglu considered that this serves Turkey, because the agreement does not give full effect to Crete, forgetting that the Turkish position completely denies the right of islands to an EEZ.
In order not to be confronted with the Egyptian armed forces, the Turks accept what Egypt secures from map C, but consider that the EEZ attributed to Greece belongs to them. And in order to claim it in practice, they resort to military force! Ankara wants a dialogue with Athens solely with the aim of imposing a significant part of its unilateral and obviously illegal – based on the International Law of the Sea – claims on the validity of its expansive claims.
Turkey promotes military coercion
Turkey refuses to assign to the International Court of Justice the adjudication of the Greek-Turkish dispute over the delimitation of the EEZ. It seeks by military coercion to bend the resistance of Greece and drag it into signing of a co-promise, which under the pretext of “special circumstances” will dictate demarcation based on Turkish interests. This is how we got to today ‘s military escalation.
However, there are two factors that must be paid special attention to by Athens when examining the data of the current situation. Both concern Turkey’s internal front, which will largely determine Erdogan’s margins.
The first is the damage he will do to his image, when he promotes himself as the leader of a regional superpower. It is noteworthy that the Turkish president treats Greece as a minor geopolitical entity, mainly because that is how the phobic syndrome of the Greek governments have taught him. Things would be different today if Athens had pursued a different policy for many years. At this time, squeezed by the Turkish expansionist pressure, Greece seems to be raising its head, in the sense that it is resisting.
The Turkish political and military leadership have in a sense been taken by surprise, because the assessment that Greece will eventually accept a fait accompli, limiting itself to diplomatic reactions, is refuted. Although we are in the most difficult situation, due to the conscious neglect of military power for over a decade, Athens is taking a different stance, because what the Turks are doing leaves no room for retreat.
Although Erdogan knows that the Greek armed forces are not a negligible size, that they have the ability to seriously “mess up” Turkey, he realizes that for reasons of prestige at home and abroad, he can not be left doing nothing. And that’s exactly what he’s doing, projecting images from the “Oruc Reis” voyage. The anxiety of the Turkish president to convince that the supposed “Greek faits accomplis” are not accepted is obvious. This, however, is one thing, and Cavusoglu’s threat that the coming crisis will be worse than that of 1974 is another…
The second factor
The second factor that, with much artifice, is being kept out of the limelight is the very bad state of the Turkish economy. The anxiety of financial circles in Istanbul for the continuous and unstoppable slippage of the Turkish lira has led to a state of emergency. The Turkish leadership, having learned from the Greek crisis, took care to trap European (German and French) banks, as well as – according to information – a large American one, which were playing speculation games with the Turkish lira. As a result, Turkey is indirectly threatening the international community with a peculiar version of a “Sampson strategy”.
If the Turkish economy collapses, at least the economies of France and Germany, which are currently in trouble at the moment, will suffer great losses. However, the implementation of this strategy may discourage thoughts of using economic “tools” to the detriment of Turkey, but it has not been able to stop the Turkish lira from depreciating.
The two factors mentioned above would normally lead to a more conciliatory policy. Even if that was Erdogan’s goal, it would have to be disguised so as not to give the impression of a compromising attitude towards Greece. The manipulated Turkish media, which present Greece negatively, are now helping in this direction as well. Turkey must always appear mighty and any voice that dares to deviate will be accused of national treason …
Turkey knows no other way than rattling the saber and it will continue to do so. There, however, lies the great danger for Turkey. If something goes wrong, if the opponent is not “convinced” of the frightening power he seeks to project, then conditions are created that could lead to the initiation of events that would take the situation out of the control of Erdogan, his regime. and his country…
*Zacharias Michas is the Director of Studies at the Institute for Security and Defence Analysis (ISDA)