A favorite Greek cliche has to do with the country’s admiration of Turkish diplomacy. Nevertheless, this is a classic case when actual events do not match the theory.
From a macrohistorical angle, one could argue that Greece has possibly achieved much more than Turkey since the inception of the modern Greek state. The country grew beyond all expectations, ended up siding with all the right world alliances and became a member of the globe’s top private clubs. Along the way, the Hellenism of Pontos and Asia Minor were lost, but it would have required very special conditions for them to be saved. As far as Cyprus is concerned, there is no final score yet. While a big portion of the island was lost, we succeeded in getting Cyprus to become a member of the EU and keeping Turkey constantly on the defensive. There were major losses, but there were also a few gains.
As for the current state of affairs, the Davutoglu doctrine [penned by academic and former Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu] was implemented the other way round. While the foreign policy doctrine called for zero confrontation with the country’s various neighbors, in reality Ankara ended up fueling tensions with Russia, Israel, Egypt and Syria – virtually everyone. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan realized the heavy cost of this policy when he confronted the serious financial side effects and is now trying to change course by all means possible. The doctrine, however, also called for Turkey to play a leading, neo-Ottoman role in the broader region. This too collapsed very quickly. Erdogan, once welcomed with rose petals in Cairo, ended up in a serious confrontation with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
In other words, Turkey’s geopolitical game has not made the cut in the last few years. The only thing that the country did manage to do, thanks to its spectacular economic growth, was acquire a very important global “imprint,” ranging from Turkish Airlines to various other Turkish companies operating in Africa, Asia and elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Greece is playing a “defensive” game on the diplomatic level these days. Besides, the ongoing financial crisis leaves very little room for taking part in the “big game.” The country is going through a period where our own doctrine should be “Let’s not lose anything; let’s keep what we have.”
Going back to the question of who has better diplomacy, let’s just say that both Greece and Turkey have excellent career diplomats. However, when the countries’ leaderships lead them to economic crises and periods of introversion or are constantly flirting with hubris, it’s hardly easy for the diplomats to do much beside explain the effects of each move and limit the damage when things take a wrong turn, which is what Turkish diplomats are working on right now.