Alexis Papachelas ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

Turkey, Greece and the West

COMMENT

Turkey is in the grips of an extremely complex crisis. For starters, it’s extremely difficult to figure out what exactly happened and what is currently at stake. There is a lot going on behind the scenes, in the dark.

It will take some time, for instance, to discover who organized the failed coup and how President Recep Tayyip Erdogan found out about it. Even darker and mysterious is the relationship between Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin. It seems that the two powerful leaders have developed a new modus vivendi for some time now and that smoother ties with Moscow appear to have a played a role in the Turkish military’s reaction. Rumor has it that Russian intelligence services warned Erdogan of movement in the Turkish military.

It will be interesting to see whether or not this relationship will become closer in the near future. The rift with the United States, which is major factor, will not be easily mended. Ties with Europe will also go through a rough patch, with unforeseen consequences in regards to the migrant relocation deal. The Turkish president rightly believes that Berlin and the rest of Europe no longer have much room to play hardball.

Turkey, meanwhile, is looking at new security and economic challenges. Seasoned observers estimate that the backbone of Turkey’s armed forces and secret services has been broken and that it will take three to four years to repair the damage. Experienced, foreign-educated officers have been relieved of their duties. Those close to Erdogan trust no one in these sectors and this will inevitably lead to paralysis on several levels. Problems will also escalate in the economy due to uncertainty, particularly in tourism and the investment climate.

Greece has the opportunity to become an important player in the Eastern Mediterranean. Always thinking in practical and geopolitical terms, the Americans are not hiding their intention to broaden their strategic collaboration with Greece. The Europeans, who see the need for immediate assistance but are not always that practical, took a long time to realize the geopolitical dimensions of Greece’s case. Ties with Israel and Egypt, meanwhile, have been consolidated and everyone is talking about a strategic triangle. 

The danger now is a possible knee-jerk reaction from Ankara in the Aegean or Thrace. It would be wise for those in charge and know-it-all experts to stop crying wolf all the time because if something serious does happen we may not even realize it. What is needed right now is good sense and caution. Although we all hope that there are no signs of aggression from our neighbor, we also hope that in such an eventuality Europe and the US would react swiftly, rationally and successfully. Reassurances are fine but they only matter when the moment of truth comes and perhaps this is not as far away as we may think in Greek-West ties.

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