Anything that happens in Turkey, whether a minor incident or a full-blown domestic crisis, without fail appears to prompt a warning from wise-headed observers in Greece urging the government to be sober and cautious.
It is true that this reflex plays into our insecurities, as periods of calm tend to be rather brief in Greece’s quirky neighbor.
However, this time around the most politically appropriate thing for Athens to do would be to take measures to safeguard itself against the potential fallout from Turkey’s unfolding economic crisis.
At the same time, officials in Athens would be advised to avoid cultivating great expectations over possible gains from the open confrontation between US President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Given the interaction between these two unpredictable leaders – one is president of a global superpower, the other is chief of a militarily powerful and geostrategically significant country – one cannot predict where and how the tension in their relationship will end. The Trump administration may be very angry at Erdogan’s Turkey but it probably is not willing to lose Turkey as an ally.
The underlying cause of the rift is Turkey’s growing distance from the US line on a number of fronts such as Russia, Iran, Israel, the Kurds, Syria, Egypt and Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone – and not so much the detention of US pastor Andrew Brunson.
The crisis of the Turkish economy had no doubt been in the making for a while and the political tension with Washington only accentuated its speed and intensity.
As for Greece, Turkey’s economic woes are by no means a cause for celebration. Quite the opposite in fact. It’s hard to know how Erdogan will seek to channel the crisis and in what direction.
The situation is not good for Greek tourism because Turkey is becoming more competitive and at the same time it will curb the number of Turkish visitors to Greece.
Meanwhile, there are concerns that the crisis in Turkey will have a negative effect on migration flows. The situation would become very dangerous if the economic instability were to escalate into a violent domestic conflict or even a breakup of Greece’s eastern neighbor.
In addition, it is far from certain that Erdogan’s establishment would be succeeded by a better regime. On the other hand, we do not want a Turkey that is outside the NATO alliance.
Greek officials are advised to remain calm, cautious and to maintain a balanced approach.