Developments in the Persian Gulf are bound to increase the buildup of tension in the broader area and have a negative impact on the global economy – as well of course as Greece’s. As an escalation seems very likely, Athens needs to do everything in its power to avoid any form of active involvement in the case that this is requested. Relations with Turkey and its maritime ambitions need to remain the country’s top priority. Greece can expect Ankara to persist with its activities around Cyprus, as Turkey has already made a significant economic and political investment and the cost of its activities so far has been low or at least tolerable.
Turkey has two faces and will have for the foreseeable future. One is that of an ambitious regional force, with strong military capabilities and a dynamic economy, while the other is that of a country with major domestic problems (challenges to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authority, economic woes, the Kurdish issue) and serious challenges in its relations with the United States, the European Union, Syria, Israel, Egypt and others. Both of these faces influence Turkish foreign policy, which is now being dictated by the Turkish president himself and a small group of advisers. This system produces decisions that are often unpredictable and occasionally seem irrational.
The challenge for Greece lies in properly understanding the domestic developments in that country, how the foreign policy system works and what ambitions Ankara harbors, particularly with regard to the notion of the “Blue Homeland.”
Other factors that also need to be taken into account are new developments in Syria and the Persian Gulf, possible changes (for the better) in the stances of the US and the EU toward Turkey, as well as the possibility of pressure being put on the Republic of Cyprus for reunification talks to start again in earnest. In this regard, it is imperative that Athens and Nicosia are on the same page and take the initiative, because giving the impression of diplomatic inertia would be the worst thing they could do in this rapidly evolving geopolitical setting. Needless to say, they also need to be prepared for the eventuality of tension or even a crisis, as Ankara’s behavior is not likely to change anytime soon.
Thanos Dokos is director-general at the Hellenic Foundation for European & Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP).