The Greek government appears to be easing the rhetoric toward Turkey in order to avoid setting the mood for conflict (which according to Athens is not on the cards) and creating a feeling of panic. It seems reasonable, given that polarized language helps perpetuate, and often escalate, tension while at the same time putting off investors. It’s all fine, as long as the strategy does not lead to complacency, as long as real problems are not swept under the carpet, and as long as it does not interrupt international efforts by officials to create a network for condemning and discouraging Turkish provocations, to the extent that this is of course feasible.
Meanwhile, on a domestic level, there are signs that the idea of an ultimate settlement by an international court of Greek-Turkish differences is becoming increasingly acceptable.
As this column has often pointed out, the problem is that as far as the West is concerned, many of the up-to-now familiar constants are being unmade. This of course does not mean that any Greek government, political class or society should turn their back on the dogma of Konstantinos Karamanlis, who famously said that “we belong to the West.” The disaffection and disappointment over US President Donald Trump’s affection, on public display, for Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan, over NATO’s provocatively neutral (purportedly, at least) stance on the Greek-Turkish dispute, over the European Union’s failure to translate its words of condemnation into action, over Germany’s voluntary marginalization (for many different reasons) and its decision to turn a blind eye to Ankara’s growing provocations, must not push Greece into a self-destructive reaction. Such a decision would be to distance ourselves from the Western system out of anger and bitterness. After all, there are no real alternatives for Greece to rely on.
That said, the truth is that the structure of NATO is cracking. Events during the alliance’s 70th anniversary gathering in London only made the cracks evident to the wider public. In recent years, the organization has been looking for ways to justify its existence. Following the end of the Cold War, NATO’s raison d’etre has been removed. The alliance has been trying to perpetuate it by substituting Russia, now a Christian capitalist country, for the Soviet Union. To be sure, geopolitical rivalries and clashes of interests emerge and survive regardless of ideologies and religions. This explains why the American president wants to see the EU break up, while at the same time he is pressing the Europeans to raise their defense spending so that they can buy (American) weapons and keep NATO going so as to reduce the chances of a Europe-Russia rapprochement.
Turkey, meanwhile, claims to be concerned about NATO and at the same time purchases Russian weapons. But this is another story.