Experience shows that the Turks don’t bluff. We Greeks have learned to read their intentions. We know, also, that at first they test the waters, just touching on the international community’s red lines, until the moment that they cross them. Then, we all face a fait accompli which, however illegal, the Turks regard as a non-negotiable right. In this spirit, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan goes to great efforts to present himself as the heir of conquering sultans. That is why we find it inconceivable that even as Turkey threatens us, allies and partners maintain a policy of equal distances, urging us into talks with Ankara. It is imperative that our partners acquire a clear picture of Erdogan’s intentions.
Given that the Turks don’t bluff, how can we interpret Erdogan’s ever more aggressive rhetoric and policies? Are the threats perhaps part of a pre-arranged negotiation with Greece? (However enticing this possibility may appear, it would demand a level of understanding between the two countries that would make the threats unnecessary.) Is Erdogan perhaps trying to keep his supporters in line, to distract them from more pressing problems, to prepare for early elections? If he is indeed preparing for war, what does he hope to achieve? To crush the Greeks, to gain territory and greater influence in the region?
If he wants war, he must believe that the international community will remain a bystander in the conflict, that Turkey will win easily and that its gains will be clear. This is a high-risk strategy and Turkey’s bullying tactics are counterproductive in this: They place Greece in the position of the underdog. This means that any setbacks the Turkish forces suffer at the hands of a military that is well-equipped and well-trained will have a direct impact on those responsible for this adventurism. On the other hand, if Turkey does make territorial gains, these will always be illegal and will have a large and unpredictable political and economic cost for Ankara.
It is of the utmost importance that those who today are wilfully blind should understand that they would be serving peace and Turkey’s own interests if they adopted a dynamic policy that would restrain Erdogan, that would ensure that Turkey’s threats are transformed, of necessity, into a bluff.