Officials believe Turkey is adopting an increasingly aggressive posture toward its nominal NATO ally Greece because of the latter’s upgrade of its defensive capabilities, and they do not think the tension will de-escalate anytime soon.
One of the ways this aggression manifested itself was the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s attack last week against Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou for referring to the massacre of the Greeks of Pontos, a region in northeast Turkey, during 1914-18, as “genocide” and referring to Greece’s obligation to keep the memory of that massacre alive.
“Ensuring peace, security and stability in Southeastern Europe and Eastern Mediterranean is a cornerstone of our national strategy,” Sakellaropoulou told Kathimerini in response to the attacks on her and the Turkish defense minister’s claims that Greece is illegally staging its armed forces on its own islands.
“We never abandoned diplomacy, [conducted] with the interests of our country and the prosperity of the wider region in mind. We have consistently sought cooperation with Turkey and seek harmonious coexistence and friendship between the two peoples. But there can be no retreat in the face of unacceptable claims and aggressive acts,” she added.
Analysts believe the enhancement of the Hellenic Air Force’s capabilities with the acquisition of the Rafale fighter from France and the upgrade of its F-16 planes to the Block 70 Viper version, as well as the Navy’s acquisition of Belharra-class frigates and new corvettes are behind Turkey’s ire.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has called the moves a provocation, but also a “vain effort and a waste of resources,” and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has told his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, that “the Greeks do not have the financial capability to pay for the weapons systems.”
Meanwhile Turkey is embarking on its own ambitious armaments program, an important part of which is its own unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which it also wants to sell to other countries.
Greek officials say Turkey does not like any challenges to its stated goal of regional supremacy and believe the officials in the neighboring country will continue to amp their rhetoric up ahead of Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections that will take place simultaneously in June 2023.