In view of Ankara’s recent escalation after the successful trip to Washington by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Athens expects an especially hot summer, preparing responses to all possible scenarios.
According to government sources, the decision by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to turn up the heat with increased overflights, attempts to send boatloads of migrants to Greece and the intention to deploy a drilling rig in the East Mediterranean has been prompted by his dismay at the results of Mitsotakis’ contacts in Washington.
Firstly, it became clear that the possibility of Ankara acquiring F-16 fighter jets from the United States has become more remote, while, on the other hand, Greece is on course to enter the F-35 program, from which Turkey has been excluded due to its procurement of the Russian S-400 weapons system.
Moreover, Erdogan is heading for presidential elections on the back foot for the first time, not least due to the dire state of the Turkish economy, and is searching for distractions in the field of foreign policy.
Sources in Athens believe that another reason why Erdogan will escalate further is that he went out on a limb by expressing opposition to the NATO accession of Sweden and Finland and will be forced to back down – and will most likely try to compensate by taking a hard line against Greece.
More specifically, over the coming weeks, the Greek government expects Ankara to exploit the refugee/migrant crisis. Flows have already increased in April and May compared to the corresponding months last year, both through the Evros border and to the Aegean islands.
What’s more, the intensification of airspace violations and overflights also carries the risk of an accident. In addition, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned last week that Ankara will dispute the sovereignty of Greek islands in the eastern Aegean if they are not demilitarized.
The other concern is that there could be a repeat of the summer crisis in 2020 in the East Mediterranean with the resumption of Turkish drilling in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone in July.
An extreme but not improbable scenario foresees the dispatch of a Turkish research vessel south of Crete and a possible attempt by Ankara to prevent a Greek exercise in the Dodecanese.