The dramatic developments in Ukraine raise some concerns to do with the ongoing tensions in Greek-Turkish relations.
Will Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan try to take advantage of the chaos and the West’s focus on Ukraine to push some of his aggressive aspirations?
On the other hand, the unexpectedly dynamic and coordinated reactions of NATO and the EU are an encouraging development and send messages to everyone concerned.
International law has come to the fore. Revisionism is not accepted by the international community and questioning the territorial sovereignty of an independent country or any attempt to change borders by force is strongly condemned, not just rhetorically, but by the imposition of painful sanctions.
Ankara did not align itself with the West. It is pursuing a peculiar policy of balances. “Turkey is not waiting for them [NATO and the EU]; it is following its own policy,” Erdogan has said. Indeed, that is exactly what it does. It procures modern military equipment from Moscow; it condemns the war in Ukraine but does not oppose Russia; it closes the straits to the warships not only of Russia, but also of Ukraine and NATO member-states; it does not close its airspace to Russian aircraft; it does not send weapons to Ukraine; and it does not impose financial sanctions on Russia.
By the way, Turkey cannot recognize and implement the Montreux Convention while challenging and seeking a revision of the Lausanne Treaty, when the one – in a way – is complementary to the other.
In any case, the situation is complex, it carries risks and does not allow for complacency.
The prevailing chaos and the fact that all eyes are on the Ukrainian crisis could be assessed by some in Ankara as an ideal time to implement their own plans. In fact, as possible aggressive actions by Turkey will not have the character of a full-scale attack, some may believe that they wouldn’t provoke an immediate and strong reaction from the international community.
In this fluid environment, it is imperative that Greece shows vigilance and participates actively in NATO and EU actions in the short term, so that there is no doubt about where we belong and which side we are on (unlike others, who use their favorite tactic and try to be with everyone), and, in the medium term, continue the process of strengthening our deterrence capabilities and deepening alliances and collaborations with important players, both global and regional.
It is a time when NATO and the EU are forging their unity and highlighting their determination. At the same time, one lesson of the Ukrainian crisis is how destructive coordinated sanctions by the United States and Europe can be on a country that is behaving in a revisionist manner, threatening its neighbor and violating its sovereignty.