The current and future Greek governments face a seemingly dangerous reality in our relationship with Turkey.
A recent survey conducted by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation noted that “many Turkish respondents, 56%, believe that some territories beyond [Turkey’s] borders actually belong to Turkey.”
This is one of many worrying findings, some of which are, indirectly but clearly, of concern to Greece and Cyprus.
The Security Radar 2022 survey covers 14 countries, including Turkey, and focuses on public policy and security trends. It is becoming clear that in recent years – and further back – Turkish society has been indoctrinated in a revisionist approach to the geographical area in which it finds itself.
Turkey is projected in the national subconscious as a country that has been wronged by the existing status quo, which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the 20 years of his hegemony, seems to want to overturn; in his case the references to the Ottoman Empire are enriched by the leading role of Islam.
The survey is even more worrying if one more finding is taken into account: 80% of Turks believe that their country is a major global power and should play a leading role in international developments, with the vast majority also believing that the Turkish Army should be at the heart of this role. In this context, more than 60% support the further increase of defense spending so that the country can, among other things, regain the lost territories, or else, reach the “boundaries of our heart,” as Erdogan says.
Although the Turkish president has recently made a change in his policy toward other countries in the region, with Israel being the most evident example, he shows less willingness to do the same with Greece.
And in this he can have the support of the majority of Turkish society, which has been nurtured in a distorting narrative of land loss to the benefit of Greece, which Erdogan not only keeps alive, but also promotes, especially after his political alliance with the Gray Wolves of Devlet Bahceli.
In Greece, the quantitative and qualitative modernization of the country’s defense arsenal is required due to real threats. If these were absent, Greek society would prefer to use these funds for other social needs.
In Turkey, on the other hand, politicians across almost the entire ideological spectrum seem to be satisfying popular sentiment by promoting the increase of their armaments.
Expansionism is rooted in the Turkish national subconscious in a development that goes beyond the current president of the neighboring country and his often aggressive rhetoric. And this is not only dangerous, but also difficult to reverse.