National issues and convenient truths

National issues and convenient truths

The war in Ukraine has naturally deflected attention away from the debate around Greece-Turkey relations, giving politically expedient pundits room to shift the debate onto the domestic agenda – an agenda that does less to serve the truth and more to promote narrow interests. The stance of the warring sides in Ukraine, of the European Union, the United States, China, the regional powers and allies, these are all interpreted through the distorting lens of the dominant perspective on the linear evolution of Greek-Turkish disputes. The only difference (for those who still fail to grasp it) is that after February 24, the idea of the status quo has become uncomfortably open to interpretation by those who aspire to overturn it.

Ankara has over the past five years taken steps to promote its understanding of the status quo. The Turkey-Libya memorandum on maritime zones (which although legally unfounded, is still put forward by Ankara as a legal argument), Turkey’s letter to the United Nations regarding the outer limits of the claimed continental shelf, active challenges to Cyprus’ continental shelf, using energy drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean to advance Turkey’s geopolitical objectives, claims of “gray zones” at the expense of Greek sovereignty in the Aegean Sea – these moves may all be out-and-out rejected by Athens. The real question however concerns the extent to which they have a meaningful impact.

Turkey has no real trouble repairing fractured relations with the United States. Israel and the United Arab Emirates would rather be on good terms with Ankara. France and Italy (despite some difficulties) are negotiating with Turkey the supply of SAMP/T air defense systems. Russia is constructing nuclear plants and views Turkey as an interlocutor. Ukraine views Turkey as a credible mediator and potential guarantor power. Germany sees Turkey as a country that could host part of the industry which may have to be relocated from China.

Amid all that, some here appear to think that Greece has the power to impose its own terms. The stakes of the game are too high for Greece. Big powers have room for maneuver while medium-sized and small powers unwillingly follow behind in their effort to save as much as they can. Convenient truths may do the trick for a limited period of time. Reality however is much more unpleasant, and preparing for it requires consistent action.

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