Ankara’s hardline rhetoric and mounting provocations, including the systematic violations of Greek airspace by Turkish military jets, appear to forewarn of a repeat of the heated summer of 2020.
The provocative overflights in the Aegean Sea appear designed to prod US President Joe Biden, who continues to snub his Turkish counterpart: The White House has so far not agreed on a specific date for a meeting between the two leaders. At the same time, these provocations are the safest way to deflect the attention of the domestic public from the economic crisis. The real inflation rate is close to 150 percent.
If Recep Tayyip Erdogan decides to call an early election to preempt a further deterioration of Turkey’s economic woes, then Turkish provocations during the summer period will certainly intensify: They could come in the form of seismic surveys in the Aegean, of orchestrated migratory pressure on the Greek border, of a spike in overflights by fighter planes, of jingoistic language.
Nothing new here. Like it did back in 2020, Athens will keep its cool and fend off the provocations with determination in order to avert a heated incident. It will intensify its diplomatic mobility, invoking the rules of international law, and ask for help from its allies if Turkey decides to take things too far.
After all, Greece is better prepared to deal with Turkey’s extremism than it was in 2020. It has signed defense deals with the United States and France. In fact the latter has committed to back Athens in case of conflict. Greece now has a fleet of state-of-the-art Rafale fighter jets, upgraded F-16 aircraft, heavyweight torpedoes for its submarines and a reinforced US military presence in Alexandroupoli and Souda Bay. Meanwhile, after upgrading the capabilities of the wall on the Evros land border it is ready to fend off another wave of irregular migrants if need be.
Erratic troublemaker Erdogan has shown the world that nothing will stop him from pursuing his revisionist ambitions. He did not hesitate to purchase S-400 missiles from Russia, deploy troops in Syria and Libya, play the card of America-bashing, disregard the sanctions against Moscow, and block the accession of Sweden and Finland into NATO. Erdogan has made himself the most unreliable partner at a time when credibility and solidarity between allies are most valued. What goes around comes around.