Just a few days ago we heard Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias advise Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the days of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent are over and with them the visions of conquered lands that appear to have the Turkish president so firmly in their grips.
At almost the same time, Erdogan’s coalition partner Devlet Bahceli claimed that Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was like his forefathers in that he is allowing himself to become a cat’s-paw for foreign forces. He also accused the Greek premier of “creating a climate of conflict.” Bahceli, who heads Turkey’s nationalist Gray Wolves, was basically accusing the Greek prime minister of suffering from the same syndrome as Eleftherios Venizelos, and thought it important to remind him of the dreadful consequences of the Asia Minor Campaign for the Greeks and the Greek state more generally.
If such historical references are taken out of the current equation of Greek-Turkish relations, however, one of the elements that defines the most recent crisis between the two countries is the verbal support being offered by the United States, France and eventually Germany and the European Union for Greece and their admonition of Turkey’s stance.
What matters most to Ankara, of course, is the criticism it is receiving from Washington. US President Joe Biden’s offish stance toward his Turkish counterpart is indeed unprecedented, because there may have been problems during Barack Obama’s and Donald Trump’s administrations, but never to this level of alienation.
This development makes Athens very happy, of course, but the negative consequence is that Turkey is increasing the pressure on Greece in all sorts of different ways because it cannot and will not face up to the US directly.
Mitsotakis has repeatedly warned that if Turkey decides to make a military move against the Aegean islands, Greece’s response would be “overwhelming” – and this means all-out war.
The Turks have not forgotten that Greece boasted superior sea and air capabilities in 1974 but did not become involved in a war with Turkey, because Cyprus was “too far away.” But the government in Ankara would be mistaken to assume that it would balk again now.
That said, we should also remember here in Greece that the paradigm of the “crazy Turk” is not an insult but a symbol of bravery for Turks, across the generations.