Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s growing belligerence towards Greece, other than repeating his favored tactic of raising tension to see what he will gain from it, may signal a couple of things. All of them dangerous.
Perhaps he has been warned not to go ahead with the new invasion of northern Syria that he has announced. Maybe he wants to put more pressure on NATO, to gain something there. Or is he following the example of his teacher, Vladimir Putin, creating a fog of propaganda and preparing to strike before his foe grows stronger? The question is whether the basic priorities of defense – a strong military, powerful alliances, national unity – are sufficient to deal with this.
Today Greece is stronger than before, with diplomatic and military support from powerful allies, while Turkey has heated relations with many countries and is embroiled in various military adventures. In Greece we tend to both overestimate and underestimate Turkey’s strength, whereas Turkey tends to exaggerate the threat posed by Greece while overestimating its own strength.
Erdogan knows that the threats against Greece will not win over the United States, nor any other NATO ally or European Union country, as to the righteousness of his cause. What he wants is to push Turkey’s weight among its allies so as to make gains wherever he can. More importantly, though, he wants to keep his compatriots on edge, cultivating a mix of omnipotence and rage against local and foreign enemies.
Erdogan will keep raising the tension. At this point, he cannot back down without losing face. And the tension serves him well ahead of next year’s elections. That is why, beyond the obvious need for military deterrence, dynamic diplomacy and national unity, the most powerful weapon for Greece could be a simple information campaign aimed at the Turkish people, in Turkish.
Digital media and social networks lend themselves to this. In a clear and honest way, the text and images could explain the situation between the two countries and why ours must always be ready to defend itself. Only nations themselves can change the course of dangerous leaders.