In difficult times, we refer to the advice of those who lived and handled difficult situations with Turkey. Because, as the late Greek diplomat and writer Vyron Theodoropoulos often said, “history should not teach you what to do but what not to do.” We are on the verge of some kind of “incident,” without anyone being able to predict what and when it will happen. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has too much invested to back down without losing face.
So previous experience has taught us what to do:
– We should not be dragged into an escalation that is not planned and a foregone conclusion. Avoiding escalation is a great art. One wrong move, statement or decision can push into a spiral of endless actions and counteractions. We are supposed to have learned our lesson after the 1996 Imia crisis. Nothing can simply be left to chance.
– We should know exactly what our key partners and allies are thinking and planning to do in the event of an incident. This is not easy either. But since we have paid dearly many times for this lack of knowledge in the past, it is absolutely crucial. We need straight talk, even if it displeases us. It is better to know the truth and the limits of each ally’s reaction than to be unpleasantly surprised.
– All main “players” must speak the same language, be able to communicate without quarreling or personal agendas – which is something we paid dearly for in Imia. And of course we must put aside partisan and personal issues for a while, because without a solid domestic political front one cannot go very far.
– We must keep some elementary channels of communication open with the other side. Erdogan is burning bridges and making it difficult. It requires perseverance because without such channels it will be very difficult to ease tensions.
All of the above may be unnecessary remarks and it may turn out that we are going through another rhetorical and psychosomatic outburst of a very cornered and arrogant leader. But Erdogan may face the consequences of historic hubris, which could happen through his relationship with Greece.
So let’s be prepared, just in case. And let’s not underestimate the “accident” that can blow everything up. It happens in the most organized countries when everything is blurred by the fog of an escalating crisis. As former foreign minister Petros Molyviatis often points out to us with his great wisdom, “do not always seek to find something deep or complicated behind a mistake. It may just be a mistake.” Eyes open, then.