In a letter dated June 5, 1963 and addressed to the elderly Turkish prime minister Ismet Inonu, US President Lyndon Johnson sought to avert a military invasion of Cyprus by threatening that in the case of a Soviet attack, the United States and NATO would not come to Ankara’s aid.
The letter worked, much to the satisfaction of Nicosia and Athens. The Turkish Cypriots, however, were deeply chagrined as they had been looking forward to Turkey’s intervention following bloody clashes between the two communities.
In order to further demoralize the Turkish Cypriots, Cyprus’ RIK radio station aired a seemingly innocuous ballad titled “I Waited but You Never Came.” The Turkish side responded with another song that was repeatedly played on Bayrak Radio, titled “I May Come Suddenly One Night.” A decade later, the Turks invaded Cyprus.
It is the refrain of this same song that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeats every so often in his speeches. Doing so is not just some neo-Ottoman syndrome, but a deliberate and constant reminder that Turkey does what it says. Unless every issue between the two countries is put on the table of talks on the basis of international law and other international and bilateral agreements, according to each’s interpretation. This is Ankara’s fixed position, though not Athens’.
However, in contrast to the 1960s, when the world was split between two sides and Greece and Turkey were entirely dependent on the US, the present international environment is showing alarming signs of destabilization.
Washington retains a significant foothold in Europe, but it is being tested by the negative consequences of the sanctions imposed as a punishment on Russia and which are also testing the European Union sorely too. In the meantime, rapprochements are being made that are completely out of the Americans’ control, most notably with regard to strengthening cooperation between Moscow and Beijing.
Last Thursday, Erdogan traveled to Uzbekistan to take part in a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), where he held a string of meetings with foreign leaders. This coming Friday, the Turkish president will travel to New York for the United Nations General Assembly. We do not know whether he will meet with his American counterpart, Joe Biden, but the issue of the supply of F-16 fighter jets and modernization kits is bound to be discussed at some level.
There are some who are naively putting a lot of stock into a potential rift between Ankara and Washington. They fail to understand that this would be the worst possible scenario for Greece’s security.
The Greek government and the entirety of the country’s opposition are all in a tizzy over a great number of things, but when it comes to the enormous problem of Greek-Turkish relations they all claim to be feeling “calm.” Perhaps with the hope that Erdogan will not just sing the same old song.