Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s abrasive attitude toward Greece is not just intensely frustrating for us – which the Turkish president could not care less about – it also exposes him internationally and does little to help relations with the United States and the European Union – which he does care about, and very much so.
The strategy of verbal threats, which is now being enriched with insults, lies and baseless accusations against Greece – including photo displays by the Turkish president himself – serves no purpose and only further sullies his tainted image.
The Greek foreign minister reacted promptly and in great detail to the Turkish president’s latest outrageous histrionics and the prime minister is expected to give a more comprehensive response during his speech to the UN General Assembly on Friday.
Greece’s reactions and interventions are, of course, important and the more comprehensive and convincing they are, the better. But they are also expected, and are treated as such by third parties.
What is more important, however, is that Erdogan’s actions and statements are not hitting the mark with the audience he (and Greece) cares about the most: the international community. And given his efforts to strengthen his country’s military and prop up its economy, the international community mainly boils down to the US and Europe.
Thanks to being abroad for many years, I dare say I have a pretty good idea of how American and European officials think. It matters to know how they view certain people, interpret facts and understand events. And Erdogan’s extreme antics are not finding the desired response in Washington and Brussels. They are, instead, only exacerbating frustration at his overall stance on a string of issues.
When this specific Turkish president, known for his questionable abrasive behavior, not just toward Greece but so many others too, chooses the UN podium as a platform to accuse Greece of atrocities and claim it is turning the Aegean into a graveyard, he is making a fool of himself and inevitably undermining the positions he wants to promote in the framework of Greek-Turkish relations.
Every time Erdogan makes a false accusation and uses incendiary rhetoric that is unconvincing and an insult to common sense, he reduces his own credibility in the eyes of the Western world in everything he claims on a series of questions.
The Turkish president is painting himself into a corner of isolation. He has transformed Turkey from being regarded 15 years ago as a paradigm of a Muslim, to some degree democratic country, and an important member of NATO with close ties to the EU and decent prospects of accession, into an unpredictable factor of destabilization that walks hand in hand with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and even eyes full membership there.
Greece is not Erdogan’s biggest problem; what is, is his own unstable behavior geopolitically, his own aggression and his own goals.