A wish for Turkey in 2023: A change in behavior

A wish for Turkey in 2023: A change in behavior

Does the growing confrontation with the West, in an ever-expanding range of issues, benefit Turkey? In the same way, how much does Turkey gain from its increasingly aggressive stance towards Greece? If the behavior in question was the product of pre-election planning, it would obviously be reprehensible, but it would make sense. However, everything points to something much deeper. Megalomania and arrogance, displayed to an excessive degree by the leadership of the neighboring country, make for very bad – sometimes even dangerous – advisers.

If President Recep Tayyip Erdogan really looks forward to a military confrontation with Greece, believing that, in the end and in an overall context, he will gain, he is misreading the situation. The opposite will happen. It is not only the unnecessary damage his country will suffer on a purely military level even if Turkey “wins” any short-lived conflict, but the wider economic and political cost it will incur in its relations with the United States and the European Union.

Getting back to a more realistic assessment of things and as we enter what looks to be a critical year for the region, Turkey has to decide if it wants to be part of a regional scheme of peaceful cooperation based on widely accepted norms, good neighborly relations and international law, or continue to pursue its revisionist fantasies and further ignite tensions with a number of countries in the area. In that context, Ankara has to realize that continuing on the slippery slope of direct threats and challenges to Greece’s sovereignty – the latest having to do with Greece’s legal right to extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles around the island of Crete – will not bring it any benefits.

Obviously, Greece can exercise its rights at any time and on any part of its territory it chooses. Its approach is based on international law, while its strengthened deterrent capability – its military being at its highest level in decades and its partnerships and strategic alliances more robust than ever, one of them empowered by a mutual defense assistance clause – adds to its confidence and allows it to not feel threatened.

One wonders who made Turkey, whose attacks are not confined to Greece or Cyprus, but are also aimed at the US and Europe, the “supreme leader” of the Mediterranean Sea. If Ankara is worried that it might be left out of energy developments in the region, the best way to become part of the equation and reap the benefits is changing its behavior: refrain from aggressive rhetoric and actions, including in the diplomatic field; choose engagement over confrontation and cooperation with third countries over direct intrusion or indirect involvement into their affairs; follow the rules and accept international arbitration where needed.

This could be a well-intentioned wish for Turkey in 2023. It sounds naive and utopian, however such a development would primarily benefit Ankara itself. Of course, it won’t happen.

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