Aegean tension already taking a toll
Turkey’s decision to escalate tension in the Aegean, certainly in terms of rhetoric, could lead to a military incident. It is a scenario that anyone with any common sense would want to avoid. A development of this nature would seriously damage Greece’s tourism industry – a fundamental pillar of the country’s economy.
But Greece would not be the only one to suffer. Given the fact that Greece’s armed forces have the means and the strength to deal a hefty blow in the event of a Turkish offensive, the impact on Turkey’s economy, which is already rather wobbly, would be irreparable. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would have to think twice before giving an order for military action, even if that were only for a few hours or minutes in the air. Such action would not be like Ankara’s operation against the lightly armed Kurdish forces in Afrin, on the other side of the Turkey’s border with Syria. There would be no winners in such a mini-conflict. Both sides would suffer losses in terms of human lives, weaponry and their economy. Turkey and Greece, as well as international businesses, have invested heavily in tourism both in the Aegean islands as well as along the Turkish coast. A potential conflict – what’s worse, ahead of the summer season – would be disastrous for all sides. For what American or European tourist would want to spend their vacation on a Greek island or in a Turkish coastal resort, instead of at a destination in Italy or Spain, after seeing images of falling fighter jets or sinking gunboats?
The economic repercussions from the arrest of the two Greek soldiers who accidentally crossed the border in the Evros region in early March are already being felt in Turkey. The flow of Greek visitors to Istanbul, Kesan and Edirne, as well as the coastal towns, has stopped, and the daily trips from Thessaloniki, Kavala, Alexandroupoli and Drama to the other side of the Evros River have been suspended, and Turkish businesses are feeling the implications. All that would have an impact on a reasonable leader. But there is no such leader across the Aegean, which means that anything is possible.
Erdogan cannot ignore the price his country would have to pay for overly ambitious aggressive action, but his megalomania, which he also seems to have passed on to his fellow countrymen, appears to trump all else.