This week’s celebrations for NATO’s 70th anniversary seemed more like the prelude to an elegy on the imminent demise of the longest and most successful military alliance in history, of the West at least.
The majority of European leaders attribute this demise entirely – whether tacitly or openly – to US President Donald Trump, who has the unfortunate habit of expressing his opinions openly, without the usual diplomatic tact that requires that some things be left unsaid.
Such strategic matters, however, seemed to be of little concern to the Greek delegation under Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who had intended to brief the country’s allies on Ankara’s illegal activities off the coast of Cyprus and in the Aegean and were obviously very displeased to hear Trump repeatedly expressing support for his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The Greek side, though, should not have been surprised by NATO’s “neutral” stance on Greek-Turkish disputes. The alliance has stayed out of such issues since the restoration of democracy in Greece. The trend began with Greece’s withdrawal from NATO’s military command structure in 1974 and continued under the socialist government of Andreas Papandreou, which initially blocked a joint communique on nuclear arms and then went on to confine its reservations to footnotes. In the absence of an alternative, however, Greece is repeating this futile process.
The European Union, which is also in the grips of a severe crisis, has limited its reaction to Ankara’s behavior to symbolic condemnations and nothing more. After all, when Greek-Turkish relations were so sorely tested during the 1996 Imia crisis, a military confrontation was averted thanks to the intervention of the United States.
It was in this bleak context that talks were held in London Erdogan and Mitsotakis whose brief statement on television afterward illustrated the stalemate they have come to.
We are possibly on the brink of the abyss. Even the most optimistic statements from European agencies and diplomats, which are critical of Ankara’s actions in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean, are urging negotiations on the issues that divide the two countries. And this is where we are headed, like it or not, in unfavorable circumstances.