The Turkish economy is hanging on by a thin thread and, for the first time, the policies of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are being openly questioned. Turkey’s intervention in Syria and Libya is not turning out well for the country’s interests. The coronavirus is undermining public trust in the government.
Ankara is reminiscent of 2009 Athens when everyone appeared to realize that Greece would have to resort to the International Monetary Fund but our leadership was in denial.
A perfect storm looks set to hit Greece’s neighbor to the east; all the ingredients are there. There is an obvious risk for Greece here too; and that is that Turkey will seek to export its domestic crisis to the west, via the Aegean or the Evros region.
I have been following Greek-Turkish relations for years and there are two novel elements that strike me this time. The first is that nothing seems capable of stopping Ankara. In the past, even at the height of tensions, there used to be a code of conduct that would be respected on both sides. The current administration in Ankara is oblivious to any such restraint. Turkish fighter jets fly over the Evros border and Greece’s eastern Aegean islands even at a time when Turkey itself, Greece and the rest of the world are being tested by an unprecedented crisis.
The second element is this obsession with Greece, the extremely aggressive language used in statements coming from the very top to the least important bureaucrat. This obsession – because that is precisely what it is – has apparently intensified due to the fact that Erdogan’s tough-guy strategy at Evros didn’t work, as the Greek state demonstrated that, under the right leadership, it can give an effective response.
The next step? Many people appear to be trying to analyze Turkey and Greek-Turkish relations through the prism of the dynamics at the time of Turgut Ozal or Suleyman Demirel. They deem that good manners must be observed, even by journalists. They are in a deep sleep.
Erdogan could try to export his own crisis in our direction. Perhaps he doesn’t think that any Western leader will respond. However, doing so could be fatal for Turkey as it could accelerate its economic collapse.
Sure, it would be in the interest of both Turkey and Greece to avoid a renewal in tensions. But if that does happen, Greece will be ready and united.