Turkey is testing our patience and red lines. Every Greek is naturally deeply upset at the sight of a Turkish seismic survey vessel navigating a provocative course under the escort of several Turkish Navy units, all part of a well-staged show.
Greece’s reaction must be decisive, but also carefully studied. At times like these, it would be ill-advised to seek comfort in urban legends about how we supposedly “slashed the cables back in 2018.” Sure, a deterrence operation was carried out, but no cables were cut.
The plan originally was that Greece would seal a maritime boundaries agreement with Egypt and, at the same time, sign a mutual defense pact with France along with a deal to purchase two French frigates. It would then make sense to expect that in the event of circumstances like those we are facing at the moment Paris would make a decision to dispatch naval forces to the area; not to engage in military conflict of course but to have a deterrent effect.
Is a reaction of this sort likely under the present circumstances? We will know the answer in the coming days, if not hours. For the time being however it can be said that the German negotiating channel is underperforming. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears to have avoided a telephone call with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel. A call between the two had until yesterday been repeatedly postponed.
In any case, it won’t be easy to find a formula that will pull us out of the current deadlock. Contrary to an escalation of tensions which can be easily caused by any clumsy move, de-escalation can be a very tricky business.
Of course, it would be far better, even under the current circumstances, if there were an open channel between the two countries without mediators.
One crucial factor is that we do not have a clear understanding of what really goes on in Ankara. The old nationalist deep state has clearly thrown its weight behind the Erdogan system in a way that has never been seen before. Also, it is clear that the Turkish Navy and other centers of power in the country are pushing for a final settlement with Greece.
In light of this, it would not be very difficult to cause an “accident,” and to issue an order for a move that could lead to military engagement.