It would seem that our troubles with Turkey are far from over. The more skeptical analysts appear to have been correct in their assessment of the Turkish president’s objectives. It has been demonstrated that the good scenario is not always the safest bet as far as Turkey is concerned, and even less so these days.
In order to understand Turkey today we must first get into the mind of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This is no easy task, but one thing is certain. The Turkish strongman believes that the world is changing fast; that Europe is a powerless giant and America an unstable giant with no clear sense of direction. Erdogan sees himself as a life-long leader of sorts, who ought to be seen on a par with US President Donald Trump or German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Perhaps he finds it hard to understand why he has to speak with all those European officials who, as he often says, come and go too fast for him to remember their names.
He does not see why the Europeans would choose to support (albeit in a restrained manner) Greece and Cyprus. Nor can he understand why US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would visit Greece – and Crete in particular – at such a sensitive time.
Perhaps Erdogan intends to break with the West. It would be premature to say if the decision to reopen parts of the beach section of fenced-off Varosha in occupied northern Cyprus or the decision to send out the Oruc Reis for fresh surveys were planned a long time ago or if they were made under pressure from “hawks” in recent days.
These moves are not only aimed at Greece and Cyprus. They are also meant to send a signal to the West that will only get louder if Ankara makes a show out of activating the Russian-made S-400 defense systems. The timing of Turkey’s latest escalation in the Eastern Mediterranean is not random. It has come in the run-up to the US elections, as Erdogan knows that Trump will be too involved in the presidential race and the US state apparatus will be in a state of paralysis.
The good thing is that the latest developments have removed any doubts among the more skeptical out there. The bad thing is that our choices are limited. Because, unless some magical formula appears, there seem to be only two possible scenarios ahead: one is military engagement and the other is negotiations on the basis of Ankara’s expanded agenda – which for national as well as political reasons is not possible.