If Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan achieves his maximalist goals, it will be a huge defeat – not just for Greece, Cyprus and other countries in the region, but for the Western system of stability and peace.
To those high-ranking US diplomats and officials from both parties who cite the “risk” of losing Turkey and see it evolve into a new Pakistan or Iran, the answer is that the country is not behaving as if it is part of the Euro-Atlantic project and should not be treated with subtlety and criticism limited to mere rhetoric. Not after Ankara purchased the Russian S-400, invaded Syria with the aim of attacking the Kurds, got involved in Libya with forces and military equipment and plays a negative role in the hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh. Not to mention past allegations of dealings with Islamic State.
All this is before we mention the numerous provocations that affect Hellenism, such as consecutive navtexes near Kastellorizo’s territorial water, surveying inside the Cypriot exclusive economic zone, opening Varosha despite the international outcry and UN resolutions, but also converting Hagia Sophia into a mosque.
Turkey’s complete impunity undermines the West’s credibility. Erdogan has crossed every line. He denounced the joint military exercises of Greek and American forces in Thrace. Lately he is even turning against Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci because he dares to refuse to align with Ankara’s appetites, and openly undermined him in order to make him lose the elections in the occupied north of the island.
The Erdogan regime insults everyone, from French President Emmanuel Macron to US presidential nominee Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republicans in Congress who are critical of him. He invests exclusively in his personal relationship with President Donald Trump – whatever the motives behind it. But even Trump has limits and priorities. When Erdogan jailed pastor Andrew Brunson, angering the Evangelicals, a key part of the US president’s electoral pool, Trump threatened to “destroy” the Turkish economy if the pastor was not released. The Turkish president complied.
To return to the issues that concern us, it is obvious that other countries, no matter how friendly and supportive they are to Greece, are not going to get involved in a military confrontation on our account. Our allies and partners can, however, do enough damage to Turkey to force it to stop its aggression. It is in this light that, at last, the imposition of severe and substantial sanctions that will really hurt the Turkish economy must be seriously considered, both by the EU and the US.
It is a fact that we have witnessed direct criticism from the US State Department against Turkey rarely seen in the past. It was preceded by France, while Germany is also starting to raise – slowly and belatedly – its voice. Strong statements by the powerful players that Erdogan counts on are a first step. They send clear messages that are difficult for the Turkish ruler to ignore.
Athens is always reaching out to Ankara for friendship and dialogue, proposing that we delimit our maritime zones, stop the tension and reap the benefits that will result. If Erdogan continues the “calculated provocations” – which is how the Americans described them and not the Greeks or Cypriots – the next step should be targeted sanctions that will seriously affect Turkey.
At the same time, the readiness of the Greek armed forces completes the puzzle of the potential cost that Erdogan is called upon to bear. As Turkish forces are spread too thin and on so many fronts, he must realize that in the event of a conflict, Turkey will pay a heavy price too.
The West must punish the Turkish leader. He has turned his country into a pariah and he must be made to understand that he is not invincible – before it’s too late.