Fixations and pragmatism

Turkey’s new chief of staff General Yasar Buyukanit is a typical example of a Turkish patriot – in the traditional sense of the word, often scoffed at as reactionary. At a time when the EU is striving to convince Ankara to transform its political system in order to join the European club, Buyukanit has made it clear that the nation’s armed forces will not give up its decisive role in dealing with political challenges. For Buyukanit, Turkey is faced with two main threats, namely Islamic radicalism and Kurdish separatism. The terrorist bombings that have struck Turkish tourism resorts as he took office confirmed their opposition to his nomination. At the same time, Buyukanit has stressed that the army will have the final say on the Cyprus issue, saying that as a military man he will «keep a close eye on developments.» Sure, cracking down on Islamic extremists and Kurdish guerrillas is also on the government’s agenda – as is the Cyprus issue. The difference is that Buyukanit is reinjecting clarity into Turkey’s political discourse, an element that had been lacking in recent years. Either because of his Islamic roots or because of Ankara’s EU-related obligations, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has often seemed to stumble into the zone of the politically obscure. The new military chief takes his place next to President Ahmet Necdet Sezer as the main voices of Turkey’s traditional establishment. Greece’s policy of placing hope in the EU as a transformative power to turn Turkey into a Western-type democracy seems bankrupt. Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis will have to grapple with the new reality and sacrifice some of her fixations on bilateral ties with Turkey. Greece must seek a new equilibrium, as any policy of appeasement or cordial understanding would be extremely counterproductive.

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