Expansionist agenda

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s visit to Ankara will take place eventually, as another deferment was considered to be detrimental to bilateral relations. That is, of course, provided that Turkey refrains from any provocative action by January 23. Turkey does want Karamanlis to visit. But it wants it to happen within a set context, a context shaped by Ankara that will reduce Greece to an inferior position while also promoting its own expansionist policy. This is why the Turkish side continues to provoke Greece without, however, actually taking things too far. There is no guarantee that it won’t do so while Karamanlis is visiting the Turkish capital. After all, this has happened before, notably when then Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis visited the country in April 2005. Back then Turkey sought to create tension believing rightly that Athens would react in its usual fearful way. By sending their patrol boats near the Imia islets and their fighter jets over Andros island during a Greek naval exercise, Turkey also sent a clear reminder that their territorial claims are still on the table. At the same time, they were testing the political reflexes of the conservative administration, drawing useful conclusions. Ankara has traditionally marred top-level meetings with provocation. Its main objective is to bend Greek resistance and force the government to negotiate administrative and sovereign rights. But during Molyviatis’s visit, Turkey overstepped the mark. There were signs that the plan was to politically humiliate Greece. The Greek foreign minister made a revealing statement, noting that «thanks to our handling in Ankara, an incident that could have developed into a crisis was diffused.» But what happened was not random but deliberate acts of provocation that served Turkish diplomacy. And Greece’s response was nothing but an anxious attempt to escape a crisis. Greece’s paranoia toward its eastern neighbor has prompted the political elites to buy into the convenient theory of the benign Erdogan versus the maligned military. That, however, is blind to the fact that Erdogan’s Islamic-leaning party is also a nationalist party that largely shares the security establishment’s expansionist ambitions. In fact, Athens underestimates the osmosis between the two. Greece sincerely wants to reduce tension. But this cannot make up for the absence of real policy. Greece’s good intentions alone cannot bring about an improvement in bilateral ties. Turkey needs to respond in kind. The root cause of bilateral tension is Turkey’s expansionist agenda. The rest is all secondary. Since Karamanlis has decided to go to Ankara, he might as well speak in a clear voice. And needless to say, he should be prepared for every possible scenario.