Analysis: Issues of geopolitics and power in Greek-Turkish relations

Analysis: Issues of geopolitics and power in Greek-Turkish relations

By Nikos Kotzias *

Disruption of Power Ratio

The first element we need in oeder to understand the current developments is the reversal of the power ratio between Greece and Turkey, especially in the field of economy, where the power of Turkey is many times greater than that of Greece. The result is that Turkey has the potential of increased funding for its diplomacy and equipment. Moreover, in contrast to Greece, where bipartisanship and memoranda have dissolved our defence industry, Turkey has developed a strong defence industry, participating in the production of aircrafts and tanks, drones and cyber warfare. Finally, its population is close to eight times that of Greece. Turkey also has recent military experience, from its illegal actions in Iraq and Syria, while in Libya it uses an army of jihadists. Overall, the changes in the balance of power “allow” Turkey to showcase its new offensive capabilities. This fact makes the policy of alliances more imperative for Greece.

Turkey, on the other hand, has a number of weaknesses and contradictions within it that its leadership finds difficult to manage. Such are the social inequalities, the religious and national conflicts, the asymmetry of the development of its different regions. Its economy is also showing declining trends. An important weakness of Turkey is its institutional dysfunctions, the degradation of democracy. Unfortunately, the negative elements accumulated in the Greek political system do not allow for Greece to make sufficient use of democratic institutions as an element of power, which is something that must be done urgently with the expansion and consolidation of democratic institutions and conquests.

Turkey, feeling stronger than a century ago, at the base of the above, shows revisionist tendencies and a great deal of nervousness towards the outside. It seeks to prevent the countries around it, with the exception of course of Russia, from exercising their rights.

Three power projection factors

Turkey’s aggression is a product of its strengthening, of the notion that it can revise the results of the past, of the ambition of its leadership, But also of the existence of three more factors that it considers to facilitate the implementation of its policy.

The first is that it feels strong enough to enforce its will, either through pressure, as it has done so far with Greece, or with weapons, as she does in the Arab world, as it estimates that the potential gains will be greater than any loss.

The second factor is that it assesses as weak the leaderships in Syria, Iraq and Libya. Unfortunately, it also received such a feeling from the Greek government, from the first moment they “met” in New York in September 2019. Accordingly, it appreciated the silly games to which the Greek Government limited itself with regard to the Turkish violations in the EEZ and territorial waters of Cyprus, but also the empty words that dominated the Greek Government’s ostrich mentality regarding a series of events in the Aegean.

The third factor is Turkey’s felling that if it acts aggressively, invoking international law in a distorted way, it will be tolerated. It records the existence of an international gap that it allows it to take up the roe of a “regional ruler”. It notes that Russia is, through contradictions, in a phase analogous to Lenin’s attempt a century ago to separate Turkey from the West. China is interested in the geo-economy of the region, but not (yet) equally in its geopolitics. Israel is embroiled in its own internal problems, with a new party in the ruling coalition, whose leader is particularly friendly towards Turkey. Britain has been absorbed in Brexit and its health crisis. The EU represents the arbitrator between a member and a non-member. Something for which the “diplomacy” (god forbid) of the government is responsible, while the most powerful EU member state, Germany, behaves as in the late 19th century, as an economic ally of Turkey and its feeder with armament material. Finally, Trump manifests an “individual” pro-Turkism. Only one country is trying at this stage to prevent Turkey from taking advantage of this gap: France. Of course for its own reasons, but it is trying.

France is currently the “natural” ally of Greece at a very difficult juncture. An ally willing to support Cyprus in a meaningful way. Unfortunately, the ND Government abandoned the ongoing cooperation with France, under pressure from the Germans, and possibly at the urging of the Americans. A France that has strong defence cooperation with Egypt and Libya. In other words, we are in a phase where the interests of Cyprus, Greece, Egypt and France coincide in dealing with Turkish aggression.

Athens, however, is no longer looking for allies to resist the Turkish provocations, but for “mediators” to “facilitate” its path to submission and retreat. It seems to have disorganized the alliance with Paris in order to remain in the German fold. In this way it leads the country to a new “wider Madrid” (which was the awful retreat of Simitis) and to a kind of “sea Imia”. Retreats that I will analyze in my article next week (“the historic”)./ibna

*Nikos Kotzias is former Greek Foreign Minister, Emeritus Professor of International Relations and Foreign Policy at the University of Piraeus, Member of the Pratto Movement.