The Danger That Turkey’s Crisis Poses

Supporters of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan demonstrate outside a mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, Friday, Dec. 27, 2013. Erdogan on Friday faced mounting accusations of trying to cover up a corruption scandal that has implicated his allies after a prosecutor said he was being prevented from expanding a corruption probe. Erdogan was forced to reshuffle his government this week after three ministers, whose sons were detained as part of the probe, resigned. The placard reads: " Stand straight, don't bow, the umah are with you!"(AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

The big political crisis that has erupted in Turkey focusing on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is accused of being involved in corruption, is the worst thing that could happen for Turkey, but also for Hellenes, that is to say, for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Greece and Cyprus.

This is because political stability and prosperity are the most convincing reasons for a country to avoid adventures in its relations with its neighbors.

I will not deal with the substance of the charges against the Turkish Prime Minister and his son. The condemnations took on major proportions when a formerly loyal partner, a minister whose son is allegedly mixed up in the scandal along with the sons of two other ministers – resigned and called for the resignation of Erdogan himself.

Nor will I focus on the demagogic, almost Papandreou-like reaction of Erdogan to the arrests, including attacks on his opponents and a U.S. – Israel axis.

These are all internal Turkish political issues which concern us little and in any case it is difficult for a third party, who does not know the subject in detail, to reach a clear conclusion.

This crisis in a neighboring country to Greece is of serious concern, nevertheless, because of the potential impact it may have on its relations with its neighbors.

The concern is that if the Turkish Premier exhausts his political defense in the domestic realm without success he may trigger a crisis in his country’s relations with a neighbor to distract people from the issue of corruption and thus regain popular support as a leader during a national crisis.

He could choose to target a number of countries: From Syria and Iraq to Egypt and Armenia. He could also create a crisis with the Patriarchate or with Greece over the Muslim minority in Thrace or with Cyprus.

He might believe that due to the economic crisis, he might catch Hellenism at a moment when it is unable to respond. It would be a serious miscalculation. A threat to the nation could work wonders to its spirit and it would – as it was the case in the past – unite and become Greeks like a fist.

But as the economic crisis continues in the two Hellenic states, the danger is that third parties might  be tempted to test their ability to defend the ancestral land.