Turkey has yet again displayed its true stripes as a rogue state during its invasion of northern Syria. Whether led by a fascist Kemalist stratocracy as in the 1974 invasion of Cyprus or Islamofascists like President Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s foreign policy, Machiavellianism, and expansionism has remained consistent and unwavering – which is likely why it has managed to ably serve its national interests over the decades.
Its emergence as a nation-state was sealed with the blood of the indigenous Christian populations of Asia Minor and Pontos over the course of multiple genocides from 1913-1922. During WWII, Turkey succeeded in signing successive treaties with the Nazis, Soviets, and Allies, from which it managed to actually profit(!) amid worldwide destruction, including benefitting from lucrative agreements to supply chromium and other important metals badly needed by the Nazi war machine or taking a sizable cut of the gold seized by German occupying forces across Europe. Meanwhile, it received military and financial aid from the Allies in order to maintain its ‘neutrality’and not support the Axis militarily.
During the ensuing Cold War, Turkey used the U.S. policy of containment to leverage its geographical position and secure huge monetary sums and military support, despite its ongoing persecution of the remaining Christians in Constantinople, invasion of Cyprus, assault on the Kurds, and systematic violation of human rights. Its bargaining and increasingly maximalist behavior even served to negate its supposed geostrategic importance (Iraq War 2004, restrictions on U.S. base in Incirlik, purchase of Russian S-400 missiles). Moreover, it continues to operate as one of the world’s largest human traffickers in the unchecked illegal migration wave that has turned into a major crisis for the EU – all while blackmailing Brussels for billions.
Faithful to its classic game plan, Turkey successfully plays every side against the other, most recently causing the United States to lose its credibility internationally by abandoning its closest allies in Syria – the Kurds. Whether Washington’s betrayal of the Kurds represents a strategic policy shift or a temporary maneuver in the irrational courting of Turkey that has been going on for far too long remains to be seen, however, as the dust begins to settle, some important questions must preoccupy lawmakers, analysts, and the Community-at-large.
Primarily, if Turkey takes unilateral action against Greece or Cyprus, can the United States be relied upon to actively enforce the rule of law and maintain the status quo? If not, does Greece possess any strategic bargaining chips with U.S. industry leaders that could leverage its position against its belligerent neighbor (i.e., its Exclusive Economic Zone and the lucrative hydrocarbons that are believed to lie within)?
Secondly, is Greece’s appeasement and failure to strategically negotiate actually weakening its international standing? Over the past few decades, unlike the despicable nonetheless remarkable continuity of Turkish foreign policy, which remains the same no matter who is in power, Greece has flip-flopped on several major issues, including supporting Turkey’s accession to the EU and most recently making major concessions to its onomastically challenged neighbor to the north regarding the use of the term Macedonia, while supporting its accession to NATO and the EU. Those employed in “the world’s oldest profession” are rumored to quip that their services are never really truly appreciated unless paid for. Politicians, whose profession is arguably far more disreputable than that of the average bawd, may likely adhere to the same mentality.
Most recently, the Tsipras-Zaev Agreement (aka the Mistake by the Lake), whereby Greece okayed Skopje’s misappropriation of the term ‘Macedonia’ and its derivatives, has done little to strengthen its international standing. On the contrary, its inability to defend the historic legitimacy of Macedonia’s Hellenic identity against the irredentist claims of a manufactured statelet facing a decades-long identity crisis and unavoidable future civil strife probably only weakened it in the eyes of global and regional powers.
France’s recent veto of Skopje’s bid to join the EU plunged the latter into a political crisis and triggered early elections that will likely return the Russian-sponsored nationalists back to power and lead to further violations of the Tsipras-Zaev Agreement by Skopje, bringing the inevitable unsustainability of the treacherous pact back to the forefront. Despite the best efforts of Greek political parties to perennially muddle things, an opportunity to reverse this glaring mistake may very well present itself.
The question remains, are Greece’s political parties even capable of discussing the national interest and unwaveringly adhering to policies serving national interests, or will petty self-serving shortsightedness prevail once again? For the moment, the most important thing being discussed in Parliament seems to be how to violate the Constitution (again!) and shortchange all Greek citizens living abroad from their legitimate right to an absentee ballot.
If Greece’s national interests are being buried by bad policy, look no further than the ineptitude of far too many of its lawmakers in Parliament.
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