ATHENS – The return of belligerence from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan didn’t require putting Greece’s military on a high alert as has been reported, the New Democracy government said, although tensions picked up.
The Turkish alternates between provocations and claiming to want diplomacy to settle disputes over rights to the seas where Turkey plans to hunt for energy off Greek islands and he threatened to again unleash more refugees and migrants.
Turkey is holding some 4.4 million of them who went there fleeing war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands, ranging from Syria and Afghanistan to Pakistan and sub-Saharan Africa.
They are supposed to be contained there under an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union but Turkey has allowed human traffickers to keep sending more, the numbers slowing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Government sources not named told Kathimerini that an earlier report about Greek forces being ready for action was not true. “We are ready as always. There is nothing extraordinary,” they added.
Shortly afterwards, the Ministry of National Defense clarified that a meeting of the military leadership convened by the head of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff (GEETHA), Gen. Konstantinos Floros, dealt with “current issues” concerning the various services but no details were provided.
The paper earlier said that military measures were being ramped up, especially to protect the land and sea borders in worry that Turkey might send a flood of refugees and migrants, especially to five islands near Turkey’s coast.
A border fence has also been extended along the Evros River where in February, 2020 Turkey sent 10,000 refugees and migrants and urged them to cross before they were repelled by Greek riot police and army units.
Electronic surveillance and drones have also been added near the fence to detect any movement aimed at crossing the border unlawfully as Erdogan regularly issues the same threats before pulling them back, the EU unwilling to confront him.
Erdogan on Greece would “suffer” if he opened the borders so that migrants can enter the country from Turkey, while also slamming Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis for being “ungrateful” on the issue, saying that Turkey hosts 5 million refugees and also calling the Greek leader a liar.
Erdogan is also upset about American military forces at the northern Greek port of Alexandroupoli, saying that Washington “chose the wrong neighbor” and that “all of Greece has been turned into an American base.”
The Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA) said that Greece, which renewed a military cooperation deal with the US to include more American bases, should have more American troops, the paper said.
A JINSA study analyzed the situation in the region and proposed that Greece is a natural buffer against further provocations and to strengthen American foreign policy interests.
Greece offers alternatives in case there is a further deterioration of US-Turkey relations that could see American troops pulled out of a Turkish base as Erdogan is still upset about Turkey being barred from buying US-made F-35 fighter jets.
The US put up that prohibition after Turkey bought a Russian-made S-400 missile defense system that could be used against Greece in a conflict and undermines NATO.
That could be used against Greece in a conflict and undermines NATO, to which all three countries belong, but which has refused to intervene over constant Turkish provocations, unwilling to take on the volatile Erdogan.