You could sell tickets to a staring contest between Turkish Dictator Recep Tayyip Erdogan, AKA ‘Sultan Chuckles’ and Russian Dictator Vladimir ‘Mr. Sardonicus’ Putin, and offer a million dollars to anyone who could get either to smile.
These guys are so grim they could make Marina Abramovich blink, no easy task because she could make a cobra look the other way, but that’s what Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was up against when he met Erdogan.
That took place in Istanbul-Constantinople, Mitsotakis being in Turkey to attend a service for Orthodox Christians at the Ecumenical Patriarchate. “We have big differences which cannot be overcome just like that,” Mitsotakis told Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios.
Talk about an understatement. Here’s the $64,000 question for Mitsotakis: why do you trust any word that comes sideways out of Erdogan’s mouth? His biggest lie was saying, “I have never told a lie.”
If 64 rounds of exploratory talks between the countries have gone nowhere fast, and Lack of Confidence Building Measures have failed more times than Donald Trump, there’s no chance Erdogan will live up to any promise to hatchet – uh, ratchet – down tension between the countries.
The talks were suspended in 2016 and didn’t start again until 2021, and in the last year have been a cold brew of diplomats about as friendly as the Hatfields and McCoys trying to come to terms.
In the last couple of years, every offer of Turkish diplomacy has been followed by belligerence and even threats of war if Greece moves to double its maritime boundaries from 6 to 12 miles. You could set your clock to that tactic.
They talked nice, Erdogan looking like he was ready to tell one of his aides, “leave the knife and take the baklava,” although he said there can be common ground on who has rights to the seas between them, as long as Turkey can take Greek grounds, and seas.
The two met in the wake of Russia invading Ukraine and killing civilians by the thousands while still being a member of the Useless Nations Insecurity Council, raising fears that – seeing Putin get his way – that Erdogan would do the same and seize a Greek island or two.
He’d get away with that too, but let’s not put ideas into his head, although there’s plenty room there because nobody’s home unless you count the toys in the attic. He’s Psycho Trump’s idol and wrote the playbook on duplicity.
Turkey, like Greece and the United States, is a member of NATO, otherwise known as Not A Trustworthy Outfit, and has been allowed to repeatedly violate Greek airspace and waters with fighter jets and warships.
In less than 24 hours after the meeting, which gave us another chance to see Erdogan looking at Mitsotakis like he wanted him for lunch, Turkish jets were back violating Greek airspace, so his word is about as believable as any American treaty with the Indians whose country we stole.
Greece supports European Union sanctions on Russia, except of course for still getting Russian oil and gas, which provides 40 percent of that country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and finance’s Putin’s War killing babies.
But Turkey – still technically an EU candidate – doesn’t support the sanctions, bought Russian-made S-400 missile systems that undermine NATO and could be used against Greece – and is getting away with it.
Serbia is an EU candidate too but could see those hopes end now, for not going along with the sanctions and letting Air Serbia fly to Moscow and back while EU countries can’t – although Cyprus might if Turkey gets more of its Russian tourists.
The EU is afraid of Erdogan because he can weaponize 4.4 million refugees and migrants who went there fleeing war, strife, and economic hardship in their homelands and used Turkey as a jumping off point to try to reach Europe, before the borders were closed.
That resulted in hundreds of thousands of them being filtered through Greece, which is still holding up to 100,000 in mainland and island detention camps, sent there by human traffickers Turkey lets operate in violation of an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the EU.
Mitsotakis is not a pushover and properly has reacted to Turkish provocations like Don Corleone to a threat: ignore it coolly but have a big stick nearby, and he’s used the time to build up Greece’s arsenal in case Erdogan strikes.
No one thought we’d see an invasion like Russia is doing, which is so terrifying you could turn on a WWII movie on Netflix for comfort viewing, so why couldn’t it happen against Greece? Or Cyprus again?
Greece is ready because its pilots are among the best in the world, engaging in regular mock dogfights with Turkish pilots, more of them unskilled after Erdogan purged the military after a failed coup attempt against him in 2016.
Mitsotakis authorized purchase of French Rafale fighter jets and warships and American warships, will upgrade U.S. F-16’s and Greece could be in line to get F-35’s denied Turkey for its purchase of defenses from NATO’s enemy, Turkey’s friend.
For all his quiet guile, Mitsotakis can’t underestimate Erdogan, because while the Greek leader is, like Julius Caesar, maybe capable of doing six things at once, one of them isn’t evading a knife. Make that a hatchet.