Greece enters the Fall facing renewed threats to its territorial integrity by its ever-hostile neighbor Turkey, and its moral accomplices in the EU and NATO to capitulate to the preposterous demands of Turkish imperialism, which remains the same whether it is neo-Ottoman or Kemalist. Worst yet, despite increasingly being backed into a corner by ‘neosultan’ Tayyip Erdogan’s expansionist agenda and European/American financial interests that keep shielding his rogue nation from the consequences of its actions, Greek politicians seem intent on repeating the mistakes of the past and not revising their strategy.
How else can one term successive Greek Governments’ refusal to make Turkish aggression an international issue by exercising their veto rights in the international blocs to which they belong? In light of the NATO Secretary General’s unapologetically one-sided stance exonerating Turkey from any wrongdoing after it encroached upon Greece’s Exclusive Economic Zone with a research vessel accompanied by a fleet of warships, for weeks, can there be any doubt over the folly of the Prespes Agreement with Skopje, passed into law by the previous Government and faithfully executed by the current one?
The annexation of Greece’s onomastically challenged northern neighbor into the NATO alliance to prevent it from falling under Russian influence was a longstanding desire of both the United States and Germany. Tremendous pressure was brought to bear in the past to convince Greece to support the former Yugoslav republic’s membership bid despite the latter’s misappropriation of the name Macedonia. In the end, in what constituted a travesty to democracy and parliamentarianism, the Prespes Agreement was ‘approved’ (sic) by both countries, ending a decades-long diplomatic impasse, with an agreement heavily favoring Skopje, which saw Athens retreat on several of its key positions. Proponents of this embarrassing settlement advocated it would consolidate diplomatic capital and curry favor with international powers ahead of the imminent showdown with Turkey.
The recent behavior by NATO, however, has shown how quickly favors are forgotten in the world of international politics. No sooner did the ink dry on Skopje’s induction into NATO than new demands that Athens acquiesce to Turkish piracy and territorial encroachment were made by the very same powers who engineered the betrayal of the Macedonian name. Had Greece not relinquished its lone NATO bargaining chip, the Atlantic Alliance’s smug Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg would likely be taking a markedly different tone today with the Turkish president.
Alas, those who do not learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them. And so, there is renewed pressure being applied by Germany, the EU, the United States, and NATO toward Greece to sit down at the negotiating table with Turkey in the hopes of averting hostilities in the Aegean Sea. The problem, of course, is that the table is quite uneven – otherwise, Ankara would have no interest in dialogue. At the moment, Greece is going into negotiations with zero claims, while Turkey keeps adding to its list of egregious demands. It doesn’t take a chess grandmaster to realize that once the standard compromise formula is implemented, it’s a foregone conclusion that Greece will walk away from the table having sustained losses.
Moreover, as history has repeatedly shown, negotiations and good faith are mutually exclusive terms for Turkey. Look no further than the Treaty of Lausanne, which included express provisions safeguarding the ethnic Greeks of Turkey (self-governance for Imvros and Tenedos, protections for the once sizeable Greek community in Constantinople, now down to less than 2,500 persons as a result of Turkish state-sponsored terrorist campaigns, pogroms, and property seizures), or peace talks with the Kurds, whose duly elected chief statesman (elected by over 10 percent of the voters) remains imprisoned.
Still, you’ve got to hand it to the Turks. If nothing else, they’re meticulous and leave nothing to chance. Frazzled and embarrassed by the damage their flagship sustained after a much older Greek frigate outmaneuvered it following the former’s failed attempt to ram it, they don’t want to risk an uncontrolled hostile episode. Just like they did with Cyprus, when the Turks invaded only after Greece foolishly withdrew its military division from the island, Turkey is now demanding the demilitarization of Greece’s easternmost islands. Considering Greece seeks only to maintain the status quo and has no offensive designs against Turkey, the only purpose behind demilitarizing the islands would be to ensure they are easy targets in a possible future invasion.
And while Turkey’s insatiable appetite shouldn’t surprise anyone, it’s rather unbelievable that any Greek Government would entertain the prospect of even discussing such a thing. Then again, once upon a time, the notion of agreeing to something as foolish as the Prespes Agreement seemed equally ridiculous.
It’s worth remembering that October marks the celebration of the national holiday of October 28th – when badly outnumbered and outgunned Greece stood up to Mussolini, issued a resounding “No” to his demands – eerily similar to Erdogan’s – and inspired the world by handing the Axis forces their first defeat in World War II. Even if Greece’s contemporary politicians have forgotten their nation’s history, as long as its legacy remains alive among the people, there’s hope yet that the Sultan will go the way of Il Duce, and their bedfellow Germany will once again discover the meaning of Greek resistance.
So long as Greece and Cyprus are free, they must veto every NATO/EU decision until Turkey is taken to task for its hostile actions and confronted with painful sanctions. It’s the only language of diplomacy they seem to respect.
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