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Letter from Athens: Greece-Turkey Relations Come to This: “Oh Yeah?” “Yeah!”

April 25, 2021

After Turkish President/Sultan Recep Tayyip Erdogan emasculated European Council President Charles ‘Toady’ Michel and humiliated European Commission President Ursula von der ‘ehm?’ Leyen – making them come crawling to Ankara for an audience over HIS provocations – Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias went there aware.

First, he shouldn't have gone to Turkey, of course because that violates the First Rule of Tony Soprano Fight Club: make the other guy come to you and make him stand.

That's what Erdogan did to von der Leyen, who went slinking back to Brussels while the ungentlemanly Michel didn't offer her a chair set out for him, missing the chance to insult Erdogan, although that could have seen him charged with insulting Erdogan.

Michel and von der Leyen went there to plead with Erdogan not to behave like a bully before he bullied them as the cameras whirled, Greece complicit in the EU backing off sanctions for Turkey's plans to hunt for energy off Greek islands.

That happened when Prime Minister Kyriakos ‘Blue Blood’ Mitsotakis backed away from demands for sanctions in favor of diplomacy with Turkey that's failed since 1453 and will until at least 2453, or whenever Erdogan leaves office, whichever is sooner.

It didn't look good for Dendias when he got there to meet Erdogan and there was only one chair and it wasn't for the guy from Greece, the Turkish President delivering another message to another underling.

It was Mission Improbable for him after Erdogan dispatched the EU's top flunkies, Dendias not being a Head of State and trying to gauge what the volatile Turkish leader would do. But the Greek minister packed his political viagra and had some marching orders from Mitsotakis, who didn't want to be outflanked.

At what looked like the usual Sominex lack-of-news conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, the type of event where no one lays a glove on anyone – by design – Dendias took his off and came out swinging – by design.

Something had to give, of course, because Greece has turned the other cheek more than a Christian in a gladiator movie and Turkey has long been violating Greek airspace and waters while NATO, the defense alliance to which both belong, has done nothing.

With Erdogan already indicating that he will go ahead with plans to go near or into Greek waters to find oil and gas and expand his ‘Blue Homeland’ doctrine claiming the seas between Turkey and the rest of the world, Greece finally had to react.

Dendias and Cavusoglu exchanged the usual pleasantries about diplomacy and dialogue and niceties that mean nothing before the Greek minister warned Turkey would face EU sanctions if violations and plans to drill for energy continue.

Turkey won't, of course, and Erdogan knows it and Cavusoglu knows it and Dendias and Mitsotakis know it but they all had to pretend none of them knew anything and were caught by surprise over what was such an orchestrated event you had to wonder if the late Bob Fosse directed it.

All this is for show and it should be called Phony Baloney because all Erdogan has to do to get his way is point to 4.4 million refugees in Turkey who went there fleeing war and strife and economic hardship in their homelands and put them on rubber dinghies to Greek islands to get what he wants.

He has the implicit support of the real EU President, German Chancellor Angela ‘Iron Lady’ Merkel but she wants to protect German arms sales to Turkey and has to worry about 2.774 million people of Turkish heritage living in Germany, so she has little leverage.

She said nothing when Erdogan misogynized von der Leyen – who had been Germany's defense minister – so she's not about to help Mitsotakis or Greece try to corral the volatile Erdogan, who is used to dictatorship, not democracy.

Turkey has been trying to join the EU since 2005 and gone backward in those hopes as he purged civil society, the courts, schools, and the military and jailed dozens of journalists which would seem to be anathema to the bloc's alleged principles but isn't.

Erdogan had pulled an energy research vessel and warships from near the Greek island of Kastellorizo in a calculated move to get Greece and the EU to back off sanctions talks, which worked, but Mitsotakis seems to have seen through the ruse, too late for now.

That's why Dendias was told to act like U.S. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson at the United Nations during the Cuban Missile crisis in 1962. That's when Stevenson grew a pair and demanded an answer from the Soviet Ambassador about Russian missiles on Cuba.

Stevenson didn't like confrontations but this was a hit 'em-in-the face with a 2 x 4 moment and he said, "I am prepared to wait for an answer until Hell freezes over."

That prompted President Kennedy, watching on TV, to say, "I didn't know that Adlai had it in him."

Dendias didn't go that far and later Greece played nice and retreated to diplomacy, which will fail, but it sure was good to see the normally reserved Dendias say,

“If Turkey continues violating our sovereign rights, then sanctions, measures that are on the table, will be put back on the agenda.”

Now we'll just have to wait until Hell freezes over.

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