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Editorial

The “New Turkey” and Hellenism

I wrote the following words during my trip to Constantinople last week.

To visit Constantinople, from where I write these lines, is to worry.

And it is to worry because the Polis is pulsating with dynamism. With youth. With creativity.

You see it. You feel it. It hits you in the face from the moment you get off the plane.

Istanbul Airport is huge; it was built to serve the needs of the city for decades.

During the long drive to Constantinople from the airport, I passed huge building complexes, public works, bridges, tunnels … and minarets.

Today's Turkey is not what we used to hear about when we were children.

And it is not the Turkey of only 30 million people.

It has changed a lot in recent decades, in the years that I have been visiting as a pilgrim to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Truly, “This Isn't Your Grandfather's Turkey,” as the title of an opinion article by international relations commentator Walter Russel Mead, published in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, June 8 indicates.

It is a Turkey which feels its power and claims a corresponding role in a region that is undergoing historic change and where power vacuums open up.

Old powers have weakened from failure to develop properly, such as its old enemies: Russia, Iran, and Egypt, while Syria, Iraq, and Libya have been devoured by civil wars.

The commentator does not refer to the revealing article of the same newspaper a few days prior to its publication about the Turkish military drones that are being called ‘game changers’ on the battlefields (see my recent commentary titled ‘Nightmare Scenario with Turkey’). Nevertheless, he probably does see that reality as part of the changes taking place in Turkey which increase its influence.

Interestingly, the article also does not refer to the other major power in the region, Israel, other than noting that that the United States has strongly criticized Erdogan for his anti-Semitic statements.

Greece and Cyprus are mentioned, but only in the context that Turkey's European Union ambitions are dead because of them.

You can now see with the naked eye that the balance of power between the countries of Europe and Asia is changing across the board.

But just as we find it difficult to accept the change in Turkey's role, so does America, which seems to have acknowledged that Turkey needs it less than before, without this meaning that it may completely ignore its interests.

As Biden prepares for his trip to Europe, where he will meet with Erdogan, the commentator argues that his task during the meeting is not so much to rescue the ‘old’ alliance as to lay the foundations for a new one.

Another interesting part in the author’s opinion, which is capable of several interpretations, is when he notes that “whatever happens to Mr. Erdogan and the Islamist movement he leads, Turkey will continue to become more modern and, let us hope, more democratic.”

I have no doubt that readers of the author’s piece will have noticed that the references to Greek-Turkish matters are missing. It is not accidental. Perhaps he does not consider them important. Perhaps he believes that the relations between the two countries have not reached the point where they could threaten peace in the region – or perhaps Greek diplomacy has not yet convinced key players of the seriousness of the situation.

Whatever the reason, one would wish that the time has come to sound the alarm about the new Turkey that is emerging – one which is a threat to Greek and Western interests.

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