ANKARA – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is talking the talk about war with Greece but isn’t really walking the walk, using threats to distract attention from 83.4 percent inflation and to rally his supporters with firebrand rhetoric.
That’s the assessment in a piece in The New Arab by journalist Thomas O. Falk, a United Kingdom-based journalist and political analyst who played down fears that Erdogan really would start a war with Greece over a number of disputes.
The Turkish President, in power for almost 20 years and seemingly wanting to stay that way for life, is facing a re-election campaign in mid-2023, as is Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who has batted away constant taunts.
In Falk’s view, “Erdogan can ill-afford a war against his neighbor. After all, a war against EU and NATO member Greece would, at the very least, end with some form of international isolation.”
Erdi Ozturk, Associate Professor in Politics and International Relations at London Metropolitan University, told the news site: “Almost impossible for a real full-blown conflict between Turkey and Greece since both of them are NATO members and no one will make that kind of irrational move.”
Erdogan has been talking otherwise, demanding that Greece remove troops off Aegean islands near Turkey’s coast, citing the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne he doesn’t recognize and said it would be a cause for war if Greece doubles sea boundaries.
He said ominously about his mindset toward Greece that, “we can come suddenly one night,” tipping his hand with an unlikely threat given that Mitsotakis has armed the military to the teeth in anticipation of that.
Turkey disputes maritime boundaries and Erdogan said at some point he will again send an energy research vessel and warships off Greek islands but hasn’t made good on it yet despite his boasts.
Turkey also doesn’t recognize the United Nations Law of the Sea except – as in the case of the Lausanne Treaty – to invoke it to its advantage while disclaiming any part that favors Greece.
Greece has offered to have the dispute over economic zones settled by the International Court of Justice in The Hague but Turkey has refused, apparently fearing it would lose, the piece argued.
Turkish fighter jets keep violating Greek airspace with NATO looking the other way, wanting no part of the troubles between the countries, which seemingly has emboldened Erdogan to say and do what he wants with near-impunity.
But, said Falk: “As history has taught repeatedly, such situations and their outcomes are volatile and hence difficult to predict. War can never be ruled out entirely. For instance, a possible plane accident, based on human error or a mere misunderstanding, could suffice to escalate the situation.”
“It seems that the tension will stay at the same level until the Turkish elections,” said Ozturk, indicating that Erdogan will continue doing what works for him – he even got opposition parties to rally round him via the Turkish flag for now.