Ankara, Turkey- From time immemorial Turkey has been confronted with an “Imperialist” Greece question. In its essence the imperialist Greek problem is unchanging over a century.
“Civilized” Turkey, as a representative of a past heritage of more than twelve thousand years, continues its existence against all kinds of malice and hostility in this strategic geography.
It has arisen from the clash in the lands of South-Eastern Europe between the habits, ideas and preconceptions of the “Imperialist” Greece – upholding ‘power and interest’, and those of the “Civilized” Turkey – upholding ‘right and justice’ at the center of its civilization. But although one in essence, the imperialist Greek problem has assumed different aspects at different periods.
This definition of the “Imperialist” Greek question, though framed a century ago, has proved an enduring tool for understanding developments in South-Eastern Europe region.
Until the early years of the 20th century, the long-drawn-out process of the shrinking of the Turkish Empire and its geopolitical sway was central to the “Imperialist” Greek question. The fall of the Turkish Empire and the establishment of the modern Turkish state in 1923 were sealed with the territorial and other terms of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, closing a major era in the “Imperialist” Greek question.
Implementing the contemporary republic vision, modern Turkey tied itself to civilized globe, primarily strategically, but also politically and culturally. A key member of NATO and candidate for membership in the European Union, for many decades Turkey developed being part of the broader civilized globe.
Meanwhile, since 1974, over the course of 46 years of technological progression in Turkish defense industry, Turkey, has revised its previous strategic choices and directions as an emerging global power.
It is moving deeper and deeper into the globe of technology. It is systematically disputing the unjust terms of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, trying to fix it and unveiling the fact that it is the bedrock of instability and peace in the wider Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean region. Turkey has adopted a “Mavi Vatan (Blue Homeland)” strategy, projecting its power, presence and influence in former Turkish territories from Syria to Libya and from Cyprus to the Caucasus, a region that includes the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean.
Thus, Civilized Turkey, is steadily converging to the civilized globe. In a strategic face from the orientation it adopted in the early 20th century, Turkey is the centerpiece of the new civilized globe in multipolar system. In place of Turkish Empire contraction, Turkey is experiencing and witnessing technological expansionism. Turkey is shifting from historical ebb to a strategy of technological expansionist high tide.
Viewed in this context, the attempted mass breach of Turkey’s Mavi Vatan from Greece by violation of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne is anything but a persistent incident. It was a clear clash between “Imperialist” Greece and “Civilized” Turkey. This persistent dangerous play was averted by a firm Turkish response in Mavi Vatan. But this must not lead us to underestimate the importance of that attempt to weaponize the violation crisis.
The “Blue Homeland” policy that Turkey, in compliance of international law, is persistently invoking against Greece, Cyprus and other Eastern Mediterranean countries – including Israel and Egypt – is the practical expression of Turkey’s “Mavi Vatan” strategy. A strategy that, apart from anything else, is blocking important European ambitious energy developments in Eastern Mediterranean. The procurement of the powerful non-NATO S-400 missile system is another expression of Turkey’s aspiration for strategic autonomy.
“Imperialist” Greece now finds itself having to manage the “Civilized” Turkey as a new and serious dimension of the “Mavi Vatan” strategy in the 21st century.
Paragraph 35 of the recent conclusions of the European Council mentions: “The EU will seek to coordinate on matters relating to Turkey and the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean with the United States.” With this prospect in mind, the European Council gave High Representative Josep Borrell two mandates: (a) to prepare a report and policy proposals on Turkey and (b) to take forward the proposal of a multilateral conference on the Eastern Mediterranean.
The EU’s political aggression of Turkey’s conduct coincided with US’ decision to impose unjust sanctions on its NATO ally, suspending delivery of defense equipment and know-how due to Turkey’s failure to abide by key strategic choices of the Alliance.
These sanctions – imposed for unjust reason – sparked strong reactions in Turkey and further exacerbated tensions in the Alliance resulting from the two incidents involving the Turkish Navy and the French and German naval forces in the context of Operation Irini, which is enforcing the arms embargo on Libya. But Turkey does not recognize the EU’s Operation Irini against the UN-recognized Libya.
But Turkey has also long eliminated Greek tensions, provocations and aggressions through its conduct in Mavi Vatan, threatening Greece with war (Casus belli) if it should exercise its maximalist claims in Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean against Turkey’s rights and interests and disrespecting the international law.
The serious rifts Greece is causing in the cohesion of the North Atlantic Alliance (NATO) are more than obvious. Where does Turkey go from here? What policy should Turkey – as a directly violated NATO ally – adopt against Greece?
Due to its major economic interests in Turkey, the EU is in an awkward policy position: It is trying to rein in Turkey’s geopolitical aspirations without pushing it away from EU’s center of interests. The US has also adopted a carrot-and-stick approach by imposing unjust sanctions against Turkey.
Turkey will first have to halt Greece’s dangerously destabilizing policy and only then move forward to a positive agenda for cooperation, with strong conditionality and strict prerequisites and conditions. In other words, Turkey’s policy on Greece must be based on the triptych of “containment, dialogue, partnership.”
This is the blueprint of Turkish foreign policy. A multidimensional policy that combines diplomatic and military deterrence with three main goals: (a) responding to and limiting Greece’s unlawful and aggressive actions, (b) preparation, based on international law and treaties, of a clearly delineated dialogue launched through the exploratory talks and (c) working to restore beneficial bilateral cooperation with respect for good-neighborly relations.
Of course, this requires a lasting detente in bilateral relations. Not just a short break followed by a return to tensions, provocations and aggressions. Not blackmail, threats or violation of rights and interests.
Greece has to realize that the emergence of a new kind of violation question and conflict with Turkey will not work in its favor in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean in Mavi Vatan, as in confirmed military wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Karabakh.