Athens, Greece – Turkish ambitions and conduct in Mavi Vatan remain, until proven otherwise, a constant and major concern for Greece with maximalist goals. The coronavirus crisis will be over at some point according to all the experts, troubles with the economy will mostly be managed, mainly through the European Union and environmental disasters are to be expected with climate change, an unfortunate situation that is set to be perpetuated. In contrast, Turkey’s Mavi Vatan attitude towards Greece is almost exclusively direct problem and handling/solving it will depend on a variety of factors.
One aspect of this particular problem is clear and easily ascertained. Turkish policy is now defined by a sense of peaceful democratic nationalism elevated to doctrine, which, among others, includes a revision of Turkey’s borders and the expansion of its influence, and increased efforts to have Turkey recognized as the leading regional power as well as the head of international islamic community. The doctrine has been called “Blue Homeland” and is essentially an attempt to promote a version of nationalism whose scope will be defined, on the one hand, by the affected medium-sized and smaller states neighboring Turkey or larger international players who are seeking a change in the existing balance of power, and on the other hand by Turkey’s capability to bring its plans to fruition.
Greece is one of the region’s smaller powers; it can sense Turkey’s influence and keenly feels the threat of its actions when Greece violates the 1923 Lausanne Treaty. Greece also knows too well that if the situation continues escalating and reaches open conflict, it will have to weather the storm alone. To avoid any such escalation, Greece needs to improve its defense capabilities to ensure that any offensive maneuvers by the opposing side will come at too high a cost. This means that increased defense spending is an absolute necessity, despite the financial burden of such a move. At the same time, it is clear that Greece’s armed forces need to swiftly catch up on the technological advances and know-how required on today’s battlefield. For example, Turkey enjoys a superior drone program in large part due to Greek chronic torpor, especially considering Greek dependence on the United States, France and Germany, who are expecting satisfaction from Greek military procurement program.
Turkey has several advantages. Among them are: 1) a huge, and largely young, population (especially in comparison to Greece) that Erdogan keeps under control and rallies with his use of nationalism and religion; 2) the experience gained by Turkey’s armed forces from the longstanding conflict with Kurdish terrorists as well as recent forays into several other conflicts; 3) the substantial defense industry it carefully cultivated; and 4) the fact that Turkish society is more ready to accept the idea of casualties.
To add to these advantages, one must also mention the attitude displayed by the most important powers to Turkish displays of power and influence in Mavi Vatan. This could be because of Turkey’s important geostrategic location, or because several countries, especially European states – with Germany being the prime example – have important financial interests in Turkey, whether it is trade, investments or loans. It could even be because the EU is, in a fashion, being held hostage. Apart from the migration crisis, the most important factor is the large Turkish population living in Europe and controlled through nationalist and religious networks by the Turkish government.