Turkey’s insatiable geopolitics

To understand how an opponent behaves it is crucial to a) get in their shoes and b) imagine how they see you with their own eyes. Well, the way Turkey views Greece has changed a lot in the last 10 years. In the 20th century, there was always an element of envy on Turkey’s part. They could not understand how a part of the Ottoman Empire could ever grow so much, enter the European Union and be considered a core part of the West.

The icing on the cake was the great success of the school of Greek realism, which was Cyprus’ entry into the European Union. It seemed inconceivable to Turkey that a second “Greek” state could enter the closed European club, particularly when they were still far from getting anywhere closer to the Union.

Turkey has always lived with its own conspiracy theories, its own demons. That is why it believes that the next plan being forged is to divide the eastern Mediterranean between Cyprus, Egypt, Israel and Greece, with Turkey crammed into the corner.

In the meantime, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also started seeing us differently, because he also started looking at himself differently. In his eyes, he is the “equal” of Russian President Vladimir Putin, U.S. President Joe Biden, Chinese President Xi Jinping and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. And that is all there is.

He probably finds various other people, such as EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, amusing, and I do not think he even remembers their names. Erdoğan sees Turkey as a rising superpower and a transformation of the Ottoman Empire, and he obviously sees Greece differently too.

Since we know all this, the question now is what can we do. The obvious answer is what we are trying to do now, amid a pandemic. To stand on our own two feet financially, to bring Greeks who moved abroad and other European citizens here to live and invest, and to quickly upgrade our defences. These initiatives, in combination with regional alliances, will multiply our power.

But it is also crucial for the geopolitical equation in the eastern Mediterranean that some European and American officials understand what Israel has fully grasped: That without a strong Greece, Europe and the West will be vulnerable on their southern flank to a range of threats, ranging from terrorism to the hegemony of an anti-Western power. To understand this, they must start thinking geopolitically, and not “logistically”. The biggest mistake will be to leave Greece alone against a geopolitically insatiable adversary.

(This article was originally published by Kathimerini newspaper and is reproduced by permission.)