A Sun­day jaunt to Imia

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY NIKOS KON­STAN­DARAS

The Ro­mans would pa­rade with de­feated en­e­mies in chains to ad­ver­tise their vic­tory to their own peo­ple and sow ter­ror in oth­ers. Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, on the con­trary, sent the chief of his armed forces on a Sun­day cruise to the Imia islets. What was this sad pa­rade of the Turk­ish mil­i­tary lead­er­ship to two bar­ren rocks other than con­fir­ma­tion that a once mighty force is re­duced to a pro­pa­ganda tool, its gen­er­als and ad­mi­rals play­things of a man who does not shrink from hu­mil­i­at­ing them? This does not make Turkey less dan­ger­ous. On the con­trary. The dan­ger is un­der­lined by the con­tin­ual vi­o­la­tions of Greek air space and by the rhetoric of ten­sion which Ankara has shown after the Greek Supreme Court de­cided not to ex­tra­dite eight al­leged coup plot­ters. When a coun­try’s lead­er­ship loses all sense of pro­por­tion and pushes so per­sis­tently, we can­not ex­pect level heads at crit­i­cal mo­ments. When Turkey is fight­ing in both Syria and Iraq, when do­mes­ti­cally it is wag­ing war with separatists and pro­scrib­ing real or po­ten­tial dis­si­dents, when state in­sti­tu­tions are sub­jected to the will of one man, who will ar­gue against a pos­si­ble flare-up in the Aegean? Turkey’s Syria ad­ven­ture is al­ready a symp­tom of ig­nor­ing the mil­i­tary’s pre­vi­ous ad­vice. That is why Sun­day’s jaunt is such a bad omen. It shows that no one can stop the ex­ec­u­tive. In April we ex­pect a ref­er­en­dum on Er­do­gan’s ef­fort to trans­form Turkey’s po­lit­i­cal sys­tem into a pres­i­den­tial one in­vest­ing him with greater pow­ers. That’s why Turkey’s main op­po­si­tion party ar­gued that the Imia show was in­tended to bol­ster Er­do­gan in his cam­paign. The threats against Greece, also, may serve to get ci­ti­zens’ minds off Syria, where, de­spite air sup­port from Rus­sia and the United States, Turkey has not made great gains. The threats against Greece, how­ever, serve more than do­mes­tic needs, nor are they sim­ply aimed at forc­ing Greece to bend to Ankara’s will. They show that Er­do­gan in­tends to act as he pleases, even against a coun­try whose bor­der is the Euro­pean Union’s bor­der. The time fa­vors lead­ers who are driven by emo­tions, as seems to be Er­do­gan’s per­ma­nent con­di­tion. The re­cent visit by Bri­tish PM Theresa May and the arms deal they signed strength­ens the Turk­ish pres­i­dent’s po­si­tion. Er­do­gan’s re­stored ties with Vladimir Putin and Don­ald Trump’s elec­tion also re­in­force the idea that from now on strong men will im­pose their will on the rest. Greece, as in the case of the eight asy­lum seek­ers, has no op­tion but to ad­here strictly to in­ter­na­tional laws, re­spect in­sti­tu­tions, avoid the­atrics like those of the Turks, and, above all, be vig­i­lant and de­ci­sive. Only keep­ing a level head can pro­tect Greece; this can also be seen as an an­ti­dote for what is hap­pen­ing in Turkey.

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