Turk­ish strat­egy

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY COSTAS IORDANIDIS

The lat­est Imia cri­sis sim­ply serves as con­fir­ma­tion of Ankara’s long­stand­ing strat­egy as an ex­pres­sion of ner­vous­ness or frus­tra­tion over on­go­ing de­vel­op­ments at home. Put sim­ply, Turkey is mak­ing it clear, and in a bru­tal man­ner, that it will not halt the process of Fin­lan­diza­tion which has been grad­u­ally at work in the Aegean. The deal reached on Jan­uary 31, 1996 af­ter the first Imia cri­sis said “no ships, no troops, no flags.” The deal was re­spected only in part as both coun­tries have their mil­i­tary ships and coast guard ves­sels pa­trolling the area on a con­stant ba­sis. Hence Wash­ing­ton’s equal-dis­tance pol­icy. The US in­ter­ven­tion in 1996 de­fused the cri- sis, but it did not solve the prob­lem. A key turn­ing point in the Fin­lan­diza­tion of the Aegean was the cri­sis of 1987, when Greece de­cided to halt its uni­lat­eral hy­dro­car­bon ex­plo­ration across the Aegean. Af­ter that came the rul­ing by the Turk­ish assem­bly in 1995 that any uni­lat­eral ex­pan­sion of Greek ter­ri­to­rial wa­ters would con­sti­tute a ca­sus belli, Ankara’s claims of “gray zones” in the Aegean in 1996, and the Madrid agree­ment in 1997 which ac­knowl­edged Turkey’s le­git­i­mate in­ter­ests in the Aegean. All the above bur­den Greek-Turk­ish re­la­tions, and are hard for any gov­ern­ment in Athens to digest. Some were sur­prised to hear the com­man­der of the Turk­ish armed forces say­ing that Turkey has the ca­pa­bil­ity to con­duct two mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions at the same time. But this has been the case for decades, and it was con­firmed with the for­ma­tion of its Aegean Army. We are rightly wor­ried about the in­creas­ing ac­tiv­ity of the Turk­ish Air Force in the Aegean. But the Turk­ish Air Force was purged af­ter the at­tempted coup against Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan in 2016. The new pi­lots need to be trained be­fore op­er­at­ing in Syria, and it ap­pears they are ac­quir­ing the nec­es­sary skills by en­gag­ing in mock dog­fights against Greek fighter jets. The prob­lems in the Aegean have, ac­cord­ing to Ankara, been placed un­der con­trol. Turkey’s aim now is to neu­tral­ize Athens over Kastel­lorizo. As per Cyprus, it was to be ex­pected that Turkey would re­act to Ni­cosia’s off­shore hy­dro­car­bon ex­plo­ration, not just as a guar­an­tor force, but as an oc­cu­py­ing one. The co­op­er­a­tion pacts signed be­tween Is­rael, Cyprus and Greece sound great in the­ory, but they are lit­tle more than that with­out mil­i­tary back­ing. Af­ter 1974, when Greece en­joyed mil­i­tary su­pe­ri­or­ity at sea and in the air (yet did noth­ing to stop the Turk­ish in­va­sion of Cyprus), Turkey went on to build a mil­i­tary ad­van­tage and seems de­ter­mined to make use of it. This, un­for­tu­nately, is how things stand.

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