On the Current Crisis in Turkey-Greece Relations

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 2187 ... September 8, 2020

On the Current Crisis in Turkey-Greece Relations

Panagiotis Sotiris

Relations between Turkey and Greece are currently in a phase of escalating crisis. This development can be traced back to a number of reasons. Firstly, Turkey is in a phase of intensified “power projection” in its attempt to achieve the status of a regional power, something made evident in a series of choices: its involvement in the Syrian crisis (including invading to secure a “safe zone” and answer the ”existential” threat of a quasi-state Kurdish entity in North-East Syria), active involvement in the Libyan civil war (where it played a crucial role in changing the balance of forces in favour of the Tripoli government), and the way it pushes forward its particular version of a “just” division of drilling rights in the South-East Mediterranean.

Yet it is not simply about “oil.” It is about regional power status, nationalist aspirations, and leadership (Turkey has attempted to be the main force putting forward the political agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood). This political line can be described as... a renewed version of Turkish nationalism combined with a certain version of political Islam, around which important segments of the Turkish bourgeoisie and other political forces are rallying (generally with nationalist overtones).

On the other hand, Greece has gone through a period of economic crisis and reduced sovereignty (especially during the “Memoranda” period). Yet at the same time, and even since the SYRIZA government, Greek foreign policy has taken a turn for the worse. Both SYRIZA and New Democracy turned toward the US and resorted to the logic of anti-Turkish alliances with Israel, Egypt, and more recently the United Arab Emirates. This has also been the choice of the government of Cyprus. Thus, one could say that Greek foreign policy oscillates between the logic of anti-Turkish alliances (the so-called “strategy of isolating Turkey”) and the logic of negotiations that appear more difficult as Turkey tries to change the “rules of the game.” Israeli influence on Greek foreign policy has also been important, despite the fact that the country has been an obstacle to peace in the Middle East region. At the same time, the Greek government and the Greek bourgeoisie are aware that the balance of forces with Turkey is uneven, accounting for the return of the logic of dialogue despite it appearing increasingly difficult.

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