Turkey’s map and Greece’s vindication
The displaying of a map showing many Greek islands, including Crete, as Turkish, by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s nationalist ally Devlet Bahçeli, is obviously a particularly provocative action that angers Greece. In the battle of public relations, however, it strengthens its position.
This specific move, which shows an ultra-nationalist frenzy, facilitates the work of the Greek side, which consistently highlights the dangerous rhetoric and extreme actions of Turkey, and makes Greece’s vocal objections to the neighbouring country’s behaviour more understandable and acceptable by third parties.
The map drawn up by the Gray Wolves is not like another Turkish violation of contested – according to Ankara – airspace, or a flight of Turkish jets over Greek islands. It is a blatant display of Turkish revisionism, an act that is obviously ridiculous, but at the same time extremely dangerous.
The Greek prime minister reacted in a way that exposed the Turkish president in the eyes of the international community and especially in Washington and Brussels, posing two questions: the first, is this move “a fever dream of extremists or Turkey’s official policy?” And the second, is it “another provocation or the true goal?”
He did not get a response. The defining silence from Erdoğan, who is looking for support from the far-right in the 2023 national elections and will continue down this nationalist slippery slope, should anger not only Greece, but also every reasonable diplomat and politician of EU partner countries and allies in NATO.
The display of this particular map hurts Erdoğan’s strategy, which aims to force Athens to discuss “all the issues” that in Turkey’s view are up for discussion. The international community should not fall into the trap of thinking that Turkey is showing flexibility by starting with a provocative maximalist approach that questions everything – even the most self-evident – and ends up with something less provocative and illegal, whether in the Aegean or in Cyprus.
In his vision of a greater Turkey, Erdoğan does not deserve the tolerance of the West. This is how another leader recently started behaving when it came to his neighbouring countries and the outcome is a tragedy.
If the Turkish president’s nationalist revisionism is not stopped now, at the outset, what comes next may prove very dangerous, not only for Greece and Cyprus, but also for the wider region.
(A version of this article was originally published by the Kathimerini newspaper and reproduced by permission.)