By Alexandra Fotaki
Making comparisons is a popular pastime in Greece, as is talk of isolation, and it has been perceived as necessary to thresh out and conduct policy along these lines.
Allow me to explain.
For example, there is a perception that if a countries maintains relations with Greece it must cut off all ties with Turkey.
If a country conducts transactions with Greece, it must cut off exchanges with Turkey, and if not entirely, it must definitely reduce them.
If a minister of a foreign country visits Turkey or meets with a Turkish official that must automatically be interpreted through the prism of Greek-Turkish relations.
We believe that all of Turkey’s moves are made with Greece in mind, and that is the greatest mistake.
When competent diplomats, government officials, and other players try to explain that things are not quite like that, they are attacked in public discourse.
The same stands true when they concede that Turkey is not isolated.
Turkey cannot be isolated due to its position, its size, and its role.
The West cannot abandon Turkey, and Greece does not want the West to abandon Turkey, even with a president like Recep Tayyip Erdogan – the dangerous revisionist that supposedly no one wants to talk to – in the 21st century.
“We must come to terms with reality,” a seasoned diplomat told me when I asked her what the US stance toward Turkey will be vis-à-vis the latter’s relations with Greece, and whether Washington’s policy might change.
She said it was wrong for Greece to want to place its ties with the US in a balance with Turkey. “This is comparing things that are not comparable. We don’t need that. These ties are not and should not be seen as inter-dependent because that way we undermine ourselves.”
After all, we must realise that both the US and other countries with which Greece and Turkey maintain relations (including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, France, and many others) operate based on their own interests, and whatever solidarity they show is based on those interests, even if the countries are linked by expensive procurement contracts, as there will always be more expensive contracts proposed in the future.
Yes, Erdogan as a personality may exasperate the Europeans.
Yes, he does not follow the manners and protocols of the West.
Yes, he threatens at any moment to create chaos to promote his own interests.
Yes, he is not liked.
However, No, the West is not prepared to sacrifice Turkey on his account, nor would Greece want Erdogan, and by extension Turkey, “outside of the fold” [of the West].
It should be clear for Athens that as unpleasant as Erdogan may become for the West and as much as Greece’s regional role is being upgraded, that does not mean that there will be any notable shift in US policy regarding Greek-Turkish relations, even though Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu complains of “imbalances” [at Ankara’s expense].
The US position regarding security in the Aegean remains unchanged. “We remain impartial,” said Jeff Flake, the US Ambassador to Ankara.
The US State Department continues to pursue a policy without tensions in the region, and urgings cannot be characterised as interventions.