Despite the obvious progress in Greece’s foreign policy, especially in the Greek-Turkish one, there are also setbacks. Two extremely ominous events attract particular attention: firstly, the link that Ankara establishes between the demilitarization of the islands of the Eastern Aegean Sea and their Greek sovereignty, and, secondly, the most recent statements that Greece is (allegedly) preparing a war against Turkey.

A number of initiatives, together with general events, have contributed to strengthening Greece’s position as a country of stability and cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean region and beyond, as well as its position as a “bridge country” for the European Union’s relations with the Eastern regional environment. The signing of the Greek-French Strategic Partnership Agreement has certainly become the flagship event of 2021.

Also an important event is the signing of a new updated Greek-American defense agreement (MDCA) for a period of five years with expanded coverage and an accompanying letter from US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. Despite the questions that can be asked about the degree and intensity of Greece’s identification with the United States, so far the United States is paying more attention to China and the Pacific region, while Greece is supposed to want to be actively present and participate in the process of building European defense on the basis of “strategic autonomy” to strengthen European sovereignty.

At the same time, the country has tried to resume relations with Russia, and the meeting between Prime Minister Kiriakos Mitsotakis and Russian President Vladimir Putin and the bilateral agreements concluded between the two countries fit into this framework. Greek-Russian relations, as you know, have weakened somewhat in recent years for a number of reasons. In this regard, Greece also plays a distinct role in the overall improvement of relations between the EU and Russia, which are at the lowest possible mark, mainly due to the Ukraine problem. The steps taken to restore relations with Libya, as well as the expansion of the Greek presence in African countries (with visits by the Minister of Foreign Affairs), the Persian Gulf countries, etc. should also be considered positive.

However, last year some myths began to be dispelled, for example those concerning the EastMed pipeline (already considered dead), trilateral alliances as a wall against Turkey (the wall seems to be crumbling).

Of course, there was not the same dangerous tension on the field now as in 2020. On the contrary, (again) “preliminary negotiations” began, high-level meetings were held between Prime Minister Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Erdogan, as well as between Foreign Ministers Nikos Dendias and Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara and Athens, and a low-level dialogue on economic issues began. But all these positive developments did not lead to a breakthrough in the main agenda of the Greek-Turkish problems. But aggressive rhetoric has returned with expanded content.

Ankara is now directly questioning the sovereignty of the Aegean Islands, referring to their demilitarization as an alleged condition of Greek sovereignty (sic). This is a new and dangerous element of structural regression, as well as statements that Greece is allegedly preparing a war against Turkey. This situation could potentially be worse than in 2020. But there are also elements of structural regression on the Greek side.

Firstly, there is a growing public opinion that “there cannot be a solution in the Greek-Turkish language that would meet the interests of Greece.” And this point of view is more or less constantly cultivated by part of the political and communication system. The distrust deepens.

Secondly, there is a clear tightening of the opinion of all political elites that there is only one contradiction between the two countries — the delimitation of the continental shelf/exclusive economic zone. So, apparently, we are not talking about issues of sovereignty, but about the expansion of territorial waters, airspace, search and rescue zones.

Under these conditions, it is obvious that there can be no breakthrough. In 2022 — during the centenary of the catastrophe in Asia Minor – it will be difficult. It is much more difficult, given that Turkey has entered a transitional period with an economic collapse and the impending political end (although not certain) of President Erdogan. However, it is useful for the Greek side to know that Ankara’s main positions will probably not change with the possible departure of the current president. Having been formed and enriched since 1954 and especially since the period 1973-74, they remain unchanged and will remain so. And the main Turkish argument can be reduced to three main provisions:

Firstly, for Ankara, Greece, not Turkey, is an expansive revisionist country seeking to overthrow the status quo. Since Greece is seeking its expansion in the Aegean Sea from six to twelve nautical miles and the delimitation of maritime zones with “full effect” for the islands, thereby completely excluding Turkey and turning the Aegean Sea into a “Greek lake”. In addition, Greece, according to Turkey, seeks to exclude Turkey from the Eastern Mediterranean.

Secondly, Greece is building anti-Turkish alliances with all countries that have or have had hostile relations with Turkey (Israel, Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, etc.). Thus, Greece seeks to encircle Turkey and, possibly, to dissolve it in the revival of the logic of the Sevres Treaty. This treaty still haunts Turkey.

Thirdly, Greece is armed to the teeth with modern weapons, signs agreements (France, USA, etc.) and militarizes the islands with the main purpose of attacking Turkey — or even with nuclear weapons! At the same time, Turkish weapons pursue other goals.

These arguments may be an extreme fantasy for Athens, ignoring the norms of international law (UNCLOS-1982, etc.) and fueled by neo-Ottoman nostalgia, but for Turkey they form foreign policy. And this argument will remain after Erdogan’s departure, even if, in parallel with the style and rhetoric, the procedural framework for solving problems may change.

So Athens will have to deal with these facts. As they say, geography is destiny…

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