The Kastellorizo incident, which brought a Turkish-controlled oceanographic vessel conducting oil discovery tests on the Greek continental shelf under the escort of a Turkish warship in mid-November, delivered a much-needed jolt to a Greek government that has yet to realize that “Greek-Turkish friendship” is largely a fictitious construct of the so-called “realist” diplomacy.
The incident ended to the supposed satisfaction of Greece, when the research vessel withdrew after the Greek government strongly protested and sent a large patrol craft to monitor the Turkish antics. The Turks withdrew after having registered a significant new move in their methodical questioning of Greek sovereignty in the Aegean that began with the invasion of Cyprus in 1974. Few outside observers see this as a positive outcome for Greece.
Ever since the “earthquake diplomacy” of 1999, when Greece and Turkey supposedly grew closer in the wake of devastating earthquakes in both countries and mutual help flowing across the border, Greek leaders told voters in this country Turkey had “changed.” In the immediate aftermath of the much-heralded building of humanitarian bridges, Greece became an ardent advocate of Turkey's EU bid to the point of raising brows among many of its European partners. “Greek-Turkish friendship,” with cajoling from the US and major European powers, took over as the unilateral driving force in Greek-Turkish relations.
Since 1999, a lot of water has passed under the bridge. But Turkey's posture toward Greece has hardly changed: a Turkish threat of war in the Aegean, if Greece dares extend its territorial waters to the internationally sanctioned 12 miles, declared by Turkey's national assembly, still stands; Turkey watches nonchalantly as tens of thousands of Asian illegal immigrants use its Aegean shores to push into Greece creating an explosive security, social, and economic crisis; Turkish “diplomats” of dual capacity roam unmolested in Greek Thrace in a continuous effort to reinforce the “Turkishness” of local Muslims and undermine the Greek internal order; Turkey misses no opportunity to condemn Greece over the “suppression” of the “Turkish minority” and actively works with our northern neighbors, Albania and FYR Macedonia, to augment the anti-Greek trends in those countries (Turkey, in an obvious poke at Greece's eye, hastened to recognize the Skopje regime as the “Republic of Macedonia”). In short, Turkey performs like the proverbial friend whose “friendship” makes enemies pale.
Despite all this, Greek governments act liked deer caught in the headlights in the middle of the night. The accepted conventional wisdom among those advocating in favor of Turkey in the EU is that Ankara will somehow mend its ways thanks to expectations of a European future. This theory has suffered one debacle after the other as Turkey's establishment (“deep state,” the ever-present military, and, more recently, the conservative Islamic majority) struggles with itself over a “European” bend that does not really exist, not to mention the myriad of socio-cultural, political, religious and economic problems attending Turkey's European march. Such is the glaring incapacity of our eastern neighbors to assume “Western ways” that even some western Europeans, with pronounced pro-Turkish tastes, have begun to wonder about a European future with Turkey a full EU member. That leaves Greek politicians still waving the Turkish banner out in the cold.
Kastellorizo reminded us that Turkey has hardly abandoned its expressed longer term aim of “revising” the Aegean status according to her own preferences, EU or no EU. This is inherently a route to conflict which Greek leaders must accept as the defining condition of deciding on a national defense and security policy. No amount of Greek “good will” and no prime ministerial visits to Ankara will change the content and direction of Turkish strategy -- which seems to pay little attention to “Greek-Turkish friendship.”