Experts believe Greece's increasing violations of Turkish airspace is part of an agenda encouraged by the West to corner Türkiye for taking an independent foreign policy.

While Türkiye and Greece are the two NATO allies, they have had a range of differences over the Cyprus conflict, the status of Aegean islands as well as Eastern Mediterranean’s newly-discovered rich gas reserves. 

The two states have also fought a bloody war a century ago, when Greece tasted a stinging defeat at the hands of Turkish forces. Since then, on different occasions, both states have come close to a military clash several times. 

Most recently, the bi-lateral tensions flared up as Greece dangerously deployed  a military tactic of locking Turkish fighter jets in international waters on multiple occasions. In the first eight months of this year, Greece violated Türkiye’s airspace and territorial waters 1,123 times, according to the Turkish national defence ministry.

But why would a state that is much smaller in size than Türkiye resort to reckless methods?  

Abdullah Agar, a Turkish security analyst, believes that Greece is acting on behalf of a Western political agenda to block Ankara’s independent political path in Eastern Mediterranean region and other areas across the country’s geopolitical hinterland. 

“I don’t think this issue is only related to Athens. In the last century, Greece was used by Western powers to deepen a geopolitical death,” Agar tells TRT World, referring to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, which Greeks tried to exploit in favour of gaining more territory across current Türkiye. But under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the Turkish War of Independence (1919-1922) ended Greek dreams once and all. 

“In the 21st century, this time Greeks are used to prevent or delay a geopolitical birth,” says Agar, referring to a reinvigorated Türkiye’s rise across volatile regions from Eastern Mediterranean to the Middle East under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 

Turkish drilling vessel Yavuz is escorted by Turkish Navy frigate TCG Gemlik (F-492) in the eastern Mediterranean Sea off Cyprus island, August 6, 2019.
Turkish drilling vessel Yavuz is escorted by Turkish Navy frigate TCG Gemlik (F-492) in the eastern Mediterranean Sea off Cyprus island, August 6, 2019. (Reuters)

Western political agenda

Such macho posturing has been increasingly exposing Greece's inability to act responsibly toward its neighbour, according to Agar. “Greece has been used by them (Western powers) like a proxy state against Türkiye,” he says. 

Last month, as Greece brazenly used the Russian S-300 air-defence system by locking on Turkish warplanes, Ankara-Athens relations hit a new low. 

Greece activated Russian-made S-300 systems at a time when Turkish jets were accompanying a flight of US B-52 bombers near Crete, a Greek Mediterranean island, according to Ankara. 

Following the incident, Türkiye conveyed its complaints to Brussels, where NATO's command is located. But the NATO and leading force of the alliance, the US, have not issued a statement yet to condemn Greece’s use of the Russian air-defence system against an ally during the alliance's joint reconnaissance mission.

Whereas the US has been harshly critical of Türkiye's purchase of S-400s, its silence is especially noteworthy in the face of the recent incidents.

“While the Greek S-300s are excluded from CAATSA (Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act), the application of these sanctions to the S400s in Türkiye is actually a double standard of the US,” says Ulas Pehlivan, a military analyst and a former Turkish army officer. 

“It means discrimination against Türkiye,” Pehlivan tells TRT World. The CAATSA, is a US law, targeting nations like North Korea, Russia and Iran. 

Beyond the S-400s issue, Türkiye has had disagreements with the West on other issues as well, including the US invasion of Iraq, during which Ankara refused American troops any space on its territory that could have been used for attacking the Middle Eastern state in 2003, according to Agar.

The analyst believes that tensions have continued on different fronts from the Greek Administration of Southern Cyprus' accession to the EU in an unfair way excluding Turkish Cypriots in the north to the Western support in northern Syria to the YPG, an offshoot of the PKK terror group which has waged a decades-long terror campaign against Türkiye.

Agar also strongly believes that there is a direct connection between the Greek aggression and Türkiye’s efforts to access gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean, where Ankara has some disagreements with the West. 

How can Türkiye respond? 

All these have produced a Turkish “backlash and distrust” against the West in Ankara, says Agar, pushing Türkiye to develop a partnership with Russia to address the Syrian conflict. “In this perspective, Greece, seeing differences between Ankara and the West, has wanted to be used by the Western bloc against Türkiye in exchange to get some gains.”

“They calculate that because they are under Western protection, Türkiye will not respond to Greek provocations,” Agar says, referring to current political thinking in Athens. But in a recent speech, in Samsun, a Black Sea city, where the Turkish War of Independence against Greece began in 1919, Erdogan directly and forcefully spoke against Greek aggression. 

“When the time comes, we’ll do what’s necessary. As we say, we may come down suddenly one night,” said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, using a line from a popular Turkish song on how the Turkish response could be on Greece’s provocative actions against Ankara. 

“Look at history, if you go further, the price will be heavy,” said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, referring to a number of military defeats Greece and its predecessor states have suffered at the hands of Turkish forces in the past millennium.

Erdogan’s speech came during a technological festival, Technofest, which exhibited Ankara’s Bayraktar drones, a product with a well-proven track record in different battlefields from Azerbaijan to Libya. 

In the Technofest, Türkiye unveiled its first unmanned warplane, Kizilelma (Red Apple), a name which takes its inspiration from a Turkish mythological metaphor to follow a goal which keeps moving further as you get closer to it. 

“Given that Greece is forming a coalition of the willing in the region against Türkiye in order to expand its interests without taking Türkiye’s national security concerns into consideration, it’s a huge gamble,” says Mehmet Emin Koc, a retired Turkish special forces colonel and a security analyst. 

“Greeks should avoid this gamble for the sake of sensible bilateral efforts to contain the ongoing tension between the two countries,” Koc tells TRT World. 

Source: TRT World