A sane voice is needed

A sane voice is needed

Academics, especially those whose field of expertise relates to our life, our future, our safety or our society and how it should be governed; often confuse us more than showing us the right way of thinking. I am explicitly referring to political scientists and experts on international relations to whom we run for help and direction when we are not sure whether we are going for peace or war.

To be a Turk or to be a Greek (or a Cypriot) these days is a tricky thing. Any combination of these can lead you into confusion. Our politicians are delivering statements and counterstatements in an increasingly aggressive tone, and none of the sides wish to step back, not even to reflect. The issue of energy resources that entered the equation of our region during the last few years has caused dangerous tremors to a relatively quiet environment, which kept Greece and Turkey away from any dangerous confrontation for decades.

Unsolved bilateral issues on the continental shelf, air space and territorial waters, which had been stalling for decades in ministerial cabinets have come back on the table. They need solutions, urgent solutions. Neither side is giving away, and tension is rising by the day.

What is happening? Is Greece at war with Turkey? Is Turkey about to declare war on Greece? On Cyprus? How serious am I supposed to take this escalating political narrative on both sides as if we have reached a point of no return and must take a position to avoid destruction? Are we late? Should we or our politicians or whoever has done something long ago to avoid what is happening now? Should we believe the media? To what extent? Where is the truth? Where are the experts to calm us down?

Like many other people who are living on both sides of the Aegean or in the east Mediterranean, I suffer the same agony and despair of my inadequacy to assess the current Turkish-Greek crisis.

So, it was such a relief while browsing through the chaotic world of Facebook and the endless self-indulgent postings of my “friends,” I spotted an excellent note by a Greek academic whose mission has been to teach his Turkish students in Kadir Has University in Istanbul how to analyze international relations.

Prof. Triantafyllou placed his comments on a social network, so he wanted everybody to read it. Hence, I took the liberty of quoting these comments in my article. As a calmer approach to the hot debate of Greek-Turkish tension, with the Turkey-Libya memorandum having been endorsed by the Turkish National Assembly, with a chilly meeting between President Erdogan and the new Greek Prime Minister Kiriakos Mitsotakis and their teams in London where both sides stuck to their guns on almost everything, and with the Greek Minister of Defense stating yesterday that “we are ready for any eventuality.”

So, let us read Prof. Triantafyllou’s comment:

“Like the rest of the Greeks, I am following the renewed tension in Greek-Turkish relations and would like to make some remarks. The first is in the form of a question: Have there not always been challenges and concerns regarding Greek-Turkish affairs? As in Turkey-European Union relations or Turkey-West relations? If the questions above are answered in the affirmative, the question is what is different today ... today, I define it in a broader context not limited to the time between the news of the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding by Turkey and Libya.

“The second point to note is that Turkey is in the process of a structural change partly due to the implementation of the constitutional changes as adopted in the April 2017 referendum thus giving increased powers to the Presidency ... but together with the problems in the functioning of the state .... the second structural change concerns the possible evolution of Turkey’s ideological course, moving it even further from the western institutions ... this second structural change raises serious concerns in all European capitals and Washington ...

“The third point concerns the structural change underway in the international environment, which is changing, causing fractures in relations between countries and within alliances ...

“So Greek-Turkish relations are far more complex than responding directly or indirectly to any Turkish move considered hostile ... it needs calmness, seriousness, consensus, planning, enhanced deterrence and active diplomacy (including economic diplomacy), and alliances ...”

I am not sure whether we should be at ease with such an analysis methodologically attractive as it may be. I think there is a message that we should be ready for a bumpy ride and that our nearby world will not be as we knew it so far.