Greece using Turkey tensions for political, financial gain, SETA director says

Greece is benefitting from increased political and military tensions with Turkey, attempting to use every opportunity to produce anti-Turkish policies, said Muhittin Ataman, a political science professor and Director of Foreign Policy Studies at SETA, a thinktank with close ties to the Turkish government.

Greece has been initiating many conflicts with Turkey, both bilaterally and regionally, Ataman said in a column for the Daily Sabah newspaper on Wednesday. It has been cooperating with anti-Turkish actors and has not hesitated to show its “absolute anti-Turkish stance”, he said.

Ataman cited Greece’s refusal to hand over military officers involved in a failed coup against the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2016 as a prime example of its anti-Turkish policies.

Greece is upping its international political campaign against Turkey as the latter becomes more powerful in the region, Ataman said. But Turkey is now able to transcend its historical rivalry with Greece because it has increased its clout, he said.

“When examined closely, Turkey does not consider Greece a rival country anymore, since it has elevated its foreign policy to a higher level on which it began to play an effective role as a game-changer on a regional scale,” he said.

“Turkey is able to change the regional balance of power and can compete with the policies of global powers in its neighbourhood.”

In an effort to prevent Turkey’s ascendency and the widening power gap between the two countries, Greece has sought to not only mobilise the United States and the European Union against it, but also Russia, Israel, Egypt and other regional actors, such as Libyan opposition warlord General Khalifa Haftar and Syrian President Bashar Assad, Ataman said.

Athens has also initiated anti-Turkish projects in the Mediterranean such as the EastMed pipeline, set to carry natural gas to Europe across the Mediterranean seabed.   

“Greece has initiated the process for the establishment of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum, which was established by all regional countries except Turkey, which has the longest shores in the Eastern Mediterranean,” he said. “Then, it initiated the process for the EastMed pipeline project, which aims to transfer regional gas to Europe by bypassing Turkey. The project is very costly but still favoured by anti-Turkish actors.”

Ataman said Greece is viewing its relations with Turkey from an “absolute zero-sum perspective”.

“It has been considering any positive development in Turkey as a detrimental development for itself,” he said. “However, Greece cannot compete with Turkey by itself anymore as a result of the most recent developments in both countries.”

Greece is known in Turkey as the “spoiled child of the West," Ataman said.

“Greece has been instrumentalising its conflictual relations with Turkey in order to get material, economic and political support not only from EU institutions and large EU members but also from global actors such as the U.S. and Russia.

“However, Turkey will continue to protect its national interests and play an effective role in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. The current disparity between the power and capacity of the two countries does not require Turkey to take measures against Greece alone. Turkey will continue to increase its hard power and follow a proactive foreign policy in order to be able to respond to the new regional conditions.”