Nikolaos Stelgias

Nikolaos Stelgias

Greek Left accuses Mitsotakis of lack of strategy in relations with Ankara

"All scenarios" under consideration as tensions between Greece and Turkey escalate, including the possibility of a "world war."

“What will you do, Mr. Mitsotakis, when the ‘world war’ knocks on your door?”

The recent tension in Greek-Turkish relations has been occupying the Greek news on a daily basis. Greek politicians and journalists are following the latest developments in the Aegean with particular concern. After two years, the Greek media are once again foreshadowing the possibility of a ‘hot episode’ in the Aegean. The last time the Greek press sent this warning, the calendar showed August 2020. Back then, the start of gas explorations initiated by Turkey led to confrontations between Athens and Ankara and the mobilization of all available means, including the military. However, the final rupture was avoided thanks to the mediation of the Western partners of Athens and Ankara.

Today, the conservative government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis and its supporters express limited optimism about the mediation of the international actor in Greek-Turkish. From their point of view, the uncertainty on the world stage - diplomatic and economic - leaves all possibilities in the Greek-Turkish relations open. Regardless, the Prime Minister Mitsotakis continues to bet on the US President’s intervention and the support of the European Union. In this context, the Greek government sends messages of determination regarding the Greek-Turkish quarrels whilst hoping for its western allies’ backing.

The government’s strategy and the choices of Prime Minister Mitsotakis have caused the united disagreement of the Greek Left. Representatives of the left-wing parties put forward the view that the government's manipulations that come in response to Ankara's aggressive rhetoric are driving Greek-Turkish relations to the rocks. Furthermore, they accuse Prime Minister Mitsotakis on the pretext of lacking a strategy in the Aegean. Greek communists on the other hand, continue to warn of the complications of Greece's involvement in new war adventures.

Athens is ready for all scenarios

The political and journalistic circles of the conservative government of New Democracy (ND), when analyzing the escalation of tension in Greek-Turkish, are sending the important message that: Considering all the latest development, Athens has no choice but to be prepared for all eventualities in the Aegean.

The director of the historical newspaper ‘Kathimerini’, Alexis Papahelas, wrote in a recent opinion article that “In difficult times, we refer to the advice of those who handled critical situations with Turkey. Because, as Byron Theodoropoulos used to state, ‘History should not teach you what you should do, but what you should not do’. We are on the verge of some ‘event’, with no one being able to predict what and when it will happen.”

Papahelas then added: “Let us be ready, then. And not underestimate the (possibility of) an accident that can blow up everything in the air. As Petros Molyviatis often points out with his flattening wisdom, ‘do not always look to find something deep or complicated behind a mistake. It may just be a mistake.”

The opposition's reservations: “Mitsotakis has no strategy for Greek-Turkish relations”

“Ankara plans in the coming days to take out an oceanographic vessel in the sea area of Crete and ‘accompany it’ by the well-known process of (issuing) an illegal Navtex. What will the Mitsotakis government do if it finds (the Turkish vessel) at 8 nautical miles, within a Greek zone of domination?”, wonders Kostas Poulakidas, who shares the views of Syriza, that is the main opposition party.

The columnist puts forward the view that the Mitsotakis government does not have a strategy in the face of the above possibility. In an ironic tone, Poulakidas notes: “Will (the government) check to see if there are winds blowing that might carry (the Turkish ship in Greek waters)? Will it (drive the ship away) by making noise using tins? Will it remember that the national limit is 6 miles? And what if the national pride of the voters is greater than 6 miles, what will Mitsotakis do? Elections? It's easy to sell patriotism when it (the discussion) comes to bribes and immigrants. But when the ‘world war’ knocks on your door, the country wants a leader who understands much more than his own pocket”.

A recently written communiqué of the third largest party in Greece followed a similar wavelength. The historic PASOK-Movement for Change, pointed out in its announcement that “Despite (Turkey’s) constant threats and provocations of recent weeks, the conclusions of the (EU) summit on Turkey once again lack any reference to sanctions. The Government, instead of celebrating the inclusion of the self-evident wording in the summit’s Conclusions, it should work to make it clear to our European partners that the authoritarian and revisionist policy of President Erdogan cannot be countered by appeasement but by substantial deterrence measures.”

The government is also accused of inefficiency in Greek-Turkish affairs by the former Minister of Finance of Greece and leader of the Mera25 Movement, Yanis Varoufakis. In a relevant publication on the official website of the movement, it is pointed out that “(The government’s) obedience (to the orders of the West) doesn’t safeguard national interests. It causes more insurmountable problems.”

Veto on Greece's involvement in new wars

The representatives of Greece’s communist and anarcho-left spectrum, even though they broadly share the view that “the Mitsotakis government does not have a strategy for Greek-Turkish relations”, they express a different opinion on the overall issue.

The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) asks the Greek government to not hand the management of Greek-Turkish relations over to NATO. In a relevant written communiqué, the KKE points out that: “Placing the protection of the country's sovereign rights in NATO–in an aggressive summit with militarist agenda, fueled by the war in Ukraine - is an unhistorical, dead-end and dangerous act. NATO's major objectives for greater enlargement and more cohesion- in view of the intensification of the competition with Russia and China - will be accompanied by co-management plans in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean, thus fueling the claims of the Turkish state.”

The Antarsya Movement, which has a remarkable presence in the Greek Left even though it is not represented in the parliament, puts forward a similar position in its recent communiqué. “The provocative secret diplomacy of Mitsotakis, Dendias, and the entire government, the concealment of weapons shipments to the Zelensky regime, the piratic grabbing of Iranian oil from a Russian tanker in Karystos following an order by the US, and the Greek-Turkish ‘skirmishes’ in the Aegean, are the latest products of the adventurous, belligerent policy of the government.”

The communiqué of the movement concludes with the following warning: “The full and unconditional coexistence of the government with the most aggressive sides of the US-NATO, not only does not appease but it exacerbates the Greek-Turkish rivalry. Each country’s ruling class claims the lion's share of the energy wealth of the East Mediterranean and bets on its alliances, resulting in an unbearable arms race, nationalism, and war.”

*Dr Nikolaos Stelgias was born in Istanbul. He is an independent researcher, writer, historian and journalist. His doctorate is in the field of the modern Turkish political system (Panteion University, 2011). His latest book “The Ailing Turkish Democracy” was published by the Cambridge Scholars Publication in 2020. Dr. Stelgias was a correspondent of the newspaper "Kathimerini (Cyprus edition)" for Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot community from 2009 to 2021. Currently, Dr. Stelgias works at the Cyprus News Agency. Dr. Stelgias publishes in Turkish news articles and analyses on Cyprus and Greece on the news website 'Duvar". 

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