Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is used to making threats, taking risks and almost always achieving his goal.
He has trouble imagining things going a different way. He clearly believes now is the right time to push the envelope in the eastern Mediterranean and has chosen to ignore the risks of a full-on clash with so many players and the damage this could cause his country.
Everything annoys him: France’s presence in the eastern Mediterranean, the Greek-Egyptian maritime borders pact, Greece’s cooperation with the United Arab Emirates, Washington’s decision to lift the arms embargo on Cyprus and, of course, Greece and Cyprus’ ongoing cooperation agreements with Israel and Egypt.
On the other hand, he expects no problem when he signs a deal with the leader of half a country that not only defies common sense but is also rejected by the parliament of that country.
Nor is it a problem when he sends military assistance to Libya in defiance of United Nations restrictions. Nor when he invades Syria or buys Russian missiles, angering the United States and NATO.
And this is not to mention the “normalcy” Erdoğan’s regime is trying to impose in Turkey: jailing thousands of military officers, judges, journalists, educators and others accused of following exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen, the Turkish president’s erstwhile ally.
Erdoğan appears to be flirting with conflict. “The arrow has left the bow and will surely find its target,” he said recently, wondering, with his usual arrogance, whether “the Greeks accept what will happen to them as a result of their ambitious and incompetent leaders”. He asked the same question about “our brothers” and their leaders in France, North Africa and the Persian Gulf.
There was also Die Welt’s revelation, citing military sources, that the Turkish president asked his generals to sink a Greek ship or shoot down a Greek jet.
Erdoğan is playing dangerous games and needs to be stopped before it’s too late.
Addicted to their president’s proclamations, Turkish officials and many Turks have been convinced that their country is a global military power that can lash out at anyone that “annoys” it or tries to prevent it from expanding to the limits of Erdoğan’s vision.
Ankara’s distortions of fact and dangerous bombast have crossed every line in service of Erdoğan’s narrative. His foreign policy adviser has gone so far as to claim that Greeks are suffering from starvation and that Europeans have no money, while announcing the “joyful news” that, as the president told the people, after projecting its huge military might on land and sea, Turkey is about to become a powerful force to be reckoned with in space as well.
What can one say to all of this?
(A version of this article was originally published by Kathimerini and reproduced by permission.)