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25 July, 2024
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Op-ed: In the mind of Erdogan

'I constantly hear people around me worried about whether Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will try something similar in Greece.'

Alexis Papachelas

Alexis Papachelas

For a few days now, we have been living in a different world. No one, neither veteran politician Henry Kissinger nor public intellectual Yuval Noah Harari, can predict what this world will be like when the dust settles and we can see what dawns.

The tragedy unfolding in Ukraine will surely affect us here in Greece as well. I constantly hear people around me worried about whether Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will try something similar in Greece. It is certainly very difficult to get into Erdogan’s mind, much like Vladimir Putin’s mind.

The truth is that the scenario of an incident caused by Turkey worried me a lot, especially in view of the impasses at which the Turkish leader finds himself. The crisis in Ukraine will act as a deterrent. First of all, because revisionism and changing borders with the use of force can no longer be accepted. The hypocrisy and flexibility that some of our partners showed until recently with regard to Turkey, and the possibility of turning a blind eye to such an incident in the future are minimal. Double standards cannot exist – not in this environment. Borders do not change with the use of violence in Europe.

But something else has changed as well: the role of European public opinion and social media. Until recently, social media created instability within the West itself, as we saw with former US President Donald Trump and Brexit. Now, they have pushed European leaders to make decisions that one could not have imagined a while ago. In a special way, they strengthen the underdog and target the attacker.

Erdogan would have to face all this if he tried something in the Aegean. No cynical or hypocritical European leadership could stop the backlash. Greece also has a huge stock of soft power, it has friends, it has its diaspora, it has people who love it for different reasons.

Of course, soft power is good, but it is not enough. We need alliances and defense shields, which we have and work for as a country, so we can sleep peacefully at night. But we may have gained some time and peace with our neighbors, at least for a while. At least that’s what a reasonable mind would think.

An over-optimistic mind might even think that in such turmoil, opportunities are created for an agreed period of calm. But who can tell us what is in Erdogan’s mind?

Cyprus  |  Greece  |  Turkey

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