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Greece must continue to closely watch emboldened Erdogan

Wars do not require military violence to become acts of hostility

Europe has been lucky enough to not have been dragged into a military altercation on the continent in over two decades, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t, or won’t, happen again. The situation in and around Europe is becoming more precarious by the week, or so it seems.

The EU is becoming ever more fractured and NATO has apparently lost its way. Right on Europe’s doorstep is the regime of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which is increasingly resembling a dictatorship, which can be noted by yet another reelection to the Turkish Presidency last month.

Irish Times reoports

We are fortunate in Europe in the sense that we haven’t had a major military conflict since the collapse of Yugoslavia and the Bosnian-Serb conflict of the 1990s. Maybe we are also fortunate that the refugee crisis is making us aware of wars elsewhere and the need for conciliation and mutual respect.

But there are invisible wars continuing: wars of attrition, wars of diplomacy, economic wars which don’t need bombs, gas masks or even verbal abuse but which thrive on factors which are just as insidious as ethnic cleansing, terrorism and religious prejudice.

Turkey may not officially be at war, but the narrow victory of President Recip Erdogan in last month’s elections will certainly increase the levels of aggression on which he, as executive president, will be able to operate. At home, Erdogan has not only effectively declared war on the opposition (imprisoning dissident academics, teachers and journalists) but makes no secret of his determination to suppress, if not exterminate, the Kurdish minority.

Greece is watching Erdogan’s success with apprehension. He has already carried his arguments into the enemy camp during his state visit here last December when he spoke of rescinding the international treaties under which the Dodecanese islands (including Rhodes, Kos and Patmos) became part of Greece in 1947.

Twice in the past 30 years, Greece and Turkey have been on the brink of war over the ownership of such islands. And Erdogan has indicated that he regards the citizens of northeastern Greece, who happen to be Muslim, as more properly part of his own Islamic hegemony.

Wars therefore do not require military violence to become acts of hostility. Turkish warplanes provocatively entering Greek airspace are a tragedy waiting to happen and could precipitate a territorial conflict.

Reason for war

And wars are not always fought for their ostensible reasons. The Greek war of independence was more about weakening the Ottoman empire (the “sick man of Europe”) than about freedom for Greeks. Turkey was a threat to the Austro-Hungarian empire because it controlled most of the Balkan region including the lands that are modern Greece. The states of Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Macedonia came into existence as and when it suited the Great Powers to create them.

The “war” of the Grexit, when it looked as if Greece would leave the euro zone and revert to the drachma, wasn’t about saving the Greek economy (which was almost “dead in the Med” anyway) but about safeguarding the euro itself and the German and French banks which had over-lent to Greece.

It was about saving the architects of the euro zone from a horrendous own goal. The destruction of the Greek economy and the near-collapse of the Italian, Spanish, Irish and Portuguese exchequers were the result of war-by-banking and war-by-chicanery.

The “war” of the refugee crisis is being fought not so much to protect the Syrians and Afghans but to test Europe’s capacity for humanitarian compassion against its equal and opposite capacity to repel what it does not understand. Syria’s internal war, the ubiquitous Islamic State and the Middle East conflicts are challenging Europe’s conscience by fuelling its fears.

Virtual dictatorship

The next “war”, to protect Europe from itself, will be fought not to respect the democratic rights of Italians, Greeks, Catalans or Basques but to copperfasten the hegemony of the northern states.

The situation in Turkey, with a virtual dictatorship sitting on Europe’s doorstep, must make both the European centrists and expansionists fearful for the alleged ideals of the European founders: democracy, justice, free trade and movement of peoples and ideas, all of which are challenged by Greece’s nearest and most aggressive neighbour, Turkey.

Erdogan’s slim 52 per cent majority will probably enlarge, rather than diminish, his single-minded aggressiveness, since he still has much to fear at home. Although he has made many Turks more prosperous and has a strong domestic economy, his politics are scaring away the chance of capital investment.

Nevertheless, bankers lend to strong men, not to wimps. Meanwhile he can afford, literally, to condescend to Greece, where the average worker pays well over 50 per cent of income in taxes – direct, indirect and social security – and the prospects of economic recovery at a national level remain remote.

Erdogan wants to get his hands on some parts of northern Syria, so he helped arm, fund, and train terrorist groups inside the war torn country to further destabilize it, hoping that once this is sufficiently accomplished that he can march down there and take whatever territory he pleases. However, once the Russians got involved, the situation got a bit more complication, and once the Americans started forming a Kurdish Coalition, Erdogan, a NATO member and ally of America, turned his guns at the US pet coalition of Kurds and is currently in the process of exterminating them, whether the US likes it or not, whether allies with Washington, or not.

This betrays the reality that Erdogan’s regime is one that can’t be trusted to abide by a given geopolitical alliance unless it is militarily enforced. That his regime is increasingly resembling a dictatorship can be gleaned from the manner in which he treats political freedom within his own country, jailing anyone who opposes his political dominance, which may artificially be maintained through his use of force or bribery. Therefore, Europe is facing a regime run by something of a dictator that could become a forceful threat if Europe can’t keep a lid on the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean.

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