Turkey’s violations of Greece’s airspace are a reality that has occurred unabated on a daily basis for many years in a row. Even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Turkey has not stopped the constant aggression and rather accelerated it.
Less than 100 days into 2020 and Turkey has already violated Greece’s airspace 192 times.
Although the majority of Turkish air violations against Greece were over the usual areas, the islands of Chios, Lesvos and Leros, alarming overflights were recorded in other areas of Greece.
For the first time since 1993, Turkish jets violated the airspace above the Greek-Turkish land border at Evros seven times. These air violations by Greece’s so-called NATO ally Turkey occurred at the height of the migration crisis in March.
For the first time, Turkey even violated the airspace above the small island of approximately 300 people, Agios Efstratios, to the south of Lemnos.
Although Greece and Turkey became NATO members together in 1952, they certainly have not become allies, with the countries almost going to war after Turkey invaded northern Cyprus in 1974 and Turkey created a crisis over the Imia Islets in 1996.
Earlier this year, the Hellenic National Defence General Staff revealed in a report that: “The number of violations of Greek national airspace by Turkish military aircraft reached 4,811 in 2019, the largest number in one calendar year since 1987. There were 384 mock dogfights between Greek and Turkish fighter jets last year, while there were only 13 such fights in 2010.”
Air violations are one method that Turkey attempts to intimidate Greece. However, it has had the opposite effect. Despite the Hellenic Air Force not having much real time experience in recent years, Greek pilots have won NATO’s “Best Warrior” in 2018, 2019 and 2020 because of their incomparable skills due to high professional standards and engaging in mock fights with Turkish jets on a daily basis, in which it nearly always wins.
Ironically it is this daily training that Greek pilots have with Turkish jets that has honed their skills to win NATO’s “Best Warrior” three years in a row. However, as both countries are dealing with a coronavirus pandemic and an economic crisis, Turkey insists on maintaining an aggressive policy against Greece that only serves to distract and divert resources from other issues both countries face.
In the face of an economic collapse and the coronavirus pandemic that has infected over 24,000 people in Turkey according to official figures, Ankara has maintained an aggressive foreign policy by supporting jihadist forces in Syria’s Idlib province, arming and transferring Muslim Brotherhood fighters to Libya, and attempted to flood Greece with illegal immigrants in March. None-the-less, in the face of such aggression, Greece must continue to protect its borders whilst also dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.