In the wake of the failed immigration crisis at Evros on the Greek-Turkish border launched by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in February, it appears that Turkey will continue to pressurise Greece through controlled crises so that it can escalate more problems in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Erdoğan has internal problems because of the coronavirus pandemic and is facing an economic collapse in his country with the parallel fall of the Turkish lira. It certainly does not help that Turkey will also have a bad tourist season this summer due to the virus, which has been the main motivating factor for Erdoğan to arrest any journalist reporting that the official infection rate in Turkey is grossly underestimated – he is trying to assure tourists that Turkey is safe to travel to.
According to Professor George Filis of the American College of Greece, there is a possibility of a conflict with Turkey this summer as the Turkish political leadership is losing strength inside the country and wants to regain the popularity it once had.
The professor also says that after the pandemic “It is very likely that a new immigration crisis will be created at Evros, the islands and in Cyprus. In the new wave of immigrants, if this comes, it will have to be prevented by Greece. It is very likely that Europe itself will ask for it, as it will not want possible cases of coronavirus on its territory.”
We must remember the words of former Turkish President Turgut Özal: “We do not need to make war with Greece. We just need to send them a few million immigrants and finish with them.”
Using illegal immigrants to pressurise Greece has been a part of Turkish doctrine since at least the 1990’s. Although Turkey found success in flooding Greece in 2015, it completely failed last month as it had not expected strong resistance from Greek border security nor that Europe would strongly back Greece.
On Greek television station Alpha, Savvas Kalenteridis, a retired Greek Intelligence officer and geopolitical analyst, explained that the border situation last month was “something much more important than most people realise” as Greece resisted Turkish plans to flood Europe with 1 million illegal immigrants as admitted by Turkey’s interior minister Süleyman Soylu.
The retired intelligence officer then explains how “the Greek win in the border crisis is a win of historical importance” as it failed to break Greece’s morale and proved that Turkey could not control migration flows to Europe to make blackmails for more money.
The success of Greece resisting Turkey’s “hybrid war,” as Kalenterdis describes it, is that as Greece emerges from the economic crisis that crippled the country for the entirety of the 2010’s, Athens is more willing to defend its interests now.
This in itself poses a new danger, as Erdoğan pursues regional hegemony but has failed in every effort made. Turkey attempted to invade northern Syria earlier this year but utterly failed, the jihadists that it supports in Libya is losing ground to the Libyan National Army, and it failed to asymmetrically invade Greece with illegal immigrants.
These setbacks however can make Erdoğan more desperate as his dream of regional hegemony and making Turkey a top 10 economy by 2023 is slipping out of his hands, and what better excuse to take aim at the “Old Greek Enemy” to distract the Turkish public from his failures and his country’s economic decline.