When Greece threw the doctrine of “calmness” in the trash and resisted

Turkey Erdogan Greece Greek

It was March 1, 2020 when Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis convened the Government National Security Council.

The content of the official announcement issued has a special and timeless value because it is essentially a cross-section compared to the past, to be precise compared to Greece’s prevailing doctrine of “composure and calmness”.

It is worth remembering ten months after that government statement:

“In recent days, Greece has been receiving sudden, massive, organized and coordinated pressure from population movements to its eastern, land and sea borders.

“This movement is directed and encouraged by Turkey… The gathered people are trying to enter Greek territory by force, despite the fact that the Greek side has made it clear in every way that no passage is allowed at all.”

Due to its coordinated and massive nature, this transfer has nothing to do with the International Law of Asylum which concerns only individual cases.

“In these circumstances, the present situation constitutes an active, serious, exceptional and asymmetric threat to the national security of the country.”

The announcement was written in operational language, despite the fact that it was drafted under an unprecedented regime of pressure on our land border with Turkey and similar pressure on the Prime Minister’s Office.

I hope that the content of the statement will henceforth be the main political-operational reference text.

This statement left out – which is unusual in our modern political-diplomatic history – the classic and absurd terms mentioned about composure and calmness.

These terms are useful from time to time, but ineffective as a means of preventing, stopping and repelling aggressive actions.

When in vain, these terms are constantly repeated for years, they are interpreted by Turkey, and not only as a sign of weakness and submissiveness.

The statement, on the other hand, includes statements such as that of an “organized, massive, illegal attempt to cross the border” and the government’s determination “to do whatever it takes to guard our borders”.

Doctrine of National Security

Every word – I could argue – highlights elements of a National Security Doctrine.

It reflects determination and design.

It fully corresponds to the heavy burden – the duty – carried on their shoulders by those who operate in the front line in Evros and of course in the Aegean (air and sea).

Also, the statement is a direct and direct challenge to the seriousness of the allegations of those who systematically try to convince us that Turkey does not pose a threat or danger to Greece.

If one measures the time gap between their own policy proposal and the manifestation of the Turkish hybrid attack on the Evros and the Aegean, one could come to the strict but fair conclusion that they lack proper knowledge and evaluation of things.

The government statement on March 1, 2020 is, as I have already mentioned, a clear differentiation from the decades-old doctrine of “composure and calmness”.

I cannot claim that it was a manifestation of submissiveness.

Usually, however, Greece was distinguished by a calm disposition.

Also, in Greece, the choice of systematic downgrading Turkey’s daily aeronautical operations and engagements in the Aegean prevailed for a long time.

How else can the deferral tactic of not exercising our sovereign and permitted rights under international law be characterized?

For example, how many times have we heard the drumbeat, “we will extend our territorial waters to 12 miles as we are entitled under international law, but when we decide?”

For 30 years it was the epitome of national position and vigilance for diplomats, politicians and journalists.

Military force

In June 1995, the Turkish National Assembly unanimously declared a casus belli if we extend our territorial waters to 12 nautical miles.

The right of Greece deriving from international law to extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles – which has also been used by Turkey – is threatened by the casus belli.

This threat prevented for 25 years the application and validity of the international law by Greece.

The same uncomfortable conclusion is drawn from the distance between programmatic party speeches and government projects for the proclamation and delimitation of the Greek Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), or even for proclamation without demarcation.

You are rather weakening your position when you invoke a right, which you are not willing to secure, in accordance with the doctrine of “composure and calmness”.

Let us repeat the test formulation of “calm determination” used by Andreas Papandreou during the Greek-Turkish crisis of March 1987.

It has long been accepted that the best way to avoid a war is to prepare systematically, but above all, decisively for it.

Modern history (1974 onwards) shows that diplomacy is more likely to succeed when it is accompanied by predictable military power – that is, if we have a strong defense.

Demonstrating determination and readiness to use military force – when needed – strengthens the deterrent of security, while certainly making the most of diplomacy.

Armed forces

In the three most typical cases of crises with Turkey – on the threshold of the military conflict – the political-diplomatic moves of Greece have always been accompanied by simultaneous and convincing mobilization of our armed forces.

That is, in 1976, 1987 and 1996 (Imia).

And this is regardless of the differences in the style of Greece’s leaders (Konstantinos Karamanlis, Andreas Papandreou, Costas Simitis) and questions about our more specific handling.

In particular, in the case of Imia, I stand by the criticism that the critical decision-making process highlighted institutional weaknesses in managing a pre-announced crisis.

Above all, however, it left us with the bitter taste of confrontation-disagreement of character, but mainly of assessments, if you prefer, between the political and the military at the highest level.

Each side maintains its position to this day and insists on its own interpretation of the facts.

The views of the author do not necessarily reflect those of Greek City Times.

Alexandros Mallias is a former ambassador to Skopje, Tirana and Washington, and regularly contributes to SLPress.