Greece and Turkey in the era of Global Hybrid War

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In order to understand the dynamics of the relations between Greece and Turkey, we must have a fundamentally realistic picture of the international system and the way the two countries operate within it. However, this is not at all easy since the international system is in a transitional phase, in a phase of intense liquidity. Especially when you do not even want to attempt a realistic reading, as the Greek leading elites do.

They insist on being trapped in readings of reality, which may have made sense 25-30 years ago, but today are misleading fantasies. The prevailing perception in Greece is that the world remains monopolistic, as if the old Cold War had just ended yesterday, with the US being the dominant power pole of the planet, framed by the other western states.

This is not a claim. The way Greece handles the war in Ukraine in its foreign policy is proof. We are not referring to the condemnation of the Russian invasion, even to the application of Western sanctions, which affect the Greek economy in many ways. We are referring to the way Athens handles this crisis at the political-diplomatic level.

A comparison, in fact, with the way Ankara handles the same crisis is revealing. Turkey has been very cautious about the condemnation, while refusing to apply Western sanctions, although as a NATO member and as a candidate for EU membership it had to apply them. And while behaving in this way and maintaining an open channel of friendly contact with Moscow, not only NATO, but the West as a whole is “dripping honey” for Turkey. This is not only evident from the public statements, but also from the recent report of the Greek Minister of Defence that at the moment in NATO there is no room to criticise Turkey.

Greece and Turkey in the multipolar world

Even the most advanced interpretations of international developments in the field of Greek elites refer to an “oligarchically multipolar” world. The US, China and Russia are the dominant international actors and below them there are some middle powers. All the others are “courtiers” – among these others, they also classify Greece.

Both of these readings of the international system perceive Turkish autonomy as an insult, which will sooner or later provoke nausea on the part of the West. In other words, the Greek elites believe that the Americans will punish Turkey for its aspirations to be declared an autonomous power of Eurasian scope and will reward Greece for its obedience – more specifically for its geopolitical non-existence.

This view ignores or refuses to accept that the current international system tends to evolve into “inflationary multipolarity”, that is, with far more autonomous actors than it believes. Probably this reading is also incomplete. Perhaps, then, this fluid and vague period of “inflationary multipolarity” is an intermediate stage before a new bipolar international system is established, quite different from the separation that existed in the old Cold War, and this directly affects Greece and Turkey.

Greece and Turkey in view of Ukrainian

Developments around Ukraine confirm that we are moving in this direction. To be precise, the war in Ukraine acts as a catalyst. On one side, then, is the West, the “Atlantic World” with the US as its core and undisputed leader. On the other side, in a more relaxed arrangement, is Eurasia with the core of the rapidly forming China-Russia axis. Signs of such a separation may be visible to the naked eye today, but until recently it was not. Nor, however, do they constitute lightning in the air.

It was clear to observers that the choice of this route was made several years before the American Deep State. This is the policy of super containment of Russia and at this stage less of China. Russia’s current blockade is unparalleled, even in the darkest years of the Cold War. And if we had not arrived earlier in the current war in Ukraine, it is mainly due to the election of Donald Trump, who wanted some sort of agreement with Russia in order to encircle China. With the election of Biden, however, the way was opened again.

We can say that the US, with the EU following in its footsteps, had engaged in a hybrid war initially against Russia, with China being the next target. This is the doctrine of “double restraint”, which provides for virtually zero relations with the West, first with Russia and then with China. And this, of course, at the expense of the perceptions that Westerners themselves are chanting about international unification.

In the context of this logic, then, Chinese investments are characterised as “predatory economic behaviour” and cultural exchanges as “cultural imperialism”! For Russia, long before the war, there were arguments against intelligence. In the case of Trump’s election, she was shown to be able to easily manipulate the electorate in the US (and in European countries), at the same time as she was arbitrarily expelled from the 2020 Olympics.

Ukraine as a “tool”

The “tool” of this American strategy has been Ukraine for years and the station of the armed uprising-coup of 2014 in Kyiv, which forced President-elect Yanukovych to leave the country. With both sides expressing their intention for Ukraine to join NATO, in those days Putin rushed to occupy Crimea and in a referendum annexxed it to Russia. At the same time, the separatist movement of Russian-Ukrainian conscience took place in Donbass.

Washington now had the necessary pretext in its hands. It imposed sanctions on Russia, torpedoed the Minsk Accords and launched suffocating pressure on Moscow, threatening to expand NATO to Ukraine, but not only. The new Cold War had already begun, but I had not yet reached the “desired” dimensions. The cultivation of an anti-Russian climate and the demonization of Putin, however, were evident.

The further discussion of this multidimensional hybrid war that the West has since unleashed against Russia and China, and which has now escalated sharply, goes beyond the confines of this text. However, what we can say now is that the two major Eurasian countries are too large to isolate themselves, as the West seeks. On the contrary, as is already the case, they were pushed into each other’s arms.

Thus, Russia and China were forced to marginalise their competitors, creating the model of a new geopolitical size, which could develop into the first hyper power in the history of mankind. In this embryonic bipolar world and the global hybrid war that is shaping it, Turkey has a special role to play.

The “handle of the Turkish knife”

Part of the hybrid war against China is the support of Turkish-speaking Uighur Islamists in northern China. But the Uighurs are the end of the Turkish-speaking corridor that starts in Turkey, passes through Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to reach China’s Xinjiang province.

We could, therefore, liken the complex of these countries to a “knife” that is inserted into the heart of Eurasia and strikes China. And the handle of this “knife” is Turkey. The US needs Turkey, hoping to use it as a threat to Russia’s “soft belly” and to strike at China in this new type of war.

We are not talking about the old Kemalist Turkey, which was facing the West and did not care about the East. We are talking about Erdogan’s current Islamic Turkey. In other words, we are not talking about the introverted Turkey of the Kemalists, which was looking for a place in the EU, but about the extroverted Turkey of the neo-Ottomans, which wants to function as a great Eurasian power in a multipolar world.

The refutation of the Greek elites

Western expectations for Turkey are not being confirmed, at least for now. As mentioned above, Ankara has chosen to play the role of mediator between Russia and Ukraine, maintaining very good relations with both sides. As far as turning it into a “knife handle” is concerned, neither its will nor its possibility is confirmed. Not that imperial neo-Ottoman Turkey does not seek to exert influence in the Turkish corridor, but has neither shown that it can nor will play the role for which the United States is destined.

Even so, the Americans will hardly be led to sever their relations with Turkey. They have essentially come to accept it as an autonomous force of Eurasian scope. And this despite the fact that they have no guarantee that it will turn into a handle of the Turkish-born “knife” that they want to nail to the “soft belly” of Russia and the sides of China.

The facts, therefore, categorically refute the expectations of the Greek elites that the Americans will punish Turkey for its autonomy and will reward Greece for its obedience. Although this refutation is both resounding and continuous, Athens continues on the same voyage line as what this means for the conflict between Greece and Turkey. It has already managed to completely destroy the Greek-Russian relations, leading the cultivation of an anti-Russian climate, as if Russia will not be in our region tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and will affect our national interests.

Konstantinos Grivas is a professor of Geopolitics and Modern Military Technologies, director of the Department of War Theory and Analysis at the Military Sch42ool of Guards. He also teaches Geography of Security in the Wider Middle East at the Department of Turkish and Contemporary Asian Studies, University of Athens. He is a regular contributor to SLPress

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Guest Contributor

This piece was written for Greek City Times by a Guest Contributor