Messages reaching Athens from Ankara should be reassuring. Turkey raises the need for a period of calm and hints at the possibility of reasonable solutions for the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean which are similar to what was discussed with previous Greek governments.
However, Turkey’s rhetoric and public actions are often at odds with these messages reaching Athens through many different channels. And these were not actions which may be routine but which are disproportionate in Greece, but threats and maneuvers which do not correspond to a strategy of de-escalation.
Ankara Presidential Palace increasingly resembles the palace of a bygone era. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is no longer the one who makes all the decisions. There are advisers, parents and courtiers scrambling for primacy, aspiring successors longing for tomorrow, and the Deep State, which also claims a role in the developments once again.
Greek and EU officials noted that senior Turkish officials were not only at odds on important issues, but even trying to harm each other. The palace is getting harder and harder to read and those who once understood how it worked are now in the dark.
The equation is further complicated by the uncertainty and terrible instability inside Turkey. The economy is in the doldrums and Erdogans’ most recent decisions on this front just don’t make sense.
The big problem, of course, is that Erdogan himself and the grand establishment he created don’t have an exit strategy. It will not be easy for him to lose the next election given the enormous amount of animosity and frustration that has accumulated.
Athens is right to keep the channels of communication with Ankara open; we need time and a temporary respite. That doesn’t mean everything is going well though, as Ankara’s instability fosters adventurism, rogue actions and even turmoil from Turkish officials at all levels of state.
When a Greek prime minister was due to visit Ankara a few years ago, he received a phone call from Erdogan the day before telling him that the Turkish president had spoken to the head of the armed forces, the navy, of the air force and the intelligence agency. , and could assure him that no incident would occur to put the Greek prime minister on the spot or overshadow his visit.
Erdogan is highly unlikely to make the same call today. The paradox is that his fear at the time was of not controlling the deep state because he didn’t have it; today he owns it, but it is not at all certain that he controls it.
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