The “five plus four bases” conundrum with Greece

One of the subjects that the AK Party government is most capable of is perception operations. Formalism; numerical size plays an important role. We see the reflection of this situation in foreign policy as well.

Take an example for you.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Regarding the US bases in Greece, he used the expression “5 plus 4 bases”. I don’t know why he didn’t say 9 from the beginning.

President and AKP Chairman Erdogan,
At the group meeting of his party on June 1, he said, “Greece 5+4, 9 superiors of the USA in Greece.
He made it possible for the establishment of

I am not sure if one should read the words of Erdoğan, who added the phrase “there are ships, there are ships,” to our vocabulary in the face of criticisms about his son’s fleet of ships, about Greece as “there is a base there”.

Then he started to say 9 bases directly. However, the Greek authorities have not been able to decipher which 9 bases are mentioned. For some in Ankara, this number is a mystery.

Information about the new “bases” in some of the mainstream media reports is also complex. For example, in an article in Yeni Şafak, the target practice area was also counted as a base. I understand that some buildings/spaces rented by the American army have also been upgraded to bases. AK Party experts found a figure 9 when forced. With the “9 American bases”, the threat perception from the USA and Greece is thus enlarged.

With such examples, when the government has acquired a bad reputation for exaggeration, it is necessary to approach every statement made with caution.

Artificial tension anxiety

On top of this, add the polarization that the power feeds with its own hands, unlike the past. In the past, it was relatively easy to achieve supra-partisan social consensus on foreign policy issues, but now the issues that concern Turkey’s fundamental interests in the international arena can fall victim to polarization.

This situation can lead to dangerous presuppositions both internally and externally.

On the way to the elections, a part of the citizen on the street asked, “Does Erdogan want to create an artificial crisis with Greece?” has a concern. Some will go to war to go to the elections under a state of emergency; He even goes so far as to say that he won’t even start a war and make an election.

This pre-acceptance risk causes a general blinding to the risky steps that Greece has taken or might take.

As for the external reflection of this presupposition.

It is highly probable that Greece in particular has started to look at “whatever I do, everyone will find Erdoğan guilty anyway”.

Before returning to this point; Let me open a parenthesis about the base issue.

The US-Greece rapprochement is the work of the government

The US does not need to establish a base in Greece to target Turkey. The US tells Ankara that these bases are against Russia. Some of the American soldiers deployed to the Balkans and Central Europe against Russia are transferred to their posts through the Greek bases.

Of course, we cannot ignore the Turkish-American relations that have not improved. If you shout in front of the cameras in the morning and evening to make relations with America a domestic political material, if even your Minister of Interior makes beautifications like “the USA will make us LGBT”, if you say “I will close Incirlik Base according to him” in every troubled situation; The man goes and establishes a base elsewhere.

Greece did what was right for its own interests; benefited from the deteriorating Turkish-American relations. Can we be angry with “Wow, why are you developing military cooperation with America”? The point is not that these bases pose a threat to Turkey. Erdogan’s real deterioration is that these bases weaken Turkey’s strategic value in the region. Giving Ankara the message that “don’t think of yourself as a unique Indian fabric”.

However, there is a message that Athens also draws from this situation; Let me close the parenthesis about bases and come back to the Greek dimension of the issue.

The honeymoon of Athens with the USA, backed by the EU, could lead to a dangerous burst of self-confidence in the country’s falconry. In fact, this possible increase in self-confidence worries the military-diplomatic bureaucracy in Ankara, as well as the presumption that “no one knows from us, everyone criticizes Erdoğan anyway”.

For this reason, the following advice is constantly given to the USA: “Don’t let Greece get the impression that it will find Washington behind it in every crisis.”

However, this message has not been able to find a response in the USA.

When the Turkish Ambassador in Athens says to the American Ambassador, “If these bases are not against Turkey, then tell the Greek press that this is the case”, the response he gets is silence.

This is the attitude of the Americans, the hawks in Athens, saying, “While Turkey is ready, in a big jam and international loneliness, let’s turn the situation to our advantage as much as possible”; may push the temptation to take some risky steps that push the limits. Finally, placing the S300 radar lock on Turkish warplanes was a step that pushed the boundaries. According to a group of bureaucrats in Ankara, the latest strategy of Athens is as follows: Let’s take steps that will push Ankara to react harshly, and if Ankara responds out of proportion, look how Turkey will be aggressive and let it pull all the lightning.

If this is true, I doubt whether it will have the desired outcome for Greece. Even the opposite may occur.

If the AK Party government is one of the most troublesome and dangerous governments in the eyes of Athens, wouldn’t it make more sense for them to wait for the upcoming elections?

A dangerous escalation, military friction may affect the elections and lead to a result in favor of the AK Party.

At the end of the steps that will give the AK Party a trump card instead of staying calm for a while, is a Turkey with Erdoğan for another five years preferable for Athens?

Of course, in case of a change in power, the Turkish-Greek problems will not be solved overnight. But at least relations will be less likely to fall victim to domestic political calculations and problems will be more reasonably managed.

Finally, let me say this:

In both Ankara and Athens, there may be those who hope for help from the escalation of tensions, or even their evolution into a hot conflict. In the coming period, we should look at who is right and wrong rather than who is acting with restraint and who is going to fuel the fire.

Who is Barchin Yinanc?

Barçın Yinanç was born in 1968, graduated from METU, Department of International Relations. He worked as a diplomacy reporter for more than 10 years at Milliyet Ankara Office, which he started as an intern in 1990. Then he switched to television journalism and worked first at TV8 and then at CNN Türk Ankara Bureau.

In addition to Turkey-USA, Turkey-EU relations, he followed the developments in Turkish foreign policy in a wide geography from the Caucasus to the Middle East. He held interviews with many foreign government officials, covered the summits of international organizations such as the UN, NATO and the EU and the behind-the-scenes developments.

He settled in Istanbul in 2004, started working at Hürriyet Daily News (HDN), which is published in English, after CNN Türk and Reference newspaper. He took on various roles as news coordinator, comment page editor; Beginning in 2010, he conducted the newspaper’s Monday interviews for ten years. During this time he continued to write foreign policy analyzes.

He attends the meetings of many international think tanks as a speaker, facilitator, and comments on the publications of foreign publications. Yinanç is a member of the Association of Diplomacy Correspondents, the Ski Club of International Journalist, and the Women in Foreign Policy platform, which prepares the podcast series “AttmaHaber”.

Last post; Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Turkey and Women in Diplomacy: How to Integrate the WPS Agenda in Turkish Foreign Policy is titled).

Barçın Yinanç, who has been writing on T24 since December 2020, is doing the show “Impressed with Foreign Policy” with Metin Kaan Kurtuluş every week on the T24 screen.

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