Does anyone think that the Turks would ever give up what they are struggling to achieve? To this question the Turks themselves give us the answer in two words: “Blue Homeland”. It concerns maritime control in the Aegean, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Those seas cover a vast area of approximately 134,700 square nautical miles.
Analyzing the military operation efforts at the current figure of the Turkish armed forces (TAF) and their political situation, such a massive operational design seems to have limited success capacity for the great goals it sets. However, with minor joined task forces, they have the ability to carry out military operations of limited goals, simultaneously in the eastern Mediterranean, the Aegean and the Black Sea, as Ankara feels that a more robust military position in these maritime zones is needed to demonstrate naval power.
In fact, they want to send a message to the “Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum”, the coalition formed by Egypt, Israel, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Jordan and the Palestinian authority, and also to the “Philia Forum” organized by Greece with the participation of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Cyprus, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and France. Especially towards Greece and to the military agreements with Israel, Egypt, France and Cyprus, they intend to investigate the reactions of them and our allies (EU, NATO, company states) in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, to the military operations of the “disputed regions” as considered by Turkey.
It is nothing new, since in the past, and particularly in June 1998, the Turkish navy had carried out a similar naval operation during exercise Denizkurdu (sea-wolf),
and the Turkish mixed naval forces were deployed in the Mediterranean with the full participation of air forces. A mixed group of ships was deployed east of Malta and another west of Crete, where they tested plans to challenge the sovereign rights of Hellenism. This was the largest trial ever conducted by the Turkish navy in the Mediterranean and was seen as a reaction to the tension with Greece, two years after Imia.
Since then, they have shown methodical and remarkable flexibility in adapting and transforming the force structures and command procedures of their armed forces even in the mindset of their officers. They also planned an armament programme and created armed forces with the ability to respond as best as possible throughout the area around Turkey, continuing to strengthen their positions in the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions. Indeed, in recent years, following the Imia crisis, there has been a sense of urgency in improving their capabilities, particularly in the sea battle, in the acquisition of a strong national air defence system and in the significant increase in domestic industries investing in defence.
It is obvious that Ankara’s aim is the emergence of Turkey as a Regional Power in the shifting international order, with the capacity to connect the eastern Mediterranean, the Aegean and the Black Sea. Also, with Russia’s cooperation, it is attempting to overcome the coalition of states investigating energy sources in the Eastern Mediterranean and to cope with the pressure it faces in the Black Sea.
Looking at these actions, it appears that the case for a short but violent war is the wish of the TAF. On the contrary, in Greece we continue to strengthen the deterrence, by uniting a high-level coalition, from the peace period as an alliance and not only as military cooperation that has been in force to date with Israel, Egypt and France.
It is understood that the Allied aeronautical web will be required to be redirected. In other words, when policies are needed to help allies deal with Turkey’s expansion of illegal claims, allies must do much more than communicate threats to impose sanctions. A deployment of forces or other indirect efforts to support allies facing Turkey is extremely important.
If this competition matters to the United States as the alliance’s leading force, American forces must play a much more direct role in helping allies defend their maritime rights and ensuring that any settlement of disputes is done by peaceful, legal means and not by Turkish coercion. The U.S. Marine Force in cooperation with the Navy and Coast Guard must also operate on the front lines, using marine power in its “definitive” form.
From our side, we need to realize that Greece must emerge as Turkey’s other pole. There will be individual partnerships but, in our region, Greece has no choice to survive without being formed into a pole of power. And because our differences with Turkey are not only historical but also cultural, the allies will be asked to answer the question of who they will join. Such a role, of a local region, needs the acceptance and support of the great powers. So it requires a convincing diplomatic narrative that we are a reliable power.
This role also requires strong Armed Forces, capable diplomacy and initiatives. That is to say, for Greece to set the agenda and for Turkey to follow. So Greece will choose the scope. It requires, above all, cultural diplomacy, with an including the promotion of what Hellenism has produced over time.