The Turkish bargaining and the historical truth

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By Professor Anastasios M. Tamis*

Following Russia’s unnecessary, unprovoked, and deadly invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Norway felt the need to call for their countries to join the NATO alliance in order to ensure their safety from any potential threat of invasion, war or even in the Putinian expression “short military operation”. The Nordic countries have historically been peaceful and pacific,  and having non bad neighbours, they were able to maintain neutrality, and to formulate a liberal policy towards all countries. With a strong system of government, a robust social and cultural programme, with a rich infrastructure and a long history, especially Sweden, remained neutral both during the Second World War and in the years that followed. Sweden, as an Empire, during the reign of Emperor Gustav had been involved in a war with Imperial Russia (17th  and 18th  centuries), and had defeated even the troops of Russian Tsar, Peter the Great, who characteristically left for history his dictum: “The Swedes with their victories will teach us to defeat them”.

These two Scandinavian countries (the third country, Norway is already in NATO and the NATO Secretary-General is Norwegian), have therefore applied to join the NATO alliance, which consists of 30 member countries, all of which, except for the USA and Canada, which belong to America, are European and one Asian, Turkey. The latter, as an Asian country, was accepted mainly because it fulfilled at the time the objective of the so-called Cold War and served the interests of the USA, which did not want the expansion of the Stalinist Soviet Union to the South in 1952. At that time, Stalin threatened Turkey with an invasion from the territories of the Caucasus and the Turkish leadership, which had diagnosed the imminent danger of invasion,  begged, as a good student, the Europeans, and the US to join the NATO alliance. 

Then, in 1952, Turkey applied for membership alongside with Greece, despite the drastic objection and disagreement of many European countries against Turkey’s request. In response to the refusal of European countries to accept Turkey as a member of NATO, the leaders of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs had argued that “the accession of Greece and Turkey in NATO is more important than that of other European countries, including Luxembourg and Denmark”. The Turks then evaluated Greece’s and theirs inclusion as such.  And then, in 1952, the Turks, together with the Greeks, sent their soldiers to the edge of the planet as an “expeditionary force”, to fight in Korea and sacrificed hundreds of young children, Greeks and Turks, up on the hills of this country, as proof of their “allied devotion”.

Last February, therefore, Turkey  commemorated an important anniversary: 70 years ago, it joined NATO, three years before Germany; it was a great success of international policy, after lengthy negotiations and against the initial resistance of many NATO members. For a long time, Turkey reciprocated in trust and, up to and including their first aggressive events in Cyprus in the 1960s,  Turkey was considered a reliable ally of the United States and a model student in NATO.

And now, after 70 years as a member-state of NATO, Turkey’s  authoritarian and unpredictable leader Tayyip Erdogan, certainly a heretic and untrustworthy, as proved by Turkey’s diplomatic and political isolation in recent years, is raising an objection, reminiscent of  the Eastern bazaar, against the accession of two purely European countries, which are or suspect that they are in danger from another heretical and unpredictable authoritarian leader and friend of his,  the Russian Vladimir Putin. In both cases, first in 1952, and now in 2022, with a difference of seventy years, it was the Russians who, either as Stalin’s Soviets, or as Putin’s Schizo-Soviets, threatened a neighboring country. In both cases, the threatened countries, Turkey and Sweden-Finland, were seeking the protection of NATO. In 1952 the countries of Europe said YES to Turkey and Greece,  without quid pro quo. Now the Turkish President asks for quid pro quo, haggles in order to extract with coercion, the ransom, the redemption for his consent. We will consent for you to be admitted in NATO, but send us first with their hands tied, those who has spoken against Mr.  Erdogan as President and these “terrorists” the Kurds who demand freedom and independence in order to throw them in prison too, as we have already done to Abdullah Öcalan, the Kurdish leader. Now the Kurds are being considered by the Turkish regime  “terrorists”. However, during the period of Christian purges in Pontus and Asia Minor, the Kurds were recruited by the Turks as “guardians of the nation” and slaughtered the Pontians and the Christian  populations,  as Chetes, and were considered by the then Turkish leadership “patriots”, and redeemers of their nation.

Now, an unrecognizable Turkish leader, President Mr Erdogan, who has transformed himself from a “moderniser, liberal and moderate Islamist” fifteen years ago into a oppressor and tyrant of a people who are fighting to hold on to poverty and hunger, threatening with denial and haggling over the dignity of the two European states, Sweden and Finland, with VETO  refusal. He submitted ten conditions for the Swedes and the Finns to be met; otherwise Turkey will not vote in favour of their accession. We have an Asian leader, who is stepping on two boats, and talking about “diplomatic balance”, extends his hand to ask for NATO’s help on the one hand, winks at Putin, telling him, “hey, do you see what I am doing, and how I make it difficult for westerners in their plans?”

However, the Turkish President and his own people have to deal with it. His people who set up in queues to take the loaf out of the bakeries, or under the balconies, where the President and his allies set up their political speech. The reputable German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung recently hosted a tribute to the generation that grew up having met only one leader, namely Ertogan, entitled “young Turks turn their backs on Erdogan”. Referring to a series of “thorns” in Turkish society, the columnist cites a recent survey, in which 73% of 18–25-year-olds would leave the country if they had the opportunity. And concludes that “maybe everything will change again towards the  Best. But by then many young Turks will have turned their backs on their country.”

Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan in captivity is transferred from Kenya to Turkey guarded by Turkish agents

Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan in captivity is transferred from Kenya to Turkey guarded by Turkish agents

Can you imagine that Greece could follow in the footsteps of Mr Erdogan, as regards the accession of his country, Turkey, to the European Union? if the Greek Foreign Ministry were to make a list of ten conditions to be accepted by Turkey, before the Greek consent will be offered, before Greece say YES to Turkey’s accession to the EU? Namely, and inter alia for the Atilla Turkish occupying forces to be recalled from Cyprus, for the Halki School to re-open, for the return of the Christian Churches and monuments to the beneficiaries and heirs of this civilization, for the re-conversion of Hagia Sophia into a Museum, for the return to Greece of those Turks who looted temples and monuments in Imvros and Tenedos, for the revocation of the pseudo-invasion with Libya and for the recognition of the Aegean as a sea dominion of Greece. Erdogan claims that his demands and coercion constitute “diplomatic balance”; how about calling the Greek demands as a “diplomacy of reciprocity”?

*Professor Anastasios M. Tamis taught at Universities in Australia and abroad, was the creator and founding director of the Dardalis Archives of the Hellenic Diaspora and is currently the President of the Australian Institute of Macedonian Studies (AIMS).

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