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Greece - Turkey: «Fairness», talks, war and the harsh reality

In 1980, Greece's GDP was $56.8 billion compared to Turkey's $68.79 billion, or 83 percent  of the neighboring country's gross domestic product. Today the Greek GDP reaches 218 billion dollars and that of Turkey 771 billion dollars – Greece’s domestic GDP corresponds to only 28 percent of Turkey's GDP.

A few years after the formation of the current, more or less, Greek -Turkish border, in 1928, ie after the exchange of populations between the two countries, the population of Greece reached 6,200,000 inhabitants and in Turkey it reached 13,600,000.

A generation later, in the mid-1960s the population of Greece had risen to 8.4 million and that of Turkey to 31 million. In the early 1990s the gap had widened even further: 10.2 million inhabitants in Greece, 62 million in Turkey! Today (2019) the population of Greece is 10.72 million euros and in Turkey 82 million inhabitants - exactly the same as the population of Germany.

The population ratio of the two countries from 1 to 2 in 1928 has gone to 1 to 7 and the projections for the evolution of the population of the two countries in 2050 predict 9 million inhabitants for Greece compared to 97 million for Turkey

A similar picture is formed in regards to the economies of the two countries.

In 1980, Greece's GDP was $56.8 billion compared to Turkey's $68.79 billion, or 83 percent  of the neighboring country's gross domestic product. About 20 years later, in 2000, the GDP of Greece reached 130 billion dollars and that of Turkey to 273 billion dollars, while today the Greek GDP reaches 218 billion dollars and that of Turkey 771 billion dollars – Greece’s domestic GDP corresponds to only 28 percent of Turkey's GDP.

The dynamics of the Turkish economy, despite the serious political problems facing the country, are reflected in exports, the most productive and competitive part: Greek exports amount to 33.8 billion dollars against Turkish exports 180.2 billion dollars, ie corresponding to 18.75 percent of Turkey’s.

The distance in defense spending is correspondingly chaotic. In 2018, Turkey's defense expenditures amounted to 22 billion dollars, compared to 17.8 billion in 2017 and 16.6 billion in 2016. Greece's corresponding expenditures were 4.9 billion dollars in 2018, 5 billion in 2017 and also 5 billion in 2016. In short, Greece's defense spending in the last 3 years was significantly lower than the corresponding spending of Turkey during a year. Needless to say, industrial superiority and economies of scale have allowed Turkey to develop a very strong defense industry.

The above composes a difficult situation for our country, a situation that we avoid facing by discussing emotionally and acting spasmodically without any serious strategy to overturning the current dynamics.

Moreover, the two countries, apart from the historical rivalry, are still divided by serious issues with Turkey challenging dynamic, sovereign rights of Greece, rights that our country considers non-negotiable.

Peaceful negotiations

Although the peaceful settlement of disputes, through diplomacy, negotiations and international law, constitute the basis of the Greek position,an agreement between the two countries is rather impossible.

The reason is that any agreement implies a compromise, with gains and losses for both sides. However, the practice of compromise is foreign to Greek society, which, especially in the case of Turkey, has been nurtured for decades with the belief that Greece is 100% right and Turkey is 100% wrong: any compromise in the Aegean will be accepted as a defeat. or even more so as betrayal.

An agreement between Greece and Turkey similar to the agreement recently presented by the government between Greece and Egypt would have provoked strong reactions and political developments. Much more if it is an agreement that contains even more Greek concessions.

Given the geopolitical dynamics and self-confidence that the difference in strength and size gives  Turkey, it is likely to insist on positions that are difficult for the Greek government to accept, much less Greek society.

Military conflict

War is a continuation of the policy, however, despite our country’s overinvestment in defense, the data do not create much room for optimism. With the distance between the two countries steadily widening, the rational choice is, if it is impossible to reach a peaceful agreement, is for the war to have taken place… yesterday. Year by year the weight of Greece decreases and that of Turkey’s increases. Time is working against us and in favor of Turkey.

Of course, war is extremely unpredictable and unruly, while in history many times smaller populations have achieved overwhelming victories against much larger enemy countries. In the Six Day War, small Israel managed to conquer Egypt, Jordan and Syria, which had the support - with manpower and weapons - of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Algeria. However, Israel was fully aware of its struggle for survival against more powerful states and had been preparing for years to build a powerful war machine, with the persistent training of its entire population, regardless of gender, while equipping itself with state-of-the-art weapons. At the same time, it maintained a strategic alliance with the United States. But that was not what led to the victory: Israel struck a surprise blow, without declaring war, dismantling the rival armed forces of the Arab League.

Greece has a very strong navy, strong air force but it is extremely doubtful whether its ground forces have the experience and size to face Turkey’s. Only with a surprising and  overwhelming blow, in line with Israel's blow to the Arab League, would maximize Greece’s chances of a victory against Turkey and the imposition of its positions in a subsequent negotiation.

This means that it should play outside the "rules" and be the one to provoke the conflict by taking advantage of a window of opportunity such as the one that opened on the night of the coup in Turkey and later with the extensive purges of armed forces officers by the Erdogan regime. elements he considered responsible or suspicious of the coup. But it is doubtful that our country can make a move out of the rules under any leadership.

Guided by the law

Greece will never become Israel militarily, and we must not forget that a large part of the annual overinvestment in defense is not about equipment but the maintenance of camps in the Peloponnese, Attica and Larissa and the payroll of a human resources, much of which is doubtful whether it is ready for combat in  light of the modern needs of war.

The basic strategic choice of our country is to maintain a balance of forces and a combative deterrent force from year to year. And it is declining mainly due to the country's economic weakness as a result of the illusion that still prevails among most political staff: that Greece can maintain a state-owned clientele model of economic and social life reminiscent of the 1980s.

Completely cut off from modern trends and the digital revolution, the public administration continues a peculiar guerrilla war against change and evolution with the full support of a political staff that is unable to see beyond the present and electoral dominance of any means. A country that shrinks economically and demographically from year to year and all it can do is shout for its rights.

However, as Panagiotis Kondylis wrote in 1988: "The ‘fairness’ of Greece does not impress anyone, as long as behind it is an outcast with his hand constantly outstretched, someone living on loans, subsidies and support programs. The solution to the problem of national sustainability, not on an accounting basis, but on a productive basis, is a precondition for the pursuit of a serious foreign policy."

Yiannis Papadogiannis 

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