Both Turkish and Greek media reports over the last days have been filled by heightened speculation that the two Mediterranean powers (and NATO "allies"... ironically enough) could be headed to war. This follows Saturday comments from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wherein he issued a thinly veiled threat of military action against Greece.
Charging that Greece is "occupying" islands off Turkey's coast and militarizing them, Erdogan said in a fiery speech aimed at Athens that "When the time comes, we’ll do what’s necessary. As we say, we may come down suddenly one night." He added: "Look at history, if you go further, the price will be heavy."
An English-language publication covering Greece, The National Herald, observed on Monday in follow-up to Erdogan's threat: "Greece is bracing for what’s expected to be an emboldened Turkish President Recep Tayyip drawing lines in the sea and becoming more aggressive in asserting his claims to areas in the Aegean and East Mediterranean."
The publication notes that something seems different this time compared to prior threatening rhetoric coming from top Turkish officials over the past two years:
Erdogan typically mouths off against Greece with fiery rhetoric that frequently is followed by him backing away from threats but he’s been upping the ante and the volume, raising tension and growing worries of a conflict.
Seeing the European Union, NATO, United Nations and United States reluctant to provoke him, the hard-line Turkish leader has demanded Greece remove troops from islands near Turkey’s coast and said it would be a cause for war if Greece doubles its maritime boundaries to 12 miles.
All of this comes also as Ankara has lodged a formal complaint with NATO headquarters, saying that Greece last month achieved radar lock on its F-16s which had been flying over the Mediterranean.
Further, Turkey has charged that Greek jets have violated its airspace over 250 times in harassing maneuvers. "The ministry also informed that the Greek warplanes violated the Turkish airspace 256 times since the beginning of 2022," Hurriyet reported. "In addition, they harassed the Turkish jets 158 times this year, the ministry said. On the sea, the Greek coastal guards violated the Turkish territorial waters 33 times, it added."
Erdogan has for months refused to speak with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis - which heightens the potential for the longtime historic rival countries to stumble into conflict, as The National Herald continues:
Compounding the problem is that both Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis face tough re-election campaigns in 2023 and are already playing to the masses and showing off military might.
Turkey also warned Greece that this year could bring "a new 1922," marking 100 years since Greece suffered crushing defeats in Asia Minor that saw Turkey occupy the land.
Indeed, Erdogan still refuses to talk to Mitsotakis and there will unlikely be de-escalation talks anytime soon at the rate the jingoistic rhetoric is going.
The real problem of #Turkey as shown below even though #Erdogan chooses to escalate tensions with #Greece with his unprecedented rhetoric to overshadow his fear of failure— Europhil 🇪🇺 (@Europhil2000) September 5, 2022
Turkey’s real #inflation stats at 137%/yr. https://t.co/myDvoyDpDS
Meanwhile, according to a local anonymous eyewitness in the region that we spoke to, "Greek evening news reporting that ALL and they emphasize ALL of Turkish media including TV, radio and newspapers are in war mode against Greece. Today Erdogan went so far as to display HOW the invasion of Greece would occur to national media."