sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Turkish Expansion

Balkan Chessboard (Part 2) On November 29, we took a look at the situation in Greece and the Balkans (link). Since that time, the situation has become more complicated largely because of the Turkish position is changing. Let's take a look at how this is happening and at the strategic implications.

Greece ordered the expulsion of the Libyan ambassador Friday in the latest escalation of a dispute over a controversial deal signed between Libya’s U.N.-supported government and Turkey on maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean. Turkey and Libya objected but there's not much that the Libyan ambassador can do except leave by Monday.

The Greeks have no diplomatic presence in Libya.

An agreement recently inked between Libya and Turkey will give Turkey access to an economic zone across the Mediterranean, over the objections of Greece, Cyprus and Egypt, which lie between Turkey and Libya geographically. The deal has added tension to Turkey’s ongoing dispute with Greece, Cyprus and Egypt over oil and gas drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean.

The matter will end up on court, but Turkey has a history of ignoring court decisions unless it's a decision handed down by Islamic court, in Istanbul, controlled by Turkish strongman, President-for-life Erdogan. (in other words, a rubber stamp by the Turks)

The Libyan-Turkish security cooperation agreement is complicated because Libya has been divided between two competing governments since 2015, one based in Benghazi in the east and the other based in Tripoli. The Turkish deal was signed with the Tripoli-based government of Fayez Sarraj, and will allow Turkey complete access to Libyan territory including the right to construct military bases. It's not a bad move for the Tripoli-based Libyans because they gain Turkish troops to help support their claim against the "pretenders to the throne" in Benghazi.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis sought the support of fellow NATO members on the issue during an alliance meeting in London earlier this week, but because both Turkey and Greece are members of NATO, it's sticky.

For Turkey, it's a pattern that they are deliberately pursuing in an attempt to spread their military and political influence through the Mediterranean. They're trying to forge the same relationships with other weak and divided nations with the promise of military and financial aid. 

Then there is the issue with Cyprus. Cyprus was split along ethnic lines in 1974 when Turkey invaded the country and seized the northern part of the island, where it currently has 35,000 troops. And then gas was discovered on the ocean floor and the Turks started drilling not only adjacent to their claimed territory but in the maritime zone claimed by Greece.

Military Action?


Will Athens support the Greek Cypriot maritime territorial claim with naval action against ongoing drilling? Reliable sources tell me that it's being considered. However, the Greek military operates on a budget half the size of the Turkish military, it has a much smaller army and navy and is at a significant disadvantage without allies to back its play. Both the Greeks and Turks run similar submarine fleets (built in Germany or under license). Their naval forces are roughly comparable. The disproportionate numbers are largely to be found with the land armies. The Greeks traditionally rely on tank-busting helicopters to sway the odds in their favor.

The Christian Greeks are attempting to base their appeal to their long time British and American allies along religious lines. The Turkish (Islamic) caliphate is working hard to keep that from happening. 

16 comments:

  1. Wow. Thanks for the update, LL.

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  2. Interesting. It appears to me that that Turks are getting more aggressive under Erdogan. We'll see where that leads.

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    1. Erdogan wants to be the Caliph. It's difficult for Turkey to do that without expansion well beyond its national boundaries. I think that they will find themselves overextended. Give them more rope.

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  3. That is an area of the world that holds little interest for me so I appreciate your insights.

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    1. It's a matter of professional interest for me rather than personal. I'm not a stake holder in the Turkish or Greek or Libyan struggles. But I follow it.

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  4. Is Erdogan wanting anoter Lepanto? Because this is how you get a Lepanto.

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    1. My crystal ball is foggy, but the historical precedent is clear. I don't see this ending well for the Turks in the long run. They've been on about the same game for a very long time with predictable results.

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  5. Make Constantinople Greek again. I'd go to the first mass at the Hagia Sophia.

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  6. Yeah, this is an unusually hilarious move - the Turks can pretty much get anything they want from the Tripoli government, because they are essentially their only ally. At the same time, because the corrupt crooks in the UN decided to back the gang of thugs in Tripoli (presumably because they are seen as more anti-American than the Benghazi people) the Turks can say they are merely "supporting the Internationally recognized government", which ties Europe's hands pretty well when it comes to objecting. Of course, Europe had Obama kick over the Libya anthill so they could gobble up petro leases in the Med, so they are not well pleased.

    -Kle.

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    1. The UN has outlived its usefulness.

      It's a farce that we continually pump money into. Maybe the President will kiss it off next term? But I doubt it. It's an anti-American debating society.

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  7. Two things stand out to me in this thread, Lepanto and Hagia Sophia.

    It'd be good to see the Sultan sink and the great cathedral return to its rightful owners.

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  8. It was an Ypsilanti that pushed the Turks out of Greece.
    Ed from Ypsi.

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    1. History may repeat. It would be nice to see Constantinople return to Greek hands. However it would take quite a Strategos to make that happen. All advantages rest with the Turks. Then again, they may stretch themselves too far, Erodagan might falter and topple, who knows?

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