Academic journal article East European Quarterly

Turkish-Greek Balance: A Key to Peace and Cooperation in the Balkans

Academic journal article East European Quarterly

Turkish-Greek Balance: A Key to Peace and Cooperation in the Balkans

Article excerpt

Turkish-Greek relations have often been characterized by high levels of tension in recent years. While armed hostilities have never broken out between the two neighbors, there has been more than one occasion on which the brink of war has been approached. Such a state of affairs does appear unusual for two countries that are allies in NATO and that have enjoyed peaceful and friendly relations from after the First World War until the mid-1950s when the question of what happens to Cyprus should the British withdraw, began to mar them. As the two countries failed to bring about a sustainable modus vivendi on their differences, their relations became progressively more problematical, with many issues of contention mainly in the Aegean, being added to the initial sources of disagreement on Cyprus.

The collapse of first the Warsaw Pact and later the Soviet Union itself, initially generated optimism that a long period of peace was to commence in Europe. Such optimism proved short lived, however, with the break-up of Yugoslavia and the ensuing in part civil and in part international war in Bosnia. True, in view of the disappearance of the Socialist Bloc, the likelihood of a world war has declined. But, the war in Bosnia, and the presence of a variety of instabilities in the Balkan states that could easily escalate to civil and possibly international war, demonstrate conclusively that peace in Europe, especially in the Balkans, is not to be taken for granted, simply as a by-product of easing of the East-West tensions. Both regional and global actors must sustain an interest in cultivating peace in the Balkans if it is to be achieved and preserved. In this context, it is important that further Turco-Greek conflicts not be added to the list of conflicts which threaten the peace in Southeastern Europe, and the Balkan peninsula. It is equally desirable that these two NATO allies enhance their cooperation and contribute to the advancement of peace in the region.

What is needed to promote better relations and closer cooperation between Turkey and Greece such that these two countries, together, can contribute to the achievement of sustained peace in the Balkans? This article argues that Turkish-Greek cooperation is contingent on the maintaining of a strategic balance between Turkey and Greece that had been established after the Turkish National War of Independence. Turkish-Greek cooperation based on mutual confidence can only become operative if such a balance, which has eroded starting with the mid-1950s is established once again. The analysis will commence with an examination of the establishment of the strategic balance, followed by a study of its erosion and the emergence of a multiplicity of Turco-Greek problems. These will then be considered in the context of peace and stability in the Balkans.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THE TURCO-GREEK STRATEGIC BALANCE AND BALKAN SECURITY

The formation of Turkey's perceptions regarding security of the Balkans can be traced back to the developments which culminated in the founding of the Turkish Republic. The current borders of Turkey, it should be recalled, became established with the signing of the Lausanne Peace Treaty in July 1923 after the Turkish National War of Independence. The treaty which was signed by the victorious Nationalist Government of Ankara, replaced the Sevres Treaty which had been imposed on the defeated Empire by the Allies. The emergent Turkish state was, on the whole, content with the arrangement. True, the Lausanne Treaty reconfirmed the loss of significant territory in Thrace to Greece and Bulgaria, but the border agreed on did not deviate significantly from that which had been declared acceptable by the Nationalists in the National Pact specifying the territories considered to be rightfully belonging to Turkey at the end of World War I and should therefore be liberated.(1) Having achieved most of their aims, the major concern of the Nationalist leadership became the preservation of borders. …

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