Greece is protected by the Aegean islands. These islands, lying in the Aegean Sea, protect Greece from Turkish naval aggression. It is almost like nature has always wanted to protect Greece itself. Yet, being the madman that he is, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been stepping on all of Greece’s wrong toes, and Athens is infuriated. As a result, it has been doing the one thing that Turkey dreads the most – militarising the Aegean islands. Do you know what the best part is? Turkey can only cry and rant against Greece and take no real naval action because if it does, the Hellenic Navy will blow up entire fleets belonging to Ankara.
Have you heard about the ‘Hellenic Navy’? It’s something of a legend all by itself. The Greek navy is called the ‘Hellenic Fleet’ because it is indestructible, and can simply not be defeated. The modern Greek navy historically hails from the naval forces of various Aegean Islands, which fought in the Greek War of Independence. Greece has a navy that has never lost a battle since its modern creation in 1821.
The Hellenic Navy gives Turkey the Chills
In separate letters sent to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last July and September, Turkey for the first time ever, disputed Greece’s sovereignty over its eastern Aegean islands, “over which sovereignty was ceded to Greece on the specific and strict condition that they be kept demilitarised.” Interestingly, there is no concrete legal requirement in the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 that makes Greek possession of the islands conditional on their demilitarisation.
The Treaty of Lausanne had awarded sovereignty of many Aegean islands to Greece. Turkey tries to link the Treaty of Lausanne with another treaty drawn up in London in 1914, which had made Greek possession of the islands conditional on their demilitarisation. However, Athens wholeheartedly rejects this interpretation. Why will it not? The Treaty of Lausanne grants ‘sovereignty’ over these islands to Greece, and Athens can do anything with them.
That is what scares Erdogan. For a man who desperately wants to wrest control over the Eastern Mediterranean, Greece’s militarization of these islands poses a severe challenge. Already, Turkey cannot manoeuvre large fleets in the Aegean Sea, and Greece militarising a substantial number of islands quite literally spills water over all of Ankara’s expansionist plans.
On Thursday, Greece rejected Turkey’s latest demand to demilitarize its islands, saying they “go beyond simple logic.” This came after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu reiterated his country’s call on Greece to demilitarize the islands, warning that if Athens does not change its stance, the debate questioning their sovereignty will begin. This was a threat to Greece, and Athens has made a jaw-breaking retort back at Erdogan.
Greece replied, saying, “Regarding the latest accusations of Turkish officials about the status of the Aegean islands, we reject them in their entirety. These accusations do not comply with basic principles of international law, but they also go beyond simple logic. The Greek position on this issue has been expressed repeatedly and publicly.”
Greece stops Turkey’s eastern Mediterranean ambitions with the Aegean Card
If Greece has begun militarizing the Aegean islands, it has effectively rung the death knell for Erdogan’s Eastern Mediterranean ambitions. Greece has definitely placed defensive, short-range weapons of the national guard on the Aegean islands. Whether it has placed more lethal weapon systems on such islands is not yet clear, but given how Turkey has been behaving like a headless chicken, it is very likely that Athens has armed these islands to the teeth.
Turkey can easily be hit by Greece using its weapon systems on the Aegean islands. Moreover, given how spread out the islands is all over the Aegean Sea, the Hellenic navy, combined with the weapon systems placed on the islands, can blow Turkey’s naval fleets up in smoke.