Turkey’s Migrant Weapon Against Greece

It comes as no surprise that Greeks and Turks don’t like each other. They have been enemies for more than a thousand years. The Turks are Mongols who appeared for the first time in Asia Minor in the eleventh century when Asia Minor or Anatolia was the home of the Greeks.

The Anatolian cataclysm of 1071

Immediately, the Turks started raiding the rich lands and cities of medieval Greek Anatolia. In 1071, they defeated the Greek army and conquered most of Asia Minor. Spyros Vryonis, a distinguished historian of medieval Greece, described that defeat as “the Anatolian cataclysm of 1071” (The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor and the Process of Islamization from the Eleventh through the Fifteenth Century, 1971, 69).

The Great Schism

That cataclysm did not impress the Western Christian states. They might in fact have celebrated over the misfortunes of the Greeks. Latins and Greeks were already at each other’s throats. In 1054, the Catholic pope and the Greek Orthodox patriarch excommunicated each other. The result was the Great Schism that defined poisoned Easy-West relations for centuries.

The Great Schism became catastrophic in the Fourth Crusade of 1204. Germans, Venetians and French captured and dismembered medieval Greece, thus preparing the ground for the 1453 occupation of Greece by the Turks. That was another cataclysm that sowed the seeds for everlasting enmity between Greeks and Turks.

Turkish Islam

The Turks are followers of Islam, even pretending to be its most fervent faithful. Islam is not exactly a favorable religion and culture in the Christian and capitalist West that rules the world. Besides, the Greeks have been reminding Westerners they cannot trust Turkey. They survived a lengthy Turkish occupation and won freedom and political independence primarily with their own courage and enormous sacrifices.

Yet, the Turks seem to believe they can, if not reconquer Greece, at least, destabilize the country. They are eighty-two million strong, while Greece has about eleven million people.

Like  in medieval times, the Turks continue to harass and raid Greece along their common land border of the Evros River, and especially at the most vulnerable Greek frontier: the Aegean Sea full of Greek islands.

American power

Like in the 1000s when Christianity kept Europe divided, now in 2020 capitalism has replaced Christianity as the most disrupting force in Western civilization.

Superpower America has had a tremendous influence in Europe. It invented NATO in the 1940s as a first line of defense against the communist Soviet Union (Russia). The United States then as now knows there’s no defense against nuclear weapons, which have made up its armaments and those of the Soviet Union (Russia).

Nevertheless, America recruited Turkey for NATO, despite the perfidious anti-Christian and Anti-Western civilization metaphysics and history of Turkey. Aside from selfish “strategic” reasons, the only connection between America and Turkey is that both countries practiced genocide on a massive scale.

The Turks stole Anatolia from the Greeks, violently converting them to Islam, killing about a million of them, and murdering more than a million Armenians. The Americans wiped out millions of Native Americans.

European powers also went to bed with Turkey. In fact, Turkey survived primarily because the European powers competed with each other so fiercely. With the rare occasion of destroying the Turkish and Egyptian navies in 1827 in support of the Greek revolutionaries, they remained divided over Turkey.

However, the United States has gone overboard in its support of Turkey. Like the Nazi scientists the US brought to America, the Turks were supposed to embrace Western values, especially American culture.

The Turks did not buy America’s ideology, but they bought American weapons. They exploited Christian and capitalist divisions and convinced the Pentagon they were on America’s side and against the Soviet Union (Russia).

With this willful misunderstanding, in 1974, America blessed the Turkish invasion and conquest of about half of the Greek island of Cyprus. America continues ignoring the aggressive Turkish policy in the Aegean.

EU-IMF crashing Greece

Meanwhile, the 2008 financial meltdown, brought about by American banks, triggered a fourth crusade-like treatment of Greece by its allies: the European Union and America.

The Greek government had borrowed more money from American and European banks than could pay back. In 2009, the American-born and educated Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou precipitated the humiliation of Greece by “inviting” the EU and America’s International Monetary Fund to get Greek finances in order.

Instead, the EU and IMF imposed on Greece devastating “austerity” measures resembling starvation-like policies: bringing Greece’s euro supply to a trickle, all but shutting down the economy, triggering tremendous unemployment, slashing the monthly pension of retired Greeks, firing government workers, selling all state assets, and privatizing airports and telephones to Germany, railroads to Italy, and ports. The country’s largest port of Piraeus is being managed by China.

Greece spent more than the second decade of the twenty-first century prostrate, without sovereignty, begging EU and IMF for money, its international reputation and self-esteem disappearing in the smoke and shame of unforgettable humiliation.

Turkey weaponizing Moslem migrants 

The Turks were delighted watching the EU-IMF doing their bidding in Greece: essentially weakening their Greek enemies. They geared up for adding insult to injury. They accelerated their violations of the Greek air space in the Aegean. But their chief weapon against Greece has been the desperate migrants from the Middle East wars started by the United States in 2001.

The American bombing and destruction of Afghanistan and Iraq opened the floodgates of desperation and fear. Turning Iraq upside down brought civil war, hundreds of thousands of deaths, and rivers of refugees. Iraqis started leaving their ruined country by the thousands. Then the war spread to Syria, the Americans were determined to get rid of the “regime” of President Bashar al-Assad. However, Russia went to the assistance of Assad. Then Turkey saw an opportunity to show off its Islamic faith and sent troops to Syria where American troops used to support anti-Assad Syrian forces.

This happened because Trump has his name on a tower in Istanbul, Turkey. To continue making money from that tower, Trump facilitated the dirty work of the Turks. He abandoned America’s most faithful ally in the Middle East, the Kurds. The Turks promptly slaughtered the Kurds.

The Middle East wars enriched munition manufacturers. They did nothing to strengthen America or democracy or fight “terrorism.” On the contrary, these wars brought to the Middle East another thirteenth century Mongol-like devastation.

The wars, however, produced countless thousands of mostly Moslem migrants. Many of those desperate people walked or found their way to Turkey, which immediately weaponized them.

First of all, in 2016, Turkey demanded and got billions of euros from the EU for “keeping” the migrants out of Europe. Turkey, however, planned to blast those migrants against Greece.

The Turkish reasoning must have been that dumping enough Moslems on austerity-ravaged Christian Greece would, sooner or later, be fatal to the country. Moslems have many children, Greeks have few if any children. The EU would continue to demand that Greece keeps accepting more and more Moslem refugees. And the weak Greek government would be unable to resist the constant influx of Moslem migrants.

The Turks deceived the migrants with promises of Western Europe, if only they agreed to first land on the Greek islands. The Turks gave the migrants flimsy plastic boats, sufficient to cross the few miles of water from the Turkish coast to the islands of Samos, Chios and Lesbos.

This migrant exodus from Turkey to Greece took a dramatic turn for the worst in 2016 and after under the leadership of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan who sees himself as a Sultan resurrecting the Ottoman empire. Taking advantage of Trump and his sole concern for money, Erdogan sent troops to Libya and Syria and, in both cases, Turkish aggression hit a wall of resistance. Angry Erdogan, lashed against the EU and Greece, saying he was opening his border to anyone wishing to cross into Greece.

As a result of this threat, hundreds of migrants reached Samos, Chios and Lesbos, already full to the brim with Moslem migrants and refugees. The Greek government appropriated land in the islands for building refugee camps, but the local population said no more refugees. They took their anger to the streets and refused to obey the government, fighting pitched battles with the local police and additional security forces sent to the islands.

The second, even more violent migrant crisis, took place in late February-early March 2020 when thousands of migrants attacked the guards protecting the Greek land border with Turkey along the Evros River. The conflict had the appearance of small-scale war fought with tear gas, stun grenades but without live bullets, though the Turks spoke of dead migrants. Greek authorities denied those allegations as fake news. They said they prevented more than 26,000 migrants from crossing the border. The chaos lasted for several days.

Is the EU changing?

The Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis visited the area of conflict with the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel. Mitsotakis and von der Leyen denounced the misuse of migrants by Turkey. Von der Leyen assured Greece and the world that the Greek border is also a European border.

The French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian accused Turkey of using the migrants for blackmailing Europe. And the Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz denounced the Turkish scheme of weaponizing the migrants.

One hopes that the criticism of Turkish aggression by these senior EU politicians mirrors a changing EU attitude towards Greece.

That may be true, but actions speak louder than words. Greece needs EU assistance, both financial and military.

Time has come for EU to treat Greece with respect and equality. Reduce the Greek debt and invest heavily in the country. Make Greece a European center for fighting climate change. Greece has a high level of educated people that could make a difference in our struggle to move from fossil fuels to zero-carbon technologies and energy.

It won’t be easy to undo the EU humiliation of Greece. But it would help if the EU really acted in defending with Greece the Greek-European border.

This is urgent because Turkey is slowly turning the migrant weapon into war. It is reinforcing its border with policemen to prevent the Greeks from pushing the invading migrants back to the Turkish frontier. That could trigger war.

The next step should be for a unified defense force for EU. It does not make sense for countries of a union to spend countless billions for individual defense. Such a step would immediately freeze Turkey in its war path.

Evaggelos Vallianatos is a historian and environmental strategist, who worked at the US Environmental Protection Agency for 25 years. He is the author of seven books, including the latest book, The Antikythera Mechanism.