It is obvious that Erdogan is challenging the European Union to live up to its sanction threats. Following the Oruc Reis‘ previous survey in August, the Turkish leader agreed to keep the vessel in port so as to facilitate dialogue with the EU and Greece. But his motives weren’t altruistic. Recognizing that Turkey’s actions are incompatible with Greece’s sovereign rights, the EU had threatened sanctions if Erdogan’s surveys continued. Erdogan, for a time, seemed to be inclined toward compromise. But this new survey proves that Erdogan has chosen to double down on escalation.
The central concern here is Erdogan’s belief that he can shred European security with impunity. As with his policy toward the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, Erdogan sees a conflict with Greece or the threat thereof as a means to advance his interests. His rationale is ultimately imperial in nature. Determined to build a neo-Ottoman empire centered in Sunni Islamic populism, Erdogan sees the public subjugation of his competitors as fuel to his legacy agenda. Hated by Turkish nationalists, Greece presents unique appeal in this regard. Erdogan appears to have used the pretense of a diplomatic resolution to this crisis in order only to make Greece and the EU appear desperate for compromise and reciprocally weak.
Read more: Washington Examiner