When Turks Would Settle For An Island Sea
Aegean: Becoming a Turquoise Sea soon! The Republic of Turkey is not demanding that it should become. It is not trying to make it either. But, everything has a breaking point.
Lately, Greece is once again bringing the issue to increase 6-mile territorial waters to 12 in the Aegean Sea. Absurdly, it is Greece, in the company of the West, that will make Aegean a Turquoise Sea. If it continues to press for a regime change, it may very well lose what it already has.
Only Greece and Turkey have coastlines to this body of water. If one of them can control the whole sea in the 21st century, it is New Turkey not Greece. No matter what power it joins, Greece cannot win against New Turkey, especially at this time.
Historically, it has been the same for a thousand years ever since Turks and Byzantines first fought in 1071. Turks continuously moved forward, like if they were dancing Texas Two Steps all along. They went two steps forward one step back. They lost some battles but they always won bigger wars.
If Greece resorts to this regime change now, history may repeat once again. New Turkey may be left with no alternative, but to take military action to prevent it. Yet, it may also decide to go one step further and seek to turn the Aegean Blue into Turquoise altogether.
There is an opportunity to make things right in the Aegean with the transpiring new world order. Yet this does not mean to take advantage of one or the other side. All the while, New Turkey is the side with capacity and will power. It can easily become an honest broker for the whole region. It can also be forced to seek its own interest only.
As a rapidly rising Eastern power, currently, it knows its role and limits. To that end, it made numerous statements. Yet, its actions speak even louder. It simply became the common denominator in the Caucasus, the Middle East but also for European powers. Russia and China are included. Greece and the Aegean remain just a very small portion of this larger picture.
Aegean & Greece
Greece already militarized 12 contentious islands in the Aegean Sea. It violated the international agreements dating back to 1923. Turkey has a right to pursue this matter corrected but also to seek assurances that the violations will not repeat. Meanwhile, pushing to replace the 6-mile zone with 12 is yet another encroachment. The militarization of islands and regime change are simply prohibitive to the biggest economy and military in the region. New Turkey has to play its role as the economic engine of the region, nothing can justify to prevent it.
Blue Homeland Doctrine
The Belt and Road Initiative highways and railways, plus energy supplying pipelines from the East, employ Turkish mainland. China and Russia depend on New Turkey. So does Western Europe. That is half of the world economy, give or take. New Turkey first designated and now is in the process of formalizing territorial waters surrounding the mainland. The Blue Homeland Doctrine simply confirms the intention and delineation.
Domineering Benevolent Power
To enforce the rule of law in the region, New Turkey, in the past 20 years, built formidable armed forces. Until then, Western hegemony was in place all throughout the 20th century. Now, with the most formidable navy in the Eastern Mediterranean and command of the airspace, New Turkey is in charge. So long as it acts as a benevolent power and assures freedom of navigation, the self-assigned mandate will be respected. At this time, Western powers may be reluctant but New Turkey at least has the attention of China and Russia, as a start.
To Play Zero Sum Game If Challenged
In any event, New Turkey is here to stay and impose its will if it is challenged. It continuously states that it is determined to act as a benevolent power. It has already demonstrated capacity and will power in Iraq, Qatar, Syria, Libya, Nagorno-Karabakh, and in the Eastern Mediterranean. Winning battles with air superiority and naval power, without resorting to its army, punctuates its range. The last time, the same army proved its worth was in 1922. Then, Russia, UK, France, Italy, Greece, Arabs, Armenia came together against the Turks. They were no match.
Turkey also displayed its ability to play Zero Sum Game when it was facing double jeopardy. On one hand, it depended on the United States of America as an ally to protect it from the Russian Bear in the north. On the other hand, it was also the only time that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics sided with the Western Alliance during the Cold War. Turkey played the game in Cyprus and took a northern third of it against their combined will power and leverages.
New Turkey is not the dismembered nation fighting an existential war to declare a republic like it was in 1922. It is not the dirt poor, “peniless” as one of his leaders famously quoted to say in the 1970s. It is a lot more as a mature nation-state, socio-political revolution, religiously-revived, nationalism at its peak mighty power. Having already established a balance of power both in the Middle East and between the European Union and the Russian Federation as well, it is well balanced and adept.
More importantly, while the West delves with degeneration, decay and myths, it lives a life dedicated to faith and culture, believing in race and destiny.
Aegean: A Myth
Currently, the Greek territorial sea comprises approximately 43.5 percent of the Aegean sea. For Turkey, the same percentage is 7.5 percent. The remaining 49 percent is designated as international waters. Limiting territorial waters to 6 miles is the governing regime in place.
Greek governments since 1947 contemplate increasing territorial waters to 12 miles. Due to the existence of the islands, Greece would acquire approximately 71.5 percent of the Aegean sea, while Turkey’s share would increase to only 8.8 percent. The Aegean high seas would diminish to 19.7 percent.
That is enough of a reason to justify why New Turkey would enforce the Blue Homeland Doctrine at will. The doctrine simply seeks control and consolidation of the three seas surrounding the mainland of the Republic of Turkey. It projects splitting the Aegean Sea right down the middle for two countries to have roughly equal shares.
The Blue Homeland Doctrine also includes the 12 islands militarized by Greece. Hence, regime change in the Aegean will allow New Turkey to resolve both issues at the same time. Otherwise, New Turkey will anyway soon start the process to claim back the sovereignty of these islands in contention. International agreements coming to terms after a full century allow New Turkey to make such claims.
Greece in Quandary
The crux of the problem, involving the disputes in the Aegean, is a little deeper for Greece. The Aegean Sea, unlike in mythology, is not altogether a Greek Sea eternally belonging to a nation. Greece is simply a beneficiary of WWI and WWII at the expense of Turks. In fact, Greeks took advantage of Turks who have lost their Ottoman Empire. In the past century, Turks were busy building the modern Republic of Turkey.
Since the turn of the Millennia, Turkey is back to form as “New” Turkey. As a result, naturally, there is anxiety for all concerned. In the West, it is widely expected for New Turkey to take action as per international agreements dictated a century ago. In the interim, the fledgling republic had to succumb to the pressure while Greece took advantage of the situation and violated the terms of the agreements agreed upon.
From that perspective, it is no coincidence that New Turkey recently came up with the Blue Homeland Doctrine. It addresses outstanding issues of the past century and peacefully. Plus, it foresees accommodations for the changing conditions in the new world order. Conscious of the needs of the rising powers of the East and the diminishing influence of the West, it takes up a responsibility that the international vacuum created.
In short, New Turkey believes it is time to replace the relics of WWI and WWII. It also believes that the Blue Homeland Doctrine is the regime with the right formula. It abides by the international laws and established norms. All the while, diplomatically, it points to the alternatives that may range from catastrophic wars, like for example turning the clock back to the 18th century: 1830 and prior to 1822, to be specific.
The Aegean Sea, Archipel and Islands Sea
Brief mythological and historical visits give yet another perspective to the disputes at hand. Aegean is the mythological name. Otherwise, this sea has been known as “Archipel.” It was used in ancient times to mean “Old Sea.”
Historically, the Aegean Sea was a province of the Byzantine empire from 284 to 1081 until Turks first arrived there. They named it “Islands Sea.” It belonged to them ever since, as part of their larger lake, called the Mediterranean Sea, until WWI.
Nowadays, the Blue Homeland Doctrine may eventually change the name one more time. It may be called both Aegean and islands sea in opposing portions. It is better than to call the whole thing simply the “Turquoise Sea,”
Preventing Aegean: Becoming a Turquoise Sea
The dispute in the Aegean will be resolved because international conditions and developments require it. At best, 6 mile regime will remain in place and 12 islands will be demilitarized. At worse, Aegean will be known as the Turquoise Sea. Plus, more than 12 islands in question will change hands. Only Greece can prevent that!
In the small seas like the Aegean, where there are islands, 6 miles is the accepted norm. It allows high seas for third countries without interference from coastal countries. 12 mile is the regime for larger seas except where the islands are. Turkey is determined to keep them 6 miles in the Aegean and 12 miles Eastern Mediterranean at all costs.
How to Avoid a Zero Sum Game
Come 2020, avoiding the “Zero Sum Game” in the region must be a priority with New Turkey rising. Peacefully and amicably, it is possible to turn this contentious sea into Aegean and “islands” halves. But it is up to Greece! Yet, is it really up to Greece? A quick look at what happened in Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia is a good reminder.
Greece and Aegean may yet become another casualty of major power conflict in search of new world order. To prevent it, it must be acknowledged that “New” Turkey is here to stay. It also has a role to set up and maintain international regimes, old and new. It has the capacity and will power but also a responsibility to enforce them as well.
Where will New Turkey play Zero Sum Game?
In the GameChanger, I argued that New Turkey will play Zero Sum Game in the Aegean to keep the 6 mile regime in place. As a preventive measure, New Turkey will also play Zero Sum Game in selective portions of the Eastern Mediterranean even when the 12 mile regime will not be the reason.
In the next decade, shipping lanes will be more crowded. More oil and natural gas will be coming from the Black Sea. The Belt & Road Initiative of China will also make use of Turkey more so than anything else. Hence, disputes between two countries must be resolved fairly and promptly to allow smooth sailing. New Turkey will see to it even if it has to resort to a Zero Sum Game. Sea, air or land will not make difference for New Turkey. It has the capacity to play the game in all three at the same time.
Zero Sum Game will not be limited to the Aegean Sea
On that note, New Turkey already flexed its muscles in the Eastern Mediterranean. On more than one occasion, it made its case that the game will not be limited to the Aegean. No matter what country joins Greece will not make difference for New Turkey.
For example, a flat top and a frigate from France tried to challenge the Turkish navy regarding the Libya-Turkey Maritime Deal. They were forced to turn back to their home ports. Not only they were nowhere near the “Blue Homeland” but they were not even considered in the Eastern Mediterranean.
In the mid-2010s, oil exploration ships and platforms brought to the region by the Western powers were turned back as well. The Blue Homeland Doctrine was yet to be announced in the full form then. Nowadays, the Turkish navy declares repeated navigational telexes (Navtex) both in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean. It enforces the regime inside the Blue Homeland Doctrine to the dotted line.
How Blue Homeland Doctrine Works
New Turkey, under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, already made its position very clear. In that sense, the Blue Homeland Doctrine is the best way New Turkey presented its case all throughout 2019 and 2020. The world community witnessed New Turkey holding naval exercises with over 100 warships, a number of times.
The display of the Turkish military power is not the only example that the Blue Homeland Doctrine is viable. It works in the Black Sea for a long time. Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria and Georgia are all in agreement based on international law and an “equity-based approach.”
What works in the Black Sea will work the same in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean Seas. The Blue Homeland Doctrine operates on all three seas surrounding the Turkish mainland on the same premises. In the Eastern Mediterranean, Libya-Turkey Maritime Deal is also built on the same principles.
The deal, in fact, became an exemplary regime for the whole region. It ensures countries with a coastline access their continental shelves fairly and equally. It presents an example for Egypt and Israel to conclude similar agreements with New Turkey. Greece is limited to the Aegean Sea according to the 6 and 12 mile regimes that are in place. Two principles come to play.
Based on the Current International Law & Maritime Jurisdiction
New Turkey makes its case in accordance with the court decisions that create the international jurisprudence and international law. The relevant articles of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea set the principles of the Blue Homeland Doctrine right. Turkey shared a map, showing the continental shelf and the borders of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). In the Eastern Mediterranean, it is based on an agreement since 2011 between Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).
The median line between Egypt and Turkey’s mainlands reflects the outer boundaries of the continental shelf and EEZ. Concurrently, islands that lie on the opposite side of the median line between two mainlands cannot create maritime jurisdiction areas beyond their territorial waters. Simply because the length and direction of the coasts should be taken into account in delineating maritime jurisdiction areas.
No Need for a Turquoise Sea
Not Even for an Island Sea
New Turkey does not need or want to see Aegean: Becoming a Turquoise Sea. It does not even request that it be called “Islands Sea.” It only wants the 6 mile regime to remain in place in the Aegean and 12 islands to be demilitarized.
During the crunch time of Covid-19 epidemic, one thing became clear. New Turkey has a bigger role to play in the world and will not tolerate anyone interfering. It delivered prompt humanitarian assistance. Countries from Europe to Africa were beneficiaries. When European Union could not come to help the likes of Italy and Spain, New Turkey was there. Together with China, they were everywhere.
As for those that tried to take advantage of the circumstances, they all tasted the capacity and will power of New Turkey. Aside from small countries and skirmishes, New Turkey also confronted the nuclear powers. It shot down a Russian aircraft and left a French frigate dead in water.
In that respect, New Turkey does not need to turn Aegean Sea into Turquoise Sea, but if it comes to that, it will become Turquoise. Greece will only become the scapegoat no matter if it acted alone or with Western cohorts.