Kabooom!

They’re at it again, Miss. It’s appropriate that Doug used the phrase “ramming speed”, because that was just what the Greek and Turkish fighter planes were travelling at when they collided. This has been going on for ages. Among Greece and Turkey’s catalogue of territorial disputes is one over the line between the Athens and Istanbul Flight Information Regions, the basic units of state sovereignty in the air. The Turkish air force regularly probes the Greek air defence, and the Greek QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) is scrambled, and they try to force each other to turn away or land. A form of hypermodernist ritual combat.

It’s not new. In the cold war, Soviet aircraft would roar down the North Sea to prod the NATO radar chain, and (mostly) British and Norwegian fighters would red-alert into action to intercept them. And then the jousting would begin, often in distant corners of the Arctic seas. Both parties put a lot of effort into this; sometimes there might be US F15s from Iceland, Norwegian F-16s, British Lightnings, Phantoms or Tornados, British VC10 tankers, US KC135 tankers, British Shackleton AEW aircraft and perhaps a US or NATO multinational AWACS involved at the same time. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that this was because it was fun, something the governments would never admit and the pilots would be the first to declare with suitable gestures.

Greek-Turkish relations aren’t great, but are not bad at all compared with almost any other period except the burst of fraternity after the Turkish earthquake. So why all the drama? After all, a high rate of FIR violations has been going on for a year or so. Well, the best explanation is that it’s the internal culture and preferences of the air forces involved. If you ask fighter pilots if they’re up for a bit of supersonic aerobatics, you’re only realistically going to get one answer. Fortunately neither side has nukes, given the short distances and hence warning times involved. (Although there is an argument that it was precisely the balance of nuclear terror that meant it was possible to piss around and survive.)

The danger is that someone will take it all too seriously, which happened back in 1996 when the Greek-Turkish situation was considerably more poisonous than it is now. A Greek Mirage-2000 shot down a Turkish F-16, the only F-16 ever shot down in air-to-air combat. But the grown-ups stepped in and war was avoided. There’s only one lasting answer, of course-which group of countries with highly developed air forces and common borders don’t do this? The European Union. Greece and Turkey amply show that NATO doesn’t cut it on its own. Whe EU member states feel the need…the need for speed, they take it to somewhere like the RAF’s instrumented range in the North Sea to settle it like gentlemen.

10 thoughts on “Kabooom!

  1. My thoughts exactly. But I think we have to agree, it’s a far cooler way of wasting scarce petroleum than driving a bigger car.

    More seriously, does anyone with more Balkan expertise want to comment? HINT HINT Dougs HINT HINT HINT

  2. If this were an isolated incident then perhaps it would be appropriate to classify this as an example of “boys being boys” but unfortunately that’s not the case. The Turkish Air Force, ever since the illegal invasion of Cyprus in 1974, has sent bogeys into Hellenic airspace as deep as Euboea, which is directly next to the mainland.

    Furthermore, these bogeys are perfectly consistent with Turkey’s horrendous treatment of all its neighbors – the immoral blockade of Armenia, the saber-rattling with Syria over water rights, the brutal repression of the Kurds which left 40000 civilians dead, and its ethnic cleansing of Cyprus. The core problem in the Aegean theater is that of Turkey’s failure to treat any of its neighbors with anything resembling respect. There’s a very good reason why all of the peoples in the Eastern Med. Region, even fellow Muslims such as the Arabs and the Kurds, utterly despise Turkey.

  3. There’s a very good reason why all of the peoples in the Eastern Med. Region, even fellow Muslims such as the Arabs and the Kurds, utterly despise Turkey.

    What nonsense.

    Romanians and Turks get along just fine. I lived in Bucharest for three years. There’s a big bust of Ataturk downtown, immediately across from the Hotel Majestic.

    Macedonians and Turks get along just fine too. Macedonia receives foreign aid from Turkey, and Macedonian students go to Istanbul and Ankara to study.

    Georgians and Turks get along okay, Albanian-Turkish relations are excellent, while Azerbaijanis and Turks absolutely love each other.

    Meanwhile, pause a moment to consider Greece’s relations with Macedonia; Greece’s relations with Bulgaria; and, oh dear, Greece’s relations with Albania. If you’re looking for a country that’s unpopular with many of its neighbors, Sephiroth, you don’t have to look as far as Turkey.

    There’s a paper waiting to be written on psychological projection in the Balkans. I look forward to reading it some day.

    Alex: sorry, real life got in the way. Looks like this story has died anyway, and isn’t that a good thing?

    Doug M.

  4. Doug, what you say may be true in part, however no body in the region trusts the Turks. Nobody. No matter how well they “get along”. Even the Greek government “gets along” with the Turks.

  5. Doug, let me clear up some factual errors.

    “Macedonians and Turks get along just fine too.” Skopje is almost a destitute nation. Turkey uses financial diplomacy to win friends amongst nations that are in need. Much the same way the US does with Eastern Europe. However, this does not mean they get along fine. There is much concern in Skopje that Turkey is funding and will eventually support the 40% of the Skopjan population that is Albanian which is displayed separatist tendencies in the past. Greek students also go to Turkey and Turkish students also go to Greece. This point is irrelevant.

    Apart from the name issue, Skopje and Greece get along fine too. Billions of dollars of Greek investment has been pumped into the Skopjan economy.

    Georgians and Turks do not get along okay. There are still some simmering territorial issues to be solved and the rights of ethnic Georgians in Turkey.

    Azerbaijanis and Turks are ethnic cousins. They should get along. Also, look at a map and see what stands in between them.

    To finish, Greek relations with Albania are very good. Greek money has underwritten their recovery and there are Greek schools and churches popping up all over the place. Also, the Albanian leadership has shown a drastic change in attitude to the Greeks.

    Greek relations with Bulgaria are also very good. Greece has been their biggest supporter regarding EU entry.

    Obviously, your views are somewhat removed from reality. Maybe a visit to the psychologist is in order?

  6. Skopje is almost a destitute nation.

    Skopje… oh, you mean The Country That Everyone But The Greeks Call Macedonia (TCTEBTGCM).

    Actually, they’re doing OK by the standards of the neighborhood. Richer than the Serbs, the Bosnians, the Kosovars, the Montenegrins, or the Albanians. Of the seven countries created from the former YU, they’re the third richest (after Croatia and Slovenia).

    Macedonia has a PPP-adjusted GDP of about $7,700. That’s not terribly far behind Romania ($8,800) or Bulgaria ($9,200). They’re an EU candidate, so they should be seeing pretty good growth over the next few years; I’d expect them to hit $10,000 early in the next decade, which is about where you want a new member to be.

    However, this does not mean they get along fine. There is much concern in Skopje that Turkey is funding and will eventually support the 40% of the Skopjan population that is Albanian which is displayed separatist tendencies in the past.

    Snort. You don’t actually know much about Macedonia, do you?

    The small Turkish minority there has always punched above its weight. That’s because historically, they were the descendants of landless professionals — the intelligentsia, if you like. The rich Turkish landowners fled after 1912, because their estates were broken up; but the doctors, lawyers and bureacrats stayed behind, and eventually did rather well. Turks in Macedonia tend to be better educated and richer than either Albanians or Slavs.

    They’ve also tended to align with the Slavs, not the Albanians. Yeah, I know this is confusing to Balkan Orthodox nationalists, but there it is.

    Since the 1920s, Turkish Macedonians have always supported the Slavs against their fellow Muslims, the Albanians. Perhaps because the Turks despised the lowly Albanians from all the way back to Ottoman times; perhaps because the Slavs were on top and the Turks had more to lose. Whatever the reason, there it is. And because the Turks have tended to be richer, better educated, etc., the Slavs have welcomed them as valued allies.

    So, _pace_ mouth-breathing Greek nationalists, the government of TCTEBTGCM doesn’t see the Turks as a threat. Quite the opposite. The Slavs see Turkey the country as a counterbalance to you Greeks externally, and the Turkish minority in Macedonia as allies against the Albanians internally. “The Turks will ally with the Albanians” may keep Greeks awake, but the Slav Macedonians aren’t losing any sleep over it.

    Greek relations with Albania are very good. Greek money has underwritten their recovery and there are Greek schools and churches popping up all over the place.

    And, of course, lots of mosques and Albanian-language schools popping up all over Greece, for Greece’s steadily growing Albanian population!

    No, wait a moment…

    Also, the Albanian leadership has shown a drastic change in attitude to the Greeks.

    So you think Sali Berisha’s government is more pro-Greek than Fatos Nano’s?

    Merry laughter.

    Obviously, your views are somewhat removed from reality. Maybe a visit to the psychologist is in order?

    See my earlier point on projection.

    Doug M.

  7. More seriously, does anyone with more Balkan expertise want to comment? HINT HINT Dougs HINT HINT HINT

    Yeah right, Doug is always my first choice for impartial commentary about greece.

  8. Well, no man or government can change history and Turkey can not hide from its own historical crimes. Many say Turkey is not a nation with an army but an army with a “nation”… In anycase there are thousands, not to say millions of dead men women and children buried in anatolia, asia minor, balkans and Greece. All these innocent people (Iam not talking about soldiers) died from the turkish sword. It is a historical fact. I know the word genocide doesnt sound nice to you but it happened again and again through the centuries in the land that you came and occupy and now you call it “Turkey”. The fact that you came in this land and occupied it by force is enough not to make you the legitimate inhabitant. A crime is a crime no matter when happened. Israel for exaple try to be the legitimate owner of Palestine but everybody knows it occupies land from the palestinians. To make the long story short, your literacy on balkan matters is admirable, however, nothing can change the historical truth, not even the systematic propaganda that is being applied to the young turkish students under the name of “education”. I would call it a brainwash about the “invisibility” of the turkish fatherland or something like that. However, in reality, I admire the turkish educational system. Even if uses propaganda to educate the young turks it also creates people like you who are ready to defend their country no matter who is wrong or right. On the other hand Greek education was always based on the freedom of thought and freedom of speech.Therefore, even if those values are noble, they dont create hardcore defenders of our country. Nevertheless, Plato and Socrates talked about the high values of truth and justice. Those values are still living in the Greek way of thinking. even if we are not misquided by school propaganda we still defend the truth and we still seek justice. And I believe, our children and our grand children will continue to do so in the same way as our fathers and grand fathers did since the 29th May of 1453…

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