By Andreas C Chrysafis
The provocations by Turkish President Erdogan are becoming extremely disturbing for the Eastern Mediterranean. He insists that Turkey has exploration and territorial rights beyond its boundaries and keeps muscling in on its neighbours with a warning, that it would defend those "rights" and use military force if necessary.
In fact, Turkey keeps provoking one country or another but especially Greece and Cyprus who are both facing Erdogan's bravado charades on claims that; half of the Aegean now belongs to Turkey as well as Cyprus's occupied north including half of its Sea Protection Zone and newly-discovered natural gas deposits.
After forty-five years of military occupation, the Turkification of northern Cyprus has advanced to an extent beyond recognition. The sheer volumes of illegal settlers imported from Turkey (over 400.000) are strategically implanted with one goal in mind; to alter the demographic character of the culturally Greek island! In the next few years this transformation of a systematic ethno-catharsis would become irreversible and if not averted, it's only a matter of time before the historic Hellenic culture of Cyprus - although not part of Greece - vanishes into the history books; just like Asia Minor did!
Don Quixote was chasing windmills and so is Erdogan attempting to bully his way and create havoc with a horde of imaginary enemies by refusing to recognize that developing good relationships with one's neighbours produces greater rewards than making enemies!
In reality, Recep Tayyip Erdogan is facing serious domestic problems and he's desperate to divert public attention from Turkey's slippery road to a destabilizing economy and political unrest. He has been using the nationalist Islamic fundamentalist card for a long time but without success convincing Turkey's secular society. Meanwhile, the Turkish Lira has taken a dive and inflation is on the rise affecting the poorer sectors in society.
With his party's crashing electoral defeat in Constantinople plus Turkey's Syrian and Kurdish war setback have made the President more belligerent. The humiliating defeat is a crude reminder of the attempted coup against him personally three years ago! Without a doubt he has become a bitter authoritarian obsessed with the paranoia of another coup looming in the horizon.
The results of a recent poll shows that Erdogan's right-wing Justice and Development Party (AKP) will continue to lose votes at the next election - as much as 18% swing in favour of the opposition. Meanwhile, Erdogan - a cunning politician - has convinced Parliament to change the Turkish Constitution and since July 2019 he was elected as the first Executive President with increased legislative and judicial powers.
To safeguard his new stronghold the President has chosen fear and incarceration as a deterrent against those imaginary enemies that are "scheming" his downfall.
Western nations on the other hand including Russia have been turning a blind eye to Turkey's aggressive behaviour and continue to supply that country with billions upon billions worth of weapons; weapons the country can ill-afford! Turkey has spent 3.7 percent of its GDP (2015) to global arms procurement and in so doing, has become one of the ten most powerful militaries in the world and second largest army in NATO.
Such colossal expenditure on military hardware certainly shows where Ankara's priorities are: military superiority in numbers and weapons, at any cost!
The President's despotic character makes him the ideal example of a man who dreams, of nothing else but to have absolute power; a man whose judgment nobody dares to question! In political terms: he has become a Grand-Sultan with unprecedented powers and arrogantly has put himself above the law of the land!
Consequently, the Turkish police are authorized to show no pity on dissidents and so far have imprisoned thousands of innocent citizens opposed to the Erdogan government. People are jailed on drummed up charges as "enemies" or as "traitors" of the state; a crime that warrants heavy-handed incarceration or even execution in severe cases!
According to Turkey Purge - an underground democratic group of journalists -thousands upon thousands of citizens are being investigated and interrogated; sacked or dismissed including academics, public servants and judges! Meanwhile over 100.000 citizens are languishing in prisons right across the land. Such awful figures of social oppression in a "democratic" country (and one that aspires EU membership) are unheard of and can only exist in a state under siege by a dictatorship!
For a war-mongering nation as Turkey, it is imperative to have a powerful army and Turkey's military budget has been on a constant rise. In fact, Turkey's 2018 expenditure on shoring up its military might stood at $19 billion - a 24 per cent rise from the previous year. Source: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
But the ultimate prize for Turkey it's to acquire nuclear-powered technology and it is most anxious to lay its hands on such a technology. One cannot help but wonder why such an obsession for nuclear power. Monies wasted, could be put to a much better use to improve higher living standards for millions of Turks but obviously, that's not Ankara's priorities!
Erdogan is certainly not a fool and recognizes that having powerful weapons will ultimately provide him with a military advantage over his perceived adversaries. Determined that Turkey it's equal to all other countries with nuclear capabilities, Erdogan sanctioned the start of an ambitious and costly nuclear programme.
The first three nuclear sites have already been selected:
Russia is to build the $20 billion Akkuyu Nuclear Plant in Buyukeceli along the coast of the southern province of Mersin. It would be Turkey's first nuclear power station with four reactors and one that has triggered a major scientific controversy and public concern; the region is prone to regular earthquakes and raises fears of a major calamity sometime in the future!
At the same time, millions of gallons of contaminated nuclear waste would be discharged directly into the Mediterranean Sea. The environmental impact could prove catastrophic for the ecosystem but also for the livelihood of people that depend on farming, fishing and the tourist industry. Public protests against the nuclear plant have become a regular occurrence but Ankara pays no heed to such protests. Instead, Erdogan calls to speed up the construction of Akkuyu.
Scientific evidence has not convinced the Erdogan government that nuclear stations pose a danger to public safety and dismisses all arguments against Turkey's nuclear programme. The 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe or the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster (2011) are classic examples of what can happen; the Three Mile Island accident (1979) it's another, and so is the SL-1 incident in Idaho Falls (1961).
The above catastrophes certainly confirm that risks to life and the eco-system do exist and cannot be swept under the carpet. Oddly enough, it has been announced recently that Fukushima plant would soon be damping millions and millions of radioactive gallons of contaminated water in the sea to prevent a further calamity from happening!
While progressive nations are doing away with nuclear stations Turkey is driven in the opposite direction. This raises serious questions as to why this country is so determined to lay its hands on a potentially dangerous technology instead of choosing tried and tested alternative sources of energy solutions?
The truth of the matter, nations that use nuclear-powered energy have experienced one lesson; the astronomical cost of shutting down and decommissioning out-dated plants! UK's Sellafield Nuclear Station for example cost £1.5 billion to build and will take over fifty years to dismantle at the exorbitant cost of £121 billion. Regrettably, nobody considered disassembling costs during its design stage!
Yet, Turkey remains adamant. Apart from its Akkuyu Plant another $22 billion deal has been signed with Japan to construct it's second nuclear plant; the Sinop Nuclear Station on the Black Sea coast!
The Turkish Minister of Energy, Taner Tildiz has confirmed that a third plant Igneada Nuclear Station will be build in the district of Demirkoy - also on the Black Sea coast and close to the Bulgarian border. Technology will come from the Unites States and it is estimated to cost over $16 billion.
However, construction of Igneada Plant it's conditional and scheduled to start well after 2023 under the "sole control and management of Turkish engineers and scientists".
Can Turkey be trusted to employ such technology in compliance to international laws and respect the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) terms and conditions?
Historically, Turkey has a reputation of evading signed agreements and if successful in the future to mislead IAEA nuclear inspections (as Iran has done) the Eastern Mediterranean will never be the same again!
Meanwhile the clock is ticking towards a grey and uncertain future for the region but predominately for the Republic of Cyprus that's trapped in the eye of the storm. Due to political incompetence there is little prospect of an escape from Turkey's military expansionist ambitions.
Consequently, to the dismay of most Cypriots, the Turkification of the occupied north has now become irreversible and soon Famagusta would also be inhabited and it seems as if there is nothing a submissive Cyprus government can do to stop this from happening...