Libya: Spectators or Stakeholders?
January 18th, 2020
The recent developments in Libya and in the Eastern Mediterranean show that the Greek-Turkish conflict gradually becomes a subset of the conflictual trajectory resulting from the wider review policy of promotion of Ankara into a regional power. This policy has multiple targets and is based on the creation of partnerships, either temporary or not, the exploitation of regional and local conflicts, the ruthless trading in each direction, but its main focus is the capacity and the will to use military power. It's still early to make an objective assessment of this policy's achievement, since the constant "overexpansion" does not allow the disbursement of profits while, at the same time, almost all fronts are still open or lay dormant with an unspecified time of an explosive recurrence. The fact is, however, that the corresponding policy -bu of lower profile - has brought in previous decades profits to Turkey, especially in cases where it has exploited the mistakes of its opponents and international circumstances consistently and with long-term preparation. With increasing all its power factors and, above all, its self-confidence, Ankara seems to be abandoning the cautious policy of "measured steps" and being led an incompatibility of means and goals. At the same time, however, and despite the so far successful acrobatics between Washington and Moscow, the Turkish policy creates several anticontractions, even in regions, countries and regimes that kept a cautious or even a tolerant attitude toward it.
Athens has chosen the future of international law for decades, avoiding actions that pose the risk of escalation using a display of ability and determination of non-retreat against certain "red lines" that show a slippage. In addition, it has tried recently, with the active participation of the Republic of Cyprus, to build partnerships and to exploit energy prospects in the wider region.
The current developments in Libya give an even greater dimension to the existing competition. While USA, Russia and Europe are present peace in the region as their primary objective, Turkey and several Arab countries, coiled into two opposing camps, are rather determined to battle to death for the control of Libya. Developments in Libya are vital to the survival of General Sisi's regime in Egypt and its prevalence over the Ankara-backed "Muslim brothers". Efforts towards a peaceful resolution of the Libyan crisis in Berlin are estimated to not bring about a final solution to the problem as there are irreconcilable external interventions, while the country consists of many races with a lack of a sense of common identity and completely conflicting parochial interests.
Possibly in the case of Libya, Greece will have to accept the risk of the Turkish buffer, choosing the option of a substantial multi-level aid of one side (Haftar), risking becoming part of the problem. But even after the signing of the two Turkish-Libya memoranda, Athens is part of the problem. The Greek initiatives, movements and openings towards one side of the warring parties are therefore right. Libya may therefore be the point of decisive involvement - at various levels - in tackling Turkish expansionism. Indeed, this "field" seems to provide us with certain advantages which we must exploit. To be clear, by involvement I do not mean military action, though without ruling out participation under certain conditions and various ways.
Equally important with the prevalence of "friendly", to us, forces in Libya (our collaboration is also vital) is seizing the opportunity to strengthen cooperation and Turkish anticontraptions in the Eastern Mediterranean. To achieve these goals, we will need to take care of some inevitable risks, giving the impression that we are not "free riders" of the region to the prospective partners-allies, but a remarkable and determined force that will protect the interests and commitments. We also need to be prepared that Ankara will step up its provocative actions on several points in the Greek-Turkish dispute, in response to our active involvement in the Libyan crisis. The passive policy of neutrality, the avoidance of exploitation opportunities, the bland invocation of international law has probably reached its limits, at least in this specific area and towards specific opponents and situations.
Ippokratis Daskalakis – Lieutenant General (ret).
- Graduate of the Department of European and International Studies of Panteion University
- Master’s degree in International Relations and Strategic Studies at Panteion University
- PhD candidate of International Relations at Panteion University
- Director of Studies of the Hellenic Institute for Strategic Studies (HEL.I.S.S.)
- Associate of the Institute of International Relations (I.R.R.)
- Lecturer and associate of the School of National Defence
- Tel. +302106543131, +306983457318
Translation to English by Elpida Dalietou,