Tensions are flaring between Turkey and Greece over the militarization of the eastern Aegean islands and a host of other issues.

Considering Russia’s military expansion across the region, it would be strategically wise for the two NATO members to de-escalate and improve relations based on mutual trust and respect.

In a recent speech, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to invade Greek territories in retaliation for alleged hostile action against Turkish jets by Greece.

This isn’t the first time the Greek army harassed Turkish jets and ships, nor the first time Erdogan has made inflammatory remarks.

Stirring up nationalism?

President Joe Biden greets Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Monday, May 16, 2022, in the Oval Office. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

Both Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Erdogan are facing tough upcoming general elections. Rallying national sentiments could help them secure a win.

But the sources of these mounting tensions go beyond electoral calculations. Turkey and Greece have unresolved historical issues as well as a set of post-Second World War disputes that still fester. These include the status of Cyprus, access to hydrocarbon resources in the east Mediterranean Sea, the aerial and maritime boundaries of the Aegean islands and the militarization of these islands.

Assertive policies by both Ankara and Athens in the last decade have exacerbated the two countries’ already tumultuous relationship.

During the early phase of the Arab uprisings, Turkey backed the Muslim Brotherhood to expand its regional sphere of influence. The strategy did not pan out, however. Former Egyptian president Muhammed Morsi, a former Brotherhood leader, was deposed in a coup by the secular President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.