Turkey, Greece Face Off in Mediterranean
Since July 21, 2020, the Republic of Turkey and Hellenic Republic have been engaged in a major game of cat and mouse in the Mediterranean Sea. The standoff began shortly after Turkey announced its intention to deploy a survey ship in disputed waters off a Greek island near Turkey's southern coast. Since the announcement, The Intelligence Ledger has confirmed that both NATO members have increased the readiness of Air, Naval, and Army units in the region.
The current dispute is steeped in several decades of conflict. Since the 1970s, Turkey and Greece have been on separate sides of an intense territorial and energy race in the Mediterranean Sea. A major point of contention in that conflict is the island of Cyprus. Cyprus is home to nearly 1,200,000 people and strategically positioned near the Suez Canal. It is currently divided between Turkey and Turkish-Cypriots, and Greece and Greek-Cypriots.
Several years ago, private companies discovered major reserves of natural resources (mainly natural gas) off the coast of Cyprus. Ankara, desperate for growth, used the opportunity to expand its influence. Turkey has done this through both contractual agreements and threats of force. In 2019, Turkish representatives signed an agreement with Libya's Government of National Accord that created an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) from Turkey's southern coast to Libya's north-eastern coast, to the public displeasure of Egypt, Israel, and Greece. In May of 2020, Turkey stoked the flames by declaring it would begin drilling in the Western Med.
The current dispute is over Turkey's decision to use a survey ship, the Oruc Reis, in disputed waters between Cyprus and Crete.
The Intelligence Ledger has been able to confirm the departure of seven Turkish warships from their homeports, although other OSINT platforms indicate the number to be much higher. Likewise, Greece has also put at least eight warships to sea. Both NATO members have placed several squadrons of aircraft on alert and passed warning orders to ground units in the area. Greece has also taken the major step of warning reserve troops and national guard members that they may be activated in a short period of time.
The international community has been quick to respond to the potential conflict. Spokesmen from the EU, Germany, France, and United States have all announced their support for Greece, with French President Emmanuel Macron delivering the most forceful condemnation of Turkey, "It is not acceptable for the maritime space of a member state of our Union to be violated or threatened. Those who contribute must be sanctioned."