How Will Natural Disasters and Environmental Issues Affect National Policies and Outcomes?

By Chris Deliso

November 14, 2020

Greece and Turkey sit atop fault lines that have historically triggered earthquakes. These have had significant implications for public safety, the economy, political stability and diplomatic relations. In a region where so much remains rigidly fixed according to ‘red lines’ of policy and predictable political behavior, the unpredictable power of natural disasters – earthquakes as well as other uncontrollable events – adds an intriguing extra dimension to analytical calculations.

Image uploaded to ResearchGate by K. Rockwell and captioned:

“Tectonic map of the eastern Mediterranean region showing the North Anatolia fault zone relative to other faults in Turkey and the Aegean Sea (from Barka, 1992).”

RECENT SEISMIC ACTIVITY PROVIDES DIPLOMATIC EXAMPLE

On 30 October 202020, a 7.0 earthquake struck Greece’s eastern Aegean Sea near the island of Samos, and caused extensive damage along the Anatolian coast, including eight deaths in the Turkish city of Izmir. Early reports from the Turkish government stated 20 people had died and almost 800 were injured due to the earthquake.

 It was a reminder that the Black Sea and Eastern Mediterranean comprises an active seismic zone- just one of the historic environmental risk factors that can cause unexpected events, causing opportunities and stresses alike for the power

In a podcast presentation on Greek foreign policy with the London School of Economics’ Hellenic Observatory  on 5 November 22020, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias contrasted the Turkish response following the earthquake of the week previous to the “earthquake diplomacy” of summer 1999.

For those who can still recall, that was when major earthquakes hit both countries, leading to unprecedented bilateral cooperation and for Greece to drop its opposi5ion to Turkish EU membership negotiations. In the current case, Dendias noted, Turkey responded to an earthquake by merely continuing with its disputed offshore hydrocarbons research activity in Greek waters.

The reference to “earthquake diplomacy” was interesting because the natural disasters of 1999, and the humanitarian spirit that emerged in the neighboring countries, created a new and unplanned geopolitical situation in Europe. Numerous (mainly northern European) countries had to that point duplicitously told Turkey in private that they supported Turkish EU membership, but simply could not override the Greek veto. However, when Greece stopped objecting due to the unforeseen natural disaster, their bluff was called.

Thus, from 1999, EU countries that were never actually in favor of Turkish membership in the bloc were forced to come up with ever more hoops for the country to jump through, in order to keep the Turks out. This directly aided the rise of Erdogan and his criticisms of the EU – very often, wit some amount of accuracy – that the bloc has behaved unfairly and hypocritically in denying Turkish EU membership. Over time, this has merely hardened positions.

While one could hypothetically have projected such a reaction coming from the emotional reaction of like-minded Mediterranean peoples in the case of the 1999 earthquakes, no one to my knowledge modeled such a scenario before that time. And so, when media and politicians discuss and debate EU-Turkey relations today, the seminal role of the great unanticipated event – yet one that should have been historically predictable – remains forgotten, in the case of the 1999 earthquakes as setting the context for subsequent geopolitical events.

COMMODIFICATION OF ENVIRONMENTAL EVENTS IN THE UN FRAMEWORK

Beyond earthquakes, maritime disasters such as storms and floods have also historically afflicted the region, playing a strong role particularly in the life of the islands and coastal areas. Such phenomena are particularly strong in winter, though now more common throughout the year as even freak tornados and sea-storms have ravaged the Greek coast in recent years.

While such events have always been common factors of life, the more recent inclusion of a new contextual element – the mantra of ‘climate change,’ as codified in the 2015 Paris Climate Accords – will prove increasingly tempting for both local officials and international bureaucrats and bankers looking to expand their portfolios in response to (and in line with) events of nature.

A short video by reporter John Stossel reveals the incoherence and inconsistencies of the Treaty, which was nevertheless lionized by the media and politicians supporting the UN worldview as a great success.

For a more in-depth study of the topic, see a May 2017 publication by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, “The Legal and Economic Case Against the Paris Climate Treaty: Canceling U.S. Participation Protects Competitiveness and the Constitution,” by Christopher C. Horner and Marlo Lewis. Of course, President Trump kept his campaign promise, and on 4 November 2020 the US officially left the Paris Accords, leading the UN to publish a statement that it “regretted” the decision.

For its part, Greece tends to be (regardless of political party in power) a dependable member of the globalist camp, often calling on the primacy of international law- especially when it comes to it s territorial disputes with Turkey. The latter has always been more nationalist and independent-minded, but has especially been so since the AKP came to power in 2003.

In 2017, following the US withdrawal from the scheme, then-Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of the leftist Syriza party announced at a Paris climate meeting that Greece would continue its pledges to the treaty.

“We are reconfirming our commitment today and we jointly sent a very important message which we hope everyone will heed,” Kathimerini reported Tsipras as saying. Since then, his successors in the more conservative Nea Dimoktratia government have been less vocal about the treaty, but they have not sought to pull out of it either. Greece’s EU membership means its foreign policy must align with that of Brussels, and its perennial role as a debt-slave nation means it could not conduct an independent policy even if it wanted.

Therefore, it is most likely that Greece will continue to use weather conditions as a financial instrument to benefit from, within whatever mechanisms the UN and bankers allow.

The case of non-EU member Turkey is somewhat different. The country enjoys much more independence in policy formation, and has thus far successfully resisted pressure to join the scam. But to a large extent, this seems to be not out of principle but rather over the terms.

An August 2020 article from Climate Home News explained Turkey’s decision not to ratify the Paris Accords- making it the only G20 country not to do so, and only one of seven in the UN not to do so. The articles got unwittingly close to the heart of the scam behind the Accord in discussing Ankara’s rationale for objections.

“Turkey has a peculiar beef with the Paris Agreement, stemming from its decision to sign up to the convention as a developed country,” the report read. “Turkey has since argued that it is a developing country and has won special circumstances, allowing it to opt out of supplying finance. But it still cannot access climate cash, a condition President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said must change if Turkey is to ratify the agreement.”

In other words, the whole thing is a shell game for financiers, and the Turks are wise to it.

Without saying it in as many words, this article reveals that the Turkish leader understood the scam of the Paris Accords, and about how the entire premise of it was on the mass reallocation of wealth under the pretense of climate change-linked problems.

Turkey is also in the position of several OPEC countries, which refuse to join the Paris deal because of their fossil fuel energy production. Since Turkish foreign policy continues to envision offshore energy extraction as an imperative – even and particularly because this involves a territorial dispute with Greece and Cyprus – Turkey will remain tied to a policy of resistance when it comes to the Paris Accord. Even if nothing ever comes of the offshore extraction due to technical or market reasons, the territorial claims underlying the policy will likely keep retention of the policy an imperative for the Turkish government.

CONCLUSIONS- MORE OF THE UNEXPECTED, AND EXPECTATIONS UNMET

As the risk of earthquakes and other natural disasters remain chronic, analysts must continue to keep in mind their potential for causing short-term disruption to economies, public safety and even political stability. Istanbul itself is overdue for a major earthquake, and large-scale destruction in that city would obviously have massive impact for Turkey and the region.

In other regards such as climate-change obligations, the already destroyed tourism-based economies following 2020 Covid-19 restrictions are going to be slow to recover. Some industry insiders believe it will take until 2025 or 2027 to return to levels of 2019. In 2020, Greece suffered a roughly 85% decrease in tourism.

It is likely that future restrictions on the industry will see environmental and public health measures seamlessly converge, further restricting the profitability of small- and medium-sized enterprises particularly and contributing to poverty. And all of this is not even considering the risk of armed conflict, which will remain high through the Eastern Mediterranean anniversary season of the 2020s.

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