Late last week the two countries held joint cabinet meetings in Athens, with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan talking directly with embattled Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou about how the two countries can halt and reverse their arms races as a step towards Greece regaining a sound economic footing. Of course, Turkish aspirations to join the European Union (EU) were not far in the background, if seldom mentioned.
"I honestly feel national shame each time I am forced to buy weapons we do not need — based on an objective and correct estimate of the dangers the world as it is holds for Greece," said Deputy Prime Minister Theodore Pangalos to a Greek-Turkish business conference being held during Erdogan's visit.
"I know that on the other side of the border too the Turks are also buying weapons they do not need ... due to an imaginary threat that arises from a political confrontation, which can be solved and must be solved." All in all, twelve agreements were tendered between the two Premiers, including trade deals in the billions of Euros.
The animosity between Greece and Turkey dates back hundreds of years to when the Ottoman Empire that disintegrated into modern Turkey ruled Greece with an iron fist. After World War One, by which time Greece was again independent, the Turkish government expelled the large Greek population living throughout the country, tightening the tensions even more.
Then came the conflict over the island Cyprus, never fully resolved. Relations between the two countries improved after Greece provided aid to Turkey after its devastating earthquake of 1999. Armed conflict flared three times between 1976 and 1996, with military tension easing for the first time only now.
The point is that debt crises are usually tied to escalation in military tensions, not de-escalations as is the case here. As an increasing number of commentators draw parallels between what is happening to Greece now and what may happen to the U.S. with its own debt crisis, the demilitarization spurred by debt between Greece and Turkey is something to be studied first, and celebrated later.
As a current event creating the future, what Papandreou and Erdogan are up to is surely deserving of a Nobel Peace Prize and Nobel Economics Prize.