Explaining the Maintenance Process of International Rivalries

By Chaekwang You – The Korean Journal of International Studies 14-1 (April 2016), 131-59.

The paper begins with a simple question of “why do international rivalries persist over time?” To explain the causes of rivalry persistence, the paper develops “a modified two-level game approach” and tests the hypotheses drawn from the approach for the case of the 2nd Greco-Turkish rivalry, 1958-2001. The approach postulates that the rivalry maintenance is the result of rival leaders’ efforts to maximize their interest -i.e., staying in power- subject to external constraint-i.e., great power interventions- and internal constraint -i.e., the challenges from hard-line veto groups. By applying this approach to the 2nd Greco-Turkish rivalry, the paper finds that the leaders of the rivalry maintained their hostile relations partly because the U.S. prevented the leaders from resolving the issues under contention on the battlefields by intervening in the two rivals’ military conflict with a threat to stop providing both military and political support and partly because the hard-line veto players within the rivals prevented the leaders from resolving the issues at the negotiation table by hinting of electoral punishment. Under these circumstances, the leaders of the Greco-Turkish rivalry found that maintaining the rivalry would best serve their interest. The findings offer a contribution toward an enhanced understanding of the maintenance process in international rivalries.
Keywords : Rivalry Maintenance, Greece, Turkey, the United States/NATO, Hard-Line Veto Players
Why do international rivalries persist over a broad period?1 Despite significant changes both in external and internal conditions, an overwhelming majority of rivalries have persisted and there is no hint of improved relationships of those rivalries. Israel and many Arab states, for example, have been maintaining tight rivalry relationships for almost a half-century (Shlaim 2001). The hostility between South-and North Korea has never faded away although three decades have passed since the end of the Cold War (Cha and Kang 2005). The relationship between India and Pakistan has been one of the most enduring and contentious ones in modern history (Paul 2006). Most recently, Cambodia and Thailand, which have been caught in five decades of hostility, clashed once again over the Preah Vihear temple in 2008. Rivalries thus still have pervaded world politics (Hughes 2009).
Maintaining rivalry relationships incurs significant costs to their participants. Countries in rivalries must direct substantial resources, which can be used for other needs, toward dealing with foreign enemies (Goertz, Jones and Diehl 2005, 750). The vast majority of people in the rivalries also live under constant threat from foreign enemies (McGinnis and Williams 2001, 28). Despite such external and internal costs, much enmity in the rivalries continues to exist. What makes these rivalries persist for many decades?
To answer this empirical puzzle, I develop a “modified two-level game approach” to rivalry maintenance and apply it to the case of the 2nd GrecoTurkish rivalry, 1958-2001, for assessing the validity of the approach. My explanation centers on a simple theoretical intuition that the leaders of international rivalries, who seek to maximize their interest-i.e., staying in power- forge and maintain a specific foreign policy toward foreign rivals within a broader context of international and domestic political constraints. At the international level, my approach posits, great powers’ intervention in the militarized disputes between rivals with a threat to stop providing military and political support, make officeseeking leaders of rivalries become less willing to resolve the issues under contention on the battlefields. At the domestic level, the approach suggests, hard-line veto players prevent the leaders from resolving the issues in disputes at negotiation tables by hinting of electoral punishment. Given such strong external and internal constraints at work, the approach claims, the leaders of rivalries find that maintaining rivalries may best serve their interest.
Understanding such entrenched hostility in international relations is important from both a theoretical perspective and a practical one. Theoretically, studying “why” and “how” rivalries persist reveals the causes of deep stability in inter-state hostility. Once established, inter-state hostility is difficult to change because it tends to be conservative and to find ways of defending existing patterns of interactions (Jervis 1998, 125). By paying considerable attention to the interplay of structural constraints and leaders’ concern for political survival, my approach highlights theoretical causes of perpetuated hostilities between rivals in the context of the 2nd Greco-Turkish rivalry, 1958-2001.
Practically speaking, studying the causes of rivalry maintenance offers valuable insights about ways to end costly inter-state hostility. The paper shows that the maintenance of rivalries is the result of office-seeking leaders’ response to both external and internal constraints. Such finding leads us to realize that any rivalry termination policies designed to overcome either of external or internal constraint are destined to fail. In this regard, the paper suggests that the leaders of rivalries seeking rivalry termination are to devise and to implement a set of termination policies by which they can convince their great power patrons and hardline veto players to stand behind policies of rivalry termination.
The paper proceeds as follows. In the first section, the paper reviews the literature on the maintenance of international rivalries with a focus on the strengths and weaknesses of the arguments that the literature has developed. The second section develops a theoretical approach to the maintenance process in international rivalries and generates key hypotheses drawn from the approach. The third section conducts an in-depth case study of rivalry maintenance by focusing on the 2nd Greco-Turkish rivalry, 1958-2001. In the conclusion, the paper summarizes key findings, suggests an avenue for future research and discusses some policy implications.
Scholars of international rivalry have devoted substantial attention to the relationship between structural shocks and rivalry duration. By borrowing the concept of “punctuated equilibrium” from paleo biology, for instance, Diehl and Goertz assert that states in rivalries rapidly lock into enduring rivalries after massive structural shocks, such as world wars, radical shifts in the balance of power, territorial changes, and civil war, and then persist over an extended period of time (Goertz and Diehl 1992; 1995). During the lock-in period, they argue that rivalries persist through the failures of military strategies. If two contending rivals fail to settle the dispute militarily, rivalries persist because the dispute remains unresolved (Goertz, Jones and Diehl 2005, 749-752). This approach, however, does not explain “why” rivals fail to settle the dispute militarily in the first place and says little about how rivalries persist through the failures of negotiations.
Some studies present evolutionary models of enduring rivalry dynamics. Hensel, for example, focuses on the impact of rivals’ past behavior, arguing that the use of military tools rather than diplomatic means to settle previous disputes creates an atmosphere of distrust and hostility that can culminate in an extended rivalry (Hensel 1999, 179-206). Maoz and Mor synthesize both a strategicchoice approach and an evolutionary model into a “super-game” framework. By focusing attention on a “learning mechanism” operating in rivalries, they argue that “in the absence of exogenous changes, a rivalry stabilizes when both states’ perceptions of the opponents’ preferences are confirmed and there is no readjustment in the actors’ preferences” (Maoz and Mor 1996, 141-150). However, this approach still treats rivals as “unitary actors” and does not examine how rivals’ preferences are confirmed and re-adjusted by political bargaining among competing domestic political actors within rivals’ societies.
Thompson calls attention to socio-psychological aspects of international rivalry dynamics. By criticizing prior studies’ exclusive focus on the militarization phase of rivalries, he proposes the concept of “strategic rivalries” by which rivalries are defined as a pair of states with roughly equal capabilities that expect hostile behavior from each other (Thompson 1995; 2001). Built upon the concept, Thompson explains that the expectations of future threat, equal capabilities, and cognitive rigidities all make rivalries persist over time (Thompson 2001, 562). However, Thompson’s study assumes that international rivalry is inherently a competition over relative power position between the states with equal capabilities, thereby ignoring the fact that rivalry can take place and persist due to the conflict over the issues other than relative power, and that they persist over time despite a marked asymmetry in military capabilities.
Colaresi develops a “two-level-pressure” theory in which low expected future costs of rivalry and rivalry outbidding are presented as major causes of rivalry maintenance. The theory predicts that if the leaders’ perceived future costs of rivalry are relatively low and if there is a rivalry outbidding process within rival societies in which the public becomes distasteful of a foreign rival due to political elites’ propaganda to justify though foreign policy, rivalry is more likely to persist (Colaresi 2004; 2005, 16-39). While the theory is helpful, it is not without shortcomings. First, the theory says little about why many rivals attempt to terminate their contentious relationships by negotiations even though the expected future cost of rivalry is quite low. Second, Colaresi’s argument of outbidding dismisses the possibility that societal actors in rivalries coalesce into two broad camps -i.e., hard-line and soft-line groups- and fight their ways rather than outbid each other.
From a rational-choice perspective, Bennett integrates both structural and agentic factors in a single model of bargaining over rivalry termination between two states. He argues that if the costs to a state of continuing a rivalry surpass the benefits, the leaders in a rivalry are more likely to make a more favorable settlement with each other and, as a result, the rivalry ends by bargaining. If the benefits to a state of continuing rivalry surpass the costs, in contrast, the leaders are less likely to make a favorable offer and bargaining will collapse, leading to the persistence of a rivalry (Bennett 1997; 1998). Bennett’s studies, however, pay disproportionate attention to the dynamics of rivalry termination and do not develop a coherent causal mechanism through which both structural and agentic variables interact with one another to lead to rivalry maintenance. The differences and similarities of these existing studies of rivalry maintenance are summarized in Table 1.
In sum, prior studies of rivalry maintenance provide a number of fruitful insights concerning the dynamics of the maintenance process in rivalries. Despite such insights, however, the studies pay disproportionate attention to real-politik and psychological variables, such as previous military conflicts and balance of power and cognitive rigidity, on the chance of a rivalry persisting. Although some studies examine the maintenance process of international rivalries in terms of bargaining failures, they still treat the states in rivalries as unitary actors and seldom examine how domestic political situations in rivalries make rivalries persist by compounding the bargaining process. The only exception to this is Colaresi’s two-level pressure approach to rivalry maintenance but his thesis of “outbidding” shows some limitation in the explanation of domestic political conditions of rivalry persistence. Noting these weaknesses, the following section develops a more nuanced approach to rivalry maintenance -i.e., a modified two-level game approach.
In this section, the paper develops a theoretical argument of rivalry maintenance, which might be called a “modified two-level game approach.” The approach recognizes that prior studies of international rivalries pay little attention to the maintenance process of international rivalries and that even existing studies on the maintenance do not explain how the rivalries persist across time through the failures of both “battlefield” and “negotiated” solutions. As a result, a more nuanced approach needs to be developed for the complete understanding of the maintenance process of international rivalries. For this purpose, key insights of the twolevel games approach are integrated with the insights of the step-to-war approach and the theory of a veto player into a single coherent theoretical approach – i.e., a modified two-level game approach.
Central to this approach is that rivalry maintenance is the result of rival leaders’ efforts to maximize their interest – i.e., staying in power – subject to both external and internal constraints. Putnam, in his pioneering work on two-level games, claims that state leaders, who seek to maximize their political interest, negotiate an international agreement within the constraint of domestic constituencies. When the leaders are severely constrained by their constituencies, the win-set (the set of all possible agreements) will decrease on both sides and, as a result, the leaders will have great trouble reaching an agreement (Putnam 1988, 441-452). Although quite useful, however, Putnam’s approach has two major weaknesses for understanding a whole dynamics of rivalry maintenance. First, it is quite silent about the constraint that other states, largely third parties, impose on the leaders (Braumoeller 2006, 279). Second, Putnam’s concept of the constituencies includes all possible domestic opponents from societal actors, interest groups and media, thereby making it difficult to identify capable opponents. My modified two-level game approach complements these weaknesses by incorporating the insights from the step-to-war approach and the theory of veto players. Following the logic of Putnam’s two-level games, the approach assumes that rival leaders, who seek to maximize their interest, try to end a costly rivalry. When pursuing the termination of a rivalry, however, the approach claims that the leaders seeking to maximize the interest are subject to both external and internal constraints.
With regard to external constraints, the approach utilizes key insights from the step-to-war approach. Many scholars working in the tradition of step-to-war framework contend that the states in rivalries formulate both informal and formal security ties to great powers for sustaining an evenhanded military competition against each other over time (Vasquez 1993; Kapur 2005; Thompson and Colaresi 2005; Krebs 1999). Accordingly, a massive amount of military aid flows from the powers to rivalry states. Such aid from the powers not only restores a rough military balance between rivals, but also creates an inflated hope for military success among the leaders of rivalries, leading to a number of military conflicts in rivalries.
The problem is that the militarized disputes between rivals always entail a risk that they may escalate into an all-out war. The all-out war between rivals, once it occurs, will generate prohibitively expensive costs for the powers, who serve as security patrons with an obligation to come to the aid of the rivals in the shadow of war. Keenly aware of such costs, therefore, the great powers are likely to intervene in the disputes between rivals with an intense diplomatic campaign, which mainly consists of a threat to stop providing military aid and political support for the leaders of rivalries (Gaddis 1986; Miller 2002; Kapur 2005). Knowing that such a threat from the powers can undermine their power base at home by risking military standing of their nations, the leaders will stop escalating the disputes and return to the previous status quo, thereby making rivalries persist across time.
Regarding internal constraints that the leaders face at home, my approach focuses on the pressure from “institutional” veto players, largely hard-line opposition parties.2 The failure of battlefield solutions often encourages rivals to try their luck at negotiation tables. Knowing that any efforts to cope militarily with each other are quite ineffective due to the great powers’ interventions, rival leaders bring the issues in disputes to the negotiation table (Contas 1991; Parish Jr. 2004; Colaresi 2004; 2005). Yet such negotiation efforts often enable hard-line veto players, who thrive in rivals’ governments, such that they can undermine the leaders’ efforts to end rivalries at the negotiation table. The hard-line veto players often depict the efforts as “premature” and “treacherous” and attempt to compound the efforts by hinting of electoral punishment (Huth 1998, 95; Hensel 1999, 2-7; Colaresi 2005, 211-213). Keenly aware of the risk that continued diplomatic efforts entail, therefore, the leaders are likely to delay or even discard the efforts and return to the previous status quo, which will in turn contribute to the persistence of rivalry (Colaresi 2004, 557-559).
The powers of hard-line veto players tend to be inflated when military leaders rule rival states. A large body of literature on the relationships between regime types and the chance of militarized disputes demonstrates that military regimes are more likely to initiate interstate conflict (Goemans 2000; Reiter and Stam 2003; Lai and Slater 2006; Weeks 2012). Given such strong conflict-prone natures of military regime, hard-line veto players are more likely to be empowered in rivals ruled by military regime. They, in particular, are likely to align themselves with the military leaders for complicating the negotiation process through the initiation of military conflicts against foreign rivals, thereby increasing the possibility of a persisting rivalry (Parish Jr. 2006).
Taken together, the modified two-level game approach postulates that rivalry maintenance is the result of rival leaders’ efforts to maximize their interest – i.e., staying in power – subject to both external and internal constraints. At the external level, the great powers having security ties to rivals prevent office-seeking leaders from resolving their contentious issues on the battlefields by undermining their domestic political standing with a threat to stop providing military and political support. At the domestic level, the hard-line veto players prevent leaders from resolving the issues at bargaining table by hinting of electoral punishment. Consequently, the leaders often find that their interest will be best served by delaying and even discarding negotiated solutions, thereby making a rivalry persist. In what follows, the paper explains a method it utilizes and tests the hypotheses delineated above against the case of the 2nd Greco-Turkish rivalry, from 1958 to 2001.
To test the theoretical arguments drawn from a modified two-level game approach, the paper uses the method of hypothesis-testing crucial case study. The method has been utilized widely by various studies in political science because of its potential strength in testing theoretically driven hypotheses against a crucial case (Eckstein 1975). A case is crucial if the facts of that case are central to either the disconfirmation or confirmation of a theory (Gerring 2007, 231; Levy 2008, 18). Following this line of argument, the paper treats the maintenance of the Greco-Turkish rivalry, 1958-2001, as a crucial case, which can be used to disconfirm existing theories of rivalry maintenance and to confirm a new approach – i.e., a modified two-level game approach.
More specifically, the existing theoretical approaches of rivalry maintenance hardly explain the causes of the 2nd Greco-Turkish rivalry. There was no initial shock, notably major war, which may have led to the occurrence/consolidation of the 2nd Greco-Turkish rivalry. The previous military conflicts in the rivalry often led to diplomatic efforts rather than another conflict. The power balance between the two rivals has been roughly equal but has not approached a parity. During the negotiations of rivalry termination, zero-sum partisan struggles, not political outbidding, have occurred. Both the Greece and Turkey also have not acted like unitary actors in the negotiations because a number of veto players at home were enabled over the issue of negotiated termination of the rivalry. In this regard, the case of the 2nd Greco-Turkish rivalry disconfirms the existing framework and justifies the development of an alternative approach, i.e., a modified two-level game approach.
Second, the 2nd Greco-Turkish rivalry case substantially confirms the validity of the approach by proving that the causal chains that the approach generates are present in the case. The approach identifies two causal mechanisms of rivalry maintenance: 1) an international rivalry is likely to persist if office-seeking rival leaders experience great power’s intervention in their military conflicts; and 2) an international rivalry is likely to persist if the leaders face the challenge from hardline veto players who oppose a negotiated termination of the rivalry. If these causal mechanisms are present in the 2nd Greco-Turkish rivalry, the modified two-level game approach will be confirmed. The paper finds that the mechanisms are very clearly manifested in the case of the 2nd Greco-Turkish rivalry and that the case substantially confirms the approach.
But it should be noted that these findings remain strictly confined to the case being concerned-i.e., the 2nd Greco-Turkish rivalry, 1958-2001. The selected case here is necessarily unrepresentative of wider populations, and one must be careful to point out that the case study seeks only contingent generalizations that apply to cases that are similar to the 2nd Greco-Turkish rivalry (George and Bennett 2004).
The modern hostility between Greece and Turkey is rooted in the Greek struggle for independence from the Ottoman Empire. The fact that both Turkey and Greece consolidated their national identities by fighting against, and interacting with each other are at the heart of the hostility between the two states (Krebs 1999, 357). From the Greek perspective, the birth of modern Greece was the result of persistent struggles to end about four hundred years of Turkish rule (or the Ottoman rule). The popular Turkish image of Greek’s independence is that of rebellion. Thus, the troubled history not only spawned deeply ingrained resentments, but also created enemy images on both sides.
The historically based antagonism rapidly turned into rivalry hostility when the two adversaries began to confront each other in Cyprus. The origin of the Cyprus dispute traces back to the first quarter of the 19th Century when Britain took control of the island from the Ottoman Empire under British control. The “enosis” movement, which advocated union to Greece, met with popular support both in Cyprus and on the Greek mainland (Coufoudakis 1985, 190). The movement reached its climax with the 1950 plebiscite in which the Greek community in Cyprus decided to unite with Greece (Clogg 1992, 143). However, Turkey claimed that Cyprus ought to revert to Turkey because of the possession of the islands by the predecessor (e.g., the Ottoman Empire), geographic contiguity, and the presence of an 18 percent Turkish Cypriot minority (Bahcheli 1990, 31).
From the early 1960s on, Greece and Turkey were plunged into a series of military conflicts. Late in 1963, Greek Cypriots launched a deadly attack on Turkish areas in Cyprus, leading to the intervention of both Athens and Ankara (Coufoudakis 1985, 193-194). The hostility caused by the 1963 conflict led to the outbreak of the second military dispute in Cyprus in 1967. With the consent of the military regime, the Greek nationalists launched an attack on two TurkishCypriot villages, resulting in the direct military confrontation between Greece and Turkey (Ibid., 197). These two initial disputes finally materialized into a fullscale war between the two rivals in 1974. The Greek junta leader, Ioannidis, engineered the coup against Makarios, a Greek Cypriot leader, and threatened the security of Turkish-Cypriots in Cyprus, which resulted in Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974 (Bahcheli 1990, 98).
The contentious relations between Greece and Turkey continued to exist throughout the 1980s and 1990s. It was the dispute in the Aegean that prompted Greece and Turkey to be brought to a status of near-war again in March 1987. Following the decision of Greece’s Northern Aegean Petroleum Company to drill for oil ten miles east of the island of Thasos, Turkey dispatched the research vessel Sismik I to carry out seismic research on the continental shelf claimed by Greece. The crisis led to a full readiness of war between the two rivals (Clogg 1991, 19). In January 1996, the two rivals once again confronted each other over the ownership of two small islands – i.e., “Kardak”/Imia” islands – in the Aegean. The special forces of the two rivals landed secretly on both the west and east islands, respectively, and war became a real possibility (Athanassopoulou 1998, 76-77).
The contentious relationship between Greece and Turkey began to consolidate significantly when the two rivals were tied officially to common security patrons – i.e., the United States/NATO. Greece’s and Turkey’s need to face off against each other and the U.S. imperative to build a bulwark in Southern Europe against the Soviet Union led to the accession of the two rivals to the U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) (Krebs 1992). Greece’s and Turkey’s security ties to the U.S. through NATO not only helped the two adversaries build their military through arms transfer and military aid from the U.S., but also encouraged them to rapidly militarize the disputes in Cyprus and in the Aegean. However, the ties made it extremely difficult for either of the two rivals to achieve a decisive military victory on the battlefields by inviting the U.S/NATO interventions in the disputes, leading to the persistence of the rivals’ hostility.


After World War II, both Greece and Turkey faced a common security threat from the communist bloc. Turkey had to confront directly the threat from the Soviet Union while Greece faced growing communist threats from the Soviet Union, Bulgaria and its internal communist guerrillas. The convergence of the security concerns prompted the two countries to establish a close security tie with the West, especially with the United States and NATO. Because of the accession to NATO in 1952 and 1959, respectively, the two rivals became major beneficiaries of the military aid from the United States. Since then, Greek and Turkish political and military collaboration have become routine and institutionalized (Krebs 1999, 358).
The United States, which became a major security patron for both Greece and Turkey, offered them massive military aid. Responding to Truman’s request, for example, the U.S. Congress granted dollar400 million for military and economic aid to both countries (Ibid., 364). With the proclamation of the Marshall Fund in June 1947, the aid markedly increased, amounting to well over dollar6 billion by the end of 1960, of which Greece had received dollar1.7 billion in economic aid and dollar1.3 billion in military aid; Turkey received dollar1.1 billion in economic aid and dollar1.9 billion in military aid (Leffler 1985, 817-818). The American military presence in Greece and Turkey also became formalized with bilateral base agreements signed in February 1953 and June 1954, respectively. These agreements provided for America’s right to establish bases, to man, equip, and re-supply these bases, and to over-fly Greek and Turkish territories (Couloumbis 1983, 37).
The military assistance continued throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Except for the periods when the U.S. imposed an embargo toward Greece (1964-1974) and Turkey (1977-1979), the United States kept its commitment to fortify the military positions of the two rivals against the Soviets. In this period, the United States made determined efforts to ensure a balance of military strength between the two allies. By the end of the 1970s, therefore, Turkey received a total of dollar2.5 billion dollars in economic and military assistance, while Greece received more than dollar11.1 billion (McDonald 1988, 78).
The U.S. role as a security patron continued into the 1980s. A new U.S.-Turkish base agreement was formed in 1980 and U.S. military assistance to Turkey increased from dollar200 million in 1979 to nearly dollar900 million by 1985 (Haas 1998, 65). The agreement included co-production programs including the F-16 fighter, the M-48A5 tank, frigate construction, the UH-1H helicopter, short-range air defense gun production and the building of a tank ammunition facility. The United States and Greece also signed the Defense and Economic Cooperation Agreement (DECA) in 1983, which allowed the latter to purchase U.S. weapons, notably F-16 fighters (Ibid., 63). By 1985, the U.S. provided dollar500 million in sales to Greece (McDonald 1988, 82).
Security ties with the United States contributed to the persistence of the contentious relationships between Greece and Turkey in two ways. First, the ties helped the two rivals restore a rough military balance against each other and sustain an even-handed military competition over an extended period of time. For more than forty years, the United States had applied the 7:10 ratio in its military aid to both Greece and Turkey, which prevented the two rivals from militarily overwhelming each other (Krebs 1999).
The rivals’ security ties to the U.S. also contributed to the persistence of their hostility by creating an inflated hope for the leaders on both sides that they could change the status quo in Cyprus and the Aegean in their favor. From the 1960s onward, for example, Greek leaders militarily supported the Greek Cypriots’ efforts to unite with the Greek mainland through the use of military force. In response, Turkey constantly renewed its territorial claim on Cyprus and issued multiple threats of military intervention to check the Greek-Cypriot nationalism. Such hawkish stances on both sides resulted in three major military confrontations over Cyprus in 1963, 1967, and 1973 (Bahcheli 1990, 72-75).
The strong U.S. military backing also pushed the two rivals into rapid militarization of the Aegean dispute in the 1970s and 1980s. Faced off over the delineation of sovereign rights in the Aegean Sea, Greece and Turkey conducted research and explorations in the Sea beyond their territorial waters and issued contesting territorial claims on some small islands in the Sea (Clogg 1991). Such uncompromising territorial claims finally brought the two rivals to the brink of war twice in 1976 and 1987. The rivals also followed the old path of military confrontation again in the 1996 Imia-Kardak crisis, in which they issued contesting rights of territorial waters around the Imia/Kardak islands (Athanassopoulou 1997, 76-77). Krebs nicely summarized the impact of the security ties to great powers – i.e., the U.S./NATO – on the militarized disputes between Greece and Turkey as follows:
Paradoxically, their accession to NATO led Greece and Turkey to redefine their interests in ways that strain the alliance commitment, bringing them into tension with each other ….. Not only did the United States and NATO help revive the dormant Greco-Turkish feud at the height of the Cold War, but also its vaunted mechanisms of reconciliation have served to intensify the disputes between the two states (Krebs 1999, 365).
Together, the arms transfer and military aid from the United States and the corresponding military balance allowed the two rivals to redefine their national interests consistent with their needs and to revive historically based hostility. The voice of diplomatic rapprochement and cooperation had been systematically replaced by the support for coercive real-politic strategy over the issues of Cyprus and the Aegean. Riding free on the U.S.A.’s assistance, the two rivals relentlessly militarized the disputes in Cyprus and in the Aegean, which significantly contributed to the consolidation of their mutual hostility.


Heavily armed with the U.S.-supplied weapons, the two rivals constantly collided with each other over both the Cyprus and the Aegean disputes and attempted to resolve the disputes militarily. Yet, such military collisions often provoked U.S. fear of the breakup of coalition unity in NATO’s southern flank, leading to its active diplomatic engagement in the disputes. Knowing that continued military efforts would invite the U.S.’s retaliatory measures, such as a cutoff of military aid, an imposition of an arms embargo, and a withdrawal of its political support, which might undermine their political base at home, the leaders in the GrecoTurkish rivalry were restrained from escalating the collisions into a full-scale war and often returned to the previous status quo. Accordingly, the Greco-Turkish rivalry has persisted through the failures of battlefield solutions.
The first military confrontation between Greece and Turkey occurred in 1963 against the backdrop of an inter-communal violence in Cyprus. Greek-Cypriot police and irregulars launched a deadly attack on the Turkish area of Nicosia and Turkey reacted to the attack by sending fighter jets over Nicosia as a warning to Greek-Cypriot leaders in December 1963 (Bahcheli 1990, 60-61). Faced with the risk of war between the two rivals, the United States decided to intervene. President Lyndon Johnson (LBJ) placed strong pressure on Turkish leadership not to intervene in Cyprus. In a sternly worded letter to Turkish Prime Minister In¨onu, LBJ stated that, “I must tell you in all candor that the United States cannot agree to the use of any United States-supplied military equipment for a Turkish intervention in Cyprus under present circumstances” (Ibid., 63). LBJ also used the NATO platform to persuade Greece from disengaging in the dispute by warning that U.S. military aid to Greece would be suspended (Ibid., 66). Fearing that the U.S.’s withdrawal of the aid might undermine his domestic power base by negatively affecting Turkey’s military standing, Turkish President In¨onu cancelled its intervention in Cyprus (Camp 1980, 50). So, the first military attempt made by both Greece and Turkey to control Cyprus was aborted due to the U.S.’s active engagement.
The second military crisis between the two rivals erupted in November 1967. With the consent of the military regime in Athens, Greek Cypriots launched a surprise attack on two Turkish-Cypriot villages, killing twenty-eight Turkish Cypriots (Bahcheli 1990, 72). Turkey immediately sent its jets on warning flights over Cyprus with the threat of large-scale military retaliation. Turkey’s threat to retaliate, however, led to U.S.’s intense diplomatic activities. Cyrus Vans, the U.S. Presidential envoy, approached all parties and forced them both to defuse the crisis and to construct a cease-fire agreement (Kalaitzaki 2005). Realizing that ignoring the U.S. demand might lead to a withdrawal of its support for a new military regime in Athens, the Greek junta withdrew the nearly 12,000 clandestine troops from Cyprus, which was reciprocated by Turkish Prime Minster Demirel’s decision to disband its forces in southern Turkey (Clogg 1992, 162). Both Greece and Turkey were once again deprived of the chance to gain a military stronghold in Cyprus.
The most dangerous moment between Greece and Turkey came in 1973-4. Greek junta leader Ioannidis organized a Greek-supported military coup in Cyprus. By overthrowing Makarios’ government in Cyprus, Ioannidis hoped not only to remove a troublesome leader, but also to consolidate a Greek position in Cyprus (Bahcheli 1990, 62). However, the coup provoked Turkey’s fear that it would lose control over Turkish-Cypriot dominant areas in Cyprus. Thus, Turkish Prime Minister Ecevit ordered Turkish troops to land on Cyprus in July 1974, inviting Ioannidis’ immediate response – i.e., ordering the Greek forces to wage war against Turkey (Ibid., 73). Surprised by the danger of an all-out war between the two NATO allies, the United States/NATO began to conduct an intense diplomatic campaign and pressed both sides to hold peace talks in Geneva (Ibid., 99). When the talks were stalled, however, Turkey launched the second military operation in Cyprus. The U.S. responded to Turkey’s operation by imposing a harsh arms embargo in 1975. Worried that the embargo would not only adversely affect the effectiveness of the Turkish military, but also disturb the popularity the 1974 war created, Ecevit became satisfied with Turkey’s partial victory in Cyprus and ended the 2nd military operation (Adamson 2001). Thus, the two rivals’ third military attempt to control Cyprus ended in a failure.
Since the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus, Greece and Turkey were brought to the brink of war three additional times due to their confrontation over the Aegean islands. The first Aegean crisis occurred in 1976 when the two rivals faced off over the issue of oil exploration in international waters near the Greek islands of Samothrace, Mytilence, and Chios. Pressed by hawkish opposition leader, Ecevit, Turkish Prime Minster Demirel announced in 1976 that a Turkish research ship Sismik I would conduct seismic research in disputed waters (Clogg 1991, 16). Responding to the Turkish mission, Greece announced that a Greek vessel, the Nautilus, was conducting research similar to that of Sismik I, leading to a Turkish charge that Greece was militarizing the eastern Aegean islands. The mediation of the U.S. and NATO, relying on the International Court of Justice (ICJ), defused the crisis (Bahcheli 1990, 137). Thus, the two rivals’ first military attempt to control the Aegean Sea failed.
The dispute in the Aegean between Greece and Turkey escalated into a status of near-war again in March 1987. Following the decision of Greece’s Northern Aegean Petroleum Company to drill for oil ten miles east of the island of Thasos, Turkey dispatched the research vessel Sismik I to carry out seismic research on the continental shelf claimed by Greece (Coufoudakis 1991, 49). Greek Prime Minster Papandreou declared that all necessary measures were to be taken to safeguard Greece’s sovereign rights and placed the Greek armed forces in a total state of readiness (Ibid.). Alarmed by the renewed hostility and rapidly looming chance of a full-scale war between the two rivals, the U.S. and NATO stepped in the confrontation once again and urged the two parties to exercise self-constraint (Clogg 1991, 20). The pressure and mediations provided by the U.S. and NATO created both Papandreou’s and ?zal’s belief that maintaining status quo in the Aegean would benefit their political fortunes. Therefore, ?zal declared that the Sismik I would operate only in Turkish territorial seas, while Greece likewise declared that no drilling would take place in disputed waters. Thus, the two rivals’ military effort to secure control of the Aegean Sea failed once again.
In January 1996, the two rivals clashed over the ownership of two small, uninhabited islands in the Aegean, which were called “Kardak” in Turkish and “Imia” in Greek. The crisis originated from the Greek parliament’s ratification of the Law of the Sea Convention, which gave Greece the right to expand its territorial waters from six to twelve miles. Turkey, which was not a signatory to the Convention, declared that it considered any expansion of Greek territorial waters as an act of aggression (Hickok 1998, 125). War was barely averted during the final hours of the crisis due to the Clinton administration’s gesture of imposing an arms embargo. Realizing that the arms embargo from the U.S. would have a negative consequence on domestic political standing, Greek Prime Minister Simitis and Turkish leader ?iller accepted the NATO General Secretary Solana’s proposal for a moratorium on military exercises in the Aegean (Athanassopoulous 1997, 90-91). To summarize all Greek and Turkish military efforts to resolve their disputes on the battlefields, the U.S./NATO interventions in the disputes, and the effects of the interventions on dispute outcomes are presented in Table 2.
As shown in Table 2, no militarized dispute between Greece and Turkey during the period 1958-2001 led to an ultimate resolution of the issues under contention – i.e., the Cyprus and Aegean issues – on the battlefields. The primary reason why the two rivals constantly failed to militarily resolve the issues was because of the security ties between the United States/NATO and the rivals. Not only did the ties help the two rivals restore a rough military balance, but also it pushed them into a number of military conflicts over the issues by creating an inflated hope of military success. Paradoxically, however, the ties made it extremely difficult for both Athens and Ankara to cope militarily with each other in the conflicts because the U.S./NATO intervened in the conflicts with a threat to stop providing military and political support. Keenly aware of domestic political repercussions of the threat, the Greek and Turkish leaders often de-escalated the conflicts and returned to the previous status quo, which contributed to the persistence of their hostile relations.

A series of military confrontations between Greece and Turkey, including the 1974 War, structured a domestic political condition in the two rivals such that contesting veto groups emerged and competed with one another over foreign policy. Based on different threat perceptions and policy preferences, these groups engaged in zero-sum political struggles to press their leaders to adopt the policy they prefer. Hard-line veto groups, in particular, pushed the leaders and their soft-line allies not to negotiate the resolution of the issues in disputes by hinting of political punishments. As a result, the Greco-Turkish rivalry persisted through the failures of negotiated solutions.


Greece has a parliamentary system with a unicameral legislature, the Vouli, in which two dominant political forces – conservative and socialist – have fiercely competed with each other. In the 1950s and 1960s, the National Radical Union (NRU), the ruling conservative party, and the Center Union (CU), the leftist opposition party, were two major veto players in Greek government (Pappas 2003, 93). The NRU consistently represented the soft-line voice in the Vouli and Prime Minister Karamanli, the leader of the NRU, and his party echelons justified their soft-line stance by claiming that, “the only way the Greek community would become full masters in Cyprus is the increasing dominance of the economically advanced Greek majority on the islands” (Bahcheli 1990, 51).
The Centre Union (CU), which was a major legislative opposition during this time, in contrast, was a staunch advocate of enosis and constantly pushed the NRU leadership to accelerate military preparedness on future Turkish attacks on Cyprus. Building on the widespread anti-Turkish sentiment held by the majority of the Greek public since the 1955 riot, the CU mobilized the public behind its nationalistic cause. Georgios Papandreou, the leader of the Center Union., for instance, frequently harnessed the support of the public by emphasizing the imperative of enosis (Coufoudakis 1985, 190-191). However, the NRU’s majority position in the Vouli allowed Karamanli’s soft-liners both to override the powers of the CU and to stabilize the relationship with Turkey.
The post-war conservative supremacy, however, came to a halt with the victory of the CU in the elections of 1964. After coming to office in 1964, the Papandreou-led government catered to Greek national sentiments over the Cyprus issue and constantly renewed the quest for enosis (Clogg 1992, 157). The seven-year military dictatorship, which led to the collapse of the CU government, further exacerbated Greek relations with Turkey. Greek military leader Ioannidis, who was the most hard-line of the hardliners in the military, not only backed the Greek Cypriot insurgency for union with Greece, but also organized the 1974 coup in Cyprus, which overthrew the government of Archbishop Makarios III (Bahcheli 1990, 72-73).
After the collapse of the military dictatorship in 1974, Greece returned to a parliamentary democracy with a two dominant-party system. Karamanlis formed the New Democracy (ND) and won the elections in 1974 and 1977. Nationalist groups led by Andreas Papandreou formed the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) and became a major opposition group, carrying veto power in the Vouli (Clogg 1992, 168). The ND and PASOK displayed a significant ideological difference over the issue of the Greek-Turkish relationship. Against the backdrop of a humiliating defeat in the 1974 war, the ruling ND sought to find a way out of the Greek-Turkish impasse by negotiations, while the hard-line PASOK was opposed to any negotiations with Turkey (Clogg 1991, 16). During this period, therefore, Greece’s policy toward Turkey was the result of political bargaining between the ND and PASOK.
The 1980s witnessed the rise of partisan infighting between the PASOK and the ND. The PASOK won two legislative elections and formed the governments in 1981 and 1985, respectively. After coming to power, the PASOK socialists consistently took hard-line stances toward Turkey by making it clear that negotiations with Turkey were pointless because there was nothing to negotiate (Clogg, 1991, 18). The ND, now a major opposition in the Vouli, in contrast, defended the policy of compromise that their predecessors advocated (Coufoudakis 1991, 44). Since 1987, however, a drastic change in the parties’ preferences occurred. Surprised by the 1987 Aegean Crisis, which brought the two rivals to the brink of total war, the PASOK tempered its hard-line ideology and began to seek diplomatic solutions. The Mitsotakis-led ND, however, became increasingly hawkish toward Turkey and used its hard-line stance for undermining the PASOK’s legitimacy (Ibid., 49-52).
The balance-of-power between the two competing veto groups further tightened in the 1990s. After achieving the near-margin victory in the 1996 election, the ruling PASOK coalition continued to pursue an accommodative policy toward Turkey (Clogg 1991, 225). Nevertheless, the ND, which significantly increased its share of the vote in the election, placed considerable pressure on the PASOK not to go too far in the direction of compromising Greece’s national interest with Turkey (Ibid.). Thus, the tug-of-war between the two competing veto groups was inevitable.


Like Greece, Turkey had a unicameral parliamentary democracy in which major veto powers resided in the single house called “Meclis” until 1960. With the 1960 military coup staged by a group of army officers, however, Turkey degenerated into a unit veto system in which colonel T?kus, monopolized control of domestic , and foreign affairs (Sayari 1978, 44). The military rule ended in October 1961 and Turkey returned to a parliamentary democracy with two major parties – i.e., the Republican People’s Party (RPP) and the Justice Party (JP). The RPP was a hawkish force and consistently took an antagonistic stance toward Greece since its formation. During the 1963 ethnic clash in Cyprus, for example, Turkish Prime Minister Ismet In¨onu and his RPP echelons used the clash as a means to create both anti-Greek sentiment and a sense of Turkish unity (Adamson 2001, 286). S?leymanDemirel led the Justice Party (JP), which came to power in 1965. However, he was a moderate force and pursued the policy of normalizing the relationship with Greece. By stressing Turkey’s commitment to NATO, the JP attempted to avoid unnecessary military conflict with Greece (Ibid.). During this period of time, therefore, Turkey’s Greek policy was the result of political bargaining between the RPP and the JP.
Turkey experienced another military coup in 1971. Faced with mounting civil uprising and political chaos engendered by ideological strife between the rightist groups and Marxist revolutionaries, the Chief of the General Staff, Memduh T?mac, handed the prime minister a memorandum, amounting to an ultimatum which demanded the formation of a strong and credible government, that could put an end to political and social unrest (Karabelias 1999, 133). Claiming that the ultimatum was rejected by the government, the T?mac-led military took power and amended the constitution to strengthen the state against civil society. The military ruthlessly purged radical elements in Turkish society and returned the power to the civilian politicians through the 1973 parliamentary election (Ibid.).
The October 1973 the parliamentary election marked a turning point in Turkish politics. For the first time since 1950, the RPP failed to maintain its hold on power and had to form a coalition government. Minor parties such as the Nationalist Salvation Party (NSP), the Democratic Party (DP), and National Action Party (NAP) made inroads into the traditional strongholds of the two major parties (Adamson 2001, 282). The RPP formed a coalition government with the hawkish NSP. While in office, therefore, Prime Minister B?lent Ecevit was hard pressed by his hard-line coalition partner to take a more hawkish stance toward Greece, which ended in the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 (Ibid., 288).
The military once again stepped into Turkish politics in 1980. Immediately after the coup, all Turkish parties were banned and closed. In 1983, however, the junta allowed the formation of new political parties with some restrictions. Against the backdrop of the new political milieu, ?zal’s Motherland Party (MP) emerged a dominant party in the 1983 election (Kalaycio?lu 2002, 41-2). Yet, the MP’s dominant position gave way to a multi-party competition immediately after the 1987 election. With the substantial decline of its vote share, ?zal’s liberal MP had to compete with new conservative parties such as the Social Democratic Populist Party (SDPP), the True Path Party (TPP) and the Democratic Left Party (DLP) (Ibid., 48-50). Under this circumstance, the MP leadership had to make a huge effort to ensure support from the opposition parties for pursuing his policy of compromising with Greece.
From 1989 through the 1990s, the dominant position of the MP further weakened and the traditional conservative parties reinforced their veto powers. B?lent Ecevit’s Democratic Left Party (DLP), S?leyman Demirel’s Truth Path Party (TPP), and Necmettin Erbakan’s Welfare Party (WP), in particular, increased their vote shares in the national elections (Ibid., 53-56). Since no party delivered a legislative majority in the 1995 election, the MP and DLP formed a minority coalition in March 1996. Yet, the MP-DLP coalition was toppled due to the TPP’s censure motion, forcing the DLP leader, Demirel, to form a government with the WP led by Necmettin Erbakan. Soon after coming to power, the Erbakan-led coalition government enraged the military by promoting the agenda of “Islamization of Turkey.” As a result, Erbakan was forced to resign by the military and the MP, DLP and the Democratic Turkey Party (DTP) formed the second coalition government in 1997 (Athanassopoulou 1997, 93). During this period of time, Turkey suffered from the chronic frailty of multi-party coalition and any policy change based on inter-party agreement was almost impossible.


As discussed in the previous sections, the constant failure of military solutions to resolve the key issues in disputes prompted Greece’s and Turkey’s diplomatic efforts to resolve the issues through negotiations. Yet, such negotiations had little effect on the termination of Greco-Turkish rivalry. The negotiations often empowered hard-line veto players within the two rivals’ societies to pose severe challenges to the leaders and their soft-line allies seeking negotiated solutions to the rivalry by hinting of electoral punishment. Expecting that continued diplomatic efforts would undermine their hold on power by inviting the hard-liners’ accusations of “traitors” or “appeasers,” the leaders of the Greco-Turkish rivalry delayed and even discarded the efforts, thereby making the rivalry persist through the failures of negotiations.
The first comprehensive effort to end the enmity between the two rivals through negotiations occurred immediately after the 1974 Cyprus War. During the war, Turkey occupied nearly thirty percent of northern Cyprus and accelerated its effort to control the island. As the crisis escalated, however, an intense diplomatic campaign by the United States and Britain propelled the two rivals to hold a peace conference at Geneva in which they issued a declaration. It called for: 1) a cease-fire; 2) the evacuation of the Turkish enclaves occupied by Greek and Greek-Cypriot forces; 3) the exchange of military and civilian personnel; and 4) the re-establishment of a constitutional government in Cyprus (Bahcheli 1990, 99). However, the Geneva Conference achieved little, due to the challenge from Greek and Turkish hard-line veto players. On the Greek side, the nationalist PASOK consistently pushed Prime Minister Karamanlis away from the peace conference. Hard pressed by the hawkish oppositions from the NSP and NAP, Turkish Prime Minister Ecevit also restarted military drills in Cyprus, which culminated in the collapse of the Geneva Conference (Adamson 2001, 288).
The second diplomatic effort to normalize Greek-Turkish relationships occurred during a military crisis in the Aegean in 1974. In June 1974, Turkey sent an oceanographic vessel, accompanied by several warships, to explore parts of the Aegean where Greek and Turkish claims to the continental shelf overlapped (Clogg 1991, 16). Athens’ reaction was low-key, chiefly a diplomatic note and the deployment of a small naval force. When the crisis flared up, both the US and UK forced the two rivals to sign the “Berne Protocol” in November 1976, in which they promised to negotiate on the continental shelf issue and in the meantime to refrain from any drilling (Ibid., 20). The Protocol, however, hardly contributed to settling the dispute in the Aegean. In the 1977 election, the vote share of the PASOK doubled. Armed with a strong nationalist cause of the enosis, the PASOK consistently demanded the cancellation of the Protocol (Coufoudakis 1991, 48). Turkish hard-line veto players like NSP and NAP also were allied against the Protocol. The mounting challenges from these hard-line elements generated great political costs for Greek Prime Minister Karamanlis and Turkish Prime Minister Demirel, thereby blocking their further attempts to implement the Protocol. The Protocol was finally cancelled when the PASOK took power in 1981.
The most critical moment for Greco-Turkish rapprochement came in 1986 when the two rivals came to the brink of war. In 1986, Greece’s government decided to drill in the contested Aegean areas. Turkey dispatched a warship to block Greece’s drilling effort, which in turn led to Greece’s deployment of a warship in the area (Clogg 1991, 20). The possibility of a full-scale war between the two heavy-armed rivals became real for the first time since 1974. Turkish Prime Minister ?zal, however, took a soft-line stance by stating that, “if they don’t touch our ship, we don’t touch their ship” (Birand 1991, 32). This statement gave Papandreou, the Greek counterpart, the strong impression that he would be a man of peace who did not want war. Thus, both sides began to take confidencebuilding measures, which led to the Davos peace process in 1988.
The Davos meeting was the first diplomatic initiative in which the two rivals attempted to terminate decades-long hostility at “all fronts.” The meeting brought hope to both Athens and Ankara that long-standing hostility would end by negotiations at the highest levels. Turkish Prime Minister ?zal believed that now was the time for both to break up the long-standing feud and to reap the gains from economic cooperation (Birand 1991, 37). Greek Prime Minister Papandreou also felt the need to avoid future crises that would result in an all-out war and to look toward mutual benefits from cooperation (Ibid.). The common interests in the prevention of outright war and in economic cooperation thus led to a “no-war agreement” at Davos.
As the Davos peace process continued, however, both Papandreou and ?zal came to realize that they faced formidable political challenges at home. In Greece, institutional warfare between Papandreou’s officials and opposition ND erupted. In the parliamentary debate followed the Davos meeting. For example, Mitsotakis, the hard-line leader of the ND, accused Papandreou of “abandoning the cause of Cyprus and of having embarked in negotiations without making substantive talks contingent upon a Turkish troop withdrawal from Cyprus” (Coufoudakis 1991, 52). The ND’s challenge, coupled with the PASOK’s failure of other domestic policies, provoked Papandreou’s fear of losing power and made him shy away from carrying out the Davos agreements (Pridham 1991, 81). On the Turkish side, Prime Minister ?zal and his soft-line officials also had to meet political challenges from hard-line elements in government. The Kemalist opposition parties such as SDPP and DLP, which had a strong belief that anything other than an “iron fist policy” can hint of Turkey’s weakness, accused ?zal’s policy of being “premature” and “making too many concessions without rewards” (Coufoudakis 1991, 53). The political challenge from these hard-line elements made it prohibitively expensive for ?zal to move forward with the initiative, leading to a significant delay in the implementation of the Davos agreements. Akiman, who witnessed the Davos peace process as Turkey’s ambassador to Greece, summarized the causes of the collapse of the process as follows:
The hard-liners in the Greek cabinet were unhappy with the Davos process. Their pressure on Papandreou eventually made the latter quietly shy away from this affair. In Turkey, too, ?zal’s opponents used this Greek reluctance as an opportunity for them to criticize his government, themselves. As a result, the committee meetings slowly ground to a halt, and a great opportunity for both sides was lost (Akiman 2002, 29).
The two rivals’ most recent effort to end their mutual hostility by negotiations was made against the backdrop of the 1996 Imia-Kardak crisis. The crisis originated from the Greek Parliament’s ratification of the Law of the Sea Convention and Turkey’s aggressive response to the ratification, which brought the two rivals to the brink of a major war (Hickok 1998, 124-125). The crisis, however, created a strong impetus for the two adversaries to begin the peace process again. In 1996, Erbakan, the leader of Turkish Islamist Welfare Party (WP), and a new prime minister in the coalition with ?iller’s True Path Party (TPP), made it clear that his government would be a compromise government (Athanassopoulou 1997, 88). The newly elected Greek Prime Minister Simitis also agreed to pursue a compromise over the Aegean dispute. The two rivals’ movements in the direction of compromise entered a new phase in April 1997 when they accepted a proposal of the Dutch presidency of the EU to establish a committee of “wise men” to study pending bilateral problems (Ibid., 92).
Yet, the two rival leaders’ diplomatic efforts were faced with mounting criticism inside their governments. In Greece, the ND conservatives began to accuse the government of going too far in the direction of compromising Greece’s national interests (Hickok 1998, 119). Political backlash also occurred in Turkey. The MP leader Yilmaz, who formed a new coalition government with the DSP and DLP, was prevented from keeping Turkey’s commitment to the compromise because the nationalist DLP pushed Prime Minister Yilamz not to cooperate with Greece by hinting of its withdrawal from the coalition (Athanassopoulou 1997, 93). These hard-line pressures encouraged the two rivals’ leaders to seize a middle ground – i.e., the “Madrid Declaration,” which was, at best, a non-binding and anti-war agreement having no effect on the resolutions of the Aegean dispute. (Clogg 1992, 228). All the diplomatic efforts that both Greece and Turkey made to resolve their disputes at negotiation tables and the major hard-line veto players who blocked the efforts and the consequential outcomes of the efforts are summarized in Table 3.
Together, the leaders in the Greco-Turkish rivalry constantly failed to settle their contested issues at the negotiation table due to the domestic political hurdles that the hard-line veto players presented. The diplomatic efforts from the 1974 Geneva Conference to the 1986 Davos peace process to the most recent Madrid negotiations structured domestic politics in the rivalry such that the hard-line veto players were enabled and prompted to block their leaders’ efforts to resolve both the Cyprus and the Aegean disputes at negotiation tables by hinting of electoral punishment. Worried about the punishment, the leaders of the rivalry frequently delayed or discarded their diplomatic efforts to resolve the issues at the negotiation table. In this way, the Greco-Turkish rivalry persisted through the failures of negotiated solutions.

My research begins with a simple question “why do international rivalries persist across time?” To answer the question, the paper develops a “modified two-level game” approach of rivalry maintenance and tests the hypotheses drawn from the approach for the case of the 2nd Greco-Turkish rivalry, 1958-2001. My central claim is that the maintenance of international rivalries is the result of rival leaders’ efforts to maximize their interest – i.e., staying in power – subject to both external and internal constraints. At the international level, the approach postulates, the great powers’ interventions in the military conflicts between rivals prevent rival leaders from resolving the issues in disputes on the battlefield by increasing the chance that the powers can undermine the leaders’ political standing through the adoption of military and political sanctions. At the internal level, the approach claims, the challenge from hard-line veto players makes it extremely difficult for the leaders to resolve the issues in disputes through negotiation by increasing the chance that they may be electorally punished by the hard-line veto players. Worried about the risks associated with both the battlefield- and negotiated solutions, therefore, the rival leaders decide to maintain rivalries across time.
The major contribution of this paper to extant scholarship on the maintenance of international rivalries is two-fold. First, the paper develops a more nuanced but comprehensive theoretical framework for understanding rivalry maintenance process by paying balanced attention to the variables that have been examined separately. Both international and internal factors are carefully intertwined to explain why office-seeking rival leaders decide to maintain a costly rivalry over time. Second, the paper conducts an in-depth historical examination of the persistence of the 2nd Greco-Turkish rivalry from 1958 to 2001 through the application of a modified two-level game approach and finds that the causal mechanisms that the approach identifies are very clearly manifested in the rivalry. Specifically, the paper demonstrates that the leaders of the Greco-Turkish rivalry, who wanted to maximize their interest – i.e., staying in power – had to maintain the rivalry over an extended period of time due to the constraints that great power interventions and the political challenges from the hard-line veto players created.
Despite such interesting findings, however, this research is the initial step for the complete understanding of the dynamics of rivalry maintenance. Since my research primarily focuses on political elites – i.e., leaders and major veto groups – operating within both international and domestic constraints, it rarely examines the impact of media and the patriotic public on rivalry maintenance. Several studies have already noticed that the pressure from nationalist media supported by the patriotic public is another possible reason why rivalries persist for long periods of time (Mor 1997; Huth 1998). Future research must devote more attention to such micro-political foundations of rivalry maintenance. It also should be noted that the paper utilizes a single-case study – i.e., the 2nd Greco-Turkish rivalry, 1958-2001 – to prove the relevance of a modified two-level game approach. To increase the validity of the approach, therefore, future studies need to test the approach against a large number of rivalry-maintenance cases.
While much work remains to be done, there are clear lessons to be drawn from this research. In the context of an entrenched rivalry like the Greek-Turkish one, the leaders seeking to end the rivalry need to develop a strategy, which will be comprehensive enough to overcome the constraints from great power patrons and hard-line veto players. The strategy designed to overcome only one of the two constraints will be destined to fail. Given decreasing utility of war as a solution to rivalries, the only remaining option will be the negotiated termination of rivalries. The leaders therefore should devise a strategy, which will encourage their great power patrons to be an honest and impartial broker, and to tame the powers of the hard-line veto players. Without the strategy, rivals will be trapped in a vicious cycle of confrontation-negotiation-confrontation.
Table. 1. Review of Previous Studies of Rivalry Maintenance
Table. 2. Greece’s and Turkey’s Militarized Interstate Disputes (MIDs), the U.S./NATO Interventions, and Outcomes, 1958-2001
Table. 3. Greece’s and Turkey’s Negotiated Attempts, Hard-line Veto Groups, and Outcomes, 1958-2001
1)The paper’s definition of international rivalries is built upon Klein, Goertz and Diehl (2006)’s renewed concept of international rivalries. Goertz and Diehl (1992; 1995; 2000) initially defined rivalries as “the repeated hostile interaction of the same states” and categorize them into two types -i.e., proto- and enduring rivalries. Much of the work conducted by rivalry scholars has heavily utilized the concept of enduring rivalries. However, the concept has received criticism from various scholars of rivalries because of its restrictive criteria for enduring rivalries, i.e., “conflicts between the same two states that involve at least five Militarized Interstate Disputes (MIDs) within 20 years.” Responding to the criticism, Klein, Goertz and Diehl re-conceptualize international rivalries as a “dyad between the two same states characterized by: 1) repeated hostile interaction; 2) high levels of militarized disputes over an extended period of time; and 3) the interrelation of issues in disputes.” By relaxing the criteria for rivalries this way, they expand a scope of analysis to a pair of states, which is inherently conflict-prone against each other over the issues in disputes (2006, 332-340).
2)According to Tsebelis, institutional veto players refer to “collective actors whose agreement is needed to alter existing policies” (Tsebelis 2002, 37).
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SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a bachelor's degree in political science and international relations as well as a Master's degree in international security studies, alongside a passion for web development. During my studies, I gained a strong understanding of key political concepts, theories in international relations, security and strategic studies, as well as the tools and research methods used in these fields.

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