Athanassios Pitsoulis, Soeren C. Schwuchow
October 13, 2014
Pointing out the remarkable levels of hostile interaction in the air space over contested territory between states like China and Japan or Greece and Turkey we argue that air space incursions can be interpreted as a rational strategy with ultimately political aims. In our interpretation deliberate intrusions of military aircraft into sensitive air space serve as an indirect risk-generating mechanism, as they will trigger scrambles of the opposed government’s air force which may escalate into a military crisis. We derive testable hypotheses from a game-theoretic model, which we developed in earlier work to explore the strategic logic behind this risk-generating mechanism more rigorously. In order to test whether the model’s predictions regarding the effect of short-term economic developments on the states’ interaction hold, we built a database of daily event observations from the Hellenic National Defence General Staff reports of the last 4 years, containing time series data of Turkish intrusions into Greek-claimed air space and the number of dogfights between Greek and Turkish fighter planes. What we find is that not only Greek engagements of Turkish intruders but also massed, provocative Turkish intrusions have become significantly less likely after the onset of the Greek economic crisis. These findings are well in line with the predictions of the model and thus supportive of our theory.