Thursday, November 12, 2009

Large Aegean Exercise Planned

Strategy-Geopolitics, amongst others, reported on an article of Eleftheros Typos newspaper today. The new website of the newspaper is still under construction so the article was available in print only.

The military leadership of the Ministry of Defence is planning a “Parmenion” style exercise involving the entire Aegean. The aim is to underline the strategic importance of Greece and the role the country can play in the wider area. The idea is to conduct this exercise with participating forces from as many NATO partners as possible.

The scenario of the exercise will resemble the yearly “Parmenion” exercise which is conducted by all three branches of the military. The initiative was discussed and approved at the highest level but planning is still at the initial stage. The exercise will probably take place in 2010 or 2011. It can be seen as an answer to Turkey’s continuing questioning of Greek sovereignty and Turkey’s efforts to become a regional power, with the aid of the US.

Analysts see Turkey’s recent change in foreign policy towards Muslim countries as a way to create a bridge between the US and Iran. This would be somewhat in line with US President Obama’s policy on improving relations all around. The Turkish policy has stirred objections in Israel, however, which is in need of allies. Athens is trying to take advantage of the rift between Turkey and Israel, albeit gently so as not to see a backlash, mainly from Iran.

From 6 to 13 December a joint exercise will be held between Greece and Israel (more here). This exercise will focus on Combat Search and Rescue. Israel has also asked for the “Glorious Spartan” exercise to be repeated next year.

Hellenic Defence News note: It will be interesting to see what the reaction of NATO partners will be to the inclusion of the entire Aegean in the exercise plan. NATO for example refuses to include Limnos Island in NATO defence planning due to objections from Turkey. Also, when Turkey conducted its “Hegemon” exercise in the Aegean recently NATO allies were careful to take Greek objections with regards to Aegean airspace into account. The question is whether the allies will also take Turkish “sensitivities” into account in the case of the Greek exercise, thereby undermining the exercise altogether.

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