Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Reason Greece Could Lose the Aegean Dispute - Part II



Part II

If it is indeed true that Greece has accepted to start talks with Turkey on the various issues Turkey raises then Greece is de facto accepting that Turkey has a point to begin with. This is in itself a radical departure from a policy which all Greek governments have followed for decades. Accepting to negotiate about a ridiculous claim will be presented by Turkey as there being grounds to indeed talk about the claim. This will inevitably put Greece in a difficult political position as Greece will be unwilling to “give” in the negotiation. Unless the Greek government commits treason the negotiations between the two sides are doomed to fail. The reason is simple. The stakes in the discussions all have to do with Greek sovereign issues. Greek islands, Greek airspace, Greek territorial waters. The only thing that can be labelled as a bilateral issue is that of the division of the Continental Shelf between the two countries. However, International Law does not favour the Turkish position on this issue.

For years there has been speculation about the existence of oil under the Aegean seabed. There have been several studies done into possible oil fields but any real conclusive results have never been made public. Also, the two countries have committed to not explore for oil outside of their territorial waters. This essentially blocks only Greece from exercising her legitimate rights as the majority of the Aegean would legally fall within the Greek Continental Shelf, or more correctly in Greece’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The geographic situation is such that the delimitation of Exclusive Economic Zones between the two countries would overwhelmingly favour Greece. The only way Greece would agree to a delimitation favouring Turkey would be as a result of the threat of violence from Turkey of treachery from within Greece. The second is very farfetched and the first is something that so far Greece has not been swayed by.

Turkey’s Strategic Option against Greece

Turkey has several reasons for wanting to control the Aegean besides oil. The main reason has to do with Turkey’s strategic fear of encirclement. For decades this fear has been pounded into the Turkish psyche, combined with the position that Turkey needs room to breathe (Lebensraum anyone?). As a result Turkey vehemently opposes Greece’s right to expand her territorial waters to 12 nautical miles with the threat of war. The argument against the Greek expansion is that it would turn the Aegean into a Greek lake. The argument that Greek territorial waters expansion would turn the Aegean into a Greek lake is a silly one. Greece owns over 95% of the islands in the Aegean so it is only natural that the majority of the sea itself would be Greek. There are sufficient safeguards in place in International Law to protect Turkish (legitimate) interests. We will not go into the territorial waters debate here but into the strategic implication of the current situation.

Ultimately Turkey knows that there is only one way to control the Aegean. That way is by controlling the Aegean islands. The fact that Greece currently only claims 6 nautical miles in terms of territorial waters means that Turkey can hold military exercises around Greek islands as many islands are not “connected” by Greek waters but instead interrupted by strips of international waters. This happens routinely. Each year several Turkish exercises are held which are blatantly meant to prepare the Turkish armed forces to invade Greek islands. Turkish vessels will be loaded with armour and marines and sail around Greek islands. At the same time the Turkish Air Force will attempt to blockade these islands from the air while Turkey’s politicians demand that Greece disarms its islands. The threat is so obvious that most other countries would most likely react with military action in a similar situation. Imagine Russian troops in the height of the cold war practising invasion exercises right outside US territorial waters off the Louisiana Coast in the Gulf of Mexico. The results would be deadly. There are some things that are simply not done, especially by so called allies, unless of course you’re Turkey.

The situation described above keeps Turkey’s offensive option against Greece open. Since controlling the Aegean means that you need to control the islands that is exactly what Turkey is preparing for. And this is a policy pursued on several levels by Turkey. For example, for decades Turkey has been trying to get operational control of half the Aegean airspace for NATO purposes. If Turkey would become successful in this the practical result would be that Greek military aircraft flying over Greek islands in the eastern Aegean could be labelled as hostile by Turkey for NATO purposes and Turkey could deploy NATO assets to intercept Greek aircraft flying over Greek sovereign territory. Although this sounds ridiculous not one of Greece’s NATO partners has spoken out against this policy. Instead NATO sticks its head in the sand pursuing a policy of keeping an equal distance between Greece and Turkey.

To be continued

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Reason Greece Could Lose the Aegean Dispute



Part I



A lot has been written in the last few days about the Greek Prime Minister’s response to the letter he received from Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan. Depending on the source of the article, or more specifically the political orientation of the writer, the comments on PM Papandreou’s response are neutral to extremely critical. We would hereby like to focus on why some responses are so critical and the dangers that are inherent to a policy of appeasement towards Turkey. The point here is not to go into every detail of every issue but to highlight the dangerous and slippery slope Greece is being dragged to.

To take things from the beginning, several weeks ago the Greek PM received a letter from his Turkish counterpart regarding the relations between the two countries. In true Turkish political fashion, the usual list of Turkish claims made their appearance. The Greek side carefully studied the letter and has now finally come with a response. Media sources which are politically and ideologically close to the government have described the Greek response as one which tells Turkey to first and foremost respect Greek territorial sovereignty (we’re sort of past that but anyhow) and International Law (the ultimate expression of Greek wishful thinking). Sources closer to the opposition are quick to point out that this is the first time a Greek Prime Minister agrees to the Turkish demand of negotiating all issues of the Aegean from scratch and as a whole. The Greek response can be read in several ways; however, even when trying to keep the utmost neutrality from a Greek political standpoint, it is clear that Greece is opening the door to discuss issues that were once off limits. The reason these issues are off limits are because they all had to do with Greek sovereignty. In international relations sovereignty is the essence of that which is not negotiable.

The Greek PM’s response to Turkish PM Erdogan accepts that all issues between the two sides must be negotiated at a high level. If a settlement cannot be found then the issues should be referred to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. And this is exactly the slippery slope we’re talking about.

When discussing Aegean issues with other Europeans a question often heard is why Greece is against negotiating on all issues. The answer is simple. Negotiations are an issue of give and take. When it comes to Turkish claims in the Aegean the only one who stands to lose something is Greece. The only one who stands to gain something is Turkey. That is not a negotiation, it is extortion, and in the case of the Aegean it is one accompanied by the threat of war as officially sanctioned by the Turkish Parliament. To draw a silly parallel in this case, imagine a burglar breaking into your home and then claiming your home is actually his. In the spirit of “give and take” negotiations shouldn’t the burglar get half your home? If the burglar claims half your home, should he get a quarter? Of course not, this is exactly why we have laws and police and courts and such. Ownership is a given. In the arena of international politics there is international law and there are treaties but let’s face it, for the most part things are settled in terms of power.

Part II coming soon

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Amphibious Vehicles for Greece


DefenceNet reports that the Greek Army will imminently acquire second hand AAV-7 amphibious fighting vehicles, M-113A2 APCs and M901A1/A2 Integrated Tow Vehicles from US stocks. The vehicles will partly cover immediate needs with a very low cost which essentially will be the cost of depot level maintenance. The reason current needs will only partly be covered is due to the fact that the AAV-7 does not have a good level of survivability which is also the reason it will be replaced in US service. The M-113s will be either used for spares or to replace vehicles already serving in the Greek Army but are immobilised due to a lack of parts. The M901s form a ¡n important reinforcement.

This is the type of acquisition Minister of Defence Venizelos referred to last week when he spoke about “smart and economical choices” in weapons acquisitions, which do not necessarily also mean they are the best choice. The vehicles have already been inspected by Greek Army officers and are being accepted “as is, where is”.

The AAV-7 has a height of 3.26 metres and an excellent transport capability. Besides the three man crew it can carry 25 people, in other words it can roughly carry a platoon. With the current Greek personnel levels 28 people are closer top forming a company. It is expected that in Greek service the vehicles will transport 10 to 12 troops at most.

The vehicle is equipped with a .50 cal machine gun and a Mk-19 40mm grenade launcher. In 1984 the producer (FMC) produced the A1H version with improvements in suspension, fuel management and flotation. The weight of the vehicle is 22.7 tonnes. The original plan to acquire an amphibious armoured fighting vehicle is listed as the fourth priority for the Army with a budget of 100 million Euros. This considerable sum will now be saved.

In either event the acquisition of thee AAV-7 more than covers the needs of the Marine Battalion as 100 vehicles will be acquired. The armour is of a middle level (around 45 mm of aluminium alloy) and the engine produces 18 hp per tonne. The range is 480 km and the maximum speed 64 km/h.

The acquisition of the M901s will save a further 78,500,000 Euros and involves 72 vehicles, launchers and related equipment. The exact number of launchers is still unknown but Army sources refer to between 50 and 80 systems. The M901 carries a twin automatic TOW2 launcher with a range of 3,750 metres.

With regards to the plan to acquire 30 Russian made BMP-3F amphibious vehicles as an offset to the agreement to acquire 420 BMP-3HL Army sources stated that other offset forms are being looked into which will emphasize the creation of an industrial base which will support and maintain the BMP-3s. It is possible the offset agreement will include other types of vehicles such as support vehicles. Either way, the BMP-3HEL can easily be converted into a fully amphibious vehicle with the addition of a conversion kit.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Turkish Scheme to Create Conflict with Greece


En Kripto reports on an article by the Turkish Taraf newspaper which uncovers a 2003 plan by the Turkish military to topple the Erdogan government. The plan was based on creating tension with Greece that could lead to a conflict.

The details of the plan went as far as to include the idea of allowing a Turkish fighter aircraft to crash as a result of direct Greek action. Taraf newspaper reports that the plan was set up by 162 officers of the Turkish armed forces of which 29 were high level officers.

The ultimate aim, according to Taraf, was the fall of the Erdogan government and the plan included an air force scenario. The entire endeavour was classified as top secret and dated February of 2003. It was signed by the head of the Turkish Air Force General Ibrahim Firtina.

Under the header “Duty” the plan states: “With the aim of announcing martial law in all of Turkey ... the General Air Force staff will increase tension with Greece, it will provoke the supporters of Islamic backwardness and their actions against the Turkish Armed Forces”.

In another part of the plan the following is stated:

“During flights over the Aegean Greek Air Force aircraft will be provoked and a confrontational atmosphere will be created. If at all possible the crash of one of our aircraft by the Greek Air Force will be provoked and if this fails we will stage the shooting down of one of our aircraft at the right place and the right time by a pilot of the special squadron which has been reorganised. The mass media will receive the news about the loss of our aircraft due to the Greek Air Force and the weakness of the ruling Justice and Development Party on this issue will be made clear.”

According to Taraf the plan to create a conflict with Greece also states:

“In the framework of the General Air Force Staff and especially in the squadrons the hostility and tension towards the Greek Air Force will be increased in a controlled way so that the pilots are more aggressive during flights. It will be unofficially announced to the pilots that in similar circumstances they can even open fire in the framework of legal self defence.”

The newspaper goes on to say that at the same time the conflict in the air takes place the plan aimed at increasing tension on the Thrace border and the creation of a martial atmosphere in the entire area.

From a further passage from the plan:

“The tension will also be increased on the border in Thrace. Patrols will be carried out near the Thracian border and joint Air Force and Navy exercises will take place in the Aegean. The airbases of Balikeshir, Tcigli, Tsorlou and Dalaman will have aircraft on a 24 hour alert which will scramble at the slightest episode. The command of 134 Squadron will perform displays every two days, in different cities, as invitees of the chambers of commerce, business people, bar associations etc. The sympathy towards the Turkish Armed Forces from the people will increase and during the displays gifts will be handed out to the public, especially to children.”

Hellenic Defence News note: It would be interesting to know to what extent the Greek Intelligence Services knew about these plans. It should also be remembered that Captain Kostas Iliakis was killed in May of 2006 during exactly the kind of incident the plan describes. At the time several sources reported that Turkey managed to launch 80 aircraft within a very short space of the crash and the Chiefs of Staff from both sides had to communicate to avoid the worst.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Another Tense Day Expected in the Aegean


DefenceNet reports that yesterday 14 Turkish fighter aircraft breached Greek airspace. The complete formation consisted of 16 aircraft of which half were armed. The activity took place across the entire Aegean. Today a Greek exercise will commence in the area between Mykonos, Ikaria and Fournoi which Turkey has also tried to reserve for its own exercises. It will be interesting to see how the opposing forces will interact today.

Also, the NOTAM battle continues with the Greek Civil Aviation Authority issuing a new NOTAM with which it nullifies the Turkish NOTAMs:

A0084/10 - REF (A) GREEK NOTAM A0061/10 LGGGYNYX
REF (B) GREEK NOTAM A2435/09 AND A2441/09 LGGGYNYX
REF (C) TURKISH NOTAM A0184/10 LTAAYNYX (151208 EUECYIYN JAN 2010)
NAVIGATIONAL WARNING TO ALL CONCERNED:
THIS NOTAM IS ISSUED TO STATE THAT THE REF (C) TURKISH NOTAM A0184/10 LTAAYNYX IS NULL AND VOID SINCE IT REFERS TO TURKISH MILITARY ACTIVITIES WITHIN ATHINAI FIR, WHERE THE ONLY COMPETENT AUTHORITY TO PROMULGATE NOTAMS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE INTERNATIONAL RULES AND REGULATIONS IS THE HELLENIC CAA THROUGH THE HELLENIC ATS, AIS UNITS. FURTHERMORE THE HELLENIC POSITIONS REGARDING THE SAID MILITARY ACTIVITIES, WHICH HAD BEEN ANNOUNCED BY TURKISH NOTAM A3914/09, HAVE ALREADY BEEN EXPRESSED IN OUR REF (B) NOTAMS A2435/09 AND A2441/09 LGGGYNYX, THEY REMAIN UNCHANGED AND ARE THE ONLY VALID AND EFFECTIVE WITHIN ATHINAI FIR, AS WELL AS OUR REF (A) NOTAM A0061/10 LGGGYNYX). 19 JAN 05:00 2010 UNTIL 21 JAN 08:30 2010. CREATED: 18 JAN 08:27 2010

The Turkish side immediately reacted with the following NOTAM:

A0216/10 (Issued for LTBB LGGG) - REFERENCE (A)TURKISH WARNING NOTAM A3914/09
REFERENCE (B)TURKISH WARNING NOTAM A0184/10
REFERENCE (C) GREEK WARNING NOTAM A0061/10 LGGGYNYX
REFERENCE (D) GREEK WARNING NOTAM A0084/10 LGGGYNYX
NAVIGATIONAL WARNING TO ALL CONCERNED:
THE VIEWS EXPRESSED IN TURKISH NAVIGATIONAL WARNING NOTAMS IN REF  (A) AND REF (B) WITH RESPECT TO TURKISH FIRING TASMO EXERCIS WITHIN INTERNATIONAL AIRSPACE REMAIN UNCHANGED AND THE NOTAMS IN REF (A) AND REF (B) ARE EFFECTIVE. THE GREEK NOTAMS IN REF (C) AND REF (D) ARE NULL AND VOID. TURKEY ALSO WOULD LIKE TO UNDERLINWE THAT NO FURTHER EXPLANATION WILL BE GIVEN TO ANY OBJECTION RAISED TO TURKISH WARNING NOTAMS A3914/09 AND A0184/10. SFC - FL999, 19 JAN 05:00 2010 UNTIL 21 JAN 08:30 2010. CREATED: 18 JAN 12:44 2010

In related news it has been reported that the Air Force General Staff is proposing that two out of three Forward Operating Bases will no longer be used for cost cutting reasons. These two will be Kastelli and Skyros. The Limnos FOB will survive the cost cuts due to its location.

If the Skyros FOB will indeed cease to operate Tanagra (114CW) and Anchialos (111CW) will take over alert duties. Likewise, the 115th Combat Wing in Souda will take over for the Kastelli FOB. What needs to carefully be considered in these decisions is the increased distance of the main bases to the area of operations compared to the FOBs. This will result in smaller “on station” times while carrying out patrols.

The changes can work as long as there is enough time for interceptor aircraft to reach the areas where airspace violations occur as the advance warning time of approaching aircraft from the east is around 30 minutes.

HDN note: We find it hard to believe that a base as important as the one on Skyros will be abandoned. This is one of the most important bases in the Hellenic Air Force due to its location and infrastructure. Also, any money saved from not using it will likely be lost on increased flight times needed from other (main) bases.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Fascinating World of Double Standards


About a week ago Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan met his Lebanese counterpart, Hariri, who visited Turkey. Erdogan made several sharp statements directed at Israel and its policies against Lebanon as a result of those meetings. Here are some things Erdogan said:

“It is impossible for us to remain silent about what Israel has been doing. We believe that pressure should be exerted on the Israeli administration. According to UN resolutions, Israel has violated rules over 100 times. If they are not to be implemented, why do these rules exist?”

This is a very strong and clear message directed against what once was one of Turkey’s closest allies in the region. And we do agree with what Turkish PM Erdogan is saying. After all, peace is in everyone’s interest. But what about Cyprus? Are there not similar UN resolutions in place against Turkey? Who will speak out for those?

The story goes on. Erdogan was also quoted as saying “we will never stay silent” with regards to Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace and branded that as an “unacceptable action that threatens global peace”. Did we hear that right? Is the Turkish Prime Minister claiming that military over flights of another country’s airspace can threaten global peace? Having recently seen the statistics of the number of over flights the Turkish Air Force has conducted of Greek territory in 2009 Erdogan’s comment “sent us flying”.

The Turkish Air Force conducted 51 over flights of Greek sovereign territory in 2009. These are not airspace violations, of which there were thousands, but actual over flights of Greek soil, including mock bombing runs on Greek installations. Also, the number 51 point to incidents, each “incident” consisting of multiple aircraft, usually between 2 and 6.

Maybe we’re looking at this too simplistically but is all this not a clear admission by Turkey that Turkey in fact threatens world peace? Obviously, all idealism aside, nobody in Turkey will ever admit that and there will always be some excuse as to why Turkey’s own hostile actions are actually in the interest of peace and so forth. Also, double standards are practically the essence of international politics. But really, normally we’re used to their implementation being a bit more subtle. You have to hand it to Turkey. They have the guts and conviction to say what they stand for, even if they totally contradict themselves.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Turkey “Forbidding” Greece to Conduct Military Exercises


DefenceNet reports on the continuing tension in the Aegean between Greek and Turkish forces. A few hours after an announcement regarding the discovery of a new oil field on the northern Aegean 8 Turkish fighter aircraft “visited” the area. They entered the Aegean between Chios and Samos where the Turkish Air Force and Navy are conducting a large live fire exercise. The aircraft headed north towards the north Aegean oil fields and exited in the direction of the Dardanelles Straits.

The Turkish aircraft were intercepted by Mirage 2000-5 MkII fighters from the Skyros Forward Operating Base and by F-16C Block 52+ aircraft from the Kastelli FOB. The Greek aircraft approached the Turkish aircraft from the southwest and escorted them out of the area.

During their flight the Turkish aircraft breached Greek airspace 3 times.

According to Energean, which discovered the oil field, the new field (“E”) potentially holds the equivalent of 40,000,000 barrels from oil which is a large amount for the area. The potential for other accessible oil fields in the area can double this amount.

At the same time Turkey as pulled out all the stops by issuing a NOTAM which essentially tries to prohibit the Greek Air Force and Navy from conducting an exercise a few miles outside Mykonos Islands, in other words an area surrounded by Greek islands.

From information available to DefenceNet is seems that this is the first time that Turkey issues a NOTAM “forbidding” the use of the area between Mykonos, Fournoi and Ikaria for exercises by Greece. Turkey’s NOTAM is obviously null and void as it affects an area inside the Athens FIR. Turkey’s previous NOTAM for the area is also considered as void by Greece.

All of Turkey’s NOTAMs in question are within the Athens FIR for which only the Greek Civil Aviation Authority has jurisdiction. Turkey is using supposed violations by Greece of the Lausanne Treaty with regards to Ikaria and Fournoi and does not recognise Greece’s right to reserve these areas for exercises.

Below is the Greek NOTAM for the 19th to 21st of January:

A0061/10 - HELLENIC NAVY AND AIRFORCE WILL MAKE A WITHOUT FIRING EXER WITHIN ATHINAI FIR AS DESCRIBED BELOW:
1- AREA (WITHOUT FIRING) : 10NM RAD 370500N0261200E.
AWYS R19 AND L995 (LURUS-PIDAX) AFFECTED.
VERTICAL LIMITS: 0-FL100.
DATES AND TIMES: JAN 19 0500-0700.
2.- AREA (WITHOUT FIRING): 354000N0281300E 354000N0284900E 360800N0284900E 360800N0281300E.
AWYS R19 AND M601 (LAKAD-EXELA), G18 AND L609 (NILAS-ALKIS), L995(IRBAX-AMONO), L52 (TIRMO-LINRO), RODOS TMA AFFECTED.VERTICAL LIMITS: 0-FL100.DATE AND TIMES: JAN 21 0730-0830.
3.- PROCEDURES FOR EXERCISE AIRCRAFT:
3.1.- EXERCISE AIRCRAFT WILL FLY VFR/VMC IN ACCORDANCE WITH ICAO RULES AND PROCEDURES AS AMPLIFIED IN AIP-GREECE.
3.2.- EXERCISE AIRCRAFT WILL SUBMIT FLIGHT PLANS AND WILL NOT ENTER CONTROLLED AIRSPACE, UNLESS PRIOR PERMISSION HAS BEEN OBTAINED BY APPROPRIATE ATC UNIT.
4.- PROCEDURES FOR NON EXERCISE AIRCRAFT:
4.1.- IN THE INTEREST OF SAFETY DURING THE EXERCISE, NON EXERCISE AIRCRAFT ARE STRONGLY ADVISED NOT TO FLY WITHIN THE AREAS DESIGNATED IN PARAS (1) AND (2) ABOVE. 00000FT AMSL - FL100, DATES AND TIMES AS ITEM E,
19 JAN 05:00 2010 UNTIL 21 JAN 08:30 2010. CREATED: 14 JAN 12:30 2010


Below is the Turkish NOTAM:

A0184/10 (Issued for LTBB LGGG) - NAVIGATIONAL WARNING TO ALL CONCERNED:TURKEY REQUESTED THE GREEK AIS TO MODIFY THE LATERAL LIMITS OF THE FIRST AREA OF NOTAM A0061/10 WHICH OVERLAPS TURKISH EXERCISE AREA (WARNING NOTAM NR:A3914/09) WITHIN INTERNATIONAL AIRSPACE. GREEK AIS DID NOT MODIFY THE LATERAL LIMITS OF THE SAID AREA, THEREFORE THE GREEK NOTAM A0061/10 IS NULL AND VOID. TURKISH NAVIGATIONAL WARNING NOTAM A3914/09 IS VALID AND EFFECTIVE. SFC - FL100, 19 JAN 05:00 2010 UNTIL 21 JAN 08:30 2010. CREATED: 15 JAN 12:09 2010

Another Turkish exercise will be taking place east of Rhodes.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Air Violations and Tension around Imia


DefenceNet reports that today several Turkish fishing boats were expelled from Greek waters around Imia, signalling a harder stance from the Greek side with regards to illegal fishing by Turkish fishermen in Greek waters. The result is that currently in the wider area there is only one Turkish fishing boat operating in the wider area and in Turkish waters.

A Turkish CN-235 Maritime Patrol Aircraft was also found to be operating in the area but it is believed this was in the framework of the ongoing Turkish exercises East of Rhodes Island. Turkish military helicopters were also sighted south of Imia.

The Turkish fishing boats approached Imia this morning but Greek Coast Guard patrol boats intervened warning the Turkish boats that they were operating in Greek territorial waters and would be subject to Greek law if they did not leave the area. In some situations Turkish fishing boats and Greek patrol boats got very close, at which time a Turkish Coast Guard vessel appeared in the area. The Turkish Coast Guard vessel did not interfere and at this stage it continues to monitor the area from within Turkish territorial waters.

Large Turkish naval forces are present in the wider area due to the large live fire exercise which will continue tomorrow.

Today 10 Turkish F-16 entered the Aegean, operating from Bandirma and Balikeshir airbases. 6 of these entered the Aegean area between Chios and Samos and breached Greek airspace on 3 occasions. The other 4 aircraft entered between Lesbos and Limnos and breached Greek airspace 4 times.

Imia sees a concentration of fishing vessels this time each year. In previous years it was almost impossible for Greek fishermen to work there due to harassment from the Turkish Coast Guard.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Bomb Explodes outside Greek Parliament



The news of yesterday’s bomb attack outside the Greek Parliament has travelled the world by now. The cowardice of some never ceases to amaze. The bombers called “Eleutherotypia” newspaper 17 minutes before the blast warning about the bomb.

The one bit of news related to the bomb attack that deserves to be mentioned has to do with the men of the Presidential Guard. They were informed about the impending attack yet refused to leave their posts. The President had to intervene and ordered the police to remove the Evzones from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier before the blast.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

European Commission Scrutinising Greek Defence Spending


The main defence related news from Greece over the last 48 hours or so has to do with the fact that officials from the European Commission have been scrutinising Greek defence spending practises. This is being seen by several sources as having a direct effect on Greek Sovereignty and in can be related back to the statement the Greek PM made several weeks ago that the economic crisis can even endanger national sovereignty.

EC officials apparently were given insight into highly secret information crucial to the country’s defence. According to rumours Greek Defence Minister Venizelos objected strongly to such sensitive information being made available to these officials but his objections were overruled by the Prime Minister’s office.

The economic situation is such that the Greek Ministry of Defence will have to slash its operational spending by about 12%. Acquisition budgets will have to be adjusted downwards by roughly another 6%. As mentioned in the previous post, Greece would not be in such a dire economic situation if the defence budget was more “normal” and comparable to that of the EU average. Obviously ineffective economic policies and the notorious corruption that plagues the country have also greatly contributed. But let’s face it, many countries, including several European ones, have had and still have corruption issues. The one thing that sets Greece apart remains the disproportionate cost of defence which is the direct result of the Turkish threat.

Whether these EU officials were in Greece on a mere fact finding mission or whether their job was to give suggestions or even instructions on how to handle the deficit remains to be seen. Such intervention in core national issues is seen as an insult by many and parallels have been drawn to the German occupation in the Second World War. A reverse argument can be that such intervention is an expression of European solidarity and that Europe, as a whole, is making a genuine effort to band together and get through this crisis, especially the Euro countries. This would be a preferable way of looking at the situation and surely the European Commission would like to see it as such. The problem however remains that this solidarity is selective. Where was European solidarity when Turkish aircraft were violating Greek airspace on Christmas day? Where was European solidarity when Turkish fighter aircraft took off and headed towards the Greek PMs aircraft as he was flying back from a Greek island just a few days ago? Where is European solidarity when Greece is the only country faced with the official threat of war from a county aspiring to join the European Union?

The European Union will never live up to its true potential if it does not treat issues such as the military threat faced by Greece with the attention it deserves. Europe has the right to meddle in Greek economic affairs as they impact European Union stability. Europe has the obligation to get involved in the Greek security problem as this impacts European security.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Cost of Turkish Expansionism


Several Greek newspapers and blogs have commented on figures recently released by the Hellenic Air Force General Staff regarding the cost of interception of Turkish military aircraft over the Aegean. The figures more or less show that, on average, Greece spends €20 million per year on intercepting Turkish aircraft. Also, the figures show the hourly operating cost to be €10,000 for an F-16 and €11,000 for a Mirage 2000. These “operating costs” include fuel and man-hours and some spare parts. They do NOT however include the acquisition of the actual fighter aircraft (or their write-off), training, infrastructure or other acquisitions to make the interceptions possible (radar stations, communications equipment, AEW aircraft etc.).

The reality is that the €20 million cost incurred per year on average is totally misleading. As written before in this forum, Greece must order an average of 10 fighter aircraft per year to be able to keep up its required combat strength to face the Turkish threat. 10 fighter aircraft nowadays can cost anywhere between €500 million and €1.5 billion, depending on type, inclusion of spares, support, weapons etc. This is for the acquisition alone.

With the world trying to drag itself out of recession the Greek and international press is filled with stories about Greece potentially going bankrupt. The European Union is imposing severe measures on the Greek economy in order to reduce the budget deficit. Unfortunately Greece’s European partners do not take into consideration the fact that if it was not for Greece’s defence spending Greece would have the potential to have one of Europe’s healthiest economies. Greece has one of the highest per capita spending on arms in the world. Greece has one of the strongest militaries in the world, when compared to the size of its population, in order to combat an ever growing threat from Turkey.

At this moment in time Greece is being forced to cut its spending across the board and the government has already announced cuts in defence spending. Many European partners are lining up in order to win lucrative defence contracts from the Greek government and are at the same time arming Turkey and giving political support to Turkey’s expansionist policies. In this situation there is no shred of European solidarity to be found.

Unfortunately the situation today is the result of great errors in judgement on the side of Greek policy making. Turkey has been allowed to draw more and more Greek sovereign rights into question, use violence unpunished and in general create a pre-war atmosphere in order to gain ever growing concessions from Greece. This cannot lead to a positive outcome.

When all is said and done, any Greek government will continue to spend heavily on defence despite the announced austerity measures. Nobody wants to be responsible for leaving the country’s defences in a weak state and thereby invite an armed conflict with Turkey. Our allies will continue receiving huge defence contracts and then chastise the Greek government for its spending habits. In the end the Greek taxpayer will have to foot the bill.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Second Hand Training Aircraft for HAF


DefenceNet reports that the Hellenic Air Force is acquiring 7 second hand T-2C/E Buckeye training aircraft from the United States. The aircraft will arrive in Greece by Easter. The aircraft will all be flight worthy although most of the 7 aircraft will be used as a source of spare parts for the existing T-2 aircraft operating from the 120 Air Training Wing in Kalamata.

Today the Wing operates 35 T-2E and 5 T-2Cs in 362 and 363 Squadrons. These aircraft are also tasked with Close Air Support (CAS).

The aircraft will arrive from Jacksonville in Florida. The last T-2 aircraft were retired from the US Navy in 2008.

The acquisition of these 7 aircraft is an interim solution in order to retain operational effectiveness of advanced training in Kalamata. The plans to replace the ageing T-2 with a new Lead In Fighter Training aircraft is currently in the top three of priorities for the Air Force. Original plans were for 40 new aircraft with a budget of €900 million but the requirement was subsequently dropped to 37.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Accident Onboard Navy FAC


DefenceNet reports that a fire broke out in the engine room of the Hellenic Navy Fast Attack Craft P-22 (Mykonios) while at Souda Naval Base. The fire started during welding which was being carried out by a contractor.

The fire was extinguished by members of the crew after the workmen were evacuated from the engine room. The fire caused material damage only. The General Naval Staff has ordered an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the accident.

Note that this FAC was recently delivered back to the Navy from the Eleusina Shipyards after a Midlife Update (see here).