Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Turkish Warnings to FRONTEX Helicopter

DefenceNet reports that yesterday a Lithuanian Helicopter patrolling the Greek-Turkish border in the Evros province received 79 warnings by radio to leave the area as it was “approcahing” Turkish airspace. The helicopter was flying 500 to 2,000 meters from the border and in Greek airspace when this happened.

The warnings were made by the Canakkale radar station. This is not the first time that such incidents have occurred. The previous one happened last week.

This particular FRONTEX flight received the messages between 23:52 and 00:19 and landed back in Alexndroupoli at 01:12.

Hellenic Air Force Interceptions

A number of Greek websites commented on a recent newspaper article which described how the Hellenic Air Force has changed its approach to carrying out interceptions of Turkish Air Force fighter aircraft which violate Greek airspace or trespass in the Athens FIR without submitting flight plans.

Some procedures have supposedly changed as the Greek side has introduced some technological advantages which no longer make it necessary to engage in dangerous dogfights as often as in the past. An Air Force source went as far as to comment that lately Turkish pilots do not seek to enter into engagements with Greek pilots, presumably because they know that they will not win.

The issue is, however, whether this change is really due to the fact that there is no longer a need to enter into dogfights or whether Greek pilots have been ordered to keep their distance from Turkish fighters, in order to prevent accidents. Strategy-Geopolitics asks the question whether this is indeed the case and seeks to obtain some sort of clarification on the official Greek position.

If Greek pilots have indeed been ordered to not engage Turkish intruders beyond a 6 mile limit then Greece is de facto abandoning its position that its airspace is 10 nautical miles. It seems improbable that the number of dogfights can decrease while the number of Turkish incursions is on the rise. The two just don’t stack up. Unfortunately, as is usually the case, the Greek political leadership will likely not find it necessary to tell the Greek taxpayers the truth.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Turkish Provocations Continued

Yesterday Turkey managed to create another tense day by sending its fighter jets into a Greek firing range. There was more however. Ta Nea newspaper reported that Turkey also interfered with yet another FRONTEX mission. This time the target was a Lithuanian helicopter which was patrolling an area in the northern Aegean for illegal immigrants.

Everyone should remember that FRONTEX is the same organisation which is in talks with the Turks in order to find a way to “cooperate”. And these talks are anything but in Europe’s interests. Turkey is using these talks as yet another way to get its military to have a say in the Aegean.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

New Incident Involving the Turkish Air Force

Several sources report on an incident that happened today during which Turkish fighters entered the area of the Andros firing range where a Greek Navy Frigate was conducting live fire exercises. The Frigate was practicing against an aerial towed target when the Turkish aircraft entered the area.

DefenceNet goes as far as to report that some of the fire nearly hit the Turkish aircraft.

The exercise was halted and the hotline between Larissa and Eski Sehir was activated to deescalate the tension caused. Greek fighters were scrambled to intercept the Turkish aircraft.

Note that the recently uncovered Turkish Military lot against the Islamist government mentioned plans to provoke the shooting down of a Turkish Air Force aircraft by the Greek side in order to rally the people behind the Turkish armed forces.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Airspace Violations

DefenceNet reports that the Turkish Air Force violated Greek airspace on five occasions yesterday. Two formations of in total 14 aircraft entered the Athens FIR in the northern Aegean. Of the 14 aircraft 6 were armed. All aircraft were intercepted and identified by the Greek side.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Politics 101

Some of the Greek PM’s statements about the Greek economy and Greece in general have been a little shocking, to say the least. After coming to power he has said things such as Greece possibly going into bankruptcy and Greece losing part of her sovereignty as a result of the austerity measures effectively being imposed on Athens by the EU.

Today we read that that the Greek Finance Minister commented on the Greek economic situation by saying that “we are trying to change the course of the Titanic. This cannot be done in one day”.

To all the members of the Greek cabinet: please read the following carefully:

“A self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, by the very terms of the prophecy itself, due to positive feedback between belief and behavior. Although examples of such prophecies can be found in literature as far back as ancient Greece and ancient India, it is 20th-century sociologist Robert K. Merton who is credited with coining the expression "self-fulfilling prophecy" and formalizing its structure and consequences. In his book Social Theory and Social Structure, Merton gives as a feature of the self-fulfilling prophecy: Ie: when Roxanna falsely believes that her marriage will fail and fears such failure will occur that it actually causes the marriage to fail.

The self-fulfilling prophecy is, in the beginning, a false definition of the situation evoking a new behaviour which makes the original false conception come 'true'. This specious validity of the self-fulfilling prophecy perpetuates a reign of error. For the prophet will cite the actual course of events as proof that he was right from the very beginning.[1]

In other words, a prophecy declared as truth when it is actually false may sufficiently influence people, either through fear or logical confusion, so that their reactions ultimately fulfill the once-false prophecy.

History of the concept

Robert K. Merton's concept of the self-fulfilling prophecy stems from the Thomas theorem, which states that "If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences."[2] According to Thomas, people react not only to the situations they are in, but also, and often primarily, to the way they perceive the situations and to the meaning they assign to these perceptions. Therefore, their behavior is determined in part by their perception and the meaning they ascribe to the situations they are in, rather than by the situations themselves. Once people convince themselves that a situation really has a certain meaning, regardless of whether it actually does, they will take very real actions in consequence.

Merton took the concept a step further and applied it to recent social phenomena. In his book Social Theory and Social Structure, he conceives of a bank run at the fictional bank of Cartwright Millingville. It is a typical bank, and Millingville has run it honestly and quite properly. As a result, like all banks, it has some liquid assets (cash), but most of its assets are invested in various ventures. Then one day, a large number of customers come to the bank at once—the exact reason is never made clear. Customers, seeing so many others at the bank, begin to worry. False rumors spread that something is wrong with the bank and more customers rush to the bank to try to get some of their money out while they still can. The number of customers at the bank increases, as does their annoyance and excitement, which in turn fuels the false rumors of the bank's insolvency and upcoming bankruptcy, causing more customers to come and try to withdraw their money. At the beginning of the day—the last one for Millingville's bank—the bank was not insolvent. But the rumor of insolvency caused a sudden demand of withdrawal of too many customers, which could not be answered, causing the bank to become insolvent and declare bankruptcy. Merton concludes this example with the following analysis:

“The parable tells us that public definitions of a situation (prophecies or predictions) become an integral part of the situation and thus affect subsequent developments, This is peculiar to human affairs. It is not found in the world of nature, untouched by human hands. Predictions of the return of Halley’s comet do not influence its orbit. But the rumored insolvency of Millingville’s bank did affect the actual outcome. The prophecy of collapse led to its own fulfillment.[1]

Merton concluded that the only way to break the cycle of self-fulfilling prophecy is by redefining the propositions on which its false assumptions are originally based.”

Read more about the concept here.

What If: The Annan Plan and Turkey

Written by Marcus A. Templar

Sent to us by one of our visitors

Greek Cypriots, the majority population on the Island of Cyprus, overwhelmingly rejected a plan for reunification with the island’s small Turkish minority developed by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan in a referendum on April 24, 2004. The majority Greeks regarded the solution offered by Annan as impractical and unfair, while the government of Turkey praised it as very doable and accommodating to both parties. The size of the Turkish minority in Cyprus –some 18 percent of the island’s population, settlers brought illegally from Turkey excluded -- equals the percentage of the Kurdish minority in Turkey itself. Given long-standing Kurdish demands for greater political and other rights in Turkey, an interesting “what if” question arises--if the Annan Plan were implemented within Turkey for its Kurdish minority, would the Turks still find the plan fair and practical?

Here’s the “what if?”

Upon agreement of the two main communities living in Turkey (Kurdish and Turkish), the present state ceases to exist pending approval of the citizens of the Turkish Republic through a nation-wide referendum. Immediately after the approval of the new settlement, the new state is a reality. There is no going back to the old state even if later on majorities in both the Kurdish and Turkish areas overwhelmingly vote to do so. Under the provisions of the Plan, Turkey becomes a bi-zonal and bi-communal federal state in which 37% of its land passes to the new government of the Kurds. The new federal state is misnamed “United Turkey Republic” and under the new Constitution, the two major ethnic groups (Turkish and Kurdish) have equal representation in the proposed Senate regardless of unequal populations. Under the above provision, the state comes to a standstill.

Wall St. Helped to Mask Debt Fuelling Europe’s Crisis


Published: February 13, 2010 by The New York Times

Wall Street tactics akin to the ones that fostered subprime mortgages in America have worsened the financial crisis shaking Greece and undermining the euro by enabling European governments to hide their mounting debts.

As worries over Greece rattle world markets, records and interviews show that with Wall Street’s help, the nation engaged in a decade-long effort to skirt European debt limits. One deal created by Goldman Sachs helped obscure billions in debt from the budget overseers in Brussels.

Even as the crisis was nearing the flashpoint, banks were searching for ways to help Greece forestall the day of reckoning. In early November — three months before Athens became the epicenter of global financial anxiety — a team from Goldman Sachs arrived in the ancient city with a very modern proposition for a government struggling to pay its bills, according to two people who were briefed on the meeting.

The bankers, led by Goldman’s president, Gary D. Cohn, held out a financing instrument that would have pushed debt from Greece’s health care system far into the future, much as when strapped homeowners take out second mortgages to pay off their credit cards.

It had worked before. In 2001, just after Greece was admitted to Europe’s monetary union, Goldman helped the government quietly borrow billions, people familiar with the transaction said. That deal, hidden from public view because it was treated as a currency trade rather than a loan, helped Athens to meet Europe’s deficit rules while continuing to spend beyond its means.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Defence and Sovereignty – Enemies of the Government?

The current Greek government has been in power for about 4 months now. Personally, I would not have voted for this government, if I had even voted. This is not to say that I would never vote for the Greek Socialist Party but this last particular election somehow seemed stolen to me. The socialist party did everything they could to make the functioning of the previous conservative government impossible. Living abroad I tend to see the Greek political scene different from my friends and relatives in Greece. They tend to see everything in terms of right vs. left, or, New Democracy (conservatives) vs. PASOK (socialists). I don’t believe the right-left divide offers much help in understanding politics, especially in Greece.

However, one thing that I do believe, and I think most Greeks would have to agree with me, is that in Greece the left is not exactly pro-armed forces. Greeks tend to exaggerate things, especially in politics, and lately a picture has been forming in my mind that proves to me, once again, that a socialist government in Greece will never properly cater for the defence of the country.

When the current government came to power, I must admit, I did have a glimmer of hope that some things at least would change. Let’s face it, you can’t do much worse than the last lot. And then it started. The new Prime Minister did a 180 on his pre election statements of the type: there’s enough money to go around to: what we found when we took power is that there is no money and that this threatens our sovereignty. And low and behold, the spread on Greek bonds sky rocketed and now the Prime Minister has stated that Greece has lost a part of its national sovereignty. Sounds like a self-fulfilling prophecy to me.

It seems that things like the nation state, sovereignty, defence and military somehow cause an allergic reaction to PASOK politicians. They still see themselves as the great defenders against the military junta of old. This means that anything related to defence, including defending your country, are somehow bad things.

The PM’s comment about losing part of our national sovereignty did not go down well with either opposition leader Samaras or members of the armed forces. Yesterday was the official acceptance of the 12 Apache helicopters of the 2nd Attack Helicopter Battalion. Government officials did not bother to attend. After all, it’s only the military. As time goes by it seems clearer and clearer that the Armed Forces will be used for everything but their true role. When will the PASOK party in Greece finally understand that the military is not the enemy?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

NATO Framework for Solution in the Aegean

Eleftherotypia newspaper reported yesterday on a report by the RAND Corporation regarding the Aegean.

More pressure is expected to be exercised towards Greece as Washington steps up its efforts to solve Greek-Turkish differences over the Aegean. The reason being, as stated in the semi-official report, that wider US geopolitical interests are threatened by unwanted complications between Greece and Turkey.

The relevant suggestions are made in a report by the RAND Corporation and financed by the US Pentagon. The report highlights the increasing strategic importance of Turkey for US interests in the Balkans, the Middle East, the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Persian Gulf and states that in all these areas the cooperation of Turkey is of vital importance for attaining US goals.

The report goes on to state that in a period that NATO is facing challenges to its coherence and its mission to Afghanistan and in the post Soviet areas the last thing the United States need is a crisis in the Aegean and essentially the report looks for ways to improve American-Turkish relations.

This by definition means that Washington will have to satisfy Turkish demands in order to secure Turkish cooperation and this thread runs through the entire report, which further covers behind the scenes pressure, as opposed to public pressure, on Europe to accept Turkey in its midst.

As a result it becomes clear that the proposed increase in US intervention in matters of the Aegean will mainly focus on satisfying Turkish interests and that the pressure will be directed towards Athens.

The solution of Greek-Turkish differences in the Aegean in combination with US/NATO interests implies that a solution will likely fall under a NATO framework, something which according to information by the newspaper has already been strongly suggested to Athens by the US/NATO political leadership.

It has been reported that during his presence in Athens for the regular assembly of the High Level Consultative Committee the American Undersecretary of Defence Alexander Vershbow “handled” Aegean issues as bilateral issues between Greece and Turkey and suggested a NATO solution.

According to Mr. Vershbow, it would be desirable for the good of the Alliance to find a solution under a NATO outline which will minimize problems, so that NATO can function properly and with that in mind to put military exercises in the Aegean in a NATO framework.

Such a move would place the solution of Aegean differences under a NATO cover and as a result the Alliance would de facto become a moderator in the dispute.

An official with knowledge of the situation noted that the US side approaches the Aegean dispute in a simplistic way with suggestions of “sort it out between yourselves”. Apparently US officials are surprised to hear the Greek position that these issues, although between Greece and Turkey, are not bilateral issues because the national positions are governed by treaties which function erga omnes and have a universal and not bilateral validity.

As a result the American view of a bilateral solution cannot be accepted as this would in practice mean that Greece would have to give up much more than Turkey, especially in the framework of a NATO solution which primarily would serve US and NATO interests.

According to information the newspaper has, Washington and General Secretary of NATO Rasmussen have coordinated their efforts so that in concert they are suggesting a roadmap for solving Greek-Turkish issues in the Aegean.

The RAND report states that despite the fact that Greek-Turkish relations have improved since 1999, the Aegean differences continue to destroy relations between the two countries and constitute a threat to stability in the eastern Mediterranean.

The report further notes that until these differences are solved there is a danger that an incident (such as that in 2006) could escalate into an armed conflict, as nearly happened with the Imia/Kardak crisis in February of 96.

In this climate the Unites States should intensify their efforts to make Greece and Turkey solve their differences in the Aegean and it is noted that the number of airspace violations and incidents have increased dangerously in the last years (the report includes figures on the interception of Turkish aircraft which it sets at 161 times in the first six months of 2009 as well as Greek complaints about the over flight of Greek islands by Turkish fighters).

An American official with a long standing involvement in these issues notes that Turkey, through its tactics, is trying to force Greece into a dialogue under NATO auspices as Turkey will be favoured in such a dialogue due to its importance to the US and NATO.

It should also be noted that some months ago circles in Washington strongly denied that Washington lodged a complaint with Turkey regarding its over flights of inhabited Greek islands and rushed to assure Turkish authorities that US Assistant Secretary of State Phil Gordon had never made statements to that effect in another effort to not upset Turkey.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Turkish Air Force Performs Mock Bombing Run on Greek Island

DefenceNet reports that today 4 Turkish Air Force F-4E Terminator 2020 attack fighters overflew Farmakonisi Island at a height of 2,000 meters. The aircraft were clearly visible from the island’s military outposts and the sound of their engines caused commotion.

The 4 aircraft entered the Athens FIR with 4 F-16 escort aircraft at 09:51 north of Samos Island. At 10:11 the attack aircraft broke off form their formation and headed south towards Farmakonisi. As they approached the island they lowered their altitude, performed a mock bombing run and then joined their escort aircraft and headed towards the Anatolian Coast.

Four Greek F-16 aircraft were in the area and intercepted and identified the Turkish aircraft.

This is the first time after Prime Minister Papandreou accepted to enter into a dialogue with Turkey regarding the Aegean that Turkish aircraft perform an over flight of Greek soil.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Surplus Marder 1A3 Offered to the Greek Army

Hellenic Defence & Technology reports that in the last days of 2009 the Hellenic Vehicle Industry (ELVO), in cooperation with Rheinmetall AG made an official offer to the General Army Staff for the procurement of 422 second hand, refurbished and fully operational Marder 1A3HEL Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFVs).

The vehicles are from German Army stock and are offered as an interim or complementary solution to the planned BMP-3M AFV procurement. The advantage to the Marder offer is that the quick timeframe at which the vehicles can be delivered. The Greek requirement for AFVs is for 933 units, of which 840 for the Infantry and 93 for Cavalry formations. Even of both the Marder offer is accepted and the BMP-3M acquisition is carried out the total requirement will not be met.

The total cost of the Marder offer is for €200 million, excluding value added tax, which goes up to €230 million for options which include 126,600 armour piercing 20x193mm AP-T DM63 rounds, 3 training vehicles, tooling and additional equipment, new camouflage netting, night vision equipment for driving and a one year extension to the basic one year warranty offered by ELVO. All refurbishment work is to be carried out at ELVO on the basis of German Army technical guidelines and supported by Rheinmetall AG. Additional work would be carried out to bring the vehicles to Greek Army specification in order to operationally integrate them with the Leopard tank fleet. If the offer is accepted the AFVs will have TRC-9200 radios installed from Greek Army stocks and will retain the German internal communications system. 135 vehicles will receive the Iniochos Command and Control system with the integrated GPS/INS to make them fully compatible with the Leopard 2HEL tanks. They will also be equipped with the ability to take MILAN launchers, although the MILAN launchers and missiles are not part of the package offer. Further work will include the replacement of some mechanical parts, fire extinguishing equipment, placement of licence plates and painting with Greek Army camouflage paint for a reduced infrared signature. Based on the offer the deliveries can start in 7 months from agreement and ELVO will deliver at least 15 vehicles per month.

The delivery schedule is an advantage as the possible BMP-3M procurement will not see deliveries for at least 2 to 2.5 years. This programme will require at least 18 months to develop and certify the prototype INTRACOM electronic/communications package as well as the installation of additional armour by the Russian side. Hellenic Defence & Technology estimates that this will take longer, especially for the Command & Control version and that the process will be completed in 2017 providing there is considerable Greek involvement in the project.

The procurement of the Marder 1A3, apart from its low cost, has several operational advantages. The vehicle has a proven track record for being compatible with Leopard 2HEL and A4 tanks as well as Leopard 1A5 tanks currently in the Greek Army. Furthermore the vehicle has several parts in common with the Leopard 1A5 which the Greek Army has in large numbers.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Reason Greece Could Lose the Aegean Dispute - Part III

Continued from part II here. Part I can be found here.

Part III

Negotiations Fail. Then What?

As mentioned before, there is little chance that bilateral negotiations between Greece and Turkey regarding the Aegean will yield any results. This is most likely why the Greek PM’s response to Turkish PM Erdogan is claimed to make reference to the International Court of Justice in The Hague as an ultimate recourse. Here comes that slippery slope again.

People hear “International Court of Justice” and believe the title, they think justice is a product of this Court. First of all, the road to get to the ICJ is a long one. Countries have to first agree on what they disagree on. This means that Greece would have to first officially agree that there is a host of Greek sovereign issues up for discussion. It would also mean that Greece would have to agree that the ICJ has the competence to judge over such issues. In practice the ICJ tends to “split the difference”. However, since Greece and Turkey would not only go to the ICJ regarding their respective Exclusive Economic Zones there is a real danger that this “split the difference” approach would put Greece in a disadvantageous position.

The only way to counter this situation would be for Greece to reciprocate and make her own demands, like putting a claim on the Anatolian Coast. After all, Greeks have historically inhabited that coast for longer than Turks have. Obviously Turkey would never agree to have the ICJ rule on Turkey’s sovereignty of the Anatolian Coast. So why should Greece agree to have the ICJ rule on Greece’s sovereignty of Aegean islands? After all, possession is nine tenths of the law, is it not?

The most likely outcome of bundling the Aegean issues and taking them to the ICJ would likely end in failure. The two countries will not be able to agree on which terms to go to the ICJ. And even if they do the ICJ will likely find that it is not competent to rule in many of these. So then why is it so dangerous to go to the ICJ in the first place? The answer is very simple: political momentum. With political momentum we mean that a long road will have been travelled by Greece and Turkey in a quest to “solve” their bilateral issues.

Once the entire procedure becomes stuck at the ICJ if it finds itself not competent to judge on all the issues all the parties with an interest in Greece and Turkey (i.e. the NATO allies and EU members) will continue to push for a resolution. This is when the real trouble will start for Greece. Having exhausted the ICJ as a real recourse the real pressure will be on Greece to accept some other form of mediation, either through an “honest broker” like good old Uncle Sam or under the auspices of NATO. Greece will be pressured to accept a form of mediation that does not have any foundation in International Law and will look at the strategic value of both countries. This is where Greece will lose out to Turkey and we run the danger of the “mediator” trying to make or keep Turkey happy.

It is difficult to comprehend the strategy currently being employed by the Greek PM. It is all the more difficult as the letter the Greek PM sent to his Turkish counterpart has not been fully published. Prime Minister Papandreou is, by Greek standards, a young and energetic statesman with an international upbringing. As such he is sometimes seen as someone who believes he can bring renewal in various issues. Hopefully he and his advisors will carefully (re)consider any serious departure from a long standing policy towards Turkey and will resist the Greek political system’s favourite pastime of appeasement towards Turkey.

Monday, February 1, 2010

335 Squadron and Proper Planning

Proper planning prevents poor performance. This is true of almost everything, especially in matters concerning defence. Last Friday the last batch of 4 F-16 Block52+ Advanced was delivered to Araxos Airbase as part of the Peace Xenia IV programme (see here for DefenceNet’s exclusive pictures of the arrivals). A total number of 30 aircraft have been delivered.

If all goes well it is expected that the squadron will pass its Operational Evaluation in February. The problem, as mentioned before in this blog, is that the leadership of the Ministry of Defence (past and present) have not catered for any sort of continuity in defence planning. 335 Squadron currently has 30 aircraft. The Greek Air Force foresees a unit structure of 20 aircraft. If the squadron is split in two, as was the intention when there was an option to order 10 more aircraft of the type, each squadron will operate with 15 aircraft. Any attrition, scheduled maintenance and other issues that can take aircraft off active duty would then erode each squadron’s capability to unacceptable levels. Ordering another 10 aircraft now will mean that years will go by before they are delivered.

There is also the outstanding issue of upgrading the previous F-16 models in the inventory. This idea also seems to have died a slow death. Currently 58 F-16 Block 52+ aircraft are flying without electronic warfare suites. One thought would be to upgrade these aircraft to the Advanced (or Block 52M) standard, thereby creating a core of 88 Block 52M aircraft that can equip 4 squadrons with spare aircraft for future attrition.

335 Squadron is currently the only squadron in the Hellenic Air Force with Link-16 capable fighters. This is another reason to bring the previous batch up to the same standard. One mistake was already made by ordering 30 aircraft instead of the standard 40 required for two full squadrons. There is still time to undo this mistake by bringing the Greek Falcon fleet to as common a standard as possible. Part of the expense will be earned back through savings on future maintenance, logistics and training costs.