Alexis Papachelas ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

Building a shield

COMMENT

TAGS: Defense, Diplomacy, Politics

Greece came into being, survived and developed as a state because it was able to combine the so-called Greek spirit with the support of key powers every time it stood at a critical crossroads. It can do so again, as long as it plays its cards right.

At the moment we are faced with a Turkey that has closed itself off from everyone, including the United States, Europe, and Israel. No one can really read Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s intentions, but most respected analysts agree that the path the Turkish president has put his country on is pulling it further away from the West – and that it is an irreversible path.

Officials in Washington have started making some preliminary plans about how they will react if they lose Turkey for good. The US is deepening defense cooperation with Greece, making use of the Souda Bay base in Crete and potentially other bases. It would be premature to predict how this relationship will evolve. Also, we are not aware what Washington is ready to offer in return.

European governments are also conscious of the Turkey problem. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and French President Emmanuel Macron have both been rather outspoken in their public statements. Paris has taken some practical steps as demonstrated with the decision to give Greece two FREMM-type navy frigates on a five-year lease and talks on defence cooperation with Cyprus. The distance between Turkey and Israel is also growing, while progress in Greek-Israeli security cooperation is beyond expectations.

So, Greece is doing well in terms of alliances. What it is missing is solid political leadership. The government appears to be going with the flow and taking initiatives that would have been unthinkable to several of its officials until recently. However, we need more. The times call for experienced diplomats, high-caliber leaders and serious planning. Because – and there should be no delusions here – the aforementioned countries are standing by our side to promote their own interests, either vis-a-vis the black hole of the Middle East or Russian expansionism in the region. We need to have a clear idea about what kind of shield we want to build with our allies. The timing is good and we can make significant demands in return.

We should not be afraid, therefore. We are not alone in the world and this is something that we must not forget. But we should also bear in mind that, at the end of the day, no one will fight another’s war. You may get reinforcements, key intelligence and so on, but at the time of crisis it will all depend on how prepared, determined, united and serious we will be.

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