NEWS

Defense deal closed in matter of days

PM Mitsotakis and close aides moved fast to seal important navy acquisition from France

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The agreement between France and Greece for the acquisition by the latter of three advanced frigates and an option for a fourth was sealed during the past 15 days.

A crucial element for Greece to opt for the French proposal over others, such as from the United States, was the low cost of the acquisition, at 2.9 billion euros.

The accelerator for the final agreement was the AUKUS Pacific security pact between the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom, and the resulting loss of a €56 billion contract for France to build submarines for Australia. A one-on-one meeting between French President Emmanuel Macron and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis during the EUMED9 Summit in Athens advanced the issue and it fell to three close Mitsotakis collaborators – Minister of State Giorgos Gerapetritis, Secretary General to the Prime Minister Grigoris Dimitriadis and head of the Prime Minister’s Diplomatic Office Eleni Sourani – to negotiate the details.

The acquisition of the French frigates had also been considered last year, but Greece decided that the fiscal situation did not allow for it.

Greece also had to take account of possible reactions to the deal by the United States, Germany (and the European Union as a whole) and Turkey.

It is obvious the Biden administration would like Greece to buy American. However, as Greek officials said, a priority for the US is the renewal of the Mutual Defense and Cooperation Agreement (MDCA) with Greece. Besides, the serious spat with France over the AUKUS made the US reluctant to add yet another point of contention. And Greece is eager to renew MDCA for a five-year period despite the fact that the US rejected the option to use the island of Skyros as an air and naval base. In any case, Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias had briefed US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland about the upcoming deal on September 23, in New York City.

Germany, preoccupied right now with its internal politics, was also not a problem. As for Eastern European EU members, the government thought they would follow the US on the matter.

Ankara’s aggressive reaction was more or less expected. And there were no illusions that tension would dissipate if Greece delayed its military procurement programs.