Signing a defense deal with France is a very good move by Greece for defending its national interests. It was obviously the result of a combination of factors. It was expedited by the security deal between the United States and Australia. Athens saw a window of opportunity and acted on it without wasting any time.
Timing is certainly everything in diplomacy but political determination was also called for. The decision to produce the new frigates in France was not an easy one to take. However, when you are pressed for time and the urgent need to make up for your security shortcomings, political concerns must come second. Perhaps Greece would be better off today if other prime ministers had adopted a similar approach. Because Greek defense has previously been held hostage by a bizarre mix of unionists, party hacks, incompetent defense industry managements and gray interests. That situation came at a dear price in terms of money and time.
Also important is the existence of political consensus. Sure, there are grievances but, basically, there is consensus. Political parties understand that national defense must be left outside partisan politicking.
For many years, Greek politicians were afraid to take key decisions or place their signature under the otherwise reasonable requests of the country’s military leadership. The country moved from waste and corruption to total inertia; “the horror of signing.” All that led to a mismatch with Turkey, unjustified shortages, grounded C-130s, armored vehicles without ammo, and half-finished missile boats and submarines.
We have gotten more mature with our decision-making. The political class respects the people at the helm of national defense. More than anyone else, they are aware of the needs and the capabilities of weapons systems. This has always been self-evident.
To be sure, more decisions have to be made if Greece is to have the navy – and the armed forces – it aspires to. We will need leader-managers that can solve complex problems like, for example, how can you keep those precious engineers and technology experts from moving to the better-paying private sector when they are at their prime? Without them it will be hard to integrate the new vessels.
Greece’s defense will look very different in three to four years from now. This is known to Greece’s friends as well as foes. This is likely to coincide with political unrest in its eastern neighbor. The process will require cautiousness and determination.