Outwardness, deterrence, resilience

Outwardness, deterrence, resilience

The international political and economic system is currently in a phase of transition. Global and regional powers are challenging or noticeably distancing themselves from the rules-governed international order and are instead developing hegemonic aspirations. As far as Greece’s national security is concerned, Turkey’s aggressive revisionist ambitions and corresponding unilateral actions demonstrate that there is no room for complacency. Furthermore, the Covid-19 pandemic, the more frequent and higher-intensity natural disasters, the endless migrant flows (and their weaponization), the emerging challenges as a result of technological progress and the growing hybrid threat from states and non-state actors underscore the need to strengthen the country’s defense, economic and social armor. 

Making efficient use of available means to promote Greece’s national interests involves a system of strategic planning, a mechanism for coordinating and implementing national security policy, and an even more effective crisis management system. This column proposes a set of key strategic directions in the area of national security (with the exception of the first proposals, the rest are listed in a random order).

1. The defense of national sovereignty, territorial integrity and sovereign rights should continue to be top priority.

2. Greece should remain a strong champion of international legality and of efforts to strengthen an international system based on international law and the observance of international rules. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea must continue to serve as a legal standard for the delimitation of the continental shelf and exclusive economic zone (EEZ) with all neighboring states – a practice that Greece has already adopted in signing an agreement on the delimitation of the maritime zones with Italy (June 2020) and a deal with Egypt designating an EEZ in the Eastern Mediterranean (August 2020). If this is not possible, it should seek to refer the matter to international arbitration.

3. In order to prevent and counter revisionist policies, Greece must continue to implement a strategy aimed at raising the cost for the aggressor to a prohibitive level. The strategy should be based on making optimal use of all aspects of national power, primarily through bolstering national defense and maintaining necessary deterrence capacity. Meanwhile, Greece should seek to mitigate threats by making use of its membership of the European Union (also investing in the bloc’s strategic autonomy) and NATO, bilateral relations and other partnerships or collaborations. Greece must continue to exercise its right to self-defense based on the UN Charter, its Armed Forces setup being directly proportional to the identified threat. Moreover, existing threats reinforce the need to develop and maintain a strong domestic defense technological and industrial base, as well as strengthen research and innovation, with an emphasis on emerging and disruptive technologies and space applications.

4. Ending Turkey’s occupation of Cyprus and reaching a mutually acceptable, just and viable peace settlement on the basis of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions must remain a key objective. Any solution must be compatible with Cyprus’ EU member status. 

5. The increasing use of hybrid means by revisionist states and other actors obliges Greece to adapt its planning. Another fundamental objective must be the protection of the democratic polity, the life and property of citizens, as well as domestic stability and security. Apart from a strong Armed Forces, other necessary requirements for dealing with emergency situations include: a) ensuring that the security forces and intelligence services have the requisite planning, resources, training and capabilities to deal with all types of threats to domestic security in a transparent and accountable manner; b) making sure that Greece is resilient enough to predict, assess, prevent, respond and recover from a disaster; and c) securing national and social cohesion.

6. Outwardness and active participation in Euro-Atlantic institutions, as well as presence in international fora, must remain constituent components of Greek foreign policy. Continued presence in international UN, EU and NATO missions will reinforce Greece’s image as a security provider and pillar of stability.

7 The stability and security of its broader geopolitical environment – i.e. the Balkans, the Black Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean – should continue to be a high priority. In these regions, Greece must protect its interests through an active and multidimensional policy, in cooperation with its partners and allies.

8. Given its history and geography, might at sea is still very important, while because of the size of its merchant marine fleet, Greece should continue to be a strong champion of free maritime trade and an active participant in international efforts to safeguard marine transport.

9. Acquiring a central role in the sectors of energy, commerce and services should be one of the country’s key goals.

10. Significant effort needs to go into dealing with the demographic problem and reversing the brain drain.

11. Climate change and environmental protection must become key components of strategic planning in every area of government activity.

12. Greece must continue to prioritize the protection of its – and Europe’s – external borders from irregular migration, while also preventing the operation of networks linked to terrorism, organized crime and trafficking in humans and contraband. More specifically, policy must be about managing migrant and refugee flows while protecting national interests, but also upholding international laws and the humanitarian dimension of the issue.

13. Accelerating the exploitation of wealth-generating resources, particularly in the field of energy, should become one of the top priorities.

14. In order to achieve its targets, Greece needs to exploit its comparative advantages in culture, shipping, tourism and human resources. It must maintain strong ties with the diaspora and the world’s Greek Orthodox churches, while continuing to take an active interest in protecting ethnic minorities.

15. Last but not least, a national strategy cannot be successful without the state mechanism adopting a comprehensive approach to matters of security, without strong consensus at the societal level and without an understanding at the political level on national interests and security.

Thanos Dokos is national security adviser to the prime minister.

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