OPINION

Revisiting Imia, comparing Greece and Ireland

Revisiting the Imia Crisis

It has been almost 15 years since the Imia crisis in the southeast Aegean and some things have changed while others have not. What has changed is the Greek military, because the crisis exposed that the Greek military, especially the army and air force, were inadequately prepared for the contingency. The army and air force were organized and equipped to fight the Cold War and found themselves almost unable to defend the Aegean adequately against a possible Turkish attack. The army has added new organization and doctrine as well as new tanks, howitzers, rocket launchers, and attack helicopters to deal with the different security needs, while the air force has added over 140 new fighters, Patriot missiles, and airborne early warning capability to close the huge numerical and technical gap Turkey had built in the air in the 1990s.

What has not changed is the fact that with Turkey?s significant military advantage held at the time of the crisis in 1996, war did not come. In the same way that Saddam Hussein did not strike Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states in the late summer and early autumn of 1990 when he held a huge strategic advantage, Turkey did not strike in the Aegean in the winter of 1996 because they did not intend to do so. Regardless of the reason, whether it was the lack of preparation, the spontaneity of the crisis, or arm-twisting by the United States, Turkey had the military balance advantage and still did not strike. So, if they did not strike then, when the advantage was theirs, they will not strike now, with a more formidably prepared Greek military, the PKK insurgency still tying down most of the Turkish army, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisting that Turkey wants peace with all its neighbors, and the Turkish economy continuing to enjoy growth and prosperity.

Greece is in a better position than it believes itself to be in regarding the Aegean, and with a struggling economy and the prospect of 40 million barrels of oil per year being pumped into the economy, the stakes are even higher. So the Greek government should begin to act with more confidence and strength instead of trepidation and fear. After all, the territories of the Aegean in Greek hands are legal and Turkey has no legitimate claim.

PETER KATES

Illinois

USA

Minister should take a walk around Athens to get ideas for revamp

If the environment minister wants to make a real difference to the center of Athens, I would suggest she gets together with the mayor of Athens and the Athens police chief to take immediate and sustained action to deal with street traders, most of whom are illegal immigrants.

On Sunday evening I was walking past the Academy and National Library, and was shocked by what I found. One could only walk in single file, as it has been turned into a Third World country market. People could not pass easily, they could not get to metro stations and bus stops, one had to walk over the wares spread out on ground by illegal traders.

I was so angry and frustrated that this is allowed to happen. One of the major streets and beautiful locations has been turned into a bazaar. It is the same on the walkway at Kavouri beach and outside Dafni metro station.

Where are the police and local officials? I suggest I take the minister for a walk around Athens and she can see for herself, and start there with her major city center facelift.

It is time for we Athenians to take back our city.

ALEXANDROS DEARGES-CHANTLER

Glyfada

Athens

Hoping that reason and vision will prevail

I have found the interviews by Alexis Papachelas of EU Commissioner Olli Rehn and by Tom Ellis of IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn to be most enlightening. Papachelas and Ellis asked difficult questions and Rehn and Strauss-Kahn responded in a positive and forthright manner.

The interviews displayed a high level of intellectual discourse without any resort to arrogance or emotional rhetoric. As an American of Greek heritage, I found the interviews to be reassuring in the hope that reason and vision will prevail in the Greek political and journalistic scenes in these difficult times.

SPIRO MACRIS

USA

Wage cuts for members of government as well

If public employees as well as many private employees are accepting 10 percent reductions in their salaries and higher taxes and expenses, are the members of the government, from the prime minister down, having their salaries reduced by an equal percentage? If not, why?

A voluntary reduction on their part would show solidarity with all the affected workers and even sympathy for the losses being suffered by owners of companies and businesses. This might help them to wake up and realize what is really needed. We are all in this together.

If this has already happened, it has escaped my attention.

WIL MORRIS

How Greece and Ireland are different

The article titled ?The year of living dangerously as good times give way to rage? (December 13) states: ?Ireland?s bailout was scarcely less [than Greece?s].? Yes, but how differently it was handled ? by the government, unions, media, workers and population.

The government immediately took very strong action, reinforced in their latest budget, for the good of the country, and as a glaringly obvious necessity ? regardless of the ?political cost? which always worries the Greek pygmies, and in the knowledge of almost certain defeat in the imminent elections; and the protests of the others were less bone-headed and shorter-lived than in Greece ? possibly also due to the imminent elections, meaning that some of the ?protesters? will soon actually have to be dealing with the problems themselves, instead of just criticizing the present government?s handling.

No ?loony left? freeloaders ?boycotting the meeting,? no ?anarchist freeloaders? throwing bombs, no knee-jerk strikes ? and apparently no rise in the opinion polls for those advocating and taking such measures.

Will the Greek population ever get real? Perhaps Papandreou?s ?threat? of calling an election wasn?t such a bad idea after all.

ROBERT SKAILES

Athens