OPINION

NATO umbrella

The coordinated bombing attacks on three Madrid train stations on Thursday morning rewoke the nightmare of terrorist acts that seek to cause the greatest possible carnage. The Spanish government rushed to blame the Basque separatist group ETA, but there are signs that this could be the work of Islamic terrorists. Identifying the culprits is crucial, not only in order to mete out justice but also to assess the threat for the rest of Europe. The Basque separatists have only hit Spanish targets and have, so far, not employed such methods. On the other hand, the asymmetric war that Al Qaeda has declared knows no limits or restraints in exterminating innocent people. The Islamic militants’ main targets are the United States and Britain, but also Spain and Italy, who joined the coalition forces in the Iraqi invasion. This does not mean that the other European countries are safe from harm. Islamic terror is turning on Western societies as a whole. It is for this reason that Greece must do everything it can to guard the Summer Olympics against any terrorist threats. Gigantic preparations have already taken place. The Greek police force is equipped with ultramodern electronic surveillance systems while an international advisory group of valuable experts has been set up. The operational plan, which has been drawn up in full detail, foresees the mobilization of all available forces in an attempt to rule out even the slightest possibility of a terrorist assault – also with the participation of Greece’s armed forces. At the same time, the Greek authorities are working closely with key foreign intelligence services seeking to collect and cross-check data that could help them foil potential terrorist attacks. In addition, Greece yesterday requested NATO’s help in protecting the Athens Games. This serves a double objective. At the operational level, it seeks to reinforce the security umbrella. The sea force of the transatlantic alliance will help patrol the seas, which is the country’s Achilles’ heel in terms of border monitoring. Air surveillance planes will also help in that direction. The request for NATO help also has a political dimension. The cooperation with foreign intelligence services is significant, of course, but responsibility for any attack ultimately lies with Greece. However, if Greece’s Olympic security is brought under the NATO umbrella, political responsibility will be shared. And this will be extremely important in the event of any unfortunate incident.