Greece is traditionally a major naval power. Anyone who has studied the country’s history can easily grasp that fact. No further explanation should be necessary. Meanwhile, renowned analysts have pointed out that Greece would run into trouble every time financial stress took a toll on naval spending.
What is the situation today? The Hellenic Navy has found itself lagging behind due to the financial crisis. Sure, it can still fulfill its mission, but it is in urgent need of a brave modernization program plus a new generation of permanent professional personnel. The details are known to those who ought to and who want to know. And at a time of open source information, these details are obviously not a state secret.
However, more crucial factors are at play, namely the big geopolitical game in the Eastern Mediterranean over the region’s energy resources.
Greece obviously cannot shrink away from all that. It needs to protect its own vital interests and at the same time project its influence in the wider region. Turkey is already doing that and it is promoting its status at every chance possible.
Furthermore, Ankara has developed quite a degree of self-confidence in terms of its naval prowess. We should not forget that since 2008, Turkish military vessels have been sailing past the Cyclades and along the coast of Attica in harmless yet semiologically loaded gestures.
Greek governments have sought to increase the country’s leverage by launching cooperation schemes with Egypt and Israel. Such initiatives have intensified in recent years, which is a welcome fact. But although such schemes help, they cannot solve the actual problem.
This an urgent matter. Solutions do exist and they have to be examined with the maximum possible degree of political consensus. For example, all party leaders could agree to back the demand for profit returns on Greek bond holdings with the aim of financing a modernization program for the Hellenic Navy.
European countries milked Greece during the time of economic prosperity; some of them were even involved in systematic bribery. It is therefore necessary that foreign governments come up with ways to support it now.
The issue also has a practical dimension. Leaving Greek interests aside, sitting on the frontline of the European Union makes Greece key to the continent’s security.