Ankara shifts naval policy helm

Turkey’s new naval strategy will fundamentally change the balance of power in the Aegean Sea. Ankara’s naval policy switch, which was announced a few months ago by military chief General Hilmi Ozkok, is already under way. By 2015, when Turkey’s sea program should be in place, Greece will have relinquished its superiority at sea, which has been its major strategic advantage in the course of the 20th century. It was Greece’s unrivaled power at sea which enabled it to double its size during the Balkan wars and to defend the Aegean Sea against foreign invasion. The magnitude and quality of Turkey’s procurement program, as well as the pace at which it is being carried out, leave no room for doubt: Ankara is systematically building the military capacity for multiple naval strikes in the Aegean Sea. The new strategy is after all reflected in Ankara’s Aegean claims. In particular, with its daily violations of Greece’s national air space, Turkey is centering its activity on areas that cut the Aegean in two. The enhanced naval force will be a useful tool in pursuing this goal. In the meantime, Greece continues to invest hopes in Turkey’s bid to join the European Union. At the same time, it is giving Ankara more and more margin to conduct military exercises under the NATO banner, hence allowing a greater convergence between the interests of Ankara and the transatlantic alliance. Over the previous decade, Greek governments have approved unprecedented amounts of defense spending, paying over 30 billion euros in arms procurements. But instead of reinforcing Greece’s defenses, these investments have filled the pockets of dubious middlemen and increased public debt that has brought the country to its knees. Now the country has tabled a new law on ammunition procurements. Another 23 billion euros is to be invested over the next decade. The government must take the right steps to impose transparency, improve fiscal conditions, boost economic growth and, above all, protect the country’s fragile defenses.

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