A Greek Melodrama: A Politico-Historical Analysis of the Greek Defense Doctrine

Panhellenic Socialist Movement-PASOK's Defense Dogma/Doctrine 1981-1989

On the 18th of October 1981, the general elections brought the Greek socialist party to power with a stunning and legislatively self-sufficient electoral victory that surprised most detached observers by its magnitude. PASOK obtained forty-eight percent of the vote and began enjoying a very comfortable majority with 172 out of 300 deputies in the Greek parliament. Andreas Papandreou can best be described as an elliptical and controversial figure. Following a distinguished professional and teaching career in the United States (1939-1959), his tenure in Greek politics was marked by certain flexibility and various political/ideological cycles, defying easy categorization. His rhetoric fluctuated widely from period to period: from 1964-1965, he expounded a brand of Keynesian liberalism, and then moved into a Marxist (non-Leninist) anti-dependency phase in 1968-1974. In 1974-1977, he and his socialist party PASOK sounded Third World and anti-imperialist, yet by 1977-1981, they had moved toward a form of activist and colorful (European periphery) socialism. In addition, Papandreou believed in continuous violent social revolution in order to change the old establishment. After coming to power in 1981, and with considerable acceleration after October 1985, PASOK and its leader began moving rightward toward standard patterns adopted by Western European socialist and social democratic parties of the Socialist International variety.

Papandreou came to power due to the following ten factors: First, PASOK’s opening to the center through the steady de-radicalization of earlier domestic and foreign policy planks apparently managed to bring into the PASOK comer the bulk of the leaderless Centrist voters, as well as a number of Conservatives who had become disaffected with the alleged lethargy of the Rallis government. New Democracy may also have contributed by its pre-election embrace of extreme rightist individuals and the adoption of extreme right-wing slogans, which targeted center left ideas.

Second, the natural erosion of seven years of New Democracy governmental rule in the face of an inflation-plagued economy, deteriorating environment and quality of life in urban centers, and chronic deficiency in an overstaffed, unresponsive, and over-centralized bureaucracy. Third, the normal desire by the Greek people to give some new faces a chance at the political controls cannot be underestimated. Fourth, there was the very effective grass-roots organization of PASOK, which enabled it to the stage massively attended political gatherings (three of which were televised during the month-long pre-election period). These spectacular gatherings reinforced the public feeling that the electoral tide was seriously turning in the direction of the Socialist Party.

Fifth, the charismatic leadership of Papandreou weighed heavily among voter preferences. Sixth, the socialist teacher union sabotaged the entry level exams to the Greek lyceum thus, creating a public uproar against the conservative government. Eventually, when Papandreou became prime minister abolished the exams and allowed the students who failed to pass the entry level tests to enter lyceum. Seventh, the decisive Socialist victory of François Mitterrand in the French general elections of May 10, 1981 was signal, coupled with an increasing identification of PASOK with sister Socialist and Social Democrats movements of Western Europe, such as those of Portugal, Spain, France, the Scandinavian countries, Germany, and Italy.

Eighth, Papandreou and PASOK made systematic efforts made by to build bridges with the Greek armed forces’ officer corps. He consistently had been making a clear distinction between the disgraced and jailed leaders of the military junta, and the bulk of the patriotic Greek officers. Papandreou reminded the officers regularly that they were the shield of the nation protecting Greece from the Turkish menace. By enthusiastically supporting the high levels of military expenditures necessary to sustain a Greek-Turkish military equilibrium, Papandreou signaled his intentions to seek a permanent reconciliation with Greece’s military. Naturally, a reconciliation between Papandreou and the Greek armed forces reduced the apprehension of the general voting populace that a PASOK electoral victory might trigger another military intervention, and reduced the number of liberals who might vote Conservative ”just to be on the safe side."

Ninth, and perhaps most significantly, was the ascent of Karamanlis from the premiership (and leadership of the New Democracy Party) to the role of president of the Greek Republic. By becoming president and remaining above the fray of daily political quarrels and battles, Karamanlis denied New Democracy his great personal popularity, political experience, and his taciturn but charismatic campaign political style. Simultaneously, as president – with considerable constitutional clout – Karamanlis was perceived as a balancer and a safety valve that could shield Papandreou form a right wing military reaction in return for Papandreou’s adjustment to a more moderate style of governance, especially in sensitive foreign and defense issues.

Finally tenth, Papandreou increased his support by controlling all the trade unions and, through these institutions, undermined New Democracies policies. For example, his followers in the teacher union sabotaged the entry exams to Lyceum university preparatory schools; many students allegedly failed the exams. The moment Papandreou took power, he abolished the exam "results", and allowed the students who did not officially pass to register for classes. During that specific politico-educational crisis, Rallis claimed that the failed students were stupid and incompetent to attend high-level schools; Papandreou argued that the system was at fault, not the students.

Upon assuming power on October 19, 1981, in a remarkably smooth transition, Papandreou started to initiate his defense policies. The dramatic military changes in the defense posture of Greece under the leadership of Papandreou reflected the contradictory history of the socialist party and Papandreou. Many of its key cadres were participants in the politics of marginal movements in the West, while others admired the totalitarian ideology of the East. Thus upon its assumption of power in 981, PASOK put in doubt the age-old belief, reinforced by Karamanlis’s policy since 1974, that Greece belonged to the West.

PASOK’s cadres brought to Greece the anti-imperialist mentality that was spawned by the anti-Vietnam war movement and expressed in theories ranging from pacifist to outright anarchist. Socialist agitators and the Third World dominated European and American academic cadres, nonaligned movement was perceived as an alternative to block the political alliance. More specifically, the NATO alliance was the target of left-wing agitation. The anti-establishment or flower culture that had been rampant in Europe and the United States in the 1960s and early 1970s was transplanted belatedly to Greece by P ASOK in 1974.

Members of the Socialist cabinet had even adopted counterculture attire; some returned to Greece wearing robes of the flower children, and others hippie haircuts. The leader of the party, reflecting his rejection of convention, would enter the Greek Parliament without a necktie, wearing a turtleneck collar and long sideburns, flouting decorum. With the legalization of the Greek Communist Party by New Democracy, a considerable number of the civil war rebels, who were refugees in communist countries also returned to Greece. They were divided into different warring factions, such as Orthodox Communists, Euro Communists, Heretics, Maoists, and Reformists. Some of them, including the commander-in-chief of the Communist rebel forces, Markos Vafiades, a brigade commander with the nom de guerre "Ypsilantes," supported the PASOK movement. They were trained in Boulkes, Yugoslavia, from 1945-1946 for the purpose of seizing power by force, and their combat experience was in guerrilla warfare. Although they did not occupy governmental posts, they became advisors to the ministries, including the Ministry of Defense.

Another faction of the PASOK cadres who strongly influenced the defense policies were ex-military officers with pro-socialist tendencies, such as John Charalambopoulos, who served as the minister of foreign affairs, defense minister, and deputy premier. He had retired from the army as lieutenant colonel of the Engineering Corps in the early sixties. Similarly, Antones Drosogiannis, who served as deputy minister of defense and minister of public order, was an ex-lieutenant colonel of the Hellenic infantry. The vice director of the Greek Central Intelligence Agency and the director of the Military Office of the Presidency were lieutenant colonels in the artillery. More significantly, the director of the Hellenic Telecommunication Organization, responsible, as rumors had it, for communication tapping, was an ex-captain of the Signal Corps. All of the above were promoted to the rank of general retroactively without the essential military training, education and spirit, but with a strong background in covert actions and political manipulations. The last faction of PASOK’s cadres involved in the formulation of defense policies came from the military branch of the Panhellenic Liberation Movement (PAK), the predecessor of the PASOK movement, whose members trained in Libyan and Palestinian terrorist camps. PAK was designed to fight the Greek junta however this fight never occurred due to PAK’s political inability to mobilize support. They included the general-secretary of the Ministry of Interior, who served as the director of National Intelligence Agency formerly known as Central Intelligence Agency, PASOK’s ambassador to Libya, and other lesser personalities. It goes without saying that all the above factions often espoused contradictory goals and influenced Papandreou’s defense doctrine, which neither was a doctrine nor defended anything. These politico-military factions persuaded Papandreou that Greece faced no threat from the north, and the threat from the east was a political, not a military one.

Moreover, Papandreou concluded that the political threat from the east could be used for domestic purposes. Contrary to the assertions of some, the professionals in the military were not consulted. Instead, PASOK concluded that Turkey would attack Greece only if the Americans wanted the Turks to overthrow PASOK’s government, or if the Greek military wanted to create a crisis in order to seize power again. Oddly enough, PASOK turned to Palestinians, Libyans, and Greek-Cypriots for intelligence information on the Turkish threat; they continuously exaggerated Turkish intentions, but said very little about the Turkish military build-lip. They wanted to appear as though they were offering their good services to PASOK; in reality they were bringing Greece and Turkey closer to a collision for reasons of their own.

When PASOK assumed power back in October 1981, the Greek armed forces had slight superiority over the Turkish military in the air force and navy, and with the support of the land forces could have successfully waged a defensive war. Defense Minister Averoff (of New Democracy) had done a remarkable job in building the military capabilities and morale of the armed forces following the Cyprus debacle. The PASOK government, after the basic transition briefings, was so impressed with the status of the armed forces that Papandreou, as prime minister and minister of defense, expressed his unreserved satisfaction with the excellent job done by the New Democracy government and properly congratulated the military leadership for its professionalism. However, the military was not a critical element in his socio-political schemes, and he thereafter turned his attention to political issues. Defense planning took a downturn.

On the other side of the Aegean, Turkey continued to improve its military. Until 1984, the balance of power was significantly in favor of Greece in all branches of the armed forces, making it possible for the country to successfully wage a defensive war by applying the doctrine of forward strategy and flexible response. However, in 1985, the balance of power in military matters began to shift dramatically, as Turkey made operational the 180 F-104 Star fighters that were transferred from the air forces of West Germany and other NATO countries to Turkey, thus increasing Ankara’s air capabilities. The acquisition of the F-104s enabled Turkey to reevaluate programs had come to completion, and Ankara subsequently moved to expand its military defense spending and planning. Great progress was also noted in the Turkish naval forces, especially in their amphibious capabilities, while Greece was vainly searching for a defense doctrine to complement a political ideology that was in many instances antithetical to NATO raison d’être.

PASOK viewed the Greek military with some suspicion. As an opposition party the socialists criticized and denounced the Greek military and the alliances and military treaties of previous governments, such as the agreements for the American military bases and the country’s entry into the Common Market.

The pre-1981 slogans included "out the American bases of death," and ”NATO and EEC – the same syndicate." The posture ran against the common sense of the Greek armed forces, which did not believe that the slogans merely represented pre-election promises. As the date of the 1981 elections approached, PASOK was preoccupied with the fear that even if it won the contest, some dark power would prevent it from assuming office. The belief among the party’s left wing was that if it insisted on enforcing its policies, it would be overthrown by a combination of military and allied opposition.

Mitigating such fears was Papandreou’s belief that President Karamanlis’s sense of democratic fair play would ensure the support of the High Command of the Greek armed forces. Yet the crucial questions remained in his mind about the attitudes of the lower echelons, especially at the rank of colonel and below. The rank colonel had acquired a bad reputation in the years of the junta, but it also has a special meaning in the Hellenic armed forces because it is crucial rank for shaping the higher echelons. Only one-third of all colonels are promoted; the others end their career at the rank. Although no officers of any rank or command had any intentions of disrupting the democratic process, due to their experience during the military regime, some PASOK advisers who pretended to be military experts on military matters cultivated the idea that large number of officers would actively oppose the Socialist government in order to prevent it from applying its socialist transformation program.

These self-proclaimed advisers (mainly ex-officers seeking to gain power in the inner circles of PASOK) approached the armed forces as they approached labor unions. In the first instance, they created a PASOK branch (kladike), intended to be party’s eyes and ears in the military. A number of dissatisfied officers, whose careers had slowed because of professional deficiencies, or who had personal or political connections with PASOK’s cadres, along with opportunists of every situation were recruited into this political commissariat. Into this branch organization were inducted officers from deputy chief of the Armed Forces General Staff down to colonels of the District of Athens Command, to which belong the various training centers and military schools, along with officers of the air force of the headquarters of Larisa and Thessaloniki. Lastly, at least one colonel from every major garrison was involved. These officers had anticipated to be loyal to PASOK and its ideology. Later years they were promoted and assumed high positions in the armed forces (including political positions), irrespective of their professional or educational capabilities, becoming part of the PASOK nomenclature. In this manner the party secured itself politically and military and proceeded now towards complete consolidation of power. As these officers had anticipated in later years they were promoted and assumed high positions in the armed forces (including political positions), irrespective of their professional or educational capabilities, becoming part of the PASOK nomenclature. In this manner the party secured itself politically and military and proceeded now towards complete consolidation of power. Although the army had been politically neutral since 1974, the Papandreou administration created a special situation in the armed forces, where the officers were politically and morally divided into professionals and party commissars. The political leadership took the advice of their men in the armed forces when critical issues of defense arose. This advice was always the best.

When Papandreou became Prime Minister and Minister of National Defense, he was briefed and rebriefed by the General Staff and was satisfied that the army had the capabilities to wage a successful defensive war and that the navy and air force, with a slight superiority over Turkey, were a strong deterrent against such a war. On that premise, the PASOK government felt secure in moving to the eastern borders both combat units and the most professional officers, who, of course, were not politically involved in party organizations, while PASOK branch remained in the interior to safeguard the government. Parallel to redeployment of troops for political reasons, Papandreou gave some privileges to the officers and soldiers in the form of rent subsidies, better food, and occasional moral rewards. In addition, he manipulated the entry-level exams in the military academies in order to promote his supporters.

The last danger that the Socialist government had to counter was the possibility that Ankara could execute a surprise attack against Greece. Athens strongly believed that the Turkish government could plan and execute a military campaign in order to safeguard and promote the Turkish national interests in the region. The suspicion of dark forces at work never left Papandreou’s calculations. Turkey, the CIA, domestic reactionaries–all figured in his evaluation as enemies ready to bring him down. To counter the imaginary threat, the Socialist improved its intelligence capabilities by exploiting its connections with Third World countries (especially Arab socialist like Syria, Iraq and Libya) and with the PLO. In a series of meetings held during the winter of 1985-1986 under the auspices if the Governmental Council on Defense and Foreign Policy (with the input of party apparatchiks), the Papandreou government produced a series of directives on defense matters, which, in modified form, were later presented to the Greek Parliament. These directives, which one can say represented the governmental philosophy on matters of national security, are interesting for two reasons: first, they were comprehensive in nature and carefully linked to the ruling party’s ideological predisposition and, second, their content is an obvious departure from traditional Western defense doctrine.

Moreover, the directives begin with several basic assumptions that, in retrospect, seem erroneous. First, the government stated without qualification that "an augmented international tension and detente is on the retreat," and second, it sustained that Greece’s defense posture is subject to influences related to the problems in the Middle East, which include the "lack of respect for Palestinians’ rights," the situation in Lebanon, the Iran-Iraq war, and the Cyprus problem. Within this context, the government declared its own strategy to be based on the slogan "we do not claim anything, we do not concede anything." This phrased was used by the New Democracy also.

However, this was hardly a strategy. In addition, the Socialists believed that in the case of a Greco-Turkish dispute, the US sixth fleet would intervene to stop the conflict. In addition, the doctrine/dogma of Total Popular Defense was announced by the governmental Council of Defense and External Policy in January 1985, with great fanfare, and introduced to the Greek legislature in the summer of 1987. It provides for creation of popular units of two kinds: the Local Units of Popular Defense and the Reserve Units of Popular Defense. The Local Units are under the control of local authorities of every village or small town, which in the majority are currently controlled by the ruling party. They consist of men sixteen and eighteen and fifty-one to sixty-five years old, and those eighteen to sixty years old who have not been drafted into the regular army or the National Guard; of women eighteen to fifty years old; and of volunteers, visitors, or capable men over sixty-five years old. These civil military units theoretically under the command of mayors or the village chiefs–will defend their towns or villages against any invasion. The Reserve Units of Popular Defense are organized on the level of country or region and cannot act outside the region, the limits of which are defined by the Defense and Public Order ministries.

This doctrine tried to emulate an Iraqi or Iranian style political state. Nonetheless, it does not provide an effective defense for the following two reasons: first, in the Aegean islands and the border villages, there are not enough people, men or women, to form such military units. On the contrary, the rural population in Greece is declining dramatically and is very mobile nowadays. It has been confirmed by various socio-political crises in the Aegean, and specifically in the last crisis of March 1987, that the rural families move — by any means, such as tractor-trailers and small boats — from the potential war zone to the interior. The structure of Greek society is quite different from that of Yugoslavia and pre-Civil War Greece (1944-1949). In addition, the potential enemy is very different from Hitler’s Wehrmacht (if the model defense is supposed to be the Yugoslavian resistance or the battle of Crete in 1941 during World War II), and its intention is also very different. Turkey, for example, not only wants to occupy Greek islands ore regions, but eventually to colonize them with a Turkish population, as it did in Cyprus, and to annex the occupied territory, as it did with Alexandretta in Syria.

Second, if an enemy conquers an area defended by its own population, it would theoretically be able to justify taking the whole population as prisoners of war, according to international law, to expatriate them, and after that, to resettle the territory with new settlers. Obviously, in case of invasion, the invading forces are usually select units. They are by definition more formidable and powerful enemies than any World War II army was. The destructive capabilities of modem warfare and especially air power are much greater, leaving the weak, untrained Popular Defense unites of young and old to the mercy of a superior modem enemy. After the announcement of the doctrine of Total Popular Defense, the Turkish government, in a special meeting on the night of 26 to 27 January 1985, responded by adopting the NATO doctrine of the Air-Land Battle. Examining this defense plan will illustrate the futility of the PASOK military doctrine of popular defense.

As it is stated in the US Army Field Manual 100-5, the Air-Land Battle doctrine takes a nonlinear view of the battle. It enlarges the battlefield area, stressing unified air and ground and sea operations throughout the theater. Secondly, it distinguishes the operational level. It recognizes the non-quantifiable element of combat power, especially the maneuver, which is a significant as the firepower. It strongly acknowledges the important of chemical weapons and of electronic warfare, and their effects on operations. Most significantly, it emphasizes the human element such as courageous well-trained soldiers and skillful, effective leadership. To ensure military success, the Air-Land Battle doctrine concentrates on (1) indirect approaches; (2) speed and violence; (3) flexibility and reliance on the initiative of junior officers; (4) rapid decision making; (5) clearly designated main effort, and (6) deep attacks.

Air-Land Battle offensives are rapid, violent military operations that seek enemy’s soft spots, remain flexible in shifting the main effort, and exploit success promptly. The attacker creates a fluid situation, maintains the initiative, and destroys the coherence of the enemy defense. Using support and reserve units flexibly, the attack must continue for as long as it takes to ensure military victory, which hinges on fully synchronized combat armed forces. The air force is an equal partner in the Air-Land Battle. The doctrine specifies support for the battle with counter-air and air interdiction operations. Counter-air operations achieve necessary air-superiority and ensure that enemy air forces cannot interfere with the operation of air ground forces. The counter-air tasks belong to F-16s in Greece’s case; the ration of which is two to one in Turkey’s favor. Air interdiction operations destroy, isolate, neutralize, or delay the enemy’s military potential before it can influence friendly operations, which is obviously the task of the 220 F-104 Strikers. Offensive air power is that portion of offensive air power in direct support of ground operations, and consists of tactical air reconnaissance (the task of the more than thirty plus F-43s.) Close air support is the task of forty F-100s together with 60 F-5s, as well as different combinations of other types of aircraft.

Comparing the two doctrines, particularly the defensive nature of the Total Popular Defense and the offensive nature of the Air-Land Battle, it is obvious that the offensive side of the operations belongs to the Turkish side. It is easy, thus, to understand the basis of a depressing conclusion that the effectiveness of the Greek defense was undermined by party sloganeering and catchy clichés. Papandreou used various issues of the Greek defense and especially the Turkish menace in order to boost his popularity and his political charisma.

The PASOK government totally failed to modernize the Hellenic armed forces. In human resources PASOK created a small voluntary force. Mainly, these volunteers were and are PASOK followers. In a way, PASOK wanted to create its own Republican Guard a la Iraq and Iran. They obtained from the US government 312 M-60A3 tanks. The Reagan administration gave this military material as a gift, because Papandreou allowed the sixth Fleet to use Souda Bay naval base in Crete, which considered being the Guantanamo of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, during the US strike in Libya in 1986. However, Papandreou failed to obtain good terms for the F-16s purchased. Eventually, Greece obtained these planes after a long and painful delay, because the U.S. government had evidence that Papandreou gave military secrets to the Soviet Union. The aircraft began arriving in 1988; the delivery finished in 1989. During the same period, Greece bought Mirage M-2000 aircraft from France. It is evident that the various incoherent PASOK defense policies destroyed Greece’s ability to deter the Turkish threat.

The Greek Socialists argued that Papandreou’s foreign and defense policies were objective and represented reality. PASOK tried to break apart old influence in Greek defense policy. Various socialists argued that Greece enjoys a unique, if unfortunate, distinction among the rest of the nation-states in the European continent: she began life as a modern free nation-state after shaking off the brutal Ottoman yoke with three political parties, the English Party, the French Party, and the Russian Party. The very names of these parties demonstrated the degree of Greece’s dependency on the Great Powers of the time. It is evident that PASOK used history to confuse issues, rather than forging a cogent and coherent foreign policy.

Socialism and Defense Illusions

It is evident that the socialist party in Greece based in its political ideology the redesigning of the Greek defense policy and ignored serious and pragmatic challenges. Also this new defense doctrine managed to isolate Greece from USA and NATO and turned Greece to imaginary friends and allies such as, the French, the Russians, and the Arabs.

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