A Sophoclean Tragedy: The Greek Defense Doctrine 1989-2010

Post Cold War Era At the end of the Cold War the Greek geostrategic environment became increasingly complex and since then has been characterized by an arrange of hard and soft security challenges and dilemmas many of which cut across traditional regional borders or lines and vividly underscore Greece’s geostrategic position as a “transregional” actor. Party politics continued to play a role in decision-making regarding the geopolitical perceptions of Greece.

Greek Defense Doctrine 1989-2003

As Andreas Papandreou awaited PASOK’s inevitable political losses in the general elections of June 1989, Papandreou adjusted the electoral system to make it more proportional and hinder formation of a majority by rival political party. This specific political strategy succeeded in part. Under the leadership of Papandreou’s old rival Constantine Mitsotakis, New Democracy won forty-four percent of the vote, but it fell six seats short of a majority. A short-lived conservative-communist coalition government was formed.

Mitsotakis, while remaining party leader, stood aside for Tzannis Tzannetakis, a New Democracy deputy and former naval officer, to become prime minister. Tzannetakis was widely respected for his opposition to the military dictatorship. The new prime minister took office on July 2, 1989. On October 12, 1989, he resigned and new general elections were announced. Ioannis Grivas, the chief Justice of the Greek Supreme Court, became a caretaker prime minister on October 12, 1989, in order to execute the elections. Once more, New Democracy did not achieve a clear majority. An ecumenical coalition with conservatives, socialist, and communist was hammered out. The new prime minister was Xenophon Zolatas, a former governor of the Bank of Greece. He assumed power on November 23, 1989. In March 1990, Zolotas announced new general elections for the tenth of April, 1990. In April 1990, Mitsotakis won the general elections and shaped a conservative government with the assistance of another Conservative Party, the Democratic Renewal. He became prime minister on April 11, 1990. Mitsotakis followed a combination of New Democracy and PASOK defense policies. During the specific time of political upheaval (1989-1990) defense policy became a second priority or nonexistent for the Greek political elite. The main purpose for PASOK and New Democracy was to win the general elections and establish powerful governments.

In September 1993, the conservative alliances collapsed and in October 1993, general elections brought Papandreou back to power. He took the prime minister’s office on October 13, 1993. Specifically, the Mitsotakis administration lost power, because Antonis Samaras the former minister of foreign affairs had withdrawn his support, due to the conflict over the name that the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia-FYROM wanted to use. In 1994, Greece and Cyprus announced the creation of Joint Defense Area. According to this military doctrine, as long as Turkey maintained an occupation force of more than 30,000 troops in Cyprus, Greek and Cypriot forces would remain in a posture of joint defense. The execution of this military plan is very dubious, because Greece has not enough forces and capabilities to protect both Greece and Cyprus. Moreover, the adaptation and execution of a Joint Defense Area requires huge defense budgets and a coherent defense policy. Nonetheless, the Greek government does not have the capacity for either of them. In January 1996, Papandreou resigned due to illness and Costas Simitis became prime minister. Eventually, Papandreou died on 20 June 1996. Since 1996, Simitis won two general elections in April 1996 and April 2000. Simitis followed the same defense plan as Papandreou.

The demands of national security and NATO participation since 1990 have inspired an expensive modernization in the Greek armed forces. Since Mitsotakis the Greek armed forces obtained new tanks from Germany and US. In addition, the Greek air force obtained fifty F-16s from US. In 2003, the Greek government bought sixty Fl6C/D Block 52. In addition, the Greek government planned to buy fifteen aircraft Mirage M-2000-5 from France and surplus military materiel from the former Eastern Europe. Nonetheless, due to governmental miscalculations Greece lost good opportunities to be a member of the production team of F-16 and the new Euro fighter. Finally, Greece purchased twenty Apache helicopters for the needs of the Greek army. Now Greece has bought another twenty Apache helicopters and twenty Apache Longbow helicopters.

Moreover, an expensive modernization program in the Hellenic Navy started in the 1990’s. Given fiscal restrictions, planners have concentrated on acquisition of modem naval platforms to replace outmoded Fletcher-class and Gearing FRAM VII-class destroyers. The goals of the replacement program include manufactured of four MEKO 200H-class frigates-the first of which was delivered from Germany in 1993 and the other three of which completed in the Hellenic Shipyards.

Four Adams-class destroyers were leased from the United States Navy in 1992, and placed in the Greek Kimon class. The next year, three Knox-class frigates also were leased from the United States Navy and placed in the Macedonian class and three Standard (Dutch Kortenear)-class frigates were acquired from the Dutch Navy in the Greek Elli class. In all, the Hellenic Navy had fourteen major surface combatants in 1994. Since then the Hellenic Defense Department wants to raise the warfare vessels close to twenty.

In 1993, Greek shipyards began construction of five tank landing ships (LSTs). The modernization program also included acquisition of five Sikorsky (Greek name Aegean hawk/Seahawk) antisubmarine warfare (ASW) helicopters from the United States to support the fleet’s antisubmarine defenses. These helicopters have been delivered and they are planning to order more. Four of Greece’s eight Glavkos-type (GeT-209/110) submarines have updated power plants and upgraded electronic equipment; US-made Harpoon surface-to-surface missiles have been added to one. One of the submarines was modernized in Germany, the others at the Salamis Shipyard near Piraeus. The Hellenic navy’s command, control, and communication information systems are also in the process of modernization to improve information flow. A number of small combatants and support ships also have been built in the early 1990s and 2000s. In addition, the Hellenic Navy is planning to buy MEKO A-1OO Corvettes from Germany in order to enhance Greece’s sea capability of deterrence, naval presence, sea control, and power projection.

Moreover, Greece received four of the eight P3 maritime patrol aircraft to replace the nine outmoded Albatross aircraft. The addition of the new units also required upgrading the naval facilities at Greece’s two main naval bases, Salamis and Souda Bay, as well as the forward bases on the island of Skiros and on the Khalkidi Peninsula close to Thessaloniki, both in the Aegean Sea. However, the armed forces remained politicized and loyal to PASOK despite the brief conservative rule 1990-1993. Oftentimes, the wrong people got promotions and awards during that period. In addition, when PASOK returned to power in 1993, gave to pro-socialist Greek companies the procurement defense policies. Papandreou reestablished the 1980s socialist defense policy. In January/February 1996, the Imia/Kardak incident vividly indicated the incompetence of the Greek armed forces. Greece and Turkey came close to war for two outcroppings.

Eventually, Richard Holbrooke negotiated back to status quo. However, Greece lost a naval Augusta-Bell helicopter due to hostile fire. During those dramatic days, the Greek military machine crumbled due to serious politico-military indecision. Eventually, as it was indicated above the U.S. saved the day and the Greek territorial integrity. The socialist successor of Papandreou Costas Simitis thanked the American government in his speech in the Greek Parliament explaining the Imia crisis.

On August 17, 1999, a devastating earthquake that killed thousand of people hit Turkey’s Marmara region. They were a rush humanitarian effort from the Greek republic. On September 7, 1999, Athens, Greece was hit with earthquake. Turkey responded with humanitarian aid. This policy was called civic diplomacy, people’s diplomacy, or seismic diplomacy, started by the two countries. Despite this new good friendship policy Turkey continued to violate Greek airspace and Greece continued a policy of defense modernization.

Currently, the Greek government faces a demographic problem. The Greek population has low birth rate and in addition a large proportion of Greeks do not want to serve their country in the military. Many Greeks pursue educational opportunities outside of Greece and eventually, stay in other countries for better working opportunities and to avoid the draft. Furthermore, the Simitis administration faced serious economic problems; hence it was very difficult to modernize the Greek armed forces. In 2001, Ioannis Papantoniou became Minister of National defense in order to assist the prime minister in reorganizing a new defense dogma. The socialist government thought to abolish the draft and introduce volunteer armed forces. Of course, this project needed money that Greece did not have. Athens believed that eventually the European Union defense program would assist Greece in her defense expenses and reorganization projects.

Despite these latest difficulties the Greek national strategy principles remain:

(1) the deterrence of any external military threat, mainly Turkey, (2) the support of the country’s European course, (3) The support of the country’s position in the Balkans with the view to its gradually becoming European Union’s Balkan gateway, (4) the active presence of Greece in the area of the Black Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean, (5) the development of an active and dynamic defense diplomacy targeting at promoting civil security, peace, and cooperation in the area of the Balkans, the Black Sea, and the Eastern Mediterranean, (6) the presence of Greece as the metropolitan center of Hellenism, that takes the necessary initiatives to mobilize the Hellenes around the world. However, it is very doubtful that Greece could do the aforementioned strategic goals currently governed by a corrupt and incapable government. The Greek political and military structure needs to rethink this strategy and capitalize on the Greek-US relationship.

Greece’s defense based on PASOK utopian/political ideology is incapable of executing a coherent strategy. This is evident in Greece’s behavior during the 1990s. Specifically, since the collapse of Yugoslavia, Greek conservatives, socialists, and communists supported Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic and their criminal behavior towards their Muslim population. The Greek behavior totally upset the American government. Specifically, Papandreou and Greek politicians from various political backgrounds adopted this specific idea to support rogue states or terrorist organizations as an enhancement of Greek deterrence. Thus, Greece has supported such as, Milisovec’s Yugoslavia, PLO, and PKK-Kurdish Workers Party., Greece supported Milosevic especially, because he was a fellow Orthodox politician fighting the Muslim threat. The Greek military and political elites totally ignored that Milosevic’s forces killed innocent civilians. Furthermore, Greece supported non-Christian terrorist organizations because they were anti-American. Even some Socialists have been accused of assisting November 17, the Greek terrorist organization, as a gesture of fighting US imperialism on Greek soil, and promoting Greek national interests. However, Greece survived due to the US involvement in the region. Hence, a strong Greek-US alliance could produce strong results for both countries. The Greek decision-making machine must stop supporting dubious causes such as, supporting genocidal maniacs (e.g. Milosevic) and bloodthirsty terrorist groups (e.g. the PLO), because such defense policies hurt the Greek position in the region.

Specifically, Greece was the only member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU) to support the brutal Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. Greece went against its western allies, totally frustrating their efforts to impose economic sanctions against Serbia. Thus, Greece lost money from the USA that the U.S. President George Bush and later U.S. President Bill Clinton continued to give, in order for Greece to promote democracy in the Balkans. Greece lost a big opportunity to safeguard her national interest in the region and create better diplomatic ties with the American government.

It is necessary to briefly examine Greece’s behavior during the Yugoslav wars. In order to depict how utopist is the Greek defense doctrine. The Greek Prime Ministers Papandreou, Mitsotakis, and Simitis were admirers of the Serbian president and never made any effort to hide it. Throughout the Yugoslav wars Athens supported the Milosevic regime in Pale morally, economically, politically, and militarily sending volunteers to fight in Bosnia. It repeatedly violated the UN imposed oil embargo on Serbia and the EU decision concerning the freezing of assets belonging to the Milosevic regime. Athens’s support was massive and involved all strata of society: the political class, the trade unions, the media and above all the Orthodox Church. The innocent victims of Serbian aggression and brutality were simply erased from the moral perceptions of the overwhelming majority of the population and the political class of Greece. Whenever a Greek politician voiced criticism about the fighting, it was nearly always directed against NATO air strikes and other machinations of the West and particularly the corrupt United States. Greece’s policies, said leading Serb journalist Peter Lucovic, "benefited exclusively the Milosevic regime, helping the Milosevic family and its associates to retain power in Belgrade. Greece was used by Milosevic regime as the fine example of a Western country that supported democratic and patriotic Serbia."

Zoran Mutic questions the Greek behavior, rightly so, by asking, "When I hear so many Greeks -journalists, academics, politicians, intellectuals – expressing their admiration for Karadzic, what can I say? How can they consider as a hero a criminal, somebody who bombed hospitals, who placed snipers to kill kids on the street?" Athens totally failed to promote and safeguard democracy and human rights in the region in the name of utopian national ideas.

Equally interesting and fascinating have been Greek reactions to the terrorist attack against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in September 2001, and the subsequent war in Afghanistan. Both Prime Minister Simitis and opposition leader Constantine Karamanlis, the nephew of Karamanlis senior, denounced the terrorist attack in the strongest of terms and supported the U.S. efforts to fight terrorism. Moreover, Athens allowed the US to use Greece as a military platform. However, behind the scenes the Greek political elite criticized the United States. Upon learning of the terrorist attack, the immensely popular Archbishop Christodoulos of the Greek Orthodox Church attributed the act to the injustice and inequality that pervades the world. It was unleashed, he said, because those in power behaved "without scruples and in defiance of the justice of God and Man." That view that America was somehow to blame for this terrible and barbaric incident was soon echoed in much of the media through the voices of prominent Greek politicians. Television broadcasting in Greece in the wake of the tragedy was dominated by discussions of how America supposedly brought this event upon itself for perceived political and military sins. This behavior was justified under the auspices of the Greek Defense Dogma/Doctrine.

Furthermore, during the second Gulf War the Simitis administration missed the opportunity to press for a better Greek-US alliance and exploit the US-Turkish strained relationship. Instead, Simitis took the side of Turkey and argued that Ankara was right in challenging the Bush administration. Once more, Greece failed to benefit from opportunities that appeared in the horizon. During those days, anti-Americanism was very high in Greece.

More recently, on July 23, 2003, NATO officials initiated new Greek-Turkish military cooperation under the auspices of US/NATO. Under this plan, both countries will exchange officers in order to participate in War College seminars in Athens and Ankara. In addition, both countries will work to improve military politico-military relations such as NATO issues, military doctrines, crisis management, peacekeeping, natural disaster response, and environmental issues. It is evident that US/NATO officials believe this kind of strategic cooperation could assist Greece and Turkey to find solutions to their bilateral problems.

Greek Defense Strategy 2004-2010

The Greek Armed Forces plan to modernize themselves considerably over the coming year, due to the maturation of many defense-related programs and projects that were procured in previous years. Some of these enhancements have strategic importance for the overall regional balance of power in the Balkans and Mediterranean, and the capabilities they entail for the Greek military.

Greece has already received four of the 12 AH-64D (Apache) attack helicopters ordered from Boeing and 12 longbow (Apache) attack helicopters. The final delivery occurred, in 2005, bringing the total to 32 helicopters of these types. The features of these types of attack helicopters include radar that can follow more 256 different targets simultaneously. It is notable that Greece is one of the few countries worldwide to use this type of helicopters after the USA, UK, Israel, the Netherlands and Japan.

Moreover, Greece began receiving the first batch of the new Leopard 2HEL battle tanks that will be jointly manufactured by the Greek ELVO company and the German KMW. The total order was for 170 units at a total cost of 1.7 billion euros, priced in December 2003. This type of tank is the most advanced in Europe today, and will be accompanied by highly lethal APFSDS ammunition, which can penetrate most types of armored vehicles. This procurement cycle is to end in late 2011 and it is assumed that these tanks will be deployed on the Thracian front, in order for the Greek army to gain a considerable advantage over Turkey‘s ageing M-48 and M-60 tanks.

Also during 2004, the Greek army received the 130 Leopard 2A4 type tanks ordered from Germany, in parallel with the aforementioned 2HEL one. This delivery coupled with the 98 Leopard 1A5 type tanks that were gained by the Greek Army as an offset of the total tank procurement package. It is evident that the Greek army is increasingly becoming more "Continental" in posture by replenishing its strength and switching from American models to German ones.

The Greek army’s aviation unit has also taken its share of deliveries over the year, with the first NH90 type transport helicopters now received, from a total procurement of twenty orders. They were produced by Eurocopter, a French-German conglomerate, and will serve the Army well, replacing the somehow still operable American Huey helicopters, many of which have been in service since the early 1970′s, some of them having actually served in the Vietnam War. All the above deliveries were procured from 2001 to 2003 and cost approximately 2.9 billion euros. Greece continued to receive that material in 2004 also.

Regarding the Navy, Greece has already received its first submarine from an original procurement of three; the S-214 type from the Kiel shipyards. The submarine was constructed and equipped with fuel-cell technology that provides extended duration travel below sea level, and is extremely quiet and hard to detect. Until now it has not been introduced into service, due to problems concerning its stability in journeys and technical malfunctions. Should these problems not be resolved, no other submarine is going to be accepted by the Navy. Another Navy delivery in 2007 comprised the two minesweeper vessels sold by the USN, OSPREY type ones. Greece expects that over the coming years it will be able to acquire another three similar type vessels so as to fully modernize its abilities in this naval field.

On the Fast Attack Vessels deliveries, the Greek Navy in May 2007 received the first of four Combattante III type ships that are currently undergoing a modernization program in the Syros shipyards in Greece. They have upgraded their electronic warfare systems and proceeded through a thorough reconstruction process. Concerning the same class of vessels, Greece is about to receive the last two Super Vita type Fast Attack Vessels that are manufactured in Elefsis yard, based on a British model. They are scheduled to be ready by autumn 2007. Lastly by the end of the year the modernization program of the Frigates S type will be completed, bringing a total of six vessels that have upgrading the fighting capabilities. All the above deliveries were procured between 1999 and 2004 and have cost approximately 2.4 billion euros.

The Greek Air Force has undertaken important upgrades in its arsenal during 2007. It received 25 Mirage-2000-5 MK2. This delivery joined by another one of 10 200-5 type that were modernized from a 2000 level. The unique future of this type of French aircraft is its ability to strike launches (air-to-ground) of the SCALP-EG missile which has a range of 250 km. Greece received 56 of these missiles in the end 2007, along with an array of MICA and Magic type air-to-air missiles, specifically for the Mirage aircraft. Furthermore this type of fighter jets is equipped with RDY radar, which is considered to be the top of its class and the best operational radar yet seen in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean environment. Another important defense aspect of 2007 for the Greek was the completion of the installation of the ASPIS II electronic protection system in the Greek F-16 Block 52+aircraft. This specific system offers an electronic protection shield on par with the highest NATO standards for these types of jets. It protects them from the perils of electronic warfare to a great extent.

In the sector of transport airplanes, the Greek air force completed in 2007 its procurement of 12 C-27J Spartan type. Greece has had to count heavily on its fleet of C-130 carrier aircraft, and the new planes will greatly assist in advancing the abilities of the military to transport material in and out of the country and in destinations such as Afghanistan and Kosovo where Greek troops are stationed as part of peacekeeping forces. A last and crucial addition to the Greek air force’s fleet is the consignment of four new EMB-145H AWACS which constructed by a French-Brazilian-Swedish consortium. Greece, for the first time in its aviation history, acquired air radar capabilities with an average detection range of 350 km for enemy planes and 150 km for incoming cruise missiles. It is assumed that these four aircraft could fully meet the needs for a defense from the Northern Aegean archipelagos and up to the central Eastern Mediterranean Sea. In addition, the Hellenic Air Force received four American made Orions anti-submarine warfare airplanes. All the above deliveries were procured from 1998 to 2003 and have cost approximately 2.4 billion euros.

A last and notable development concerning the Greek military is the creation and operation of the "Intelligence Electronic Centre," administered by the army. It’s tasked with the continuous collecting of OSINT information concerning anything transmitted on domestic and world media concerning military affairs. It is also responsible for upholding the security status of internet and intranet networks of the military, and monitors leakages of sensitive and/or classified information over the World Wide Web. Already, in the centre’s three months in operation, it has successfully tracked down six attempts to disclose military information, either deliberately or by accident.

On the overall picture, 2007 can be regarded as the year in which the Greek military finally received a significant amount of military hardware originally ordered during the previous decade. The total armament arsenal to be delivered by year’s end cost some 7.7 billion euros. This major enhancement is helping Greece to become one of the world’s most capable mid-sized military powers in the world.

Over the next decade, the country is planning to execute a defense procurement budget of some 22 billion euros aimed at securing its place in the "network-based warfare structure" with an emphasis on attaining regional air and sea supremacy. It does have to be noted, however, that financial considerations relating to policy made by the Ministry of National Economy will most probably result in a somewhat lower total budget than that previously allocated for military procurements. First, forty training jets for the air force (1 billion Euro approximately), to be contested mainly between British Aerospace’s (UK) "Hawk" jet and Aeromachi’s (Italy) "M-346." Second, the Hellenic navy will purchase six Frigates for 2.8 billion euros approximately, to be contested mainly between HDW (German) & DCN (French) corporations. And third, forty 4th-generation fighter jets ( 2.8 billion Euro approximately) to be contested between Dassult’s (France) "Rafale", EADS’s (UK, Germany, Italy, Spain) "Eurofighter" and Lockheed Martin’s (USA) "F-35 Lighting II."

In 2004, Greek politics vividly illustrated the strong family/dynastic connections. The conservative leader wanted to be prime minister of Greece was Costas Karamanlis the nephew of Constantine Karamanlis. Costas Karamanlis’s uncle was six time (1955, 1956, 1961, 1977, and 1978) prime minister and twice President of Greece (1980-1985 and 1990-1995) and the founder of the conservative party New Democracy after the restoration of democracy in Greece in 1974. The socialist leader who wanted to be prime mister was George Papandreou. The son of Andreas Papandreou, George Papandreou’s father was three times prime mister of Greece (1981, 1985, and 1993) and the founder of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement PASOK. George Papandreou grandfather was George Papandreou a liberal center left politician who was twice prime mister of Greece (1944 and 1963).Costas Karamanlis won twice the general election 2004 and 2007. New Democracy won due to bad socialist economic policies and corruption. He faced the rejection of the Annan Plan for Cyprus by the Greek Cypriots. Due to economic problems in 2009 lost the general elections and George Papandreou came to power. Greece faces huge economic problems and all the defense programs are in serious problems. Specifically, upon his inauguration Papandreou revealed that Greece’s finances were far worse than precious announcements, with a budget deficit of 12.7% of GDP, for times more than the eurozone limit, and a public debt of 140 billion American dollars. Greece enters a new era of economic uncertainty due to socio-political corruption.

Currently, Papandreou talks with the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to create an Aegean Sea based on mare liberum and not on mare clausum or mare nostrum. For both NATO allies to achieve that, they need the valuable assistance of the U.S. Sixth Fleet. Only the American naval forces can guarantee free and peaceful Aegean and monitor the volatile diplomatic behavior of Greece and Turkey.

Greek National Defense in Troubles

It is evident that in Greece defense issues are connected to party politics and various political personalities. Moreover, the various Greek political parties are based on charismatic political personalities not on democratic political values and ideas. In addition, The Greek socialist party has created an authoritarian socialism. The aforementioned two factors endangered the Greek defense doctrine. Specifically, to that socio-political situation the Greek defense doctrine does not exhibit any serious planning or goals. It is based how to promote populist politics. If the political situation in Greece does not change, the situation will deteriorate beyond repair.

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