The ‘thriller’ regarding the selection of the Hellenic Navy’s new frigate came to a favorable conclusion and the announcement regarding the signing of a deal with France for the acquisition of the new generation digital frigate Belh@rra – arguably the finest ship in its class – was received with a major sigh of relief by the Greek armed forces, as well as Hellenes everywhere who are concerned about the security and defense of their homeland in the face of growing Turkish expansionism. Nevertheless, this development seems to have come about more by happenstance than carefully planned and delicate design.
Even so, these are positive developments, because behind-the-scenes political pressure and special interests could have ultimately prevailed and the final decision for this integral component required for the defense Greece’s waters might have been based on the political future of domestic political proxy persons and not the defense capabilities of the warship itself.
The clamorous decision by the United States to sign the new AUKUS trilateral security pact with Great Britain and Australia torpedoed a lucrative multi-billion dollar deal for the purchase of French submarines by Australia, which will now upgrade its fleet with U.S. nuclear submarines instead.
Evidently, in an attempt to smooth over the diplomatic row with France in the aftermath of the AUKUS crisis, the United States decided to give its blessing to France’s proposed deal with Greece, instead of continuing to pressure the Greek Government to accept the less favorable option being pitched by Washington, which included inferior frigates (MMSC) with clearly more limited performance capabilities.
Fortune or auspicious circumstances play their own unique role in shaping history, proving in practice that a stroke of luck can change years of stagnation in mere moments. From here on in, however, it is up to Greece to capitalize on this opportunity, instead of squandering it, as it has done in the past, due largely to the unbridled passions of political partisanship, self-serving party interests, and the pathogeny of a system of government that has proven itself unable to live up to the expectations of the citizenry on numerous occasions.
The 20th century (to avoid going back even further) is rife with such examples. The (unexpected?) triumphs of the Balkan Wars and Greece’s alliance with the winning side during World War I unraveled in the blink of an eye, with Hellenism left mourning one of the greatest losses it has ever sustained in its history – the Asia Minor Catastrophe. Similarly, instead of using the miracle of Greece’s victory against Mussolini’s fascist forces and the heroic resistance of the Greek people against the Nazi invaders as a springboard to catapult Greece into the role of a regional power, continuing the instrumental work of national self-awareness that began with the legendary ‘Generation of the 30s’ (Seferis, Elytis, Kontoglou, Engonopoulos, Hadjidakis, etc.), the country ended up plunging itself into the throes of a bloody civil war and a national division whose scars are still evident even today, in certain instances.
In fact, in the decades that followed, these traumatic experiences were often manipulated by opportunists and political hacks to cash in on personal gains at the expense of the nation and its people.
Undoubtedly, the agreement for the badly needed renewal of Greece’s aging naval fleet and the mutual aid that Greece and France will provide to each other in the sectors of defense and security represent auspicious developments to be celebrated, however, the formulation and implementation of a long-term national strategy that will remain intact despite the periodic transition of power from party to party remains a priority.
For example, high profile current and former cabinet ministers like Adonis Georgiadis and Evangelos Venizelos have already hastened to delineate the breadth of the defense pact, noting that Greece has yet to exercise its sovereign rights in the Exclusive Economic Zone to which it is entitled in the Eastern Aegean. When this finally does happen (because the failure to exercise these rights will be perceived as a waiver of them and Turkey will naturally seek to fill the void), can Greece count on French aid to defend these areas rich in hydrocarbon reserves? France would likely be open to such a prospect, assuming there is a corresponding motive (i.e., the granting of exploitation rights to French firms). However, if Greece’s energy strategy rests solely on the controversial German-made wind turbines, the situation is surely to prove more complicated and hazy.
Toward this end, the necessary Greco-French strategic understanding must be cemented, ahead of the formation of the new German Government. The victory of Germany’s center-left SPD party should not in any way be considered to provide Greece with a reprieve from the vice of the German-inspired memoranda. The apparent assumption of the German Finance Ministry by the head of the Free Democrat party and hardline neoconservative Mr. Christian Lindner carries the danger of a return to the Schaeuble doctrine and harsh austerity. Particularly when Greece signs billion-dollar deals with France (Rafale fighter jets, Belh@rra frigates, and hopefully soon to come Gowind corvettes) that drastically change the balance of power with Germany’s traditional ally Turkey, Greece must prepare itself for an all-out offensive from Berlin.
Luck plays an important role in shaping history, but only when it is utilized appropriately by perceptive and visionary leaders. Those who refuse to accept the gifts that fortune brings their way, insisting on wearing the blinders of ideological ankylosis and self-serving interest, run the risk of pressing their luck. And usually, when an opportunity is squandered, it takes a long time for it to present itself again, if in fact it ever does. Woe to the nations that bite Lady Luck’s hand when she extends it to them and look a gift horse in the mouth.
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