Greece, Turkey, the Aegean, and NATO never mixed in a positive, fruitful manner.
25 February 2016
Greece, since 2015 when the Tsipras administration came to power, was quickly undermined and subverted by untold masses of “irregular” undocumented entries. Europe’s “core,” under the incomprehensible “leadership” of Ms. Merkel, was quickly immersed in a vituperative war of words with the European “Union’s” eastern members demanding, in no uncertain terms, an active defense against the Muslim deluge. Greece, in the far corner of Europe, simply encouraged such an influx by having as Minister of Immigration Policy Ms. Tasia Christodolopoulou, an old (ex)-Communist Party member, who welcomed: “anyone wanting shelter.”
The implications for Greece were severe. Various estimates put the illegal population in Greece at anywhere from 1.4 to 1.8 million in early 2016. Despite the fact that the Greek government agreed on establishing Hotspots within its territory, the future looks worrisome since most Eastern European countries are hastily concocting plans to turn Greece into an open air storage of unwanted migrants by blocking one of its members’ northern border with a non-EU member, (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), that is to be supported and augmented by EU resources to isolate Greece.
Let’s have a deeper insight on what the prospects are right now. Summer 2016 is closing and the collapse of tourism in the eastern Greek Aegean islands - a vital foreign exchange earner for Greece - is around the corner. For example, in Castelorizo, a small Greek Island of 200 permanent residents, the number immigrants and refugees reached around 1,000 within one month. Furthermore, we are already facing serious risks of violent migrant protests on the islands, with the Greek population facing severe security and personal safety threats. Moreover, the rapid increase of already swelling Muslim illegal migrant populations in mainland Greece, especially thanks to the Greek government’s established tactic of transport-turn-loose-and-forget that is overwhelming Athens, has already proved catastrophic. As analyzed in other pieces for GIA, many arms’ smugglers and jihadists take advantage of this situation to develop their plans.
Most recently, a half-baked decision of the Tsipras administration to bring NATO into the desperate effort to stem the migrant flow into Western Europe was taken. “Isn’t it a good thing for NATO, a military organization that gets things done, to get directly involved in battling the human smugglers and save lives, not to mention help Greece with its humanitarian impasse?”
Unfortunately, well-intentioned queries such as these miss critical questions associated with such a hurried decision and the long-term implications for Greece. Let us set aside for the moment all the confident words of Greece’s “partners” who are happy to see a NATO naval force coming in to “help,” and let us look at the facts.
Greece, Turkey, the Aegean, and NATO never mixed in a positive, fruitful manner. Turkey’s demands for the abrogation of the Lausanne Treaty, and the apportioning of the Archipelago to its benefit, have occupied only sub-footnotes in the Alliance’s deliberations – especially since Lausanne specifically provides that Turkey has no claims to anything that lies past three nautical miles from its shores. In practice and definition, therefore, any step that involves NATO operating on issues related to national sovereignty, rights of innocent passage, and Turkish claims upon Greek island territories could, and, most likely will, become hazardous to Greece’s sovereignty.
Since this NATO decision was formed on the spur of the moment, nobody knows what exactly has been agreed – or not agreed – on the mission profile, the rules of engagement, and other “details” that could turn into major issues. Predictably, of course, the Western press is already in self-congratulatory mode expounding on the positive load of this maritime patrol which, however, “is not about stopping or pushing back refugee boats,” as the NATO Secretary General warned. This impeccably politically correct statement alone is enough to tell the weary observer that NATO in the Aegean will be wearing exclusively its “humanitarian” cloak with all the implications of such a move this involves. (The Italians, through their 2013-14 Mare Nostrum operation, have already enough experience on how any such maritime mission can easily turn into ‘a transport company for migrants,’ who see naval ships as the surest means of entering Europe illegally. Mare Nostrum brought an estimated 150,000 African and Middle Eastern illegals into Italy).
Turkey has supposedly agreed to take back illegals caught at the beginning of their journey to the Greek islands. Nevertheless, trusting erratic and increasingly combative Islamic president Erdogan is not the wisest choice. Turkey’s subversive behavior and collusion with Islamic fanatics battling the Syrian regime is naked for all to see, if, of course, those who can, have the courage to observe.
The announced NATO deployment includes three warships. These are fleet assets designed for completely different purposes, namely combat in the open seas, anti-air operations, fleet defense, etc. One cannot but ask the obvious question of what these ships can accomplish better than the already deployed coast guard vessels and Frontex resources, both of which are vastly more capable in operational, maneuvering, and mission-specific terms. The claim that the NATO ships would provide “better intelligence” is a poorly designed. However, Turkish human smugglers are experts in their waters, well connected with Turkish authorities who make a bundle in bribes, and know the coastline like the back of their hand. Three warships and some aircraft interdicting dozens of minuscule targets in ways that can cut the migrant flow down to acceptable levels (if there is such a thing,) may be a nice tabletop game but, in real maritime terms, is as money thrown directly into the sea to appease the masses.
This is the worst possible time for Greece to get involved in the inevitable, renewed “negotiations” with NATO and Turkey over jurisdiction, the Aegean, and how to approach constant Turkish challenges and “near war” violations of Greek territorial zones in both the air and the sea. These are issues on which NATO and the EU are silent for obvious reasons. But, like a thorn waiting to stab, these questions will surface the minute Turkey begins to object on this or that aspect of the NATO operation claiming that its “interests” are harmed, as it will certainly do.
With its economy broken, its banks all but extinguished, its people in uproar over increasing pressures from the creditors, its society in an uncontrolled downward spiral, its cities and towns soon to be overwhelmed by despairing Muslim aliens, its political “elites” involved in partisan cockfights and irrelevant personal squabbling, and the country’s administration moronic and dysfunctional, Greece now has to deal with NATO’s latest “stability” gift.