|THE AEGEAN... AGAIN...|| || |
To add insult to injury, the Turks returned last week in the vicinity of the tiny islets of Kalogeroi, near Chios, where they staged another phantom “shipwreck,” complete with broadcasting bogus distress signals, as a means of challenging Greek search-and-rescue (SAR) authority in the sea within the boundaries of FIR Athens. With Greek SAR sea and air craft searching in vain for the imaginary “shipwreck,” Turkish helicopters and at least one surface ship appeared to interfere with the Greek efforts. Turkish radio traffic all along adjusted remarkably well to this tactically well rehearsed bait. In all, the Turks again transmitted the message that they recognize little Greek sovereignty past the 25th parallel, all the Greek islands near the Asia Minor coast be damned, and will continue to press on until Greece accepts, at a minimum, “co-exploitation” of the Aegean, which will involve oil exploration in the near future.
The Papandreou government, overwhelmed by the fiscal crisis, stirred little. In any case, the Greek prime minister has an established personal record of promoting “Greek-Turkish friendship” against even the most rudimentary logic of defending basic national interests in the Aegean, the sea which the recent STRATFOR report on Greece recognized as the “heart” of Hellenism (see here and here ). Barely a month and a half after the “groundbreaking” visit of the Turkish prime minister to Athens, Mr. Papandreou is again made bluntly aware of Turkish strategic intentions and longer term policies. It is most unlikely he will heed the message preferring, rather, to stick to his Turkish counterpart’s promises of brotherly love.
This latest Turkish probe in the Aegean is of great concern to those who are still thinking defense and are concerned about this country’s deteriorating military capabilities. While we know that the Greek Armed Forces are always in a state of alert vis-a-vis our undying “friends” to the east, it is becoming humanly untenable to sustain this perennial “no war” situation in the Aegean without a robust, nation-centered defense and security policy and the economic means to back it up. With Greece caught in the noose of the “bailout” austerity plan, and exposed as the lab mouse to EU experiments lest the euro and European banks feel the bite of a Greek default, the Aegean future appears, to say the least, insecure.
The Papandreou administration should realize that we are truly alone in the face of an expanding, well-defined, and purposeful Turkish onslaught. Turkey leaves no doubt as to how it plans to proceed in the region and the Aegean. In contrast, and thanks to a long tradition of incremental retreat and treacherous foreign policy bungling, we have little with which we can parry the Turkish thrusts, let alone go on to the offense.
We are sure that Mr. Papandreou will be discussing a whole range of international issues with his prominent guests at the international Symi symposium just opening on the island of Poros. We are equally sure he will leave the Aegean and Turkish belligerence quietly aside. You see, neither of these critical questions are amenable to “green development.”