Today, the Greek parliament ratified the Greco-French defense deal that was announced last week in Paris. This five-year agreement includes the Greek purchase of three French frigates as well as a mutual assistance clause in case of an attack on either Greece or France. Both Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and President Emmanuel Macron heralded the agreement as a landmark decision that has long-term implications for the Europe.
Alexis Tsipras of the Syriza party, along with all of the other left-wing parties objected to the ratification. Tsipras criticized the agreement because it imposed too many concessions on Athens, but the majority of parliamentary MPs found more merit with the agreement than concerns.
The agreement provides a new foundation for Greek defense and has given wind in Mitsotakis’ sails for further military reforms. Mitsotakis intends to proceed with his overhaul of the Greek military and this includes purchasing 18 French Rafale fighter jets as part of a major military procurement program. This agreement puts Mitsotakis on a stronger footing for concluding negotiations with the United States regarding American access to Greek military bases. For the first time in decades, Greece can equalize its military presences vis-à-vis Turkey and defend the Aegean seabed from its aggressive neighbor. Mitsotakis hinted at this when he spoke to lawmakers that “We all know. . . who is threatening whom with a casus belli in the eastern Mediterranean.”
The significance of the defense deal was not lost on Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Last Friday, Erdogan condemned the deal as an attempt to “isolate and alienate Turkey” and “threaten regional peace and stability.” Over the weekend, a spokesperson of the Turkish Defense Ministry stated that Greece’s actions were “unlawful, provocative, and aggressive.”
This new development could not come at a worse time for Erdogan. Already, his AKP party is showing signs of declining popularity. In addition, the transition from the Trump administration to the Biden administration has been interpreted as being more favorable to U.S. – Greek affairs than U.S. – Turkish relations. This past April, President Biden officially recognized the Armenian Genocide of 1915. Both Presidents Obama and Trump had refused to take this step as a means to maintain stable relations with Turkey. With a tougher U.S. president and unknown successor for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Erdogan is facing a new political reality. Finally, and possibly more troubling for Turkey are the persistent rumors of Erdogan’s declining health. According to columnists Steven Cook and Eni Enrico Mattei at Foreign Policy, Erdogan is having difficulty walking and is thought to have slurred his words at a televised holiday greeting to AKP members. (https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/10/01/erdogan-sick-lead-turkey/)
Make no mistake, the Greco-French agreement represents a new era for Greek military defense. The reliance on American military procurement has ended, and Greece has taken a decisive step forward for defending Greece’s porous borders. Merci beaucoup President Macron.