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Greece Defense Policy 1974-1981

Greece Defense Policy 1974-1981

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Published by Vassilios Damiras
This research papers analyzes the Greek defense doctrine 1974-1981.
This research papers analyzes the Greek defense doctrine 1974-1981.

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Published by: Vassilios Damiras on Apr 20, 2011
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Greece Defense Policy 1974-1981 an Era of Great DilemmasbyVassilios DamirasDefense and Counterterrorism ConsultantinUSA
The national security history of twentieth-century Greece can be divided into the pre-1974 epochand post-1974 period, when full civilian control of the military emerged, too late to forestall adisastrous military misadventure in Cyprus, but in time to end the continual internal politicalconflict that had made Greece vulnerable to military seizures of power. The post-1974 period brought a new era to the Greek military and the Hellenic defense doctrine in order to face thenew military threats mainly from Turkey.Greek statesmen believed that having a strong armed force could create both military anddiplomatic conditions for a victory over Turkey. Furthermore, a strong Greek military presencein the region could serve as a deterrent force, and protect Greek rights in the easternMediterranean Sea region. However, politicians used this new defense planning only for the purpose of enhancing their domestic status. Thus, Athens in many instances lost importantdefense and diplomatic opportunities in the ongoing battle for the survival of the Greek nation-state. Also, this specific policy isolated Greece from the U.S.A. and the North Atlantic TreatyOrganization (NATO) two major and significant providers to Greek security and stability. Sincethen Greece appeared to be NATO¶s naughty child.Historically, the two persistent concerns of the Greek defense have been Turkish aggression over the years, and the Balkan Slavs. Both groups want to see Greece destroyed. The intensity and thedirection of the threats have changed several times during the last two centuries. After WorldWar Two (1939-1945), world communism was the major concern, and this meant that the enemycame from the north. This defense perception dominated the Greek military establishment untilthe 1970s. However, in the 1960s the Turkish threat appeared in the horizon. Turkey used theCyprus issue as an excuse to challenge Greek survival in the region.Specifically, the 1974 Turkish invasion of the island of Cyprus due to the Greek coup d'etatraised crucial issues for the Greek survival. Moreover, Turkish behavior clearly indicated that themain military threat was from the east. In addition to the Cyprus dispute, Ankara claimed rightsin four other critical issues: 1-the delimitation of the continental shelf, 2-the extent of Aegeanterritorial waters, 3-the allocation of operational responsibility for the Aegean air space withinthe NATO framework, and 4-Turkey's complaints regarding the demilitarization of the islands of eastern Aegean. These territorial claims clearly illustrate that Ankara since 1974 has followed arevisionist policy aimed at altering the status quo, which was created by the treaties of Lausanne(1923), Montreaux (1936), and Paris (1947).
2In reaction to the Turkish aggression over Cyprus and Turkey¶s territorial claims over Greek territory commencing in 1974, Greece underwent a gradual but dramatic change in the military policy. This change occurred in order to deal with the hostile actions of Turkey. ConstantineKaramanlis and his newly created political party,
Néa Demokratía
(New Democracy), initiatedthe dramatic changes in the Greek military sector.
The new Hellenic defense doctrine needed to take into account that geography and history have placed Greece in crucial geopolitical and geostrategic areas, amid Europe, Asia, and Africa.Greece situated at a crossroads between East and West, North and South, in the easternMediterranean, a sea area of enormous political, strategic, and economic significance, occupies acritical geographic position: it is surrounded by hot spots of ethno-political and religious tensionsand conflicts. Most importantly, since 1974, Turkey was understood to be the major militarythreat to the survival and sustenance of the Greek civilization and nation-state. Greece, with3,012 islands and rocky islets, and 15,000 km of coastline, was and is Europe's gateway to Asiaand Africa. Therefore, in these crucial circumstances, Athens needed to execute a new defensedogma for the purpose in responding to the newly created Turkish menace.With the dramatic fall of the junta on July 24, 1974, the National Unity government of Karamanlis and the subsequent conservative administration of the New Democracy political party found the Greek armed forces with very low morale and inadequately prepared to deal withthe Turkish menace or any other military threat. The military equipment and the structure of thearmed forces, both largely obsolete, were the result of a long and painful embargo by the UnitedStates against the military dictatorship, which embargo was supported by most Greek statesmenas a means towards ending the brutal dictatorship. Only Evangelos Averoff, who becameKaramanlis's defense minister, opposed the military embargo in several communications tocongressional committees, but strictly for national security reasons and not in support of thecolonels. Averoff argued that Ankara would exploit the Greek military weakness in order to promote Turkey's expansionist interest in the region. In the end as history so clearly depicts,Ankara did manipulate the Greek military weakness.When Karamanlis returned to Greece from Paris on July 24, 1974, he was faced with threecrucial options regarding the Cyprus situation. The first was to go to war with Turkey.Paradoxically the Greek dictators had kept the Greek republic exposed by leaving the AegeanIslands totally undefended against a possible Turkish military operation. The second option wasto seek a truce so as to gain time and to later begin massive rearmament that would enableGreece to eject the Turkish forces out of Cyprus at an opportune moment. Had this option beenchosen, Greece and Turkey likely would have initiated a chain reaction of reverences warssimilar to those that occurred between Israel and Palestine. Moreover, US President Richard Nixon in a message to Karamanlis reflected and pressed Athens to avoid the possibility of Greek-Turkish war. An armed conflict between two neighbors and allies threatened to createserious problems in NATO¶s mission and cohesion, therefore destroying America¶s nationalinterest in the Eastern Mediterranean region. The US kept equal distance between Athens andAnkara. That policy caused great disappointment in the socio-political structure in Greece, whereWashington¶s diplomatic stance perceived to favor Turkey expansionist policies.
3Moreover, a Greco-Turkish confrontation would have been a climate of high tension that wouldhave prevented Greece from securing membership in the European Community (EC). The thirdoption was to arm Greece for adequate deterrence of future Turkish expansionism in Cyprus, theAegean, and Thrace, while at the same time applying political, economic and diplomatic pressures to promote a viable settlement in Cyprus and the Aegean Sea dispute.Karamanlis elected the third option, believing that at that point, Greek national security requiredmaximum integration in the European Community, even though from the Greek point of viewthat strategic decision meant abandoning certain territorial and nationalistic goals such as a unionwith Cyprus and the idea Greek policy needs to isolate Turkey from European institutions suchas the EC. Karamanlis's strategic decision set an important precedent for Greek national security policy for the ensuing twenty years. From that point on, Greek strategy tried to emulateEuropean strategic patterns, mainly those of France.In Greece, the low morale of the Hellenic armed forces was the result of their being blamed for the Cyprus debacle, even though they had not engaged in combat against the Turkish militarymachine. Although the military establishment was criticized for inadequate mobilization, it iswell known that this state of affairs was the result of hasty decisions made by the junta regime inthe absence of professional soldiers. The armed forces of Greece were further demoralized by thestrategic blunder of the exit of Greece from the military wing of NATO in 1974. Karamanlis,imitating Charles de Gaulle, withdrew from the military branch of the NATO alliance because othe pressure of public opinion, and did so without consultation with any national militaryleadership (which at the time did not exist). By withdrawing all armed forces from NATO JointCommand, Greece lost the operational control of the Aegean Sea, which was gladly assumed bythe Turkish armed forces. Domestically, Karamanlis used the Greek withdrawal from NATO asan avenue to enhance his popularity and promote a wave of anti-American sentiment, as hewanted to disassociate Greece from United States. He believed that strong European ties could be more productive for Greece's strategic cause and position. He especially perceived that a veryclose military friendship with France could create a powerful Greece in the region. Karamanlisadmired the French system because he had lived in France since 1963. He perceived that byadopting the French/de Gaulle democratic system, he could create a cult/nationalistic feelingaround his personality and his ideas about Greek democracy. Eventually, he successfullymanaged to create a cult-love around his personality. Greeks called him
, equivalent to³father of the modem and democratic Greek nation.´The first defense decision of the Karamanlis government, after concerted diplomatic actionstargeted at isolating the Turkish government internationally and portraying it as the aggressor,was to demobilize the Greek armed forces, and to disengage them from the political affairs of Greece in which they had been active during the seven years of military rule. The seconddecision was to acquire the military equipment urgently needed to overcome the Turkishsuperiority in materiel.After a personal appeal made by Karamanlis to President Giscard d'Estaing of France, a deGaulle proponent and personal friend of Karamanlis, Greece purchased thirty-three Mirage F-1fighters and thus achieved limited air superiority in the Aegean Sea. In addition, the Greek Air Force enhanced its F-4 fleet by acquiring this aircraft type from the US Air Force. At the sametime, the air force acquired from the US Navy fifty A-7 bombers, twelve C-130 Hercules cargo

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