Last week’s defense agreement between Athens and Paris is the biggest defense deal Greece has had in this century. In an exclusive interview with Greek Reporter, diplomatic – defense and Geo-strategic analyst Athanasios Drougos is offering his assessment of the agreement, what it means for the balance of power in the Aegean and its diplomatic implications.
“I believe that the Paris agreement will have some implications and ramifications in the wider area,” he says. But at the end of the day, it would not alter the Turkish defense security and maritime policies, or its behavior until 2025-26.”
That’s when the Rafale aircraft and Belharra frigates which Greece has ordered from France will be delivered. Drougos believes that Turkey’s provocation tactics in the Aegean will not be affected by the agreement, at least in the next 5 years.
Ankara has been expanding its air-naval capabilities for years”, he says. “It has made substantial steps in the defense sector through a broad variety of military programs, particularly in air defense, sub-sea activities, UAVs and projection of power abroad – all through the doctrine of “Blue Sea’.”
Drougos, a lecturer in NATO colleges and seminars, reminds us of the engagement and military presence of Ankara in western Libya, in the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus, and in using port facilities in Albania. He believes that these issues require Athens’s special attention.
When the new French frigates arrive and are integrated into the Greek fleet in 2025-26, Drougos thinks that Athens will have an increasing and upgraded involvement and status in the air-sea sub-regional and regional environment.
Concerning whether the buy of the French frigates and aircraft are financially and diplomatically beneficial for Greece, Drougos believes that “the final selection was mostly the right one, although it could have certain ramifications and possible diplomatic reactions.”
“The option of the French frigates is technologically correct, although it tilts Athens a bit too much towards Paris. In any case, in the coming time I am expecting various tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean area.”
From a financial perspective for a small country like Greece, the French weapons are quite expensive, Drougos thinks. He says that Greece did not get anything useful, or substantial for its industrial sector from the Paris agreement (for example some construction/auxiliary contributions, investments in the Greek shipyards etc).
Drougos on Greece’s defense agreement implications
According to the agreement, the two countries have to assist one another if there’s an outside to threat to either of them. Does that mean that Greece will have to aid French troops in parts of the world outside Europe? Can Greece afford that type of interventionist assistance diplomatically?
“The Paris Agreement has many perplexing ‘shadows’, especially in terms of guarantees,” Drougos says. “For instance, it antagonizes transatlantic ones.”
“I firmly believe that NATO policies -despite France’s complex behavioral stance towards them- remain the backbone and cornerstone of the western defense system in a very strange and unhealthy global and regional environment of policies (hybrid-nonlinear, asymmetric cyber threats).”
Drougos considers the French defense guarantees useless, and intermingling with the Euro-Atlantic ones. “In certain transatlantic cases, Greece has for decades not followed a crystal clear policy towards NATO, and the threat clause in the Paris agreement does not help in that direction.”
“I would not be very sure and remain skeptical regarding the level, involvement of France in defending the Greek rights in its EEZ [Exclusive Economic Zone],” Drougos says. He doesn’t believe that the French would interfere with Turkey’s broad spectrum provocations in the Aegean.
“I do not trust the French guarantees”
“I do not trust the French to offer nuclear coverage and guarantees to Athens in an extreme scenario of threats and grave tensions, for instance. Plus, Athens should keep its distance from potential French military operations in any sub-Saharan/Sahel bones of contention.”
The French- led operations in Mali and its former colonies in Africa have been disastrous, according to Drougos. He believes Greece should never participate in any faraway meta-colonial wars.
Was the French aircraft & frigates deal the best Greece could have picked? “Concerning the frigates, based on current and available ships (according to existing characteristics, air defense coverage, long range weapons, anti-submarine capabilities, etc), I would say yes,” Drougos says.
He remains skeptical, though, about the Rafale deal, because it’s about 12 second-hand planes, which have not had any real fighting experience in contemporary/recent 4th/5th generation wars. “It would be better and more convenient to wait a bit longer before the buy, given that Turkey has not yet reached its selection/final aircraft decision”.
Finally, concerning the possibility that the French are using Greece as a diplomatic buffer against the recent US/UK/Australia AUKUS agreement, Drougos thinks that is the case.
“Greece to tilt away from AUKUS defense alliance”
“The AUKUS alliance in the Indio-Pacific is an extremely important and strategic one. It brings together three continents and raises (step by step) prominent obstacles to the Chinese imperial thoughts and ambitions. AUKUS will soon have even broader dimensions and expanded ramifications.”
“Paris has lost a multi billion-dollar contract with Australia over the construction of nuclear-powered submarines. Within its wider plans it aims at bringing Greece on the opposing side of AUKUS. Frankly speaking I am rather anxious of the forthcoming developments.”
Drougos believes that the US/UK/Australia alliance could potentially influence developments in Cyprus and other regions. “I remain skeptical, because I believe Greek politicians mostly do not study in depth all the relevant defense and diplomatic alternatives, and proceed to hasty, frivolous and even frustrating decisions.”