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It is time for Greece to leave NATO, since it fails to secure its interests It is time for Greece to leave NATO, since it fails to secure its interests
by Christos Mouzeviris
2020-11-23 10:54:46
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As the EU has postponed to make any decision on Turkey's aggression towards two of its members, Greece and Cyprus, until later this year, it is evident that coming into an agreement won't be easy. Witnessing how Poland and Hungary, joined by Slovenia has recently vetoed the EU's €750bn coronavirus recovery plan because cash payments to member states would be conditional on their respect for rule of law, it is highly unlikely that there will be any agreement on Turkey. Many EU members have vested interests in the country, notably Germany, but also Italy, Spain, Malta and the Netherlands. Since national vetoes still apply, then we should not hold our breath for a united European front towards Turkish aggression.

nat001_400_02Not able to get any support by its EU "allies" but also from USA, as the latter is embattled in its own problems with Trump and the recent presidential election outcome, Greece resorted in what it knows best: going on a arms shopping spree, to convince its "partners" to help it. Since Cyprus only got its 33 year arms embargo by the US, lifted last September, Greece has until now been spending on weaponry to protect both nations. Ten years ago though, it was scolded by the rest of Europe for "overspending" and getting the eurozone into trouble, even though it was German submarines that it spent its money on.

So for the past couple of months,Greece was been negotiating with it's Western "allies", and agreed to buy 18 Rafale aircrafts from France, 6 new and 12 used, at the price of 2 billion euro. It also reached an agreement with the US, to buy 24 F-35 fighters at the approximate price of another 2 billion euro. Finally, it is negotiating with France, Germany and the US again, to get 4 new frigate ships. The price of these will vary from over 4 billion euro if Greece buys them from USA, or somewhere between 3,5 to 6 billion euro if it decides to buy them from France or Germany. We are discussing about anything between 7 to 10 billion euro, just for 42 new aircrafts and 4 new frigate ships, after only buying two more from France last year, at the price of close to 2 billion.

One of course can put the blame on Greece alone, for spending money while its national dept stands at 370 billion euro, as of 2020. By 2024 it is projected to grow to 375 billion. But on the other hand, how do Greece's "allies" really help the very country they scolded for overspending, by racing to sell it billion euro worth of weaponry? They could instead, sanction Turkey, expell it from NATO or the EU Customs Union Agreement. But that would not place billions into their coffers, would it?

So it is a wonder why is Greece still in NATO, since it has to protect itself from its own "allies". Frozing its membership, leaving or paying less into the alliance's budget, could save it billions in fact. And it is not unthinkable. In the past both Greece and France were on the verge of leaving. In 1964, due to the Cyprus crisis, Greece withdrew military units from NATO forces in the Southern Mediterranean, over threats of invasion of Cyprus by fellow NATO member Turkey. Later in 1974 due to the invasion of Cyprus by Turkish forces, Greece withdrew from NATO military command. The country did not withdraw entirely from the organisation however, but became significantly less active.

In 1980, the Greek foreign minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis made remarks about the situation where he could see Greece fully withdrawing from the organisation. However, later "diplomatic pressure" from the United States led to Greece fully re-integrating with the alliance. One can only imagine what this pressure was, most likelly it resembled bullying and threats to favor Turkey further. Greece must finally understand that it does not need the West as much, rather the other way around. It has a very geostrategic location, which other powers such as Russia and China, would fight over to establish bases or get access to.

In addition, there are other markets to buy cheaper weaponry from, if we really have to. The West is not the only arms seller on this planet, nor it has a monopoly on this trade. Turkey itself resolved in buying Russian S-400 misiles, angering but also sending a warning and a cautioning message to the US; and their bluff worked. The Americans ideally do not want Turkey to fall into Russian arms, thus they are now overly tolerant about their treatment of Greece, a NATO member and ally. The West naturally does not want either Greece or Turkey to break away from its circle of influence and thus it gives us an advantage, instead of a disadvantage.If the Turks can bluff, why not the Greeks who they have to constantly act like subordinates and beggars for support by Europe and the USA?

Even France froze its NATO membership in the past. In 1966 due to souring relations between Washington and Paris because of the refusal to integrate France's nuclear deterrent with other North Atlantic powers, or accept any collective form of control over its armed forces, the French president Charles de Gaulle downgraded France's membership in NATO and withdrew France from the U.S.-led military command to pursue an independent defense system. However, the twenty-year rule prevented France from completely leaving NATO altogether. One consequence of this withdrawal was the movement of NATO's Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe from Rocquencourt (in France) to the city of Mons in Belgium.

Greece needs to wake up and stand up for itself, instead of constantly play the "good pupil" to the Western Powers. It is one of the few nations of NATO, that fullfils its contribution requirement to the alliance, that of 2% of its GDP. Only the US, Britain, Poland and Estonia are meeting the same criteria. All other NATO members, including Turkey, the much richer Germany, France, the Netherlands, Norway or Luxembourg, fall short. So it is in fact NATO that will lose out substantially, if Greece freezes it membership, spends less like the Germans, or actually finds the courage and leave.

nat002_400NATO countries should come into a coclusion about what they should do about Turkey and soon. Same as the EU. If they continue serving their own interests in the region or simply their finances, then they will have no right accusing Greece of overspending, when the next eurozone crisis-which is only a matter of time, happens. Like the last time, it will throw the block into another blame game of who will pay the bill, just as 10 years ago. Resulting of course, to the peripheral countries seeing their next generation bearing the burden and being slandered in order to bully them into submission.

Even Europe's favorite former US President Barack Obama, in his recent published memoirs criticized Berlin but also Paris, for insisting on fiscal austerity during the years of Greece’s financial crisis. “I noticed that they rarely mentioned that German and French banks were some of Greece’s biggest lenders, or that much of Greeks’ accumulated debt had been racked up buying German and French exports – facts that might have made clear to voters why saving the Greeks from default amounted to saving their own banks and industries”.

“Maybe they worried that such an admission would turn voter attention away from failures of successive Greek governments and toward the failures of those German or French officials charged with supervising bank lending practices,” as Obama wrote. That statement makes it clear that Europe owes an apology to Greece for its treatment 10 years ago. Numerous Greek thinkers like me, that were fighting for some compassion and understanding when trying to explain to our European "partners" that it is very unfair for us to bear the whole debt of the eurozone, were met with derogatory remarks, like "learn to pay your taxes," when they have never lived in Greece obviously.

While Ireland that was also forced to enter an EU/IMF bailout, was not humiliated in the same way as Greece, despite having numerous shortcomings in its own economy and not only a "banking structural problem" as many were left to believe. I live in this country and when comparing it to Greece, I do not see much difference between the two, apart from the tax regime and the ease that one can open a company in Ireland, something that is required in an economy that relies solely on foreign multinationals.Something the Greece recently also adopted.

To conclude, as a Greek I cannot support my country's NATO membership any longer, and I am increasingly becoming skeptical about the future of EU. Although ideally I would be all for a European federation of some sort, with a single economy and currency, when I witness how members of the block treat each other, I cannot condone to my nation's treatment by its partners. If this situation continues, I would rather revert the EU into EEA or a free trade block, similar to that of Switzerland's relations with the EU, rather than insisting on a "dream" of European unity, when there is none, or shared equally by everyone on board.

Europe should have offered its full and unconditional support to Greece and Cyprus by now, however they chose to preserve their own interests in Turkey, the Balkans and the East Mediterranean. Offering masks during the Covid-19 pandemic and celebrating "European Solidarity", makes a mockery of the very notion of the word solidarity; it is childish and petty, sorry.

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