Paris and Athens Conclude a Military Pact Against NATO Turkey
Greece to spend $2.5 billion on French warships that come with a French security guarantee against Turkey
Kyriakos mitsotakis, Greece’s prime minister, cast it as a love story. “History…wants us together,” he told Emmanuel Macron, France’s president, in Paris on September 28th. “So does geography.” He serenaded Mr Macron with tales of Ionian seafarers landing in Marseilles and the French Philhellenes who backed Greece’s war of independence. Mr Macron said that Greece was “a civilisation that has inspired us and enabled us to be ourselves”. Then the two leaders consummated their courtship with what they are calling a “strategic” defence pact.
The Franco-Greek relationship has been forged in rivalry with Turkey, which last year squared off with Greek warships around Cyprus, and with French ones off Libya. An anti-Turkey bloc, including France, Greece, Israel, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, has gradually taken shape. Mr Mitsotakis, eager to secure French support and bolster his own armed forces, had already agreed to buy 18 Rafale warplanes from France in January, at a cost of €2.5bn ($2.9bn), and six more in September. Now he will also buy three new French frigates, with the option of one more.
That is a boon for Greece’s navy, which has just 13 ageing frigates against Turkey’s newer fleet of 16. It is also a well-timed consolation prize for Naval Group, the majority-state-owned French arms firm which Australia turfed out of a lucrative sub marine contract on September 15th as part of its aukus pact with America and Britain. Naval Group is building the new frigates in Brittany; Greece is supposed to take delivery of its first in 2025.
Yet both sides were keen to show that this was no mere arms contract. “It strengthens…our strategic autonomy and our European sovereignty,” said Mr Macron. Mr Mitsotakis agreed that it was “the first bold step towards European strategic autonomy”. Mr Macron has long been fond of such language—often irritating his eastern European allies, who see it as antagonistic to America—but it has a particular resonance after aukus. French officials have portrayed the Anglophone pact as a demonstration of American unreliability and a wake-up call for Europeans to collaborate more on defence matters.
To that end, the new agreement also includes a striking element that is absent from AUKUS: a mutual defence clause. France and Greece are already obliged to support each other in the event of an attack, through Article Five of nato’s charter and the more obscure Article 42:7 of the EU’s Lisbon treaty. Notably, Mr Mitsotakis said that the partnership now “goes beyond” those obligations. The decision to formalise a separate, bilateral alliance suggests that both Mr Macron and Mr Mitsotakis are concerned that, should a serious crisis erupt in the Mediterranean, Turkey might stymie NATO from the inside.
The idea of a mutual-defence clause that is beefier than Article Five—which obliges an ally only to take “such action as it deems necessary”— is not unprecedented. France did the same thing with Germany in the Aachen treaty of 2019. The Anglo-French Lancaster House treaty of 2010 also implies far-reaching nuclear guarantees.
But such bilateral deals are bad news for NATO, says Wess Mitchell, an American former state department official who co-chaired a reflection group for the alliance last year. The new pact “will be viewed in NATO and especially by eastern members of the alliance as implicitly undermining Article Five,” he says. Others, like Poland, may be encouraged to seek their own ad hoc guarantees from America.
Moreover, despite the rhetoric of European sovereignty and autonomy, the ever-closer alignment of France and Greece reflects the EU’s divisions more than its cohesion; it does not, after all, involve the rest of the EU. In recent years both countries have grown frustrated with the bloc’s reluctance to put more pressure on Turkey. Germany, in particular, with its large Turkish diaspora and trade links, has been eager to water down such measures.
Germany is also selling advanced diesel-electric submarines to Turkey’s navy. So later this decade, a very European contest will play out in the Mediterranean: France’s finest frigates tracking Germany’s best submarines.
Source: The Economist
The France-Greece military and defence deal in detail
The Greek-French agreement in Paris today provides for France’s immediate military assistance to Greece and vice versa, in the event of a third country attacking, even if that country is part of their alliances (such as Turkey, which is a member of NATO too).
At the same time, Greece will receive in record time, 3 + 1 Belhara frigates with full air defense equipment and anti-submarine warfare and capabilities to shoot down air targets at very long distances.
The frigates, with their high technology and long-range weapons systems, will act as a power multiplier in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean, and in addition to their increased capabilities, they will be fully compatible to work with Rafale fighter jets.
According to government officials, the government is equipping the Navy with a view to the future, as the 3 frigates (with an option to buy another) are purchased from Greece at the most advantageous price, with full armament and a record delivery time.
The first state-of-the-art digital frigate is expected to be delivered in 2025 and the last in 2026.
In this way the security of Greece is strengthened.
Greece and France have committed through the strategic partnership agreement, beyond and above existing structures (NATO and EU), to assist each other militarily in case of need.
However, the bilateral agreement also has a purely European dimension, as it is an acceptance of the doctrine of the strategic autonomy of the European Union by the two countries.
In essence, Greece and France, with the bilateral agreement which guarantees the cooperation of the two countries in defense and foreign policy, operate within the framework of their alliances and strengthen the policy of strategic autonomy of the EU.
At the same time, on the table is the provision of 3 state-of-the-art Gowind corvettes (with an option for another one) with full equipment.
Greece moved quickly and secured a very strong defense cooperation after the reclassifications from the AUKUS agreement.
Greece will have three frigates FDI HN (Hellenic Navy), a configuration which has been chosen by our Navy itself.
The ship belongs to the next generation of “digital” frigates, and is equipped with the top SeaFire radar.
The latter is combined with the state-of-the-art ASTER 30 anti-aircraft missiles, in their latest version.
The SeaFire/ASTER 30 combination will offer area air defense to the Fleet Units, at distances exceeding 100 km, while at the same time it will have Anti-Ballistic Abilities.
In other words, for the first time in its history, the Navy will acquire ships that will be able to shoot down air targets at very long distances, while they will also be able to offer protection against ballistic missiles.
The armament is complemented by an advanced 76 mm cannon , but also a RAM system of 21 missiles, which completes the anti-aircraft/anti-missile shield of the ship.
The new frigate, in addition to advanced anti-aircraft capabilities, also has top anti-submarine capabilities, thanks to the world champion sonar CAPTAS-4.
The latter will be combined with the state-of-the-art anti-submarine helicopters MH-60R that Greece recently bought from the U.S. and will be delivered in early 2022.
The anti-submarine armament is complemented by state-of-the-art anti-submarine torpedoes.
Anti-ship weapons include the most advanced “digital” Exocet MM40 Block 3c, capable of long-range impact, while also being able to hit coastal targets.
The new digital frigates is complemented by state-of-the-art electronic systems, which are completed on the world-leading French Combat Information Center SETIS.
What does the “Strategic Partnership for Cooperation in Defense and Security” Greece and France:
- The agreement confirms the close allied relationship developed by both countries, upgrades the geopolitical footprint of Greece in Europe and the region.
- The Agreement contains (Article 2) a mutual defense assistance clause in case one of the two countries is attacked on its territory. In this way, Greece is shielded against threats, especially in the Eastern Mediterranean. At the same time, Article 42 (7) of the Treaty on European Union on the mutual defense clause becomes substantial through the agreement.
- With the agreement, Greece and France exceed the obligations towards each other within the framework of the European Union and NATO. At the same time, they are strengthening the European defense pillar and NATO, as they are two EU member states, but also allies in NATO.
- The Agreement is accompanied by an announcement for the acquisition by the Greek Navy of three French frigates.
- The agreement provides for cooperation in defense and foreign policy. In this way, Greece will play a leading role, as previously announced by Kyriakos Mitsotakis from the TIF, as well as in his statements at the EUMED Summit, in the discussion on the need for strategically autonomous EU.
- The Mediterranean opens roads. The Greek-French strategic partnership agreement is a first big step towards the strategic autonomy of the EU.
- Already from his speech at the UN General Assembly, Kyriakos Mitsotakis spoke about the need to develop the necessary defense capabilities, so that Europe can respond immediately to challenges, in its wider neighborhood, such as the Mediterranean, the Middle East and the Sahel, where NATO will not be “present”.
- The agreement provides for regular consultations between the Foreign and Defense Ministers of the two countries both for security and defense, as well as on regional and international issues, hybrid threats, maritime security and migration.
Source: Greek City Times
EU ALARM OVER FRANCO-GREEK PACT: France and Greece signed a defense pact this week, including a multibillion-euro commitment by Athens to buy three French frigates, but several EU countries are not happy.
EU ambassadors on Wednesday were assured by their Greek colleague that the deal was a pro-European pact that would boost EU defense autonomy.
Not all are convinced: “It is a bit bizarre to say the pact contributes to European sovereignty,” one EU diplomat told Playbook. “By all accounts, this is a traditional 19th-century defense pact between two European powers. It has definitely more to do with the pursuit of narrow national interests than with Europe.”
Fears of growing confrontation with Turkey: The pact, announced Tuesday by French President Emmanuel Macron and Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis, comes amid rising tensions between Greece and Turkey over disputed waters in the Mediterranean that contain fossil fuel reserves.
Diplomats said they believe France is now fully backing Greece’s territorial claims in the Mediterranean, even though those are internationally disputed. [Disputed by Turkey.]
Background: The pact includes French guarantees to stand by Greece in the case of conflict, as Macron said during a speech Tuesday. “Greece is at the outposts, in a troubled region, where energy and geopolitical interests are major,” he said, adding that Greece’s military presence there is not just on behalf of Greece but “on behalf Europe and on behalf of France.”
Macron added that France would “commit ourselves to protect [Greece] in the event of intrusion, attack or aggression. This is my idea of friendship and of the European independence and European territorial unity that we value.”
But other EU countries do not believe it is a good idea to take sides against Turkey — technically still an accession candidate — in such a way. While Paris has recently clashed with Ankara in Libya, other EU countries still want to preserve ties with the country, which is not just a major trade partner but also controls a large part of the movement of refugees into the EU.
Source: Politico EU