15 Jan 2012 8 Comments
In September Israel signed a security cooperation agreement with Greece, amid declining relations with Turkey. This was followed by the approval of a Greek Parliament committee to the purchase Rafael-made Spice 1000 and 2000 bomb precision upgrade kits at a cost of $155 million for 400 systems from Israel.
The official relations between the two countries is quite news but gets warmer by each passing day. Israeli defense minister Mr. Barak visited Athens last week.
Traditionally pro-Arab Greece, which did not officially recognize Israel until 1991, has stepped up efforts to attract investment and expertise to shore up its debt-struck economy.
The two countries are trying to “make up for lost time”, Greek Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said, asserting Greece’s “commitment to deepening the alliance with Israel … in the name of friendship, peace and stability for all the peoples of the region”.
He said their cooperation was “honest and sincere (and) not directed against anyone”, in a reference to Turkey, formerly a staunch ally of Israel but now on deteriorating terms with the Jewish state.
Athens is keenly interested in Israel’s economic rapprochement with traditional Greek ally Cyprus to develop undersea gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean.
The emphasis is mine.
Three months after this agreement, Israel will sign two accords with Bulgaria, during a two-day visit of the Bulgarian Defense Minister, starting tomorrow. It seems as if Israel is trying to increase its ability to influence Turkey’s neighbors. Well Israel is free to make deals with any country it feels suitable. But no other country in the region has the economic strength or strategic depth of Turkey. But the power struggle between the major countries of this regions seems to continue.
Anu Angelov will ink a deal on increasing cooperation on military training and another on closer ties between the two countries’ armaments industries, the Bulgarian defense ministry said.
The defence industry is an important employer in Bulgaria, exporting $380 million (300 million euros) worth of arms in 2011, according to a newspaper report, although the sector is a 10th of the size of during Soviet times.
Bulgaria and Israel enjoy close ties, helped by Bulgaria having been the only ally of Nazi Germany to have saved Jews from the death camps during World War II. Angelov will also visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and meet with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on his trip.
In the meantime last week a potential catastrophe of biblical proportions was thwarted when the Cypriot authorities allowed a Russian ship loaded with munitions to travel to Syria. As we all know it did not went well for the Cypriots, the last time Cyprus detained a ship carrying ammunition and explosives to Syria. It would not very wise, to confiscate another shipload of ammunition destined to Syria when the scars of of last July’s deadly explosion at a naval base, in Mari, which killed 13 people are still open.
Russia’s apparent military support for the Syrian regime emerged on Wednesday when a Russian ship carrying 60 tonnes of arms for Damascus was stopped in Cyprus.
The MV Chariot, which set off from St Petersburg in early December, was forced to pull into the Greek Cypriot port of Limassol because of stormy seas. It had been on its way to Turkey and Syria, inspectors said.
Customs officials who boarded the ship discovered four containers. They were unable to open them but concluded that they contained a “dangerous cargo”. State radio in Cyprus went further, alleging that the Chariot was carrying “tens of tonnes of munitions”.
According to Russian media, the vessel may be transporting up to 60 tons of ammunition supplied by Russian state arms exporter Rosoboronexport through freight company Balchart.
Chariot stopped over in Cyprus for refueling and was allowed to set sail from the port of Limassol after its Russian owners agreed to change the destination to Turkey rather than Syria.
But the crew decided to revert to its original itinerary after leaving the Cypriot port, according to a source close to the operator of the ship.
There are rumors that when Greece receives next tranche of the bailout in March, expected to be €80 billion, there is a possibility that they will sign some new arms contracts, probably with France and Germany. The article of Mr. Class Tatje, is a very interesting read. Well you did not believed that Germany and France were helping Greece because Merkozy is a good Samaritan?
The new austerity programme that Greece’s government has announced leaves hardly a Greek unscathed. Unless, that is, he works for the military or for the armaments industry.
In 2010 Greece’s budget for the military was almost seven billion euros. That is about three percent of its economic output, a figure surpassed among NATO countries only by the United States. The Ministry of Defence did, however, cut its arms procurement in 2011 by €500 million. But all this will mean, believes an arms trade expert, is that future needs will be all the higher.
Among Greece’s EU partners, only a few are calling publicly for the Greek rearmament programme to stop at once and for a long time into the future. One is Daniel Cohn-Bendit, leader of the Greens in the European Parliament. Europe’s hesitation, he believes, masks well-entrenched economic interests.
The main beneficiary of the Greek armament programme in Europe turns out to be its savings champion, Germany. According to the just-released Rüstungsexportbericht 2010 (2010 Arms Exports Report) the Greeks are, after the Portuguese – another state teetering on the verge of bankruptcy – the biggest customers for German armaments.
Spanish and Greek newspapers even spread a rumour that Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy reminded former Prime Minister of Greece George Papandreou during a summit meeting at the end of October to honour existing arms orders, and even sign new ones.
For the previous updates of Eastern Mediterranean:
The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 6)
The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 5)
The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 4)
The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 3)
The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 2)
The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 1)