Can NATO Really Help With The Migrant Crisis In Aegean? (Part 2)

The year 2015 will be remembered by the horrendous stories of ordinary people who had to leave their homes, possessions, who had to made painful and dangerous voyages to reach Europe just to survive.
If you think the refuge crises was bad in 2015 it will be a lot worse in 2016.

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Numbers of irregular migrants rescued from the sea by Turkish Coast Guard in the frist two months of 2015  and 2016.

First the number of people trying to cross Aegean to go To Europe has increased dramatically. According to the statistics of Turkish Coast Guard number of refuges rescued from the sea in the first two months of 2016 is 14.378. This represents an almost 10 fold increase compared to same period in 2015.

Furthermore to make the things far more worse these numbers will climb higher as thousands of Syrians are running away from their demolished villages and towns because of the indiscriminate bombing of Russian Air Force on behalf of Syrian regime. The high water mark may still to come.

And European countries are not offering the even the lukewarm welcome they have given to the refuges in 2015. Existence of these immigrants are causing sever political tensions in most of the host countries. These tensions will have dire consequences for all political parties in the next election cycle.

Since Europe doesn’t want to harbour any more refugees it is trying to stop the influx by protecting its sea borders more efficiently.

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To hop across the Aegean is still the most convenient way to reach for Europe.

The Aegean Sea offers the most convenient router for the refugees. The close proximate of many Greek island to Turkish mainland makes it possible for thousands of refugees to reach to EU by entering Greece. The sea trip from Turkish mainland to Greek islands on overfilled and unstable RHIBs is often dangerous and deadly. %90 percent of 316 irregular immigration incidents in the first two months of 2016 have happened in Aegean according to Turkish Coast Guard.

Since early February, NATO, EU, Greece  and Turkey are trying to formulate plans how NATO’s assigned maritime task force SNMG-2 will perform its anti-immigration operation in the Aegean Sea.

This operation was conceived right after the German Chancellor Frau Merkel’s visit to Turkey in early February 2016.  Germany, Greece and Turkey proposed and in a record-breaking 3 days’ time NATO’s Foreign Ministers have approved the plan to commit SNMG-2 for this mission.

SNMG-2 currently consists of German Navy flagship FGS Bonn, Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Fredericton, Turkish Navy frigate TCG Barbaros and Greek Navy frigate HS Salamis. France and Great Britain have also disclosed that they are sending warships to reinforce the task force. The units are patrolling in the assigned areas and conducting reconnaissance, monitoring and surveillance activities.

According to a press release from 6th March, the commanders of NATO have defined SNMG-2’s area of activity in close consultation and coordination with both Greece and Turkey. Their activities in territorial waters will be carried out in consultation and coordination with both Allies. The purpose of NATO’s deployment is not to stop or push back migrant boats, but to help our Allies Greece and Turkey, as well as the European Union, in their efforts to tackle human trafficking and the criminal networks that are fueling this crisis.

NATO’s Maritime Command has also agreed with FRONTEX on arrangements at the operational and tactical level. NATO and FRONTEX will be able to exchange liaison officers and share information in real time, to enable FRONTEX, as well as Greece and Turkey, to take action in real-time.

NATO has gained some knowledge by conducting anti piracy operations in Gulf of Aden and must have the knowledge to differentiate between the small plastic boats full of immigrants and ordinary fishermen. Thus they may apply the lessons they have learned in Gulf of Aden for a good use in Aegean. I have personally talked with a few sailors of Turkish Coast Guard operation in Aegean and they are suffering from various psychological symptoms as they fish day after day dead bodies mostly children and women from the sea. Thus presence of a NATO fleet might ease their burden.

But I still have my misgiving about the intentions of NATO’s mission and I am very sceptical about this whole thing because instead of draining the swamp Europe is trying to kill the individual mosquitoes. And what makes this effort worse is that Europe uses the NATO hammer is stead of a fly swatter.

 

German Company Under Investigation For Bribery In Turkish Submarine Deal

State Prosecutors of the city state Bremen have opened a second front in their case against Atlas Elektronik.

Authorities are investigating Atlas Elektronik a joint venture between ThyssenKrupp and Airbus since 2013, for possible kickbacks in the submarine business with Greece. Some irregularities came on with Turkish Reis class (Type 214) project according to the spokesperson of Bremen City Prosecutor’s Office.

It is suspected that the company may have bribed Turkish officials. On 16 February 2016, related business documents and data material was confiscated from the Headquarters of Atlas Electronic in Bremen.
on the premises safe.

The investigations in Greece revealed that bribes totaling €62 million paid for armament contracts between 2000 and 2007.

In Turkish Type 214 project Atlas Elektronik is responsible for delivering very critical and highly specialized combat management system ISUS-90/72 and active and passive sonars.

It is too early to say whether this new investigation will have any negative effects on delivery of Atlas Electronic supplied items.

Can NATO Really Help With The Migrant Crisis In Aegean?

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Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 trains with Turkish Navy. From left to right: F-501 TCG Bodrum, 337 HMCS Fredericton, A-1413 FGS Bonn, F-494 TCG Gökova, F-244 TCG Barbaros

Last week NATO has decided in a very unorthodox speedy way -in a very un-NATO fashion- to deploy one of her naval task force to the Aegean sea to deter people-smugglers taking migrants from Turkey to Greece.

Dispatching Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG-2)to the Aegean was not a big deal since the task force spend the previous week near Aksaz Naval Base in Marmaris conducting joint trainings with Turkish Navy. The task force was literally just a few hours away when NATO Defence Ministers agreed that NATO should provide support to assist with the refugee and migrant crisis on 11 February 2016.

The SNMG-2 is made up by the A-1413 FGS Bonn, 337 HMCS Frederiction, ITS Libeccio and TCG Barbaros.  The flagship of the task force is the German auxiliary FGS Bonn. She is a combat stores ship capable of underway replenishment and can carry 7,850 tons fuel; 1,330 tons water; 280 tons cargo; 220 tons ammunition; 115 tons lubricants.  The others are frigates from Canadian, Italian and Turkish Navies, build to hunt and destroy enemy submarines and ships.

It is clear that none of these ships are specially designed to the given task of contribute critical information and surveillance to help counter human trafficking and criminal networks.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, stressed that this mission is “not about stopping or pushing back refugee boats,” but about contributing “critical information and surveillance to help counter human trafficking and criminal networks.” As part of the agreement, NATO will co-operate closely with national coastguards and the European Union. Military authorities are now working out the details of the mission.

And General Philip Breedlove, Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), said that deployment of SNMG-2 was not about stopping or pushing back refugee boats. NATO will provide critical intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance information to others to stop the human trafficking and criminal networks in co-operation with national coastguards and the Frontex. The SNMG-2 will be tasked to do monitoring and other support tasks

The seat of purpose for every naval action is on land. The criminal and human trafficking networks are on land. On the sea are just the migrants trying to survive and cross the sea to the other side. Thus it just does not makes sence for NATO to send one oiler and 3 frigates to fish the helpless migrants from the sea and return them back to Turkey. While the ships of SNMG-2 especially the frigates are capable of gathering information about their enemies through their sensors, I have my doubts if these sensors will be adequate to fulfill the given task in this mission. Searching and locating large metal targets on the surface or submerged is one thing locating small dinghies made from plastic is something else.

If NATO nations really wanted to do anything to stop the these criminal networks they should have sent specialised police officers or other law enforcement forces or may be some specialised intelligence gathering ships.

The migrant crisis has a very destabilising effect on the European nations and indirectly threatens the security. But instead of draining the swamp NATO is trying to kill the individual mosquitoes. And what makes this effort worse is that NATO uses a hammer is stead of a fly swatter.

 

Russia And Greece Signed An Agreement On Military Cooperation

Last week Russia and Greece signed an intergovernmental agreement on military cooperation, during the visit of Russian Defense minister Sergei Shoigu to Athens.

It is worth of mentioning that this visit was conducted just before Athens will take the Presidency of EU for the next 6 months staring in 1.1.2014. Greece is NATO’s only member country to pursue fruitful military technological cooperation with Russia.

We signed an agreement that opens new frameworks and new boundaries for our further work in the sphere of military-technical cooperation,” Sergei Shoigu told journalists after talks with his Greek counterpart Dimitrios Avramopoulos in Athens.

The deal concerns armaments supplied previously as well as military hardware, maintenance and new hardware supplies, Shoigu said.

A Russian deputy defense minister, Anatoly Antonov, said after the talks that Shoigu had proposed that Avramopoulos consider working out an agreement to streamline the procedure for Russian navy vessels calling at Greek ports.

Antonov said the two defense ministers had also discussed the possibility of holding personnel training events and exchanging experience in the fight against terrorism and piracy, as well as other areas of cooperation.

This new agreement will make it easier for Russian ships to dock at Greek port during their deployment in the Mediterranean thus making Greece a reliable alternative to the Syrian port Tartus.

According to Greek blog SManalysis, Russia will help Greek Navy to support the Zubr class hovercraft. Greek Navy has procured 4 of these air-cushioned landing craft. Three of them joined the Greek Navy in 2001 and the last one in 2005. They have a displacement of 550 tons and can carry up to 130 tons military material: 3 main battle tanks or 10 armored personnel carriers or 230 troops.

One of them was decommissioned in 2010 and the operational status of the remainder was dubious.

The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 10)

There are a lot of things going on in the Eastern Mediterranean lately.

First: The Russians are here. The long, west bound voyage of the Russian Pacific Fleet task force has ended. The ships have arrived in the Med and are in Cyprus for a well deserved rest.The Udaloy class destroyer Admiral Panteleyev, the Dubna class tanker Pechenga and the Baklazhan class tug Fotiy Krylov docked in Limassol Cyprus while the Rophucha class landing ships Peresvet and Admiral Nevelskoi remained on the high seas.

Τhree Russian warships from the Pacific fleet docked at Limassol port this morning, in the first such exit from the Suez canal in decades. The destroyer Admiral Panteleyev is 165 metres long and the tanker Pechenga 130 meters, accompanied by the support vessel Fotiy Krylov.

Two other amphibian vessels are also in the Mediterranean but no docking license has been requested from Cyprus. The three warships sailed from their base in Vladivostok on March 19 and will remain docked for three days for refuelling and personnel rest.

The other warships of the other fleets are active too. The Black Sea Fleet, large landing ship Azov has conducted a training with the North Fleet destroyer Severomorks in the Aegean.

In the central Aegean large anti ship Northern Fleet “Severomorsk” and large landing ship BSF “Azov” trained to test the interaction on the performance of common tasks. Ships the joint maneuvers performed and conducted training of communications and radio communications. At the same time, studies have been conducted with the struggle for survival and a number of measures of search and rescue support.

Click here for photos of Admiral Panteleyev in Limasol.

Second: Cyprus realized that it needs some kind of a navy at least to police its off shore gas and oil drilling rigs and wells. For this they will need some OPV’s with good duration and sea keeping as their mission will be old fashioned constabulary work on the high seas.

Buy two warships offshore to enhance shortly Navy Command of the National Guard for surveillance purposes Cypriot EEZ, announces the Cypriot Defence Minister Fotis Fotiou, in an interview with the newspaper “Politis”. 

The minister states that it can not proceed with its investigation and excavation of hydrocarbons, although there are no safety requirements. 

Also notes that despite the difficult economic situation, we find ways of strengthening the defense capability of the Republic, while promoting and creating strategic alliances with several countries, particularly Israel, because of common interests in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Two years ago Greece wanted to hand over 3 newly decommissioned  Votsis (La Combatante IIA or Type 148 ) class fast attack craft to Cyprus for EEZ surveillance and protection of natural gas reserves in the region. But Cyprus declined this offer as the offered vessels were not in a good condition.  Their new political ally Israel offered the brand new Saar S-72 class. Interestingly the Israeli navy also needs some cheap ships with good sea keeping in order to police their off shore assess. So may be the Cyprus will be the next customer for Israeli warships.

The design of a new mini-corvette presented by Israel Shipyards during the international exhibition naval systems IMDEX 2013 held in Singapore from 14 to 16 May 2013.

The new mini-corvette called Saar S-72 and is essentially a design evolution of rocket type vessels Saar (Saar 4, 4.5 and 5). Developed with the primary purpose of satisfying the requirements of maritime patrol and surveillance of exclusive economic zones, both Israel and other countries.

Noting that the situation Israel Shipyards developed the mini-corvette Saar S-72 which puts inline between Saar 4.5 and Saar 5. As for the coastguard forces or civilian missions the same design (800 tons displacement) is offered as a patrol offshore Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV)

SNMCMG-2 Visited Patras. But I Don’t Think Allied Maritime Command In Naples Knows It.

The German mine hunter M-1064 FGS Grömitz (left) and Turkish mine hunter M-267 TCG Ayvalık in Patras. Photo: Neapatra.blogspot.gr

Standing NATO Maritime Mine Counter Group 2 ended her visit to in Patras, Greece on 30th October 2012.

It seems that the Public Relations Officer responsible for SNMCMG-2 has gone AWOL. The latest news on the official website is from July 2012. But wait. It get’s better.

The photo of TCG Ayvalık on the Force Composition page shows an entirely different class of Turkish mine hunters. TCG Ayvalık is Aydın class based on German Navy Type 332. The photo of the  Force Composition page shows a Edincik class mine hunter which were bought from France and are known as Circé class there. The crème de la cream is if you click on TCG Ayvalık‘s photo it directs you to the Spanish Navy website.

I guess the PRO’s at MC Naples are still doing bunga bunga parties.

 

 

The Breeze 2012 Naval Exercise Starts Tomorrow

M-501 TCG Finike will take part in naval exercise Sea Breeze 2012

According to Sofia News Agency, the Bulgarian Navy will host the Breeze 2012 naval drills in the Western Black Sea.

The Breeze 2012 training will take place June 22-July 1, 2012, with the southern Bulgarian Black Sea port of Burgas serving as a base.

The goal of Breeze 2012 will be to improve the interoperability of multinational naval forces of NATO nations.

It will feature participation by the Bulgarian Navy, the Turkish Navy, the Greek Navy, a US patrol air plane, and three ships from the Second Permanent Naval Group of NATO.

During the Breeze 2012 drills, the Bulgarian frigate Drazki will have its NATO MAREVAL certification affirmed.

Turkish Navy announced participation of the following vessels to the Sea Breeze 2012. One Turkish frigate currently assigned to SNMG-2 will also take part.

Number
Name
Type
S-355 TCG 18 Mart Submarine
P-340 TCG Doğan Fast Attack Craft
P-343 TCG Volkan Fast Attack Craft
M-500 TCG Foça Mine Hunter
M-501 TCG Finike Mine Hunter
A-571 TCG Albay Hakkı Burak Tanker

USS Enterprise In Piraeus

USS Enterprise (left) and USS Vicksburg (right) in Pireus.
Photo: enkripto.com

The US Navy aircraft carrier CVN-65 USS Enterprise arrived in Piraeus for a 3 day visit.

The renowned aircraft carrier is conducting her last deployment. She is scheduled for decommissioning on 1 December 2012. She arrived in Greece with Ticonderoga class cruiser CG-69 USS Vicksburg. This may be the last time for both ships to spend in Piraeus. Like USS Enterprise this is the last deployment for USS Vicksburg too. She will be deactivated in 2013.

The Enterprise Carrier Strike Group is comprised of CVN-65 USS Enterprise, Carrier Air Wing 1, Destroyer Squadron 2, USS Vicksburg (CG 69), and guided-missile destroyers DDG -78 USS Porter, DDG-94 USS Nitze, and DDG -95  USS James E. Williams.

The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 7)

It is time again for another installment for a updates of the situation in Eastern Mediterranean:

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)

SNMCMG-2 Is In Patras For An Exercise With Greek Navy

A-579 TCG Cezayirli Gazi Hasan Paşa, the flagship of SNMCMG-2

Tomorrow NATO’s SNMCMG-2 will start a 3 day visit in Patras, Greece.

SNMCMG-2 is currently led by Captain Abdulhamit Şener of Turkish Navy. Last month the task force made a visit to Spit, Croatia. Following their departure from Split, the ships of SNMCMG-2, led by the flagship A-579 TCG Cezayirli Gazi Hasanpaşa, conducted underway exercises with the Croatian Navy on 11 and 12 October.

According to the press release of the Greek Navy SNMCMG-2 will take part in the Exercise Ariadne. The exercise will involve extra power of the Navy, consisting of the frigate F-459 Andrias, the mine hunters M-64 Kalypso, M-63 Kallisto and gunboats P-268 Aititos, P-19 Navmachos. During their stay in Patras, the foreign crews of the ships will visit archaeological sites and places of tourist interest.

The current composition of SNMCMG-2 is as following:

Number
Name
Nation
Participants
A-579 TCG Cezayirli Gazi Hasan Paşa Turkey Flagship
M-270 TCG Akçay Turkey Minehunter
M-35 SPS Duero Spain Minehunter
5557 ITS Numano Italy Minehunter
M-1063 Bad Beversen Germany Minehunter
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