Deputy Admiral: Greece is fighting two wars, hybrid with Turkey and totalitarian with coronavirus

Alexandros Diakopoulos

Alexandros Diakopoulos

In a message to the Greek people, Alexandros Diakopoulos, Deputy Admiral and National Security Adviser to the Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that Greece is facing two challenges, one invisible (coronavirus) and one visible (Turkey).

Diakopoulos' message to the Greek people:

Recently, our country has faced two extremely serious challenges to its security. In late February, as we read that a new virus had appeared in the far-flung city of Wuhan in China, our country received "sudden, massive, organized and coordinated pressure from population movements to the east by land and sea, at its borders," which was directed and supported by the Turkish state. Turkey, in other words, has waged a hybrid war with all its characteristics: non-conventional forces, influential companies, spreading fake news, etc. As if the above were not enough, while we were facing this war, at the beginning of March the pandemic of COVID-19 arrived in our country, after it had already caused disaster in neighboring Italy.

The government's immediate and decisive response in both cases has paid off. The asymmetric risk of a mass influx of migrants/refugees has been averted (albeit temporarily) and the coronavirus epidemic has not spread as fast as it has in most EU countries, causing far fewer casualties compared to similar populations with theoretically richer health system. It is indicative to the gravity of the risks that both of these cases are described as wars, and this is not, in the usual case, exaggerated in many cases. One is hybrid and the other is totalitarian, as a threat to the life and health of Greek citizens, but also to the economy and therefore society as a whole.

In any war, the center of gravity is social cohesion. In both cases, Greek society has shown a great deal of maturity and unity. The government has made the right and timely decisions, the political system has reacted with unprecedented maturity and consensus, the Armed Forces and the Security Forces have successfully carried out their duties by displaying professionalism and high spirits, and society supported those who were thrown into the two-sided battle and held on.

But any war, no matter how well it is fought, has a cost, and the cost to the country, especially when it comes to the ongoing battle with the virus, is not yet known. What is certain is that it will be huge financially. In addition, we do not know what the state of the international economic system will be after the end of the pandemic, whenever it comes. Most likely, until the global economy recovers and the new balances are found (or the old ones restored), we will be in an even more unstable, poor, unpredictable and dangerous environment.

No one knows what changes the pandemic will bring to the international system and whether they will be permanent or temporary. This will depend on the duration of the pandemic and the extent of the damage it will cause to the real economy. In the near future, however, the indications so far show an instinctive consolidation and a tendency to entrench the leadership, but also of the citizens, in the nation-state. This is something that the EU must take seriously, because if it wants to survive, it must work as well.

In addition, various supranational organizations, economic and security, may have been irreparably injured, and isolationist tendencies may prevail, with the leaders of powerful states focusing on reorganizing their economies and the prosperity and security of their countries. In such an environment, invoking the law will find an even smaller response.

So there is the risk of an extreme but not entirely unlikely scenario, with America introverted and in a bad state, the European Union with disintegration tendencies, Turkey injured but unpredictable and aggressive, and us alone against it. The battles we fought may not be the last and the conditions next time may be worse.

Even if the chances of this happening are slim, we have no choice but to prepare for the worst. Our country, over which it was emerging from a ten-year crisis, on which its economy was recovering and growing, is facing the now certain possibility of a new recession. It is natural, then, that the immediate priority after the end of the epidemic is economic recovery. The development of the economy is a matter of vital importance and the well-being of the country and its citizens is a national goal. But economic growth without security cannot exist.

If the pandemic has shown anything worldwide, it is that when we are faced with the dilemma between economy and security, what prevails is security, and those countries that did not realize it in time paid a heavy price. The aphorism "it's the economy stupid" became widely accepted as a self-evident truth, but when the risk is too great, it turns out to be "security, stupid."

In this a new situation, we cannot continue to function as usual. We need to rethink decades of practices and mentalities. We absolutely need to find ways to strengthen our security without undermining the prospects for our economy to recover. The weight must be given to the proper reorganization. The process of drafting the Force Structure should be reconsidered and perhaps revised. The duration of military service should be reconsidered based on the new data. We still need to look for smart solutions provided by new technologies and make the most of the very valuable staff we have. To consolidate and improve our defense industry, so that it can be a multiplier of power and a lever for the development of new technologies.

In our foreign relations we always remain committed to international law and to the Euro-Atlantic institutions as long as they exist, but in our relations with the friendly countries of our region we may have to make concessions and excesses in order to conclude conditions that strengthen us and maintain alliances.

In recent years, in every article or analysis on the security situation, a frequently repeated phrase has been that "we are going through a dangerous period of instability, rapid change and unpredictable developments" and that our country, in the midst of a ten-year crisis, is facing a major crisis, a range of conventional and non-conventional, essentially unpredictable challenges and risks. The challenges have finally come and the risks have been or are being addressed, but the future is uncertain and may pose new risks or even revive some of the older ones. In any case, we must be prepared.