With the gradual return of the fleet to the Salamis naval base after the largest mobilization in the modern history of the Greek Navy, we can calmly estimate that this crisis finally had a positive sign for Greece with multiple operational, social and diplomatic benefits. Specifically, this historic summer, the wannabe sultan unwittingly gave us the following ten gifts:
1. The courses and the experience gained by the Greek Navy. These two months correspond to ten “Parmenion” exercises, ie it is a concentrated experience and knowledge for the next ten years. This is extremely important, especially because the current leadership of the Greek Navy has as a priority to analyse all the new data and can draw conclusions for future confrontations with the Turkish threat. I hope the same is true at the political level, as the country’s leadership had the opportunity to manage normal operations that could easily lead to escalation. In essence, the crisis was the rehearsal, so we should thank the wannabe sultan for exposing the weaknesses of his naval forces more than ever.
2. The performance of our crews, the sense of duty in the face of a real Turkish threat, but also the revelation of the weaknesses of the Turkish fleet catapulted the morale of the Greek Navy and in general also the Armed Forces. This is very important as ultimately the determining factor in developments in the field is human resources and in this area Greece undoubtedly excels.
3. The universal supremacy of the Greek Navy, especially in the anti-submarine war, certainly had a very big negative effect on the morale of the Turkish Navy. Ask yourself how the captains of the Turkish submarines would feel if they knew that if there was an escalation they would be written off. Also, our Navy’s victories were not hidden, but they are definitely being discussed by the whole Turkish fleet with concern. Perhaps the tension in Erdoğan’s voice is essentially the agony of this assumption – “how can a state after ten years of economic crisis put me in the corner?”
4. Our crews and the entire support system of Armed Forces trained for two months in low-intensity but extended operations. The Armed Forces had the opportunity to be exposed to this type of business that depends on the performance of all mechanisms, including logistics and psychology, as well as in the management of the staff involved in extended business.
5. The infamous interception incident was a necessary reminder of the enormous value of seafaring, something that may have been underestimated by many focusing only on the technological part of the equipment. Now, I believe that this experience will push us to redefine priorities for the basic naval training of Greek Navy captains. This is particularly interesting because it confirms previous assessments of people who happened to be now in leading positions in the Greek Navy, who five years ago had written specific instructions for dealing with and managing similar incidents.
6. This summer was also extremely important for the families of the Armed Forces leaders. The family factor is crucial to the performance of our staff and it is important to remember that as long as our fleet was on the field, the crew’s families gave us their own fight and we should be grateful for that. The experience of this summer was difficult for these families, but it also prepared them for what may follow.
7. This crisis was also crucial for our society, as it reminded us of the real, existential threat we face from the east. This may have been forgotten for years as we had accepted almost passively the maintenance of tension in the Aegean by the Turkish military. The support of the society to the Armed Forces and the current political leadership, regardless of party identities, is a national asset.
8. Masks have also been dropped inside the country about Erdoğan’s intentions and how far he is willing to go. Those who tried to smooth the corners of Turkish positions either out of mistaken belief, misjudgment, naivety or deceit, now have no excuse.
9. It has now become clear to the international community that Greece is a factor of stability but will resolutely defend its national interests. Erdoğan has been exposed as a threat to the balance of power in the region. This has given us the opportunity to invest in traditional and new alliances, something that had not have been done for decades.
10. Finally, Erdoğan’s unprecedented aggression has given the government the necessary political capital to make difficult but necessary armaments decisions to finally address chronic logistical problems.
Personally, I am grateful to the wannabe sultan who pushed us to regain our wounded pride, reminded us of what we are capable of doing and prepared us for the future.
In addition to the lessons we took collectively this summer, now is the time to show our practical appreciation to the leaders of the Armed Forces and their families.
Ultimately, victory does not come from a prominent hero, but from thousands of invisible people. From the young navigator to the frigate, the exhausted helicopter and Zubr engineers, the invisible crews of the submarines, but also from their sleepless families who were anxious for two months while their loved ones were in the front line.
Perhaps, it would be useful for the political leadership to make a speech expressing the appreciation of all of us to the unknown heroes, as well as thanks to the local communities that supported the Armed Forces – from Evros to Kastellorizo. A single public thank you is the least we owe them for everything they went through.
The views of the author does not necessarily reflect those of Greek City Times.
Nikolas Katsimbras teaches in the Conflict Resolution Program at Columbia University in New York and is a former Navy officer.