Some worrying events happened in the Aegean the past couple of days. Turkey has issued a unilateral NOTAM reserving large swathe of the Aegean, including large part of the Hellenic FIR for military exercises with live fire from 01/03/2015 to 31/12/2015. This effectively cut the Aegean in half, but most importantly it included part of Limnos, a Greek island in north Aegean. So in effect, Turkey has stated that it could use parts of an island belonging to Greece as a firing range.
A close observation of the timeline of events after the cancellation of the South Stream, Greek elections and the recent Eurogroup meeting shows that a few rats are in place:
- Russia cancels South Stream, replaces it with Turkish pipelines up to the Greek border. In order for this scheme to work, Turkey and Greece must cooperate.
- Elections in Greece. Syriza comes to power. All privatisations are cancelled; meeting with the Chinese ambassador regarding the fate of Piraeus port privatisation where COSCO was a lead contender (already owns a good percentage)
- 12/02/2015: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has telephone conversation with Greek Prime minister Tsipras; promises Chinese assistance to Greece. Reports in Chinese media say that the Premier has assurances that Greece has pledged to protect Chinese business interests.
- 16/02/2015: Chinese flotilla visits Greece. Hellenic navy conducts small scale exercise with the flotilla. Official welcoming by the Greek government; everybody from the defence minister downwards participate in the event.
- 17/02/2015: Turkish fighters, led by the Chief of Turkish air force himself, violate the Greek airspace.
- 20/02/2015: Eurogroup approves Greece’s plan. A compromise has been reached where no new privatisations will take place but ones for which the process has started will continue. This reopens the Chinese bid for the port of Piraeus.
- 24/02/2015: The Greek defence minister orders the deployment of the entire Greek rapid reaction force into the eastern and north Aegean for military drills. Part of the drill includes recapturing a lost island.
- 25/02/2015: Greek government reshuffles the military leadership in a more or less expected move. Cyprus signs naval agreement with Russia.
- 26/02/2015: At 10:00am the Greek defence vice-minister had a meeting with the ambassador of Turkey to discuss ways to improve dialogue between Turkey and Greece and to build trust between the two countries. At 11:02am six Turkish fighters violate Greek FIR. Promptly intercepted by Hellenic air force. Greek government announces that it welcomes Chinese investment into the country.
- 27/02/2015: Chinese media report that the Mr. Varoufakis (Greek finance minister) announces the Greek government’s intention to quickly create a new framework for long-term collaboration between Greece and China.
- 28/02/2015: Turkey issues a unilateral NOTAM (A0889/15) effectively cutting the Aegean in half for the rest of the year. Greek government strongly protests the event.
- 01/03/2015: Greece issues NOTAM A0413/15. Turkey responds with NOTAM A0900/15 which removes the part of Limnos and later issues NOTAM A0904/15 which cancelled the original A0889/15.
Violation of Greek airspace by Turkish fighters and subsequent interception (even engagement) is not a rare event. On the other hand, the inclusion of Limnos as a firing range practically amounts to a threat of war. So, why this escalation and why now?
- The most immediate effect this could have is to impact the flow of tourists to Greece. This is the beginning of the tourist season and as Greece has a big reliance on tourism for income then the slightest decline in numbers will have a big impact in Greece’s finances thus limiting their room for manoeuvres when it comes to negotiations with the Troika.
- This could also have been a test of the resolve of the new government as they are seen as inexperienced leftists in the eyes of the EU. Should this escalated further, it would have given a chance to the more “traditional” politicians to bounce back and cause internal instability.
- A longer effect is that the latest events greatly increase the friction between Greece and Turkey thus diminishing the possibility of a pipeline for Russian gas / oil from Turkey to Greece and then to the rest of Europe. Moreover, at some point Russia might be forced to make a choice between Greece and Turkey, whereas this is not in Russia’s interests.
Looks like you folks are having technical problems: no comments seem to be going through. Really a weird day on Saker’s blog.
The site is moderated. Comments only go through once we’ve checked them, to keep out the vile nastiness. There is no censorship of opinion. Look at the Moderation Policy in the right sidebar. Sometimes there is no moderator working or there is a lot to do; on the old blog Saker did it all by himself and nothing would go through for 8 hours while he slept.
Its not personal. They have to protect saker from bulls**t lawsuits in case someone gets their feelings hurt from a comment.
China is going to G20 meeting in Turkey. President Xi may have some words with Erdogan in November. And long before then, China will be working Turkey. They have huge investment in Greece and don’t want war. It’s bad enough in North Africa and ME.
Erdogan has had a bad two years. He’s picked fights with a series of nations, has few allies, and will be in deep sh*t economically if he keeps messing up.
The gas deal can make him and Turkey very wealthy. If he doesn’t want that, Bulgaria can take it.
Russia just gave Turkey a discount of 10.25% for its purchases. Incentives, concessions, are all part of the process.
Everything is changing economically in the East Mediterranean.
Turkey also announce a three-level tunnel under the Bosphorus Strait. This sub-sea 3.5 Billion dollar mega project is going to be private investor with bids going out in June.
This is a connector of Europe to Asia, two highway levels, one rail level in the tri-level tunnel.
So, Turkey appears to understand the huge opportunity of joining Eurasia.
China will be among the bidders if the project allows foreign investment.
Some Turks are mad at Turkey too:
3/2/15 Turkish delegation condemns own govt’s intervention in Syria. Meeting & press conference of political parties, a ret defense minister, frmr high-ranking military officers and parliamentarians. Two-minute refreshing video also accuses US.
Why is Turkey still supporting the destruction of Syria and Assad? Putin and China need to tell them to stop trying to destroy Syria.
Is Turkey the joker in the pack of cards? Is it just me or is Turkeys future moves a bit unpredictable.
They seem to support ISIS, but other than that seem to be doing their own thing in geo-political terms.
No, it’s definitely not just you. I can’t figure this guy Erdogan out. He keeps switching sides, going back and forth. I have no idea what this guy’s going to do next. Sometimes I wonder if he himself knows what he’s going to do next. I sure hope Putin knows what he’s getting involved with here. I guess he does. Putin deals with Central Asian warlords for a living. But sooner or later, Turkey needs to figure who’s side they’re on and stay there. If they keep on in this fashion, they could end up in serious–even existential–trouble.
As you say ‘I hope Putin knows what he’s getting with the Turks’.I worked with them years ago.They are definitely the weak link in Eurasian Union relations.
There’s definitely a wild card here. Does Turkey believe they have both the West and Russia in their metaphorical back pocket while, at the same time, both the West and Russia think they each have Turkey in their own metaphorical pocket? Is this one of those known unknowns? What of Turkey’s own ambitions of empire? Do they exist? -Nothing but questions and additional anxiety.
Foaming at the Mouth
Only somewhat related to this article – There is an story at http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2015/02/gazas-natural-gas-became-epicenter-international-power-struggle.html called “How Gaza’s Natural Gas Became the Epicenter of an International Power Struggle” which talks about the off-shore gas deposits in the eastern Meditteranean. In short, Israel is getting desperate for these deposits off the coast of Gaza & Syria and is trying to work out a way of stealing them from the Gazans & Syrians without either paying them for it or providing any material benefits for Gaza. One option floated was to give the Gazans Isreali goods instead of money which would translate to Israel supplying third-world crap and junk at gold-plated prices. Anyway, the presence of the Russian Navy is stopping the Israelis from simply stealing from the troubled Syrians which made me wonder.
Perhaps the reason for the Israeli support for the Maiden take-over in Ukraine was the calculation that once Crimea was converted into a US Navy base and the Russian Navy was kicked out, the presence of the Russian Navy in the Mediterranean would almost cease to exist. In this scenario, Israel would then be free to make a move on these gas deposits without being cock-blocked by the Russian Navy whom they could not be free to intimidate. Israel could use its high-tech industries to develop other energy sources but the present government does not appear to be interested in this option at all. Just saying.
FYI, Michael Schwartz, adds an intro to that article at Tom Dispatch.
I certainly agree that, though Schwartz doesn’t mention it, the Ukraine crisis was largely about the West getting control of Crimea. The Black Sea and the E. Med are essentially one theater. Control of Crimea means control of the Black Sea, and by controlling it the West would effectively remove the Russian presence from the whole theater. Putin saw that one coming from liftoff, but his success in taking it back means only that the West must try again and try again.
The Great Game will be in overtime for a long time to come.
That article at tomsdispatch is great, it answers a lot of the questions about Israel, gaza, Syria, Lebanon etc.. Thanks to Erebus for pointing it out. If you are unsure about the roles of the actors, It is a required read. It answers exactly why Russia is there. it also answers all the gaza invasions and why.it also answers the Syrian strikes.
Sure enough, Israel continued its exploration and drilling in the two disputed fields, deploying drones to guard the facilities. Meanwhile, the Netanyahu government invested major resources in preparing for possible future military confrontations in the area. For one thing, with lavish U.S. funding, it developed the “Iron Dome” anti-missile defense system designed in part to intercept Hezbollah and Hamas rockets aimed at Israeli energy facilities. It also expanded the Israeli navy, focusing on its ability to deter or repel threats to offshore energy facilities. Finally, starting in 2011 it launched airstrikes in Syria designed, according to U.S. officials, “to prevent any transfer of advanced… antiaircraft, surface-to-surface and shore-to-ship missiles” to Hezbollah.
And in 2013, Lebanon made a move of its own. It began negotiating with Russia. The goal was to get that country’s gas firms to develop Lebanese offshore claims, while the formidable Russian navy would lend a hand with the “long-running territorial dispute with Israel.”
The regime of Bashar al-Assad, facing a ferocious threat from various groups of jihadists, survived in part by negotiating massive military support from Russia in exchange for a 25-year contract to develop Syria’s claims to that Levantine gas field. Included in the deal was a major expansion of the Russian naval base at the port city of Tartus, ensuring a far larger Russian naval presence in the Levantine Basin.
Facing a potential violation of international law, the Netanyahu government invoked, as the basis for its acts, an Israeli court ruling that the exploitation of natural resources in occupied territories was legal. At the same time, to prepare for the inevitable battle with whichever faction or factions emerged triumphant from the Syrian civil war, it began shoring up the Israeli military presence in the Golan Heights.
As a result, four years of maneuvering around the newly discovered Levantine Basin deposits have produced little energy, but brought new and powerful claimants into the mix, launched a significant military build-up in the region, and heightened tensions immeasurably.
Excellent article pointing out the issues that we don’t otherwise hear about, especially in western MSM. The disturbing events described above may best be explained by remembering again who is calling the shots around the world when it comes to destabilization and regime change. Sometimes I think that shareholders of the “world corporation” want even the US to collapse, as well as Europe, Asia and the middle east. There appears to be only one small region in the world that feels the need to frequently create its own theatrical fear scenarios since no “enemy” seems really serious about attacking it. Why? Further, to prove it lives in constant fear of evil nations and militants, it goes on the offensive to brutally wipe out its pretend enemies, while the west continues to support it’s military and government without hesitation. Why is that?
Not sure who you are.You write well I must say.But you are using the screen name I’ve used for a long time here.Soooo,that presents a problem.From now on,I’ll try and remember to add a “1” to my posts so we don’t get people confused.
BTW,what is this BS that just popped up saying I’m posting comments “too quickly and should slow down”.
Original Uncle Bob, keep to your own name; we can try to sort it here. Please start to use an email address, to make it easier on this end to recognise you. It does not need to be a working one, just as an “ID” a would-be spoofer can’t guess.
Commenter at top, please do not use the name of an established user. Choose yourself a different name.We don’t believe you did it on purpose, but we don’t need confusions like this.
I reckon you could hand back the nickname to our Uncle Bob
Turkey is really playing both sides of the fence by being a complacent NATO member in the supplying and attack on Syria and now antagonizing Greece, both friends to a greater or lesser extent of Russia and by proxy China. So is Turkey playing some hard ball with Russia in deal making? Or is this exercise to appease the US while assurances are made in private to Russia or is Turkey still in the western death grip and Russia must be extra wary with this slippery customer whose latest antagonisms may be for real?
BRF, I think it may be neither one. Longstanding territorial dispute Turkey/Greece. Also quarrel over offshore oil.
Re: EU econ negotiations
“The determining factor is to what extent the Greek military security, intelligence networks, are able to have several complex programs running simultaneously which allows Greeks to make sovereign decisions.” —–Joaquin Flores on Feb 3, 2015
Russia seems to have some leverage over Turkey insofar as the proposed pipleline should be very profitable for Turkey.
Russia therefore seems able to bee an actor in its own interests.
Just to confuse the possibilities a lil further guys:
1/15/15 http://www.globalresearch.ca/how-chinas-balkans-silk-road-could-resurrect-russias-south-stream/5424886 excerpt:
China is extending its Silk Road into the Balkans, with a planned project to construct a railroad from the Greek port of Piraeus all the way to Budapest. This would connect Beijing’s primary port of entrance for its commercial goods to one of Central Europe’s main transport conduits, thereby pushing the Silk Road into the heart of Europe and throughout the rest of the continent. As with everything else that China is doing in the world today, it must not be discounted that Russia can also reap some resultant benefits from this as part of the global Russian-Chinese Strategic Partnership, which in this case, would allow for the resurrection of the South Stream project that all of its European partners have been begging for since its cancellation.
Requires complete Grexit. See link.
Eric Draitser wrote an article about Turkish links to the insurgents in China.
“….Now, with these latest revelations regarding Turkish nationals being involved in the trafficking of extremists, it seems an invaluable piece of the terrorist transit infrastructure has been exposed. The lingering question of course remains: Why?
Why would Turkey – a country that has long sought to play both sides of the East-West divide (fast becoming a NATO-BRICS/SCO divide) – seek to destabilize China in this way? Why risk a potentially lucrative partnership with Beijing to help a radical fringe Islamist movement in Xinjiang?…”
Erdogan and Devotoglu’s intent is to resurrect the Ottoman Empire, so they create problems with any nation that has a Turkish minority…and that includes China. Everything Turkey does should be seen in that context whether it’s a Christian nation like Greece and Serbia, or a Muslim nation with a Turkish or Turkoman minority. Armenia and Iran have complained to the UN about their troublemaking, and even Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State told them to stop causing friction in Iraq.
Turkey is ruled by a “deep state” . NATO and all the secret intelligence ops and drug trafficking that goes along with it has been embedded in Turkey since the end of the second world war. Other financial and corporate ties go back to the Ottoman Empire. They are also a very strategic location. I would read about everything Sibel Edmonds has to say about Gladio B and also the original Gladio, her state secrets case,Gulen and American Turkish Council. The jihadists are used to stir the shit pot in Russia and China. And everywhere else. Once you understand the Islamic terrorists in those areas are run by NATO Gladio/Pentagon Office of Special Plans and other Western intelligence agencies, and the rest worldwide, too, you can start to discern what the message is between the lines when 2 countries are making statements to each other. China is doing what I like to call “diplomatic outing” aka we know who you’ve been in bed with. I don’t think the PM of Turkey really has much clout compared to the deep state and military/intelligence agencies. But to be not following orders a lot more in the last 2 years. I’m actually a bit surprised that he didn’t get color revolutioned in the last 2 years. Maybe the State Department has a backlog on that list.
Actually, the more I think about it, Turkey wouldn’t have to be a priority for color revolution. Their military and intelligence agencies could just pull a coup or topple the PM internally for their foreign masters. They did just that in 1980 after terrorizing the citizens with a rash of Gladio false flag bombings and violence. After the coup, all the terror stopped and the people thought the coup was their savior. It wasn’t until years later that information started to come out that it was all an inside job.
Thank you Jeannette and Liz for your clarifying comments.
Inspires me to learn more….
Will the West try and foment tension between Greece and Turkey in order to pressurize Greece on backing down in its negotiations with the Eurogroup? The answer is definitely: YES.
Will the West try and foment tension between Greece and Turkey so that Russian-Chinese plans in the region be harmed? YES.
Will Greece and Turkey fall for it? Unlikely, but not certain. Greco-Turkish enmity goes back centuries, and needs very little encouragement to boil over. Erdogan will also probably try and hammer home that Turkey is now stronger than Greece.
Can Russia and China exert influence on Greece-Turkey so that things do not get out of hand? Probably.
In any case, tension between Greece and Turkey is nothing new. Provocations and interceptions between the Air Forces of the two countries have been going on for decades, nothing new here.
Both Xi and Putin will have to keep a watchful eye on this one though.
They say that ultimately nations follow their own interests in international affairs. This I don’t believe or Canada wouldn’t be a vassal state. The only thing Russia and China have to offer the world is a better deal-this goes for the oligarch’s to. It seems to me that the wiser move would be to avoid war on all sides….naw it’s eat the competitor’s, concentrate wealth in fewer and fewer hands or die under capitalism-the west is spent all they can do is start wars. Are they fighting a losing battle? Yes, nobody wins-we either change our government’s from within or we all die. Seems so to me.
To Stavros h . all seems to add up – except the bit about wanting to show turkey is now stronger than Greece. I can’t think of a post Byzantium time when Greece was stronger than the Turks?of course there have been times when Greece has had stronger friends – have they got them now?
Kakaouskia: Thank you for the heads up and timeline. Looks like things could get even more interesting shortly.
ABOUT TURKEY Check out the link; these are the 2 most optimistic paragraphs.
(NEO is a journal of Russia’s Academy of Sciences.)
“Objectively speaking, a strengthened cooperation with the US army has its own limitations. As reported by the newspaper Military Times, a moral crisis is brewing in the US armed forces. The newspaper says that one of the main problems that faces the American army is the legacy of the wars it has waged in Iraq and Afghanistan. Only 30% of those questioned believe that the US operations in Iraq were completed successfully and 70% are opposed to American troops returning to Iraq or any other country in the Middle East.
“Thus this is why discussions today in Ankara are revolving around how to escape this dead-end which Turkey has led itself into. As such it appears entirely logical that Turkey is looking for protection in the form of China or Russia.”
Some other supplemental news on the subject, to add to this sitrep:
23/02/2015, Holiday of Ash Monday in Greece
There seem to be reports of an incident involving Greece, Italy and Turkey, 60 n.m. south-south-east of Ierapetra, Crete (see here and here, in Greek). It involves the interdiction of passage of the Italian ship OGS Explora by the Greek Navy, while it was about to enter Greek National Waters, south of the island of Crete. The ship which belongs to a French company was dropping a fiber-optic cable in the sea, heading in a large arc from Italy, south of Crete, to the Marmara Strait and was being escorted and shadowed by the Turkish, ‘Genesis’ Class, frigate ‘TCG Gelibolu’ (F 493). When the Italian ship approached Crete, it asked and was given permission of passage from Turkey itself, but it didn’t bother to ask Greece at all! Meaning that Turkey issued a NAVTEX which gave permission (!) to the Italian ship to operate in co-ordinates corsponding to ‘Waters of Greek Jurisdiction’, south-east of Crete! Greece ordered OGS Explora to stop and turn around, then contacted Rome and Paris (the Italian ship operates on the behalf of a French company) and asked to seize all operations and leave. Explora was forced to stop for many hours south of Karpathos, while it was being guarded by the Turkish frigate, which circled around it. Both were shadowed by Greek Navy ships and aircraft and were locked on by costal batteries. The standoff ended, when the Italian ship turned around and steamed away from the area, to Italy.
This was a serious challenge of the Greek sovereignty on the islands of Crete and Karpathos and the Aegean in general and a violation of ‘waters of Greek juridstiction’. It was a repeat of a similar incident with the same ship, which took place in 2011. (Then Explora had actualy asked Greece for permission to pass through, but it was declined.)
The Turkish think-tank “Turkey – 21st Century”, financed by the Turkish Foreign Ministry, publishes a report signed by its President and friend of Mr. P.T. Ertogan’s, Mr.Ümit Özdağ, which suggests that .
A map was published, indicating 16 Greek isles in the middle of the Aegean (in the Dodecanese and the Cyclades) and the Greek islands at the Libyan Sea, just south of Crete – including the island of Gavdos – that ‘are being illegally occupied by Greece and should be taken back’ (see here and here, in Turkish). This would effectively split Greece into two and allow Turkey to control half of the Aegean and nearly all of its oil deposits.
An all-time record of 41 violations of the Greek national air space by Turkish Air Force takes place in the Aegean. The Greeks intecept. There are reports of air-to-air radar locks all over the place. However, the ground-to-air defences, i.e. the Patriots in the Aegean and the S-300s in Crete, acquired targets, but probably did not lock weapons to prevent further escalation. (Reminder: An S-300 battery had fired for the first time and had downed a low flying Turkish UAV in December 2013, while it was operating 30 kilometers from Eastern Crete, under heavy ECM cover – There is a video of that missile firing here).
Violations of the Greek air space are a frequent phenomenon and part of a constant game of provocation in the Aegean. While on holidays in the summer of 2009, I have personally witnessed, to my surprise, a Turkish F16 flying 5-10 meters over the Mytilene civilian regional airport airstrip (in Lesbos) for some time and harassing civilian airplanes that wanted to take off or land. It was doing a lot of ‘touch-and-go’, while other Turkish F16’s were making high speed flying by’s over the area. It happened as close as 30 meters away from my apartment (on the side of the airstrip) and the markings on the planes were red and obvious. Now, things are far more serious than this stupid game of chicken and escalate day-by-day to a dangerous situation.
The rules of the game and the balance of power are changing in the Aegean, with the Russians now descending in the Med and establishing a presence in the area with their new (former Greek) port and airbase in Cyprus and multiple agreements with the Greek Cypriot government (Cyprus is an EU member, but not a member of NATO). Moreover, last week, the Eurasian Economic Union has opened an office in Athens, while the new BRICKS bank is now in business. Both seem eager to absorb Greece into their bosom, should Greece is forced to exit Eurozone and the EU.
The US knows all this and it remains to be seen what its policy in this area will be, what its stance towards Greece and Turkey and their respective disputes will be, whether it allows, or even forces, things to lead to an armed conflict in the Thrace / Aegean / Cyprus front between these two NATO allies and if it is willing to risk opening another political and military front against Russia and collide with its policy in the Eastern Mediterranean. Another question is what will Russia do if things go that way… The Silent War continues…
Well i’ am going to write in Greek … if i’ am well informed, this blog welcomes the diversity ….. so don’t bother to translate, if you dont want to read ….
Η Ελληνική κρίση με την Τουρκία κρατάει απο τότε που υπάρχει ιστορία …. τα Ελληνικά πλήθη, κάτω απο την διοίκηση του Αλεξάνδρου του ΙΙ του ΜΕΓΑ, κατέκλυσαν την περιοχή της Ασίας, ώστε να εκδικηθούν την αρπακτικότητα των βασιλέων των Ασιατικών Αυτοκρατοριών …. είναι μια διαδικασία που κορυφώθηκε με την κατάληψη της Περσικής πρωτεύουσα απο τις Μακεδονικές φάλαγγες …. έκτοτε απλά διαπιστώνουμε μια αλλαγή κάθε χίλια χρόνια …. 323 π.χ. πεθαίνει ο Βασιλέας των Βασιλέων Αλέξανδρος ο μέγας …. το 330 μ.χ. ιδρύεται η Ανατολική Ρωμαϊκή επαρχία, ως συν-βασιλεύουσα …. το 1204 μ.χ. η Κωνσταντινούπολη πέφτει στα χέρια των επιδρομέων απο τα στρατεύματα της κεντρικής ευρώπης …. ήταν βέβαια αυτή η λεηλασία της Ελληνορθόδοξης πρωτεύουσας που την αποδυνάμωσε σε βαθμό που δεν μπόρεσε να ανακάμψει …. και έτσι φτάνουμε στην καταραμένη ημερομηνία του 1453 μ.χ. όπου τα στίφη των μουλάδων εισβάλουν τελικά στην Πόλη των Πόλεων ….
ευχαριστούμε την ευρώπη που εξανθρωπίσαμε για το καλό που μας έκαναν ….. να είστε καλά Προτεστάντες και Καλβινιστές για την βοήθεια που μας δώσατε ….. ο Θεός να σας το ανταποδώσει …..
thank you for accepting my message in Hellenic …. for an English speaking blog that is something nowadays …..i’ am following your work for a wear now ….. and i’ am glad that you let me put my opinion in my language …. keep up the good job …. i’ am 100% with you ….
GEODETIS …. Thanks …..
You welcome, Geodetis, come as you are, as you can
Σας καλωσορίζω, Geodetis, έλα όπως είσαι, όπως μπορείτε..