Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts

I have been engaged in a running twitter conversation with NATOSource about the value added to NATO of Greece and whether NATO would miss Greece if it left the alliance.

Of course, before I get going, Greece would never leave NATO since it would never want to be outside an alliance that includes Turkey.  While Greece has not been able to use NATO as protection against Turkey while inside NATO, any Greek provocations if Greece were outside might just be a bit more problematic.  Plus being inside both NATO and the EU gives Greece multiple opportunities to screw over Turkey and Macedonia.  What more could Greece want? 

Anyhow, to use Bill Simmon's analogy, does Greece put more on the table than it takes off the table?  When I asked NATOSource, the answer was:
  1. Geostrategic value in NATO's southern flank
  2. Irreplaceable bases in the Eastern Med
  3. Net stabilizer in the Balkans--troops in KFOR.
Hmm.  I am not impressed.   Re #1, NATO's southern flanks against whom?  Given that Greece is now surrounded by NATO allies (Bulgaria, Albania, Turkey) and future members (Macedonia), I think the southern flank is fine sans Greece.  Irreplaceable bases?  This must boil down to Crete, right?  Otherwise, NATO could base on territories near Greece without much loss of a capability.  Crete was handy for Libya, but how often is that going to happen?  Re #3: stabilizer?  Greece's positions towards Macedonia hardly count as stabilizing and offset the mighty 150 Greek troops at are part of KFOR.

While Afghanistan cannot nor should not be the be-all of NATO, it is telling that for much of the mission, Greece had 150 or so Afghanistan--about the same size as each of the Baltic republics.  Go ahead, check the old placemats.

So, Greece's added value is Crete as far as I can tell.  What does Greece "take off the table"?  What costs does Greece impose on the alliance? 
  1. Well, blocking efforts to improve EU/NATO coordination mostly just to screw with Turkey.
  2. Blocking Macedonia's entry into NATO  (which might be a marginal gain except for those who care about maps with no holes) due to Greece's name obsession.
  3. The ongoing feud between Greece and Turkey on all things, so that NATO occasionally has a war among members.  Good times.  Yes, Greece's irredentism is just as problematic as Turkey's.  And like Turkey, Greece's democracy has occasionally been suspect.
So, it is hard to measure the various pro's and con's, but it is relatively clear that Greece is not a boon to NATO.  Whether it is net bane, I leave up to the readers.

I am not advocating kicking Greece out of NATO (although it was my pick and that of many others in the poll a month or two ago of experts on NATO).  I am just saying that Greece has little leverage in that direction (especially compared with potentially destroying the Euro). 

Or am I completely wrong?

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