As tensions with neighboring Turkey have ratcheted up in recent months following the kidnapping of two Greek soldiers and increasing Turkish belligerence in the Aegean and towards Cyprus, the leasing of two French frigates is reported to have been agreed upon following high-level communications between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and French President Emmanuel Macron, and between the two countries’ militaries.
The two frigates, probably the The acquisition of the frigates – probably the Languedoc and the Aquitaine, as reported by eKathimerini, will be delivered to Greece this summer and will be inducted into the Hellenic Navy by August of this year.
This lease follows in the aftermath of recent statements made by Macron at the European Parliament that France would protect “any member-country whose sovereignty is being attacked,” referring to the Turkish threats against Greece and Cyprus.
Tsipras and Macron are also said to have discussed defense cooperation during the latter’s official visit to Greece in September.
The two vessels to be leased will come equipped with high-accuracy anti-aircraft missiles, while the French are also said to have committed to providing Greece with Exocet anti-ship missiles, according to the eKathimerini report.
Following the conclusion of the five-year lease, Greece will accept delivery of its first Belh@rra frigate from France, while talks have proceeded between the two countries for the purchase of a total of 2-4 Belh@rra frigates.
What has gone unsaid in media reports is the context within which this purchase is taking place, with the warming of relations between Washington and Paris and a stronger position for France vis-à-vis Angela Merkel’s Germany, Greece could be acting as a proxy for Washington and NATO as relations between the West and Ankara continue to diminish.
Furthermore, also implicit is the continued commitment of Greek military purchases from France and Germany even as those two countries lead the so-called “bailout” (memorandum) program towards Greece. While the ever-accurate Guardian finds Greece’s need for military spending “perplexing,” it has indicated the pressure on the part of France and Germany towards Greece to continue lucrative arms deals even while Greece has been asked to implement and enforce severe austerity cuts elsewhere (read: pensions, salaries, social services).
As an aide to former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou is said to have stated, “No one is saying ‘Buy our warships or we won’t bail you out.’ But the clear implication is that they will be
more supportive if we do.”