During the Cold War, the United States did its best to make the Mediterranean unfriendly for the Soviet Navy. Their ships were closely monitored and towards the end of the Cold War a lone Victor Class submarine was the only credible naval presence maintained, aside from a few obsolete frigates generally docked in a Syrian port. When other forces outside this small package were deployed it was a big deal.
Today however, a NATO ally, Greece, is considering hosting a Chinese Naval base smack dab in the middle of the eastern Mediterranean. What the Chinese might dock there has not been disclosed, but it could be more robust than the normal Soviet deployments.
According to a recent report, the Prime Minister of Greece said that Crete could serve as a regional node for the support, maintenance and repair of the Chinese Navy and the possibility exists for joint naval operations between Greece and China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy. (The “Navy” is a subordinate arm under the PLA.) The Greek Prime Minister was reported to have told this to the visiting Chinese president on Rhodes on July 13th (Sunday).
“On Crete there is all the appropriate infrastructure for refueling, maintenance and repairs for all your country’s navy units. There is a possibility of cooperation, for example, in joint patrols of war ships. And another example, in the area of fighting piracy, where the interests of our two peoples coincide,” Antonis Samaras told Xi Jinping, China’s Premiere and communist dictator.
This cozying up to the Chinese by the cash-strapped Greeks has been largely ignored by the US and NATO, but observers note that this development is most unwelcome among military professionals. It places potentially hostile forces on Crete, an island which also hosts a NATO naval base at Souda Bay, right in the middle of a most strategic region.
But the Greeks, who are no doubt receiving money from the Chinese for such a deal, envision even closer cooperation with the Chinese communist regime.
Samaras, the Greek Prime Minister said, “I also want to say that I believe deeply in our relations of strategic partnership that will constantly expand, as your country’s presence at the forefront of the international stage also grows.” Such a statement of intent could be interpreted by some to call into question Greece’s commitment to NATO and is seen as evidence that China evinces a policy of intervention in European geopolitics.
The Greek Prime Minister and the Chinese leader met at the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes.
The Chinese leader noted that his country is keen to build its relations with Greece, saying,“We want to make joint efforts, with the Greek side, to launch a new era in our bilateral relations in terms of the overall strategic partnership relations of Greece and China. Greece and China have a natural friendship and there are naturally very close feelings between them. We can say that Greece is the friendliest and most reliable country in Europe for China.”
This statement, praising Greece as the most friendly and reliable country in Europe for China, has more than a few eyebrows raised among military professionals from NATO countries. The truth is that Chinese and NATO interests diverge, in general, and for Greece to court the Chinese may in jeopardize its standing in NATO, according to sources we have contacted.
The move towards China may be a reaction to the “bad deal” some Greeks believe they have received at the hand of the European Union and could lead to a cash infusion in the short term but dependence on China, a hostile power as far as most rank and file NATO officers might see it, in the long term.
The relation of Western Europe to Greece has been rocky since the days of the Byzantium Empire when, in 1204, a crusader army sacked the city of Constantinople on their way to fight in Jerusalem. The Byzantine Empire, however, had good relations with China, being the trade point between China and Western Europe.
During this same period of time, the Greek Prime Minister has also had a phone conference with US Vice President Biden and today has met with Germany’s Prime Minister, Angela Merkel in Brussels.
AND ON THIS DAY:
Ironically, on the very day of this post, July 17th, the following happened:
On this day (July 17th) in 1204AD, the 4th Crusade breached the walls of Constantinople. Emperor Alexios III tried to rally the troops, but his courage failed him and he abandoned the City.
“Their first attempts were repulsed, but on 17 July, with four divisions attacking the land walls while the Venetian fleet attacked the sea walls from the Golden Horn, the Venetians took a section of the wall of about 25 towers, while the Varangian guard held off the Crusaders on the land wall. The Varangians shifted to meet the new threat, and the Venetians retreated under the screen of fire. The fire destroyed about 120 acres (0.49 km2) of the city and left some 20,000 people homeless.
“Alexios III finally took offensive action, leading 17 divisions from the St. Romanus Gate, vastly outnumbering the crusaders. Alexios III’s army of about 8,500 men faced the Crusaders’ seven divisions (about 3,500 men), but his courage failed, and the Byzantine army returned to the city without a fight. The unforced retreat and the effects of the fire greatly damaged morale, and the disgraced Alexios III abandoned his subjects, slipping out of the city and fleeing to Mosynopolis in Thrace. The Imperial officials quickly deposed their runaway emperor and restored Isaac II, robbing the crusaders of the pretext for attack. The crusaders were now in the quandary of having achieved their stated aim while being debarred from the actual objective, namely the reward that the younger Alexios had (unbeknownst to the Byzantines) promised them. The crusaders insisted that they would only recognize the authority of Isaac II if his son was raised to co-emperor, and on 1 August the latter was crowned as Alexios Angelos IV, co-emperor.”
More at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_Crusade#Siege_of_July_1203
We wanted to add this commentary from an American Greek, Dimitri Bozikis, who had some provocative insights and counter-views to our report:
First- The Greeks’ European ‘Allies’ have betrayed them on multiple occasions and in multiple ways. So the Greeks would be wise to diversify their list of ‘friends’. The Vatican and Britain in particular seem to have made an Art of throwing Eastern Christians to the mercy of the Islamic hoards.
Second- The Greek Byzantines traded with China long before Marco Polo was born. The Chinese called the Silk Road the Horse Road because they coveted Greek horses above all others. And, contrary to the other European cultures the Chinese encountered later, the Greeks never colonized, exploited nor subjugated the Chinese. That is why they have a special ancient friendship. The Chinese see the Greeks as civilized equals and founders of their respected civilizations.
Third- You might want to look at Turkey’s joint air maneuvers with the Chinese a year or two ago. They are NATO allies also, aren’t they? Didn’t the Turks also announce they were going to purchase weapon systems from the Chinese instead of the US made Patriot System?
Finally- The Greeks didn’t make these overtures to China unilaterally. They are fully aware of their obligations to both the EU and NATO. They made then with the blessing of Brussels, Tel Aviv and Washington, from the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes. THAT, my friend,should be the topic of your next article. Best, D