Greek Arms Deliveries to Ukraine Undermine Security of Aegean Islands

Paul Antonopoulos
According to the Greek press, Ukraine has received more than 100 BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles, 60 Stinger missiles and other armaments from Greece. In April, the Greek authorities announced that they would no longer supply arms to Ukraine in order not to weaken their own security in the face of new threats from Turkey.

Nevertheless, the Greek news site Pronews wrote that the Greek government planned to transfer to Ukraine an “incredible number” of weapons, as Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos had described the initial deliveries. The weapons were transferred to Kiev from warehouses on Greek islands, whose sovereignty is disputed by Turkey more than ever.

Media reported that the deliveries included 122 BMP-1s with ammunition, 15,000 73 mm shells, 20,000 AK-47s, 3.2 million rounds of 7.62 mm caliber ammunition, 60 FIM-92 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, 17,000 150 mm artillery projectiles and 1,000 RPG-18 anti-tank rocket launchers.

In April, Nikos Panagiotopoulos said that Athens would no longer send Kiev military equipment because it would weaken Greece’s defence. At that time, the Greek authorities had already sent two C-130 aircraft with Kalashnikov automatic rifles and portable delivery vehicles to Ukraine.

However, despite this claim, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in May that Berlin had reached an agreement with Athens: Greece will hand over tanks from Eastern European countries to Kiev in exchange for more modern German armor. This provoked huge criticism, because this initiative was not announced to Greek citizens by the country’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, but by Chancellor Scholz, who once again flouted the neutrality that the vast majority of Greeks want the government to respect towards the war in Ukraine.

Moscow condemns the delivery of arms to Ukraine by Western countries and accuses them of trying to stall the conflict. In early June, Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for the Russian president, reiterated that the objectives of the military operation would be achieved despite the sending of foreign weapons to Kiev, which will inevitably cause Ukraine “even more suffering.

Currently, the Greek government has concealed some of the weapons and information on their quantities sent to Ukraine. As of February 27, Greece had sent to Ukraine via Poland 40 tons of military equipment on two C-130 aircraft. The Greeks learned about the shipment of new weapons, this time from the head of the Pentagon Lloyd Austin, and not from their government. Only after that Nikos Panagiotopoulos definitely acknowledged the delivery of weapons to Ukraine.

It is recalled that before the Russian military operation the Western countries had begun to deliver to Ukraine a large amount of weapons, including anti-tank missiles. Recently, they also supplied heavy equipment, including tanks, howitzers and multiple rocket launchers. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov noted that any shipment containing weapons for Ukraine would become a legitimate target for Russia.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said that Nato countries were playing with fire by supplying arms to Kiev. This could be perfectly true in the Greek context, as Kyriakos Mitsotakis could have been delivering weapons to Ukrainian neo-Nazis such as the Azov Battalion, which had been terrorizing the Greek minority in Marioupol and nearby villages since 2014, with an estimated population of 120,000.

Alexis Tsipras, leader of the opposition Syriza party, criticized Kyriakos Mitsotakis for the delivery of weapons, stating that there are many Nazi extremist groups in Ukraine. The same criticism was voiced by other opposition parties, recalling that a poll revealed that more than 70% of Greeks would like their government to adopt a policy of neutrality.

Although it has not yet been confirmed that any defence equipment has been sent directly from the islands, the removal of any weapons from any part of greece is a reckless policy, especially in light of turkey’s hardened claims to the greek islands and the rising military tension.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ decision to opt for the Ukrainian military over Greece’s defensive needs has already earned him criticism, as Turkey is now not only more willing to escalate the conflict, but more importantly it has angered many voters by reducing the popularity of the ruling New Democracy party.

Paul Antonopoulos, independent geopolitical analyst