Hellenic Air Defence “Patriot” System in Saudi Arabia – Ippokratis Daskalakis – Lieutenant General ret., Director of Studies of the Hellenic Institute for Strategic Studies (HEL.I.S.S.) -01.12.2020

Hellenic Air Defence “Patriot” System in Saudi Arabia

February 4th, 2020

The issue of the deployment of an Air Defence “Patriot” Battery of the Air Force in Saudi Arabia has not yet been determined by the date of publication of this article. The disposal of this system, if implemented, will constitute an unprecedented Greek participation in an area that is not directly adjacent to our country. It will undoubtedly be an important move with a political message and importance to many recipients. Inevitably by some (Iran), it will be mistaken as a “non-friendly” move towards them. Our opinion, for or against, this motion is premature and risky without knowing the basic parameters of the transaction.  The offer certainly meets the demands of the United States and Saudi Arabia, while the European Union also seems to be strongly advocating this.  Given the “unholy” Riyadh and Tel Aviv alliance (or maybe Jerusalem now?), we also consider Israeli delight to be existing. Journalistic information indicates that all travel, accommodation, security and even guided missiles, which may be involved, will be covered by Saudi Arabia. References are also made to upgrade part the Greek Patriot systems on behalf of Washington.

Leaks from government sources indicate that, with this assistance, Greece is showing its multidimensional foreign policy and agitated engagement with the wider Western world. In addition, they say that our relations with Saudi Arabia and the wider group of Sunni Arab countries are being strengthened with the aim of supporting Greek interests. Of course all of the above remain to be proved while many other developments will affect the success of these Greek expectations. It is a fact that Tehran will not be satisfied with this Greek move (especially in terms of symbolism) which will certainly negatively (and hopefully temporarily) affect the interests of the two countries. Of course sending a military unit to a high-risk area involves certain risks (which I consider acceptable), especially in case of escalation. The government (always according to leaked information) tried to demonstrate -with unfortunate arguments in my opinion- that moving the battery does not affect the capabilities of Greek air defence. The fact is that any removal of a weapon system creates a vacuum, an ellipse. The question is, on the one hand, whether the expected benefit of energy outweighs the risk and, on the other hand, whether the absence of the system is what will determine the outcome of a potential conflict. As we have already said, time will answer the first question and for the second question we might probably have to choose the negative outcome. After all, the various weapons systems should never be upgraded as these processes put weapons in a significant period of out-of-power.

But leaving the consequences of assistance to the high levels of Greek foreign policy aside, we can see a number of advantages in terms of military capabilities. We mentioned the under discussion system upgrade before but we must not forget the acquisition of experiences of the military personnel who will participate in states of (high readiness) at an international integrated air defence system. In addition, Greece could ask as a small exchange (it may have already requested it), at the level of military diplomacy, the short operational readiness and shot of all of the allied anti-aircraft units that are directed to the arabian gulf at the NATO Missile Firing Installations (NAMFI). It is noted that NAMFI is the only NATO training entity officially authorised by SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters of Allied Power in Europe) to evaluate the operational readiness of the Alliance’s air defence systems. Of course, under certain conditions, this process is open to other related countries that we would wish to see operate in our own space with a multitude of benefits (not limited to financial). Of course, our main aim should be the return of the USA as user-nation to today’s tri-nation NAMFI (Greece-Germany-Netherlands). In addition, the NAMFI, i.e. Greece, since its founding and with NATO’s blessing, has permanently almost committed a huge area of the Greek FIR at the northern side of Crete, blocking the ally and neighborinh country, to issue NOTAM for commitments of regions in the Southern Aegean for often provocative exercises.

I have tried to paint a general picture of the side effects, positive and negative, which is the availability of a military unit with significant capabilities in a distant unstable environment in the context of the alleged military diplomacy. A move that our armed forces will certainly carry out in the best way but its final use -in the overall national effort- will depend on the proper “conciliation” that will precede but also on a series of unpredictable and unstable factors. Life, politics and war need risks, and that’s not going to change no matter how much technology evolves.


Ippokratis Daskalakis – Lieutenant General ret.

  • Graduate of the Department of European and International Studies of Panteion University
  • Master’s degree in International Relations and Strategic Studies at Panteion University
  • PhD candidate of International Relations at Panteion University
  • Director of Studies of the Hellenic Institute for Strategic Studies (HEL.I.S.S.)
  • Associate of the Institute of International Relations (I.R.R.)
  • Lecturer and associate of the School of National Defence
  • Tel. +302106543131, +306983457318
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