INTERNATIONAL SITUATION: The West today faces economic, energy, demographic and migration issues. The BRICS alliance is becoming stronger.  The maritime security status in the broader area of E. Mediterranean faces challenges. It would be a positive development for the West, the implementation of Abraham Accords between Arabs and Israelis as well as the link of India to the Persian Gulf and Europe in terms of trade and energy (IMEC).  It seems natural and appropriate that both interconnections should include the Greece-Cyprus-Israel axis. As we know both initiatives were interrupted on 7th Oct. 2023, after the Hamas terrorist attack. Inaction of these corridors promotes the Chinese land road BRI, while the continuing conflict in the M. East benefits Russia since the price of hydrocarbons is raising up and the invasion in Ukraine becomes a second priority.

Western vital interests in Africa are constantly being damaged, mainly to the benefit of China, Russia and Turkey. The coups in Mali (2020), Chad (2021), Burkina Faso (three times in 2022) and Niger (2023) and the partial withdrawal of the West confirm this fact. Multiple sources of instability coexist in Africa. The exponential increase of its population, affects the ageing Europe especially from the expected rapid increase in mass illegal migration witch raises issues related to social cohesion, security and threatening European integration .

The particularly costly (in terms of money and especially human lives) conflict in Ukraine continues. In any negotiations between the two sides, Ukraine will need to be strong enough to set conditions for a future without further incursions. The outcome of the 2024 US elections will be decisive for further developments.

The fragile balances in the Balkans justify their title as “Europe’s powder keg”. Historical and current challenges create a difficult and dangerous environment which, in fact makes  the process of entering Europe more difficult and  more time consuming.

After a long dependence on Russian hydrocarbons, Europe is now testing its energy security. The green transition is a legitimate but costly and significantly long-term goal. Until then, Europe will have to optimize hydrocarbon imports and minimize exclusive suppliers or exclusive energy transit routes, especially through unreliable states which often use blackmail to achieve their interests.


One of many definitions on Maritime security is “the combination of preventive and responsive measures to protect the maritime domain against threats and intentional unlawful acts”. Maritime security concerns every country in the world because it affects directly international stability and prosperity.


Some indicative activities threatening the free and safe use of the global maritime system are:

  • Piracy • Illegal immigration • Narcotics trafficking • Oil bunkering and smuggling • Environmental degradation • Illegal and unregulated fishing (IUU) • Arms trafficking • Maritime accidents • Movement of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) • Disputes over maritime borders between coastal nations • Maritime terrorism * Cyber threats for shipping.

THE LEGAL BASIS: The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), governs all international maritime issues and security challenges. Even countries that have not ratified UNCLOS rely on it for resolving legal problems.  Its implementation however is hindered by several countries in order to avoid unwanted costs.


The critical geopolitical value of the Eastern Mediterranean, causes transnational rivalries.  The lack of a comprehensive US strategy for the Eastern Mediterranean and the misguided political message of abandoning the region were quickly exploited by anti-Western powers, state and non-state (e.g. Russia, China, Iran, extremist Islam, etc.).

Russia is gaining a permanent naval presence in Syria while Iran is seeking a land bridge of influence to the Eastern Mediterranean, via Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Russia with Turkey facilitate Azerbaijan against Armenia. Islamic terrorist organizations contribute to the instability and also their state sponsors use them to “war by proxy”. Western investment in authoritarian, repressive, opportunistic states is a high-risk move.  Extensive relations with all states in the region serve the West well, but the assignment of roles and control in the region should involve states really aligned with it.

Greece’s relationship with the West is fundamentally value-based and has existed since the origins of Western civilization. The fact that Hellenism dominates geographically in the Eastern Mediterranean is a vital Western advantage. The Greek and Cyprus seas provide access to three continents and to important lines of global communication. Currently a Greek Frigate participates in ASPIDES operation in Red Sea, which is conducted by a Greek operation center in Larissa. Two more Frigates participate in international missions in Lebanon and Libya areas.

Turkey is structurally moving away from the West, coming into conflict with it in several key areas of interest. With the political tools of Panturanism, Pan-Islamism and Neo-Ottomanism, as well as investment in military power, Turkey keeps hegemonic ambitions which are inevitably  destabilising. The Turkish tendency towards strategic autonomy is evident, with a simultaneous rapprochement with Eurasia, the Muslim world and extreme Islamic organizations. Turkey is also present in Europe with millions of Muslim Turks or Muslim immigrants over whom it influences and directs their vote and behaviour.

In Turkey, major internal problems are raging concerning the economy, human rights and the rule of law. Above all, the ongoing Kurdish issue, the tens of millions of Kurds cannot be ignored by the West. Turkish expansionist ambitions directly threaten Greece and Cyprus, while delaying the promotion of energy developments in the Eastern Mediterranean.  The energy route to Europe should be routed through friendly Western waters and friendly states, while ensuring that no state becomes an exclusive or dominant energy transit hub, with a similar European dependence.

The Cyprus problem is a factor of instability. Within the framework of the EU and with Cyprus as a member state, the rule of law, democracy and the security and well-being of Turkish Cypriots are fully guaranteed on the island. The regime of occupation troops, of guarantees and the complete dependence of the occupied territories on Turkey, perpetuate instability and introduce undesirables to the island (e.g. presence of hegemonic Turkey, Russia, extreme Islam, Iran, etc.). The Cyprus problem remains an international issue of invasion and occupation.

The doctrinally unyielding Turkish illegal claims by Greece and Cyprus, maintain the Greek-Turkish relations as zero-sum relations. An effective dialogue presupposes the absence of ultimatums and threats, a relative balance of power, common acceptance of International Law and International Treaties as a basis for discussion. If “mutual concessions” are made, Turkey will give up part of its unilateral illegal claims, while Greece will give up its rights.


The West will have to defend in every way its value system (mainly democracy, secular state), to face the explosive combination of demographic and immigration issues, to defend the security of its territories, seas and spheres of influence, its economy, its energy security, its resources, technology, as well as its sea and land communication routes. The ‘bridge’ between the Indo-Pacific and the Euro-Atlantic and the consideration of this large region as a single geopolitical security theatre is appropriate. The West should fill regional power gaps and accelerate European defense integration.

The underwater deposits in the Eastern Mediterranean should be exploited as soon as possible for the benefit of Europe.  The sources of instability in the broader Eastern Mediterranean should be controlled and isolated.  The EU, must play an active and dynamic role in both the energy issue and Cyprus problem linked to one of its Member States. Strategic cooperation between states are legitimate as long as they are based on international law and international treaties.

A viable, integrated, democratic EU, needs CSDP and strategic autonomy in cooperation with NATO. Every European citizen should feel that he is protected, that he has equal opportunities and that there is a just burden sharing between European Countries in all aspects of common obligations. Otherwise EU’s reliability fails, national policies prevail and EU cannot serve its interests.

Greece maintains steadily good relations with all the states of the wider region expecting that Turkey will finally comply to International Law. Greece’s prominent geographical position makes it a central hub for Western interests in the wider region (from Eastern Europe to the Indian Ocean). Aegean connects Souda bay to Alexandroupolis. Cyprus position is critical for E. Mediterranean. Any geopolitical change at the Aegean and Cyprus damages Western vital interests, assisting nonwestern Countries (including Russia).

Greece has the potential to become a host, a producer and redistributor of security and energy. As a status quo country, she expects the required support from the West, since common interests are at stake. Especially for the resolution of the Cyprus issue, the West should decisively demonstrate a similar sensitivity to that which it rightly showed towards Ukraine after the illegal Russian invasion. Finally, Greece should formulate a self-evident national deterrent strategy which it should communicate in every direction, taking as soon as possible all the necessary national measures for its fulfilment and making use of existing alliances.

23 – April – 2024

Vice Admiral (retired). Β. Martzoukos

Honorary Commander Hellenic Naval School

Vice President Greek Institute of Strategic Studies