Deputy Defence Minister Nikos Hardalias referred to the Turkish provocation as well as to the strengthening of the Armed Forces in an interview with the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) released on Wednesday.
Hardalias underlined that Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ mandate from the first days of his government’s tenure was clear: build the strongest Armed Forces in the history of the modern Greek state. Thanks to the proper management of resources, and the hard work carried out by all the ministries and agencies involved, significant progress is being recorded without deviating from our overall fiscal plan.
He added: In the previous three years, the government invested more than fifteen billion euros in defence. Not only for the acquisition of new “first-line” weapon systems, such as the three “[email protected]” frigates and the twenty-four “Rafale” aircraft, but also for the military personnel, who are the force multiplier of the Armed Forces. This is how we will continue in 2023, which will be another critical year for upgrading of our Armed Forces. We will have eighteen state-of-the-art “Rafale” aircraft, the Navy will acquire three new anti-submarine warfare helicopters of “ROMEO” type, and the upgrade of F-16s to the “Viper” version will continue at an intensive pace. In total, for the period 2020-2023, defence spending will exceed twenty billion euros. An investment aimed at consolidating the peace, stability and prosperity of the country.
In terms of defence diplomacy, he said, it is doing exceptionally well. “I will not only tell you about the bilateral alliance with France, which even includes a mutual defence assistance clause, about the relations with the United States, which are stronger than ever, about our close ties with Israel, or about the excellent cooperation we have with Egypt. Above all, I am proud because our country is currently viewed as the main pillar of stability in the south-eastern Mediterranean region. We have earned this respect thanks to an active foreign and defence policy that harmoniously combines commitment to peace, extroversion and the strengthening of the Armed Forces.
Hardalias stressed that for 2023, Greece has an additional big “bet”: To help the European Union evolve into a real European Defence Union, the necessity of which is greater than ever.
On Ankara’s stance, he said that it remains deeply problematic. “We observe unprecedented revisionism and challenges, combined with dangerous practices on the ground. On our part, we are not concerned on whether the escalation of this attitude, especially at the level of rhetoric, is related to internal political expediencies of the Turkish government in view of elections. Nor do we try to guess what is hidden behind each new display of anti-Greek impudence on the opposite side of the Aegean. Instead, we steadily continue our planning and always are ready for any scenario, including the worst possible one.”