From today until the end of March, 5 NATO countries – Turkey, the UK, Holland, Belgium and the US are starting a big navy training in the Aegean Sea under the code name “Hegemon.” Greece is not invited to participate in it. The Greek Minister of Defense Vangelis Meymarakis has asked four of the countries – the US, the UK, Holland, and Belgium to withdraw from the training but they did not do so. Of course, they have verbally assured the Greek minister that they will not participate in those parts of the training, which will affect the territorial interests of Greece.
The UK is participating with the biggest team and the most weapons in “Hegemon.” Belgium is only participating with a team. Turkey is participating with almost all of its navy fleet – 12 ships. The US is participating with one anti-torpedo ship and Holland – with one army frigate. Chasers, army, and rescue helicopters will participate in the training. The training forecasts a hot conflict in the Aegean Sea, where NATO forces interfere in order to save the community and to find out the reasons of the conflict. The action is taking place South of Rhodes Island, in territorial waters, which Greece believes to be hers. South of Rhodes and around Hios Island another special training with submarines will take place.
When it comes to balancing the hard relationship with Turkey, the “Hegemon” training is only part of the Greek government’s headache. A bigger worry for Athens is the upcoming visit of the US president in Ankara in the beginning of April. Barack Obama is the first US president, who violates the unwritten tradition to visit both Balkan countries. Greece is not included in Obama’s European tour and this offends the local politicians. Ever since Hillary Clinton’s visit in Turkey, it became clear that the US will seek for a closer cooperation with the Muslim country on may fronts – Iraq, Iran, the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan.
Greece is left with the only consolation – the reception in the White House. Despite Obama’s appeal not to have so many receptions, in order to save means, the reception for the Greek holiday March 25th will take place.