The “easy solution” of shooting down a Turkish UAV

From Savvas D. Vlassis

On October 13, in an interview on the radio station “STO KOKKINO 105.5”, the head of PRATTO and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Kotzias, argued about the Turkish illegal activity in the Aegean with Unmanned Aircraft: “I have the following opinion: that a drone -in which there is no pilot, no personnel, no human will be killed- which flies over the Greek territory, we must shoot it down. And we have to drop it after telling our allies, the UN, NATO, Turkey itself, that dudes, so far.”

To obviously show that this action is “reasonable”, he gave as an example the case of the downing of the Russian fighter plane by Turkey, that is, a manned war plane whose pilot was killed.

The former foreign minister shows that he is unable to distinguish that Russia is not threatening or seeking war with Turkey and that the entry of the Russian plane into the Turkish FIR was accidental. He also fails to discern that Russia, nor does it seek to compel in any way the initiation of a dialogue on Turkey’s sovereignty and sovereign rights.

In Greek-Turkish terms, Turkey is not only geared for a war conflict with Greece but also seeks to exploit any occasion to force Greece to negotiate its sovereignty over Greek island territories or other sovereign rights. However, Mr. Kotzias must also be well aware of the perception at top diplomatic levels, according to which Turkey does not wish to drag Greece into negotiations through a military confrontation but only with the threat of war.

This perception, at first sight, seems to reinforce the position that shooting down a UAV may not have further consequences. However, the dimension is overlooked, ultimately Greece being the one who will be considered to have caused – triggered a situation, which everyone admits will probably have an unpredictable development (as the Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias just pointed out in his interview in yesterday’s REAL NEWS sheet and to Giorgos Siadima) probably bringing to an end the result that Athens seeks to avoid, that is to sit on the negotiating table with Turkey for issues beyond the continental shelf.

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Mr. Kotzias rightly sets some conditions, but in any case his placement is done on the safe side and without holding a position of responsibility. It is important, however, that the systematic activity of Turkish UAVs in the Athens FIR began in the spring of 2018, that is, during the days of Mr. Kotzias at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs… On April 5, 2018, an Anka entered the Athens FIR east of Rhodes and was “intercepted” by a pair of Greek F-16.

The main issue of the Greek policy towards the emerging Turkish methods, is that it does not seem to anticipate – foresee, and therefore does not plan proactively, in order to react immediately to some new Turkish method that will give rise to a new operational situation. He just reacts watchfully.

The Greek authorities did not foresee and evaluate the potential threat of the use of UAVs by Turkey with uncontrolled entries into the Athens FIR and the subsequent continuous execution of violations, even overflights of Greek territories. An activity, taking advantage of the “porous” geographical shape of the Greek-Turkish border in the Aegean, aims to transform it into a zone of continuous “invasion” by Turkish forces, as Northern Iraq and Northern Syria have become, i.e. (according to Turkey) a zone of Turkish influence – control and therefore, considered reduced Greek competence – sovereignty.

The implementation of new tactics – practices in this direction is done incrementally – on a trial basis, so that Turkey does not give Greece a reason from the outset for a dynamic response. In the first entries of Turkish UAVs in the Athens FIR, they hurried to leave when approached by Greek planes. They then remained and continued the flight, in international airspace, east of Rhodes. When it was confirmed – it was established, that Greece reacts with simple recognition, from the beginning of 2019 the UAV entries began to increase and from one point on, they carried out individual violations of the National Airspace for a short time. In the next phase, when the Greek reaction did not change, the Turkish UAVs began to carry out overflights, while the flights in the Athens FIR were qualitatively differentiated, with long-duration missions that begin with an entrance east of Rhodes, crossing the Karpathos Straits and exiting somewhere in the Central or and North Aegean.

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It is inexpensive and easy to encourage anyone outside of positions of responsibility and without a complete data picture to shoot down a UAV. Outside of the political-diplomatic field, it would perhaps be productive to examine military-operational trends, in order to recognize possible new threats aimed at strengthening the specific type of Turkish activity, so that it can be dealt with before it escalates, with the appropriate staff recommendation.

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