Thanasis Petras – The recent defense pact signed by Greece and France could be the first step toward a French-led counterpart to AUKUS in the Mediterranean, reshaping strategic military alliances from Europe to North Africa and the Middle East, international relations experts told Sputnik.
The pact may fashion a new security status quo in the region, while the United States is reorienting its strategy towards the Indo-Pacific, focusing on China.
“This agreement is the first step in the creation of an answer to AUKUS in the eastern Mediterranean,” Giorgos Filis, geopolitics expert and assistant professor of international relations at Ledra College in Nikosia, said.
The agreement might also be a step toward the formation of a greater defense pact in the southeast Mediterranean area, as France’s strategic aim is to expand its influence towards this region as well as the Maghreb and Middle East, international relations analyst Stavros Kalenteridis told Sputnik.
“This defense pact between Greece and France could be expanded even more in the future to include Cyprus, the UAE, Israel and Egypt in order to formulate a new alliance. This hypothetical new alliance will not be a European but rather a Mediterranean AUKUS counterpart, however it will be more accurate to say that this hypothetical alliance will expand from France through Greece to the Persian Gulf,” Filis added.
The 3 billion euro ($3,5 billion) defense deal includes three Belharra frigates, with an option for one more. However, the French-Greek deal goes further than mere naval supply, as the two NATO members also signed a bilateral memorandum for mutual defense in case either comes under attack by a third country.
“The agreement has a provision stating that the two countries will assist each other even with the use of arms, and as a result we need to wait and see to which extent this provision will be applied in case one of those countries is in need of military assistance, in case their national security is under threat,” Kalenteridis said.
WAKE UP CALL FOR NATO
It is the first time that two NATO members have signed a bilateral defense agreement in the alliance’s 72-year history, directly stating that they will assist each other in case of an attack by a third country, including the possibility of a threat coming from another NATO country.
There has been growing debate about the North Atlantic alliance’s role in the modern world, with French President Macron saying that “we are experiencing the brain death of NATO.”
“The North Atlantic alliance is becoming a complementary entity, as the vision of the French President is European countries being responsible for their defense in a potential French-led coalition,” Filis remarked.
The French-Greek agreement is a “wake-up call” to NATO to put in more effort in trying to resolve disputes between its members, otherwise there is a risk the alliance will be dissolved, Filis added.
Filis pointed out that NATO members have developed different national interests throughout the years.
“It is very difficult for NATO in its current formation to have a future. The main problem within the alliance is that there are many different subgroups of countries with diverse views and interests. It is clear that the Eastern European NATO members have a more hostile approach towards Russia, and at the same time Western European nations like Italy, Spain, Greece and France don’t have the same approach. Also Germany, another important NATO member, considers Russia perhaps its most important geo-economic and energy partner,” he said.
Any new alliance developing in the region after the French-Greek agreement should try to get closer to Russia. The missing element from this French-led formation is the support and approval of Germany. Germany has the foundation, due to its close ties in the energy field with Russia, to bring the two sides closer, since the US is taking steps back from European defense, Kalenteridis noted.
“This hypothetical Mediterranean AUKUS counterpart, if it does indeed happen, should build bridges with Russia. Greece and France don’t consider and shouldn’t consider Russia a hostile country. Russia is acting as a balancing power within the greater southeast Mediterranean region, especially between countries like Greece and Turkey, and it is a guarantor of security and stability in the region,” Filis agreed.
A MUTLIPOLAR WORLD
These new alliance formations are emerging in a global geopolitical landscape in which superpowers are refocusing their attention and strategy.
The Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, ending the Cold War, as well as marking the end of the bi-polar geopolitical spheres of influence.
The US emerged as the sole superpower for decades. However, Russia’s fast recovery in recent years and China’s growth are creating geopolitical conditions for a multipolar world, where the three main superpowers are sharing power through their spheres of influence around the globe.
“There is a global geopolitical shift towards a multipolar world. As a result, the situation is more complicated at this stage. Within this new, multipolar world, nations are focusing on their interests without putting forward the interests of the alliance, as the global geopolitical environment is very volatile,” Filis concluded.