The Minister of National Defence Evangelos Apostolakis, attended on Wednesday 15 May 2019 the 7th Air Power Conference “Airpower as a Strategic Factor in the Transition of Defence and Security”, held in the Air Force Academy, where he addressed the following speech:
I am glad to be present today, at the seventh Air Power Conference, and I warmly welcome you here at the Hellenic Air Force Academy, the cradle of the Hellenic Air Force. The annual Air Power Conference, through the interaction of constructive proposals and reflections at the national and international level, has been evolved as an important forum for dialogue and exploration of approaches in the field of air power.
Allow me to extend a special welcome to AIRCOM and Commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa, the Commander of Israeli Airforce, the UN Military Adviser for Peacekeeping Operations, the Commander of the NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Force, the Deputy Chief of Staff of Allied Joint Force Command Naples, and the Deputy Head of Training Branch of Royal Jordanian Air Force. You travelled from faraway and your presence is a great honor.
This, of course, is the culmination of the excellent preparation and cooperation of the organizers, and I would like to congratulate the Chief of the Hellenic Air Force General Staff and his personnel.
Especially this year, the theme of the conference «Airpower as a Strategic Factor in the Transition of Defense and Security» dives deep into the core of the existence of Air Power.
I can definitely argue that Air Power is one tool in the nation’s defence and security policy toolbox. A potent tool of diplomacy and a crucial strategic element of the national military instrument of power. An important dimension of defence diplomacy, as air power can respond quickly to a changing security environment with a level of speed, range and flexibility. Contemporary air power has the capability to project a nation’s intent and support its national goals and interests.
We are in the second century of airpower, and its evolution has matured to the point that it is now acknowledged as an indispensable element of modern warfare. In addition, the non-lethal capabilities of air power, produce a completely different set of strategic effects that are politically highly valued.
But, air power can no longer be viewed in isolation. It must be integrated and interoperable with other services and coalition systems. So, to generate maximum leverage and achieve the desired strategic effects at the right time and place, air power should be employed in a multi-domain scheme with other military tools and instruments of national power. And of course, in alignment with national defence and security priorities, supporting the ends, ways and means of grand strategy.
And this is particularly true for the area of Greece, where the primary characteristics of Air Power are of utmost importance. This is being demonstrated every day by our air units, which, along with our land and naval forces, perform successfully the primary mission of the Hellenic Armed Forces, safeguarding our national integrity and sovereignty.
Throughout the history of the human race, peace was never granted. The Balkans, Middle East - North Africa and East Med, our own neighborhood, is a region of great strategic importance, dominated by a wide spectrum of emerging security challenges and risks.
The failure to cope with these challenges would definitely have a negative impact on the stability of the region, while the consequences may spillover in the immediate periphery and beyond. Given their different nature, scale and complexity, none country alone can successfully cope with them. Multilateral coordinated cooperation of regional and international allies and partners is imperative. We have to come to terms with that.
In this volatile and uncertain geopolitical environment, Greece, as a significant actor and pillar of stability in the broader area, plays a key role in promoting synergies and initiatives. We establish productive relations and further enhance longstanding ones, outside the Alliance and the EU. Greece is a cornerstone of stability. It builds bridges of collaboration and dialogue with the countries of the wider region, contributing at the same time to the development of good neighbourly relations, mutual trust and constructive interaction.
The contribution of the Armed Forces in the said national effort, is materialized through the exercise of an active, multidimensional defence diplomacy, which serves and directly extends to the political field.
However, we have a difficult neighbour to live with. We face Turkey’s provocations in the Aegean and the various unfounded allegations, always reacting with prudence and strategic composure.
Despite the existing problems, we make, on our side, an effort of normalization. In the context of this rationale, a meeting of the two countries’ delegation is being scheduled next days, to define the actions in the context of Confidence Building Measures. In any case, we seek peace and stability, while at the same time decisively protecting our sovereign rights.
At this point, I would like to mention the recent decision of Turkey to proceed to illegal drilling in the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Cyprus. A decision which we have condemned and which has caused many international reactions from the EU, the USA, France, Israel, Egypt and many other sides. We welcome the calm and sober stance held by Cyprus, we remain coordinated with the Republic of Cyprus, as well as our European partners and allies for future actions.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Turning back to the constructive dialogue, we develop a plethora of activities and joint training, with Armed Forces from almost all the states of the region, as well as others globally. Of course, we enhance our relation with Cyprus, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, the countries of the Gulf, Israel, Jordan, USA and all the countries of the Balkans.
Our defence diplomacy capitalizes on the good relations, Greece traditionally has with the Arab world, and thus contributes to the stability of the Southeastern Mediterranean. So, we bring closer countries with particular, different or historically opposite policies, promoting cooperation between them.
We are aware that Air Power through defence cooperation, provide a concrete and valuable contribution, to foster partnerships and develop a coherent and effective Deterrence and Collective Defence.
And this is exemplified by what we did last month with exercise “INIOCHOS”, one of the largest air exercises in the Mediterranean for 2019, where NATO allies and partners train side-by-side.
Through “INIOCHOS”, the Hellenic Air Force and the Hellenic Armed Forces respectively, demonstrated our capability and capacity to operate efficiently, in a highly demanding and challenging environment, enhancing at the same time the required interoperability between the participating friends and NATO allies. And we send a clear and solid message of our ability to operate harmoniously and efficiently together, and of our resolve to promote stability and security in our wider region.
Referring to the sensitive Balkan area, Greece continues to seek to strengthen the stability and the Euro-Atlantic orientation of the region's countries, by implementing and building defense capabilities. In this respect, Greek fighter aircrafts are carrying out air policing of Albania, Montenegro and soon of North Macedonia.
In this time of rapid changes and unpredictable challenges, which underline the requirement for adaptation, flexibility and agility, we are looking into the future, we envisage the Armed Forces of tomorrow. The transformation and the adjustment of the Armed Forces to the new conditions is the only way forward. At the same time, investment in capabilities development, in procurements and armament programs, is made necessary.
Naturally, we upgrade our air power. As you will be aware, we have begun to receive helicopters from the USA and the F-16 aircraft upgrade is underway. Also, the modernization of the P-3B naval cooperation aircraft is underway, while we are acting accordingly for the support of Mirage aircraft and the modernization of our air-defence and surveillance system.
In closing, Greece considers multilateral cooperation in regional and global level security, as one of its highest priorities. We honor our commitments in the Framework of NATO, EU and UN. We promote peace and stability, operating jointly, in concert with our Allies and Partners, based on the Charter of the United Nations, International Law and extant Treaties.
I am confident that the conference conclusions will be a valuable tool in our endeavor to understand and exploit Air Power in the present and future warfighting, as well as in strengthening defence and security cooperation.
The Air Power Conference is an event that adds value to our efforts to promote international cooperation and to enhance our common understanding. In this regard, I would like to express my gratitude to all the participants and the contributors, especially those who traveled long distances to be here.
Thank you and I wish the Conference a great success.’’