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Ed Hall: What happens after the generals take charge of Greece?

Ed Head and Shoulders

Ed Hall is a businessman and Conservative activist in Kensington and Chelsea, who was formerly in the Royal Navy, and occasionally blogs here.

So what happens if the Greek government collapses in its current form? As I write, the Greek Prime Minister is struggling to convince a doubtful populace that the future should be one of falling wages, reduced pensions and massive unemployment. If the current government falls, then, in the current climate, can anyone imagine a smooth process to a new one? 

A Greek General Election with parties that question the value or validity of EU membership at all can’t be that far away, and the possible role of the armed forces in managing an election and taking temporary control of the state is already the subject of much speculation on blogs and the Twittersphere.

If Greece really does begin to collapse and the Armed Forces take control (the last Junta only ended in 1974), then surely the EU has to take steps to expel Greece from the club? Can a country run by an unelected military dictatorship be a member of the European Union? Would they send colonels to the Council of Ministers? Or try a civilian puppet as they did in 1967? Greek membership of the EU would have to be suspended.

So if the risk is stronger than ever that Greece collapses into political and public order chaos, then the risk seems to be that the army feels its time has come. The sacking of the whole leadership of the Greek Armed Forces this week would suggest this is a real concern. And so we come to Turkey, which still aspires to EU membership (but is probably confident that now isn’t exactly the time), as they glance once again towards Cyprus. And the Greeks, maybe controlled once again by their military, glance back. 

It may be the right time to remember that UNFICYP, the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus is still there, as are British Forces. The UN mandate already exists to use force to enforce the ceasefire, but would we use it? If I was an extreme Turkish Nationalist in their Armed Forces, I would be putting the finishing touches to my version of the Argentine plans in 1982.

And meanwhile, a few miles away, the Israelis have decided to respond to Palestinian moves towards nationhood with more financial and military pressure. Hamas looks set to lose control in the territories, and unless Fatah starts waving huge anti-Israeli olive branches (which seems unlikely), the prospect of a re-energised revolutionary movement in Palestine and the wider Levant, seems more than just possible. The main supporter of that movement would of course be Israel’s arch-enemy, Iran. It must now be a plain statement of the obvious that Israeli military plans for action against Iran are just a hair-trigger away from going bang.

Turkey, remember, has fallen out of love with Israel too, since the bizarre use of lethal special forces on their ships. In reality, Israel has never been more isolated, and with Egypt in political chaos and Turkey not answering the phone, Israel now has no Islamic friends to call on. I wonder if the unelected King of Jordan is ready in this "Arab Spring" to act as Israel’s ambassador to the Islamic world. I very much doubt it. 

And sitting alongside all of this? An EU that can only now offer support to fellow EU members in the form of hastily-drafted IOUs and demands that private banks take massive losses. There is no military answer that the EU can provide – like the Pope, it has no armies – and NATO is dependent on the US for modern command and control and any serious firepower. You could invade Lebanon or Cyprus today with very little prospect of a European force arriving like the Austro-Hungarians of old to try and stop you. Only Israel would fire the guns at the moment they were threatened. The EU’s Foreign Minster (can you remember her name?) would be off to Washington and NATO to ask what we could do next. What would she achieve?President Obama sending the US Navy 6th Fleet to fight in the Eastern Mediterranean in an election year?

On the side of all this we have Syria on the edge of revolution – if I was in Tehran planning the future of the world I’d be playing in that country with very big stakes. As if that wasn’t enough powder in our keg, Egypt, Tunisia, and now Libya are all without effective government and there is a real possibility of a new radical Islamic state emerging in any of them.

Is the EU going to promise billions in aid to try and swing those countries our way? With what? Sarkozy and Merkel can’t offer more than promises to their own taxpayers and banks. Iran and others in the Middle East have money in the bank than we do. Would now be a good time for them to spend it?

A new world order is emerging very quickly, with the balance between east and west, and Islamic and secular government changing. If the Greek crisis allows that to spill over into conflict on the borders of Europe the possibility for a greater collapse is very real. I’m nervous enough about the state of the British economy, but day-dreaming about what could be around the next corner is even more alarming. A European War? Don’t be ridiculous.


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