Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 42

The Clinton administration reportedly moved early last month to cut off arms sales to Greece because of suspicions that the Greek government had supplied secret NATO aircraft jamming codes to Russia. According to published reports (Washington Post, AP, February 27), the suspicions set off alarm bells in Washington and led the Clinton administration both to confront the Greek government with the allegations and to launch an intensive investigation into the matter. A Defense Department team which traveled to Athens last week reportedly met with the full cooperation of Greek authorities. Although the U.S. team concluded that there had been “no compromise of technology whatsoever,” members of Congress will reportedly press for more information on the matter. The issue is a crucial one not only for what it might mean for NATO military planners, but also because any sanctions against Greece would remove U.S. defense companies from participation in a US$17 billion armed forces modernization effort planned by the Greek government.

Although the details of the U.S. allegations have not been made public, the “Washington Post” reports that the deal called for Russia to provide Greece with a radio jamming system designed to interfere with the ability of NATO aircraft to deliver bombs or missiles accurately to their targets. In exchange, the Pentagon believed, Greece was to hand over to Russia NATO codes which would enable Russia to defeat or deflect strikes by NATO aircraft.

Pentagon officials reportedly took the rumors of the Greek-Russian talks seriously in part because of rising tensions between Greece and Turkey over an earlier air defense missile deal between Russia and Cyprus. That well-publicized sale, by which Russia was to supply S-300 air defense missiles to Cyprus, was amended in late December under pressure from Turkey, the United States and the European Union. The missiles are now to be delivered to the Greek island of Crete instead. However, rising fears in Athens that Turkey might launch air strikes to stop deployment of the S-300s reportedly lent credibility to the Pentagon’s suspicions that Greece wanted to strengthen its air defenses against Turkey–a fellow NATO member.