Greece will not send either Soviet S-300 or US Patriot to Ukraine

In recent weeks, Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, has toured several European countries. His request from each? He is calling for more Patriot anti-missile systems or comparable technology to be delivered to Ukraine’s armed forces. 

Greece has Soviet S-300, but will not be sanctioned, the US said
Photo credit: AFP

This is not the first time America has financially aided Ukraine. Several batches of arms and ammunition acquired from Greece have been facilitated by the U.S. for onward transfer to Ukraine. Recent Greek sources suggest that Athens now wishes to donate a Patriot PAC-3 battery to Ukraine’s military, but this information has yet to be confirmed by Greek media.

Interestingly, it appears Greece is contemplating handing over a specific air defense system to Kyiv. This system currently provides defense for the Greek capital, shielding it against potential threats from Turkey. Although this anti-missile defense system was designed to intercept ballistic missiles, Greece has opted for a ‘lighter’ anti-missile defense system with an operating range of 150 km. Nevertheless, discussions are ongoing that might result in Ukraine receiving a version of this system, fortified with advanced anti-aircraft missiles. 

Downing a Su-34 is easy, Patriot's struggle is against the Su-35
Photo by Anthony Sweeney

S-300 too

In an intriguing update by the Russian news outlet, TopWar, Ukraine has reportedly requested Greece for the S-300 defense system. Western media outlets had previously reported that the leaders of the European Union and NATO had urged Greece and Spain to part with their S-300 and Patriot anti-aircraft missile systems, with the intent of supporting Ukraine. The rationale behind this was the belief that the air defense needs of Athens and Madrid were significantly less urgent compared to those of Kyiv.

The Ukrainian government, meanwhile, seeks seven Patriot systems or their equivalent from the European Union, aiming to secure its key centers against potential Russian missile strikes. The decision on whether to honor President Zelensky’s request is yet to be made by the Europeans. However, it is noted that Germany has already commenced preparations to provide one such system for transfer to Ukraine. If an agreement is reached between the Greeks and the Americans, the Europeans would then only need to compile five additional air defense systems, possibly to be moved to Kyiv in the imminent future.

Greece seems to refuse

However, on the night of April 23rd, an official denial of these reports came from Pavlos Marinakis, the representative of Greece’s Cabinet of Ministers. He stressed that Greece would not undertake any action that could potentially compromise the country’s defense capabilities, specifically about their capacity to counter airborne threats.

“I answered clearly that we will not take any steps that will jeopardize the country’s deterrent potential, the country’s air defense “ stated the official. He further clarified that he was not aware of any plans from Washington to assist Athens in bringing the Patriot to the Ukrainian army. 

One interesting point to ponder is that the Greek army possesses 36 launchers of the Patriot anti-aircraft missile system. In contrast to this, Germany has already handed over two batteries of American systems to Ukraine and by January 2024 had 30 launchers remaining, to transfer another this year. In such a scenario, Athens seems to be in a unique position to take the reins, given that Berlin’s capacity to deliver Patriots is coming to an end. 

Meet the S-300PMU: a different chess piece that outsmarts the F-35
Photo credit: Reddit

Greece’s Patriot

It’s time to travel back to the mid-1990s when Greece first got its hands on the Patriot anti-aircraft systems. This was a strategic move in the larger game of defense, with the primary intent of fortifying against airborne threats. The order comprised six Patriot batteries, an amount deemed adequate for Greece to build a solid anti-aircraft defensive wall.

As time passed, Greece continued to maintain and upgrade these systems diligently. But they didn’t stop there. Fast forward to 2019 and Greece announced their intent to upgrade their existing Patriot systems to the more robust PAC-3 version. This clearly demonstrates how much Greece values an efficient anti-aircraft defense mechanism within its strategic planning. 

Polish SAM didn't catch a Russian Kh-type missile entering Poland - Patriot SAM
Photo credit: Janek Skarzynski/AFP

Greek air defense

It’s worth noting that Greece doesn’t solely rely on the Patriot anti-aircraft system for its air defense. Interestingly, they also incorporate the Russian S-300 system, designed to concurrently detect and intercept multiple targets over a considerable range. Besides, the Greek military utilizes the TOR-M1 system, another remarkable Russian invention. This anti-aircraft apparatus aims to provide defense against fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, drones, and various other aerial threats over shorter ranges.  

Shifting from Russia, Greece also hosts the French-made Crotale NG [Next Generation] system. This ground-based, short-range air defense mechanism is specifically designed to counter low-altitude aircraft and helicopters. Moreover, though originating from Germany, Greece utilizes the ASRAD-R system for defense. Portable in nature, this air defense system can be mounted on multiple platforms. It is engineered to safeguard mobile units as well as stationary installations. 

France sends Ukraine made for South Africa SAMs designed in the 70s - crotale air defense
Photo credit: Daguet

Lastly, among Greece’s defensive equipment is the Skyguard system, a product of Swiss innovation. This ground-based air defense system is designed to provide protection against low-altitude threats such as aircraft, helicopters, and drones.

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