Alexis Papachelas ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

Hypocrisy over defense spending

COMMENT

TAGS: Defense, EU, Politics

Athens’s defense procurement plans have been met with raised eyebrows and complaints in certain European capitals. Beyond the competition that has always existed between France and Germany in this field, Greece is being accused of spending European taxpayers’ money on a shopping spree.

We should take a moment to look at the hypocrisy of this criticism. Back when Greece borrowed at low interest rates because of the euro, many European governments acted like peddlers who never missed an opportunity to pressure or encourage successive Greek government to buy their wares. They were evidently unconcerned about the country’s accumulation of debt.

There is another thing we should consider: The vast majority of corruption cases in the field of defense procurements – among others – involve European companies. Corruption is like the tango – it takes two. In all the years that we have been seeing the stereotype of Greece as a corrupt country being propagated, not once have we seen serious criticism of the methods and ethics of the European giants of the defense industry.

All of this belongs in the past, of course, but it is still important. The issue at hand is that Greece has become a frontline country facing numerous threats right now, some of which concern the rest of Europe as well. Foremost among these are the threats of terrorism and the migration/refugee crisis. It is also facing an increase in the threat level coming from its eastern neighbor.

Europe should be interested in having a Greece that is powerful and capable of dealing with all these challenges. Even the most basic geopolitical analysis tells us that an unstable, weak or humiliated Greece would be harmful to Western interests.

European leaders who are responsible for the big decisions need to decide what they want. The ideal scenario as far as Greek interests are concerned would be for them to decide that Greece’s borders are also Europe’s and to guarantee their integrity. This would allow Greece to spend a lot less on defense. There appears to be no such intention, however.

The onus, therefore, rests with Greece and decisions on defense need to be made based on our capabilities. We may not need costly frigates but smaller, more flexible vessels; it is up to the experts to decide. And our partners need to understand that fiscal laxity and profligacy are one thing, and defense spending quite another when the country needs it.

That they would loan us money and pressure us into buying military equipment when we didn’t need it and are now complaining that we’re spending money on the bare essentials is something of an oxymoron.

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