Alexis Papachelas ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

An opportunity to upgrade defense

COMMENT

TAGS: Defense, Business

Closing and then reopening Greece’s state-run defense industries under a completely different structure would be a truly patriotic initiative. The country needs to make significant leaps in the coming years to bolster its defense and narrow the gap with Turkey. Not a single day can be lost.

The Turkish political leadership suffered a major shock in 1974 when US Congress imposed an embargo on the sale of military equipment after its invasion of Cyprus. Turkey responded by creating its own arms industry, taking full advantage of its relationship with Israel at the time to learn about advanced and flexible technology.

For the last 40 years, Greece’s state-owned corporations have buckled under a lack of serious management and being led by unemployable party hacks. Serious modernization and maintenance programs have languished for years. No one knows how much these companies are costing us. They have also failed to connect to European or other production networks because they cannot meet their specifications. Mismanagement in this sector, in combination with waste and corruption in procurement contracts, is a long-standing crime of the political system. But there are solutions.

Israeli and American companies are interested in buying or partnering with state-owned companies, in collaboration with the few Greek companies that are active in the industry. They obviously want them to be cleaned up of economic burdens and a problematic corporate culture of the past.

The Greek state is looking forward to significant upgrades and acquisition programs. It also has plenty of talent in research. Israel, and possibly the US, could be interested in participating in a new framework. Greece could demand that for every dollar it spends on procurements, part of production, research and know-how benefits its ecomony. But this cannot be done under the current status quo.

Our politicians, be they finance or defense ministers, tend to resist change and defend the status quo. One because he fears being accused of selling off state assets, another because he needs somewhere to appoint his cronies and another because he is afraid. But Greece is in a state of emergency. Our political leadership must unite and agree on a program that will get us out of the quagmire and provide solutions to the country’s defense problem while enhancing development and research.

Inertia and indifference will be unforgivable from this point on. The geopolitical situation is unique. Interest from Israel and others is active, but tomorrow it may go away. The pseudo-patriotism of those who defend the status quo is a fig leaf hiding the clientelist and corrupt way that successive governments have dealt with defense.

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