OPINION

The dilemma of arms purchases

When Dwight David Eisenhower handed over the presidency of the United States of America to John F. Kennedy in 1961, he warned the American people of the threat represented by the country’s military-industrial complex. The immense investment the US has made since then in defense technology has established the country’s military superiority, but also confirmed Ike’s warning, producing one of the least transparent sectors of the economy. The connections between the industrial sector and the military-political leadership make arms deals seem essential even when they are not, and also justify their huge cost, which permits the companies that produce them to take commissions rumored to amount to 7 percent or more of the final price. In small countries like Greece, which are facing real threats, the same circles operate on a smaller scale, while pressure is exerted on them by military-economic circles in the major arms producing countries. The small countries are forced, in a way, to buy. In these circumstances, when the Government Council of Foreign Policy and Defense (KYSEA) meets today to hear the defense minister report on new armaments worth 2.2 billion euros at a particularly tough fiscal moment, it will face a crucial dilemma. On the one hand, real defense needs exist; on the other, procurements are not at all transparent. What is necessary in such circumstances is firm control in order to limit the cost of procurements and to ensure that there are no excessive purchases in the whole package. The firs,t and perhaps easiest, step in this direction is direct purchasing from the manufacturers. After all, procurement is organized through intrastate agreements, and there is no point in having middlemen, except to manage the size of their commission, which enriches both them and any officials they bribe. This simple step alone might save the State $200 million of the total $2.2 billion. And if this is then followed by a more thoroughgoing check on the purpose of the items purchased, and an examination of whether the items purchased are really necessary, then it is certain that expenditure will see a decrease.