OPINION

Violating our defense

The remarks made by Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos regarding defense procurement in this country over the past six years – in his first all-encompassing interview, published in yesterday’s Kathimerini – confirm that we are facing an unprecedented scandal which has depleted state coffers and the effectiveness of our armed forces. In such cases, it may not always be clear who bears the legal responsibility but it is certainly evident who bears the political responsibility, which is weighty. Equally serious is the challenge faced by the new government to purge the situation and to set Greece’s defense sector on new – operational and economic – foundations. As Spiliotopoulos points out, the last six years saw the signing of 52 billion euros in defense procurement contracts whose settlement demands the payment of more than 7 billion euros this year and over the next few years. This is an astronomical sum which could fund the entire restructuring of our armed forces and their effective adaptation to the new operational and strategic environment. Instead, the exploitation of human resources is lamentable. This preposterous outcome is due to the previous government’s shift to direct assignments (instead of the assignment of contracts through tenders) which contributed to the spread of corruption and the propagation of an attitude of improvisation and trifling inspections. Indeed, defense procurement contracts are not subject to any transparency tests whatsoever – except for NATO contracts, which are checked by the Security Council. The minister’s revelations confirm that arms procurement over the past few years constituted the epitome of corruption, the squandering of state funds, and absolute and unchecked arbitrariness. The depth and the extent of this abscess is virtually inconceivable. Even the incomprehensible assumption that the size of the commission was a larger driving factor in the case of certain arms procurements than the effectiveness of the arms themselves, has sometimes been borne out by reality. And this is happening in an extremely sensitive sector, in a sector where corruption is a crime – not just against state coffers but against national defense. Of course, the government has an obligation to purge and rationalize defense procurements and the organization of our armed forces. But it is equally critical that the honorable majority of deputies in all political parties cooperate to reveal this criminal «free-for-all» of the past. The protection of our national defense comes first. But the crimes committed in this area should, finally, be published.