There has been some good news in recent days. At last, the government and the prime minister – albeit belated – realized that without significant reinforcement of our armed forces, any discussions either with Turkey or with the various aspiring friends and allies, most of whom treat us with “spurious friendship,” would be in vain. We have said this a hundred times and I wonder how many more this must be repeated.
Great and unpleasant surprises are awaiting us if our armed forces are not reinforced immediately. It was time for our politicians to understand this. Now, whether this should be repeated, was well understood by everyone, or whether the cantankerous opposition of certain individuals does not allow them to consider things from a different prospective, this is still to be answered. In any case, it was a good starting point. An ambitious and large-scale program was announced. Is this enough? It's good, but it needs improvement, maturity and specialization.
1. The program will evolve over a period of several years, thus it could not have a positive impact on the prevailing, rather difficult, circumstances unless substantial funds are granted in order to address the current needs of the Hellenic Navy and the Air Force and aimed at addressing many years of neglect. This issue is of even greater importance today because our fleet has to remain at sea for weeks on end and, most importantly, far from its bases (unlike the Turkish fleet that operates very close to its own naval bases). Furthermore, our Air Force needs to be flying constantly, resulting in considerable exhaustion of resources and personnel. It is therefore necessary to disburse substantial sums of money immediately so that our ships can be maintained, repaired, further equipped, and loaded with spare parts and weapons so they can safely stay at sea for long periods of time. At the moment, this is the number one problem for both our Navy and our Air Forces. I hope that the prime minister, who has now fully understood the magnitude and complexity of the problem our armed forces are facing, will provide an immediate solution so that the necessary funds can be disbursed.
2. The second problem, of equal importance, is the unacceptable bureaucracy in financial and resources management, even for the smallest amounts. The current law is not only harmful, but also dangerous for national security, and for this reason I agree with the position of Prodromos Emphietzoglou which was reflected in his letter addressed to Kathimerini few days ago. Within said letter he announced that he was filing suit against members of the Court of Auditors regarding the extended delay in approving the execution of an agreement related to the needs of the Navy.
One would wonder whether those public officers, who have been sitting on the needs of the armed forces for months, are conscientious public servants who perform their duties in accordance with the law, or commit acts of high treason which, by means of their actions and omissions, immobilize a frigate at the naval base, while if they had immediately approved the existing requisitions, said frigate would be in the southern Aegean Sea facing the superior Turkish fleet and defending our country.
3. Neither the armaments programs nor the (correctly introduced) additional measures announced by the prime minister suffice. What is necessary is radical changes in the antiquated and old-fashioned way in which the armed forces have developed to date despite the fact that needs have changed radically. If 1,000 tanks (out of the 1,400 we have) could be exchanged and replaced by ships and aircraft, we would be in a much better position. If we had spent money to develop the naval base at Souda on Crete, we would now have naval cover south of Crete and in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea at a much lower cost and without the exhaustion of resources and personnel. If we shut down 100 army camps all over Greece, we would have money for more ships and aircraft. If we reduced the number of ships in our fleet while rendering them more efficient and reliable, our fleet would be much better prepared for combat. If we had given all the assistance described herein to our ships, crews and officers years ago, rather than today, we would not merely be relying on their patriotism but would have a whole lot of equipment and personnel at a much more battle-ready level. However, let us not whine.
We have now taken a big step forward. Greece decided to spend billions to do what still needs to be done, and should have been done many years ago. The aforementioned comments aim solely at enhancing the present circumstances by means of setting out in the right scope the schedule and procedures of the actions that need to be taken in this respect.
Conclusion: A call on the prime minister: We require the immediate disbursement of a substantial amount of funds toward the daily needs of the Navy and the Air Force accompanied by the immediate abolishment of the unbearable bureaucracy through new legislation. Mr Prime Minister, allow those things to happen and in a few months – not years – you will be rubbing your eyes at the increase in the operational capability of our armed forces.
Panos Laskaridis is president of the Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation.