OPINION

Transparency in arms procurements

Arms procurements have always been a source of trouble for Greece, just as they have for many other countries. In fact, the whole procurement system is extremely problematic. This has once again become evident after a prosecutor’s findings on the army’s purchase of US-made radar units and Russian short-range air defense missiles. The legal brief, which was submitted to Parliament Tuesday by prosecutor Panayiotis Athanassiou, suggested that former Socialist defense ministers Akis Tsochadzopoulos and Yiannos Papantoniou may bear legal responsibility for any laws that were violated. Greece’s extensive security needs, combined with mammoth defense spending and the powerful business interests that scramble for these funds, have all taken their toll on the state of transparency that should permeate ammunition deals. Transparency in arms procurements is further undermined by the hypocritical invocation of reasons of «national interest» in a bid to fend off inconvenient inquiries and criticism. It is common knowledge that the military has often purchased weaponry that does not meet the country’s genuine security needs. Overblown procurements are often only a pretext for kickbacks, bribery and illegal profit by a dark group of middlemen who have set their eye on public wealth. In this sector, corruption, deception and fraud are king. This situation has to stop. The ongoing weapons probe and the parliamentary debate present the government with an opportunity to set up a new, transparent arms procurement system free of past sins. The country – in fact, every country – needs a system that places arms procurement at the service of authentic security needs as these are determined by outside threats and the overall international and regional conditions. It is needless to point out that all of this must be conducted in a context of strict democratic monitoring. This is the only way to curb the growth of moneygrubbers who squander the state coffers – what is worse, in the name of «protecting the nation.»