The buy of the century?

The surface-to-air verbal missiles that PASOK fired at the government’s new armaments program were off target. The Socialists’ argument that the New Democracy government, by choosing the American F-16 over the European Eurofighter, has prioritized foreign policy criteria over technocratic or economic need is nothing new. Defense policy in all small countries, including Greece, is largely at the mercy of the great powers (and their suppliers), capable of destroying the world with their weapons. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has agreed for Greece to buy 30 aircraft from the US, which may be balanced later by an equivalent purchase from the European consortium. The main problem with what has already been dubbed the new «buy of the century» lies in the economic, not political, sphere. The government, which earlier announced that it intended to reduce arms expenditures and use the money to bolster social welfare, is adding 1.4 billion euros to the state budget in a time of economic malaise and tough structural reforms. All this follows a well-trodden path. Ever since the then prime minister Andreas Papandreou met his counterpart Turgut Ozal at Davos (a meeting subsequently regretted), we have heard the four subsequent Greek premiers rhapsodize about a return to the spirit of the former Greek leader Eleftherios Venizelos and his Turkish counterpart Kemal Ataturk and forging a bilateral rapprochement. This, combined with Turkey’s European prospects, would turn the Aegean from a tectonic fault of military tension into a bridge of cooperation. Despite the friendly gestures, a better bilateral relationship remains as deceptive as the horizon; the closer you get the further away it seems to move. And the «buy of the century» might better be called the buy of the four-year term.

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