OPINION

Squandered defense

In contrast to other Western European countries – and the other 14 member states that comprised the European Union until last year- Greece is the only one which faces its most significant threat from a so-called ally, namely Turkey. This negative «privilege» obliges our country to invest dizzying sums in defense procurements, sums which the Greek gross domestic product (GDP) simply cannot bear. But we Greeks have to swallow any objections and face the heavy bill. We have long accepted that these expenses are necessary. But where has all this investment led? Have we succeeded in bolstering our defense to the tune of the sum we have spent in this area? Has our generous procurement program provided our country with the deterrence capabilities that we had sought? Have we managed to establish such a balance of power that Ankara believes that, in the event of an attack, its coast and infrastructure would sustain such damage that even an eventual victory for its side would be catastrophic? Unfortunately, the answers to all these questions are negative. Our country has spent 25 billion euros on defense procurements over the past decade and is now about to approve a new 22-billion-euro defense program for the next 10 years. This is a massive investment – enough to cover many other gaps in state spending. But this investment has few benefits. We have purchased a wide range of fighter jets, lots of arms which are probably rather useless, and an excessive number of tanks which we are unlikely to need. We have ordered weird and wonderful defense systems which were probably only sent to Greece for testing. What lies behind this frenzied purchase of arms is an inability to tackle the political pressure being exerted by major providers, especially the US. But the main problem is the orgy of kickbacks – generally a decisive factor in choosing a defense system provider. So, although our country enjoyed relative supremacy in weaponry compared to Ankara during the first few years after Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974, the vast amounts of money we have thrown into defense over the past few years have not even allowed us to keep our books balanced. Taxpayers’ money goes toward making middlemen rich, not to bolstering the country’s defenses. Now that the new 22-billion-euro defense deal is in the pipeline, the government and political world should get a grip. They should realize that the country’s future is at stake and ensure that defense spending goes where it should. Repeating the mistakes of the past will not simply be a financial crime. It will be pure betrayal.