Farewell to the great scientist and government adviser Kosta Tsipis

Farewell to the great scientist and government adviser Kosta Tsipis

Professor Kosta Tsipis{BLA_WRD_TXT}, who died on November 7, was a pre-eminent authority on the impact of nuclear technology on international security. While there are numerous references to his successful career in the United States, where he joined the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1966, there is a dearth of information concerning the physicist’s role as adviser to governments in his native Greece.

The 1970s saw Tsipis advising then defense minister Evangelos Averoff and later Konstantinos Mitsotakis, who was minister of economic coordination, where he was responsible for identifying organizational problems in the administrative and oversight mechanisms. When Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis complained of “giving orders that are lost in a gray mass,” Tsipis responded by asking him, “Mister President, do you have a staff?” Not understanding exactly what he meant, the prime minister was annoyed and retorted, “Hey, Tsipis, do you make fun of everyone like that, or only prime ministers?”

Likewise in 1993, he was summoned to the office of Defense Minister Gerasimos Arsenis: “These files end up on my desk requiring my signature on high-cost defense procurement programs, and it makes me uncomfortable that I cannot evaluate them,” he told Tsipis. The scientist helped by establishing agencies like the minister’s support staff, the Directorate General of Procurements and the Institute of Defense Analyses.

His task was to apply new technologies to improve the cost effectiveness of strategic, tactical and operational defense policy requirements. By emphasizing the importance of an interdisciplinary approach, he was responsible for the General Chiefs of Staff being able to submit a hierarchically structured joint Mid-term Program of Development and Modernization (EMPAE) for the first time. Mindful of the military-industrial complex, he was a strict judge of proposals, often challenging recommendations.

Lacking rapport with the new minister, he resigned in 1997 and became an adviser at the Foreign Ministry, where he set up the Analysis and Planning Center.

As adviser, he was able to break down complex technical issues. The limitations of working in a political environment were not lost on him, though. When he disagreed with Andreas Papandreou over the purchase of Mirage jets in 1985, the prime minister retorted: “What do you know about politics? You’re just a nuclear physicist. This [purchase] will secure the support of my friend François Mitterrand with regard to the European Union and Turkey.”

Tsipis was a great Greek – a good and extremely cultivated man – who leaves behind a great legacy. He was committed to the national interest, without being influenced by the partisan dependencies of the governments he served. His impressive trajectory from Amfikleia to Boston and his accomplishments serve as a paradigm to every young person aspiring to make the world a more peaceful place.

Brigadier-General Alexandros Kolovos (retired) is an associate professor of space technology at the Hellenic Air Force Academy.

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