Many of us have at some point heard this phrase meant as a quip: “Spies are redundant in only two countries—Japan, where no-one ever reveals the slightest secret, and Greece, where everyone is a telltale.” Well, in the last few days, the accuracy of this statement as regards our country has been confirmed. Unfortunately, it has even taken the character of a tragic farce.
Demonstrating their political irresponsibility and incompetence to settle some delicate national issues with even a minimum amount of seriousness, the government and the largest opposition party are blaming each other in the Parliament for the leaking of secret papers by MP Mr Loverdos (PASOK), concerning the agreement that Greece would sell ammunition and ordnance to Saudi Arabia. As if that were not enough, in order to illustrate their arguments, they are even bringing to light some new documents revealing the role of certain intermediaries and the fact that covert operations have taken place, which proves the utter decay that both these two, in keeping with the previous PASOK administrations, have caused within the sensitive Ministry of Defence.
The coup de grâce was delivered by Mr Kammenos, the Minister of Defence himself, who, on top of his unfortunate and inappropriate handling of the whole matter, is now going to order a court martial for the people responsible for the leak of the documents. We are under no illusions about this move, i.e. his attempt to shift the burden of responsibility onto military personnel: he evidently hopes to be redeemed in the eyes of serious voters, especially in his own constituency, given that we, the rest of us, have placed part of the blame on him according to his own responsibility.
The same tactic was followed by Mr Kammenos when “Rubicon” members barged into the Papagou military base. However, while in these cases the Minister of Defence scurried to react, it was striking to see how deplorably slow he was to take proper action when former Minister of Defence Venizelos withheld the Ministry’s contingency plans; not just two but h u n d r e d s of pages of top secret documents! Has anyone ever bothered to find out what other hands these documents have possibly fallen into and what kind of damage they have caused? Let’s not fool ourselves by waiting to see what happens next. As the old saying goes, “dog does not eat dog.”
If there are any men in the military who are indeed accountable, then clearly they must be punished. However, no politician has the right to mock and ridicule our country worldwide, regarding its defence, due to his impulsivity, impetuosity, puffiness and disposition to either promote himself or obtain political benefits. This is exactly what the party of New Democracy are doing now. They have gone ballistic only for show, and they are fishing in troubled waters. If they really wanted to solve the problem, they would put down a motion of censure against Mr Kammenos and the government he is part of.
Of course, such a dynamic policy on serious matters is never adopted by the largest opposition party, eternally straggling behind. When I was little, people in the village I grew up would call that party a “loser”—in excellent “Greeklish,” mind you. It is certainly not the first time, and unfortunately won’t be the last, when defence issues have become a field of political debate with devastating results for our country. I recall the mishandling of the S-300 missiles agreement and its devastating effect on the defence of Cyprus and our Common Defence Space. I am not going to make any further comments here so as not to have to mention any “evils within.” But, in the case of selling ammunition and ordnance, apart from our international humiliation, there is also the parameter of unreliability and the impact on our country’s foreign relations. Who would now trust any Greek government? It is obvious that Saudi Arabia would use the material bought from Greece against the Houthi rebels in the war of Yemen. Because of the military operations still taking place, Saudi Arabia has blockaded all major seaports and airports of Yemen and, as a consequence, humanitarian aid is not getting through. This has caused famine and disease; a child dies every 10 minutes. Amnesty International intervened and demanded that the Greek government not sell the war material, which will most probably happen. So, our country has now been left exposed.
This turn of events has certainly vexed the U.S. that backs Saudi Arabia and intends to discuss the signing of a new agreement with Greece, regarding the Souda Bay Naval Base, and other serious national issues. Concerns about our credibility and seriousness may crop up even in our relations with Cyprus; or Egypt, with which we are discussing, among other things, the proclamation on the EEZ, a very important issue for us; or Israel, with which we have developed a military cooperation. A similar climate of distrust will certainly gloom over our already frozen relations with Russia, which, as is well known, supports Iran.
Finally, our relations with Iran—a country in direct confrontation with Saudi Arabia—will most likely be affected, too. Let’s recall that our relations with Iran are very good and cover a wide range of activities related to energy, high technology, trade, agriculture, and enterprise. They even include a visa waiver for holders of official diplomatic passports. It is also worth noting that, as German newspaper Die Welt has observed, the great bulk of Iranian oil is transported by Greek shipping companies.
Obviously, we are not naïve to expect that Greek politicians, whether members of the government or the largest opposition party, will rise to the occasion. But what we do demand as Greek people is that they think rationally and act in a way that will at least not h a r m the interests of our country. Indeed, their display of sheer bravado, their sensational extravaganza and their name-calling catfights in the Parliament do serve an agenda that they apparently agree on. To some extent, we and the overwhelming majority of the Greeks tolerate this spectacle; it happens that we sometimes have tremendous fun watching those people. However, it is disastrous and deplorable that they are addressing national issues in this frame of mind.
Retired Army Lieutenant General
Member of the European Parliament
for the Popular Association “Golden Dawn”