A GREEK TRAGEDY: ARMS FOR LOANS.
Undated, Feb. 16, 2012 - Over the last ten years the nations of the world have spent fifty times more then ten years ago on the procurement of weaponry although there is no major threat to peace or to their security.
More baffling still, Greece, struggling to stave off bankruptcy by imposing draconian austerity measures on its population, is now the world’s fifth largest buyer of armaments.
Surprisingly, or may be not surprisingly, France and Germany, the two countries negotiating a bail-out loan package for Greece, are virtually the sole suppliers of high-priced bellicose hardware for Athens.
Why little Greece needs 170 German Leopard Panzers (price tag 1.7 billion euro) 223 disused German cannons, four German submarines now reduced to two (price 1.3 billion) six French frigates (four billion euro) 15 helicopters and 60 Euro jetfighters jointly built by the two countries (cost seven billion euro) is only puzzling to those who have not yet realized that once a nation’s economy falters or is made to look weak the merchants of death move in for the kill.
It has been suggested that nations like Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain could probably pay off their debt servicing (instead of taking up a bail-out package mainly financed by Germany and France) if they cancelled the contracts to buy weapons none of them need but were forced to buy in return for even ‘consideration’ for bail-out loans.
Greece is a prime example of this method. However the arms-for-loans scam is common around the world where tin-pot dictators, aspiring coup makers and spendthrift leaders or financial cliques sign contracts with major arms producers (mainly the U.S., Russia, China, Germany and France) and in return offer access to their nation’s natural resources or take out bank loans that will permit them to take or maintain power.
It appears now from media reports that both Germany and France gave Greece bank loans in return for lucrative contracts for arms during a time when Greece was already hovering on the precipice of bankruptcy. The arms industry is desperate to sell - in times of peace.
The armament contracts are signed quietly under the much abused guise of ‘national security’ without consulting the public whose cuts in wages, pensions, health care and education will have to pay for these military toys.
Greece, small, notoriously corrupt and with a plethora of political players jockeying for power, was an easy victim. The European commissioners who vetted whether a nation was admissible for membership in the European Union (EU) must have known the Greek debt (even twenty-odd years ago) did not satisfy the membership criteria. But with some creative account juggling the Greeks made it into the EU, just like Italy, Spain and Portugal, all nations settled with massive debt servicing. Ironically the man who oversaw the Greek entry into the EU is now head of the European Central Bank at the heart of the bail-out negotiations.
In fact as the Greek debts ballooned German and French banks happily provided new loans, especially under the center-right government of Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis who seemed to spent much of his time in Berlin with his good friend Chancellor Angela Merkel, perhaps to sign more arms deals. His successor, socialist George Papandreou, tried but failed to rescind the unwanted arms contracts but Berlin and Paris insisted ‘no contracts no money.’ Papandreou’s only success was reducing the four submarine purchases to two submarines by arguing, tongue in cheek that two of them were ‘not seaworthy.’
But the greed to squeeze the Greeks has finally run into the same brick wall the world’s financial institutions will face when no more can be extracted from other bankrupt global societies or when the great mass of people can no longer tolerate more austere austerity measures, imposed in reality to safeguard the dubious investments of banks and financial clans.
The irony of the Greek predicament is that the bail-out package the Europeans hold over the head of Greeks like a holy grail is not really benefiting Greeks but the international banks and financial institutions that would show heavy losses if the Greeks defaulted on their loans and declared bankruptcy.
As people begin to understand these manipulations and horse trading, all kept from the public by the mass media, no one should be surprised that forty buildings went up in smoke in central Athens this week.
Sadly this may only be the beginning of more riots to come, not necessarily merely in Greece.
Uli Schmetzer is a former foreign correspondent for Reuters and the Chicago Tribune and the author of three books all available on www.amazon.com