Greece’s Dimitris Vitsas: As the global threat evolves, so too must the defense industry
Defense as a concept has a complex structure and function and is indissolubly linked to the threats that an organization, whether it be an individual state, a group of states of a particular region or an alliance of states, is called upon to face. Defense is organized on the basis of identifying the present, future or potential threat, the strategic deterrence plans, the education and practice of the staff, and the availability of means and weapon systems, which, in order to be effective, must be flexible and simultaneously make the most of the technology achievements.
The defensive structure of a country or of an alliance must be linked and ultimately defined by its geo-strategic vision and reflected in its geopolitical options.
Therefore, what we currently have on the table is the link between defense-security and politics-economy with geopolitics. Furthermore, these connections become even more important in a period of international political and economic volatility.
As mentioned above, threats are the foundation or the platform upon which the defensive structure is based. It is a fact that the evolution of threats is directly related to technological evolution and the dissemination of knowledge, which in our days tends to be unbound and without state borders. Information or technological progress can also have a negative use in the hands of organizations and individuals who incite violence that causes terrorism.
Simultaneously, we need to recognize, to study and to successfully cope with new threats evolving outside the conventional forms of war, which are defining the “battlefield” — the public squares, the streets or the neighborhoods, and, as targets, the ordinary citizens while they are working, walking or entertaining.
The evolution of modern, asymmetric threats in recent years has contributed decisively to the shifting of the defense industry itself, and this trend is expected to intensify. This of course does not mean that conventional weapon systems have been lessened, but they are increasingly integrated into more complex designs, where nonmilitary parameters are also taken into account.
In this context, means are being developed that emphasize the utilization of new technologies, setting deterrence as priority. At the same time, the tendency of developing unmanned air, land and naval systems is taking shape.
In this transitional situation, the defense industry faces great challenges. In order to survive as a production unit, avoiding the fate of the dinosaurs, the defense industry must be adapted to the new conditions. In order to have prospects, it must follow the evolution of needs rather than to dictate them.
The European Union quite rightly promotes a defense industry policy on two axles: firstly, autonomy, in the sense that Europe should be capable of producing the weapon systems it needs; and secondly, complementarity, in the sense that there should be significant cooperation between the defense industries of the NATO member countries, ensuring the transfer of know-how and the compatibility of systems.
One of the issues we have to solve is the relationship between the defense industries of the major countries and the small and medium-sized enterprises of the smaller countries. It seems that cooperation is the only way to prevent alteration of the industrial infrastructure of the smaller countries.
Joint programs and support funds are the necessary incentives to achieve all objectives as well as autonomy, complementarity and sustainability. It is certain that within a decade we will be faced with a new division of labor. It is equally certain that countries that will rapidly develop new technologies, both for civilian and military purposes, will increase their participation in this new division of labor.
Greece, a pillar of geopolitical stability in an unstable environment, incorporates very seriously all these new elements into the development of its strategy. Our goal is to move onto a stable growth model, investor-friendly and socially just.
The United States recognizes the critical role of Greece in the wider region. Traditional ties, common goals and long-term cooperation on a transnational and business level are the solid ground for a cooperation boost with new prospects.
Our country is an open field for the development of entrepreneurial activities in all sectors of the economy, particularly in the defense industry. We have strong, indicative examples of successful cooperation in aeronautics, joint production of ammunition and so on.
The territory of Greece is the gateway to a large area within which the developing markets of the
Balkans, Black Sea, Middle East and North Africa are located. Each investment in Greece has an efficiency multiplier that gives a significant dynamic.
Particularly in the defense investments sector, our ultimate goal is to render Greece — at an industrial level — a center for the support of American and other allies’ weapon systems in Southeastern Europe, the wider area of the Middle East and North Africa.
In this direction, the Ministry of National Defence constantly tries to establish an outward-looking and competitive domestic industry. Activities such as industrial days or seminars in Athens and Thessaloniki in order to facilitate the engagement and cooperation of Greek and American companies show that there is an open field ahead with great prospects and challenges.
We already have before us Greece after the crisis. The future is full of new prospects and great opportunities. The new investment environment in Greece is open to cooperation. In this context, it is important to get to know Greece better and understand the wide range of its productive potential and business opportunities.
Dimitris Vitsas is the alternate minister of national defense for Greece.
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