AIM: start

THU, 22 NOV 2001 18:28:03 GMT

Slovenia and NATO

Civilian Airplane on the List of Military Equipment

Without debating much, Drnovsek's cabinet approved of a new financial injection for the army worth 533 million German marks, and moreover included a new airplane for the Government on the list of military equipment.

AIM Ljubljana, November 6, 2001

"If we do not make up our minds we will lose credibility in international relations and become one of the states that the Americans call 'failed countries'. They are the countries which are not capable of providing for their own national security". With these words Slovenian defence minister Anton Grizold explained the new national investment immediately after the government session at which additional 60 billion tolars (or 533 million German marks) were allocated for the equipment for Slovenian army. A few days later Roland II mobile rocket launchers that efficiently hit targets at the height of up to 3,500 metres crossed the Slovenian border. The goods, however, are not new; a used rocket system that served to German navy was bought.

Although after the latest terrorist attacks in the USA it would be quite appropriate to raise the question whether in the conditions of globalisation there is a state that can ensure its security completely on its own, what attracts special attention in this case is the haste with which Slovenian parliament ratified the decision on additional funds for the army. Experts for military issues were unanimous in the estimate that, apart from Slovenia's wish to join NATO as soon as possible and actual needs of Slovenian army, to a certain extent international circumstances after terrorist attacks against the USA and military operation against Afghanistan influenced reaching of such a hasty decision.

This is not the first additional sum for the budget of the Slovenian army, apart from the regular funds allocated from the state cashbox; in 1994, along with the regular budget, Slovenian parliament allocated "extra" funds amounting to 1022 million German marks. According to the official explanation, the expenditure was necessary because Slovenia (despite the fact that from the former Yugoslav army it had inherited more than 80 tanks, tens of combat vehicles, complete infantry armament and similar) was "building an army from scratch". Out of the mentioned sum, about 877 million German marks have already been spent, and the new 533 million marks will be spent on the equipment for the 10th motorised battalion (the predecessor of the forces for swift operations) and similar units. Despite everything, representatives of the defence ministry claim that the expenses of Slovenia for defence are comparatively small - between 1.23 per cent in 2000 up to 1.56 per cent in 2005.

Opinions in Slovenia vary whether the increase of expenditures for the army is at the time of increasingly obvious recession a truly wise move. Economists warn that the state should increase public expenditures, but entrepreneurs do not see a particular benefit for themselves in spending money on military equipment. This is especially true because the obligation of “counter-purchase” regulated by law is rarely fulfilled. This provision obliges the armament vendor to spend a certain amount of money made from the sold goods for the purchase of Slovenian products. At the time when the government compensates for every reduction of prices of petrol by raising excise taxes, when despite government’s promises repeated for years the inflation is not dropping below the magical limit of 8 to 9 per cent, protests are increasingly heard of those who would like the expenses for the army to decrease, not constantly keep rising. One of the most successful entrepreneurs, manager of Mercator Zoran Jankovic was quite clear when he declared that the state should “reduce the expenses for the army”, and it cannot be denied that he has good connections in the current regime.

Among other, the new financial aid to the army causes numerous doubts because of omissions during previous purchases of military equipment. For example, the army bought 50 Puch field vehicles for the needs of communication units, and then after mounting them determined that they could not bear the burden and purchased 50 new trucks. Nobody answered for the “oversight”. The purchase of Pilatus PC-9 airplanes was no less “misfortunate”. These are training propeller-driven airplanes with electronic equipment of super-sonic air-planes that were intended to enable Slovenian pilots who used to fly MIG planes in the former Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) to stay “in touch”. Nowadays, however, the usability of these planes is highly questionable. Then 155 mm howitzers were bought in Israel that proved to be too heavy for rough or wet ground. A new problem arose after reconstruction of 30 T-55 tanks – the Ministry of Defence interrupted reconstruction of another 15 tanks proclaiming the project “uneconomical”. Special radar was also bought from separately allocated funds. It was planned to set the radar on Mena mountain, but the project went to the dogs when the local population protested because they had not been informed about this move, but heard that the radar could be the cause of various diseases... The radar has remained in a storehouse for more than five years, and Slovenia still has no radar coverage of the territory to the east of Ljubljana.

Finally, the government made an unusual move on the occasion of passing the latest special military budget. A new civilian Falcon 900EX plane manufactured by French Dassault was put on the list of “military equipment”, which will cost Slovenian tax payers additional 35 million German marks. This is an airplane with 12 to 19 seats at the most, three engines and range of 8,332 kilometres. For the needs of the government, of course. “If you think that the government has violated the law – sue it!” minister of defence Anton Grizold rejected the criticism that this was an illegal operation at a press conference. He did not conceal that this was the result of a compromise: “you (minister of defence) give us (the government) the plane, and we shall give you additional funds for the army!”. Some deal, no doubt.

Igor Mekina