Tensions Grow in Defence Ministry

Total Croatia News

Acquisition of new fighter aircraft and other issues are creating tensions in the Defence Ministry.

There is no conflict between President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and Defence Minister Damir Krstičević when it comes to the acquisition of new fighter jets. That is just a spin spread by groups within the Ministry of Defence. This is how sources close to the President comment on media reports that the real cause of recent public disagreements between the President and the Minister of Defence is the struggle to control the procurement process of new fighter jets, worth at least half a billion euros, reports Večernji List on 26 July 2017.

According to these sources, the backdrop of the whole affair lies in a conflict between Krstičević and circles close to former ministers Josip Buljević and Ante Kotromanović, who criticised Krstičević on Monday due to delays in an overhaul of military helicopters and “politicisation and divisions in the Ministry.” His statement is unofficially interpreted as a sign of dissatisfaction of those who were favoured during Kotromanović’s term, and who are now desperately trying to keep the influence in the Ministry, as well as in the armed forces.

They reportedly fear the expected changes in military leadership. By the end of the year, a total of 36 generals and brigades should be retired in order to open jobs for younger and educated officers. Personnel changes are also expected in the Ministry itself, and Krstičević’s intention is to bring professional staff who could cope with the challenges of hybrid wars.

When it comes to the overhaul of helicopters, which was due to start long time ago, given that the helicopters have been grounded since May, sources wonder why the media are alleging that the Ministry is favouring the overhauling in Russia, when it is known that the alternative is Ukraine, with which Croatia has bad experiences with MiG overhauls during Kotromanović’s term.

When it comes to the acquisition of combat aircraft, sources say that the main reason for conflicts is dissatisfaction of some with the decision by the Minister to avoid intermediaries. President’s associates say they are pleased with that decision, especially with the fact that a call for bids has been sent directly to states in a transparent manner.

They expect that will allow the public to follow the whole process to the very end and that there will be no scandals in the acquisition process. A source points out that the President has never tried to influence which aircraft should be procured, nor does she have the authority to make that decision. “The President took part in a decision to launch the procurement process, which was discussed at the session of the National Security Council, but the final decision was made by the government. It is not true that the President allegedly wants the government to buy Gripen jets from Sweden. The President has never discussed it with the Prime Minister or his associates,” the source says.

However, they do expect that the decision-making process will take into account certain foreign policy goals, and that, in the end, everything will be discussed again at the National Security Council.

Translated from Večernji List.


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