Interview of the Minister of National Defense Nikos Dendias in the annual insert for the book in the newspaper “Eleftheros Typos tis Kyriaki” and the journalist – book critic Iulis Tsakalou
Is there a margin of time for the Minister of National Defense Mr. Nikos Dendias, in the complex times we live in, to escape into the world of a book?
Even in the most demanding circumstances, I always make sure there is time to read a book. The fact that I necessarily travel often for the needs of my duties, both in the current Ministry and in the previous one, also gives me the opportunity to make creative use, by reading, of the time of going and returning. Let me return to remark, however, that the book is not exclusively “escapism.” It is also a means of learning, as well as a cause for reflection or a starting point to immerse yourself more in some issues. It is a “window” in short, which allows you to expand your horizons.
What book are you reading at the moment?;
I am reading “Conflict, The Evolution of Warfare from 1945 to Ukraine”, by David Petraeus and Andrew Roberts. Yes, him D. Petraeus had the opportunity to meet recently, at the proceedings of the 14th Sir Bani Yas Forumin the United Arab Emirates.
My father Spyros, who motivated me to read the magazine “History Illustrated” and then the school I attended.
What was your role model in life?;
You get many things from many people. I would like to refer you to Konstantinos Tsatsos and what he has written about Ioannis Kapodistrias: “The great dead speak and those who have an honest disposition to listen to them can listen to them and join their words.” A role model for all of us are people who have chosen to serve things and values that transcend them.
Do you read digital books?
Although I am fully familiar with new digital media and technology, I always prefer printed paper as a reading medium. I understand the convenience of having one e–book, but turning the pages of the book is in my opinion a necessary and irreplaceable ritual element of reading. So far at least I remain a fan of the printed text.
Many write the experiences of their careers and provide us with historical data by publishing a book. Should we expect it from you?
It’s a very good question. Given that several of the periods in which I was Minister were significant in terms of activity and developments, it is true that I have thought about it. Let me remind you of the period when I was Minister of Public Order and Citizen Protection and we faced the biggest challenge that the Golden Lady’s neo-Nazi formation represented for the Rule of Law in our country. As well as the tension-filled period of relations with her Turkey, when I was Minister of Foreign Affairs, but also the improvement afterwards, after my visit to the earthquake affected areas. I could of course also refer to many incidents that I experienced from the time of ONNED until today and what I obtained from my relations with the historical leaders of the faction and its leaders. There are reasons therefore, provided that there will be the necessary time and also a distance from the events, so that someone can make an assessment with a cooler look.
In an age of fear, division, ignorance, bigotry and misinformation do books have the power to help?
Books clearly have the power to help with phenomena like the ones you mentioned, but of course that also depends on their content. There are historical examples of books becoming tools of bigotry and misinformation. The intention and content, therefore, and not the means of disseminating the author’s ideas, is the determining factor, as is proven today, with the fake news and the Internet. In general, however, citizens who consistently love reading books, usually have expanded intellectual horizons that help them to have a different attitude towards life and to recognize the “traps” of intolerance. This is why it is of great importance that reading books remains a “fixed value” today for a significant part of our society, despite the time pressure of the modern lifestyle, but also the “ease” of all kinds of digital media.
I would like your opinion on what is happening in our neighborhood, in the Middle East. Will we ever be able to live without cracks, gaps and “cracks”?
What is happening in our wider region certainly causes concern. The absolutely reprehensible and appalling treatment of unsuspecting civilians by Hamas, as well as the hostage-taking of even children, brought to the fore situations that we would have hoped had been overcome with time. As the Greek Government has clearly pointed out, Israel’s right is self-evident, as is the protection of civilians. Unfortunately, I am not ready to share an optimistic view that we will easily manage to live, as you ask, “without cracks, gaps and creases”. Geography and History often set limits that are not easy to overcome. The example of the United Europe, of course, shows on the other hand that such a thing is not impossible, while, as far as the Middle East region is concerned, the Treaties of Abraham caused optimism for a different common vision in the region. But it is true that it will take considerable time for the conditions to mature and for the historical adversarial relations in the region to be definitively overcome.
And finally, Mr. Dendias, do you feel the burden that the Minister of National Defense has to bear in contributing to peace?
I want to believe that I am fully aware of my responsibilities as Minister of National Defense to maintain the deterrence capability of our Armed Forces, which, after all, is a major factor in maintaining peace. Maintaining the deterrent capability at high levels is what sends the message, to enemies and friends, that Greece is never going to tolerate any attempt against our national sovereignty and our sovereign rights.
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