Greece fact of the day

What depresses us is how little attention has been paid to one major area of Greek government spending that seems ripe for the ax: defense spending.  Greece spends a whopping 2.2% of GDP on defense, more than any NATO member-state save the United States and France.  Bringing Greece into line with the NATO average would alone achieve ¾ of what the IMF is demanding through pension cuts.

There is more here from Benn Steil and Dinah Walker.  And here is further discussion of the issue.

Comments

& they spend it on arms to 'protect' themselves from what?

Another NATO country!

This.

Greece and Turkey are NATO members since 1952. Also, Turkey wants more integration with Europe, even EU membership.

This was true 5-10 years ago, but not any more. They have been steadily moving away from Europe lately.

That's current government policy, but I'm not sure it's so reflective of mass sentiment. If you dropped a thousand blank-name EU work visas in Gezi Park, how many do you think would still be there an hour later? Sure, the Turks mostly aren't desperate to emigrate like Syrians or North Africans, but I'll bet a bunch of them would love to work in Germany for a few years. To the extent that being an EU member gets them the Four Freedoms, I think a lot of Turks will express support.

Greece's navy has three (3) German modern submarines. I propose they sell one to the Philippines, which has none and could actually use one to deter Chinese aggression and/or force China to show aggression (same thing, good defense = good offense).

Portugal has 2 german modern submarines from the same company... but nobody was arrested unlike in Greece... (the guy who was responsible is defense minister again loool)

@Moreno Klaus - good find, thanks. Reading this thread was interesting: http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/greece-in-default-on-u-214-submarine-order-05801/ - apparently Greece has six, not three, subs. The new German Type 214 subs are interesting (for example their transmission power is less than that of a mobile phone, and I'm sure they use a burst encoded transmission, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Type_214_submarine and they are apparently the same as the superior Type 212 used by the German navy, differing only by having a magnetic hull); and the German company Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft GmbH (HDW) likes to spread the love around by having local buyers such as Greece and South Korea use their own manufacturers to assemble it, as a marketing ploy no doubt. US DOD does the same thing with war machines, each sourced in a strategic congressional district to maximize the political impact.

It seems the defense industry is a perfect place for shady deals and dealers, which makes prosecution of the so-called Russian "Merchant of Death" a while ago a bit hypocritical.

@myself - also these Type 214 German subs had stability problems and other problems. It reminds me of what an engineer once told me, in that war machines are not engineered with the same care as mass-produced civilian equipment, since the volumes are fewer in the military side, and the product liability is less. Consequently military war machines are full of bugs, that get ironed out one death at a time, not unlike FAA mandated airline safety standards. Tombstone mentality. But it still costs a fortune to make them, precisely because there's a limited market for them and per unit costs are high.

Hmmm i can also imagine these submarines are expensive to operate.... I wonder how "response-ready" they are at this moment (both in Portugal and Greece)

Taiwan would pay more for those.

how much of it is salary vs foreign currency expenditure? Would it make that much immediate difference?

You left out the bribery percentage - a lot of that 'defense spending' is mutual corruption. Such as over pricing what is sold to hide the kickbacks and straight out diversion of funds. Probably using pretty much the same well worn methods the Saudis employ - the KSA being another major source of defending money just begging to be redistributed for privatization purposes. Public taxpayer money sitting in individual Swiss accounts is the sort of effective privatization that both the arms purchasers and the arms makers can get behind thoroughly.

So your idea is that most of this spending is on acquisition of new equipment?

Hmm...

Better check those facts bud. It's not.

People embezzling money = privatization? You need a new dictionary.

Well, so much for an attempt to make a joke, based on the idea of how essential private Swiss bank accounts tend to be in this regard, thus allowing the conversion of public funds to private funds, i.e. 'privatizing'.

'"If there is one country that has benefited from the huge amounts Greece spends on defence it is Germany," said Dimitris Papadimoulis, an MP with the Coalition of the Radical Left party.

"Just under 15% of Germany's total arms exports are made to Greece, its biggest market in Europe," Papadimoulis said, reeling off figures from a scruffy armchair in his party's parliamentary office. "Greece has paid over €2bn (£1.6bn) for submarines that proved to be faulty and which it doesn't even need.'

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Speculation is rife that international aid was dependent on Greece following through on agreements to buy military hardware from Germany and France.

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The murkiness has ensured that over the years the Greek arms trade has become increasingly associated with high-level bribery and corruption – the very practices abhorred by Berlin, Athens' main provider of rescue funds.

This week the former defence minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos was jailed pending trial on charges of accepting an €8m bribe from Ferrostaal, the German company that helped oversee the scandal-marred sale of four Class 214 submarines to the Greek navy 12 years ago. To date, Athens has taken delivery of only one of the subs after the vessels were found to have technical glitches.

Tsochadzopoulos, the most senior official yet to be arraigned in connection with corruption, stands accused of funnelling the cash, initially deposited in a Swiss bank account, via offshore companies to buy two properties in Athens, including a luxury home on the capital's most expensive boulevard. His wife and daughter also appeared in court on Thursday accused of money laundering. They, along with the veteran socialist, denied the charges.

In the course of a two-year investigation by prosecutors in Munich, senior Ferrostaal employees, including its chief executive, resigned after acknowledging that money had been exchanged to secure the sale of submarines to Greece and Portugal.

Last year, after publicly apologising for its role in the furore, Ferrostaal agreed to pay a €140m fine.

In a similar case the German engineering group Siemens recently reached an out of court settlement with Greece following claims it had bribed cabinet ministers and other officials to secure contracts before the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Tassos Mandelis, a former socialist transport minister, admitted he had accepted a €100,000 payment from Siemens in 1998.' http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/apr/19/greece-military-spending-debt-crisis

These were the people clumsy enough to get caught - it isn't as if these contracts are somehow exceptional.

If I had to guess, I would assume that the military is a powerful autonomous force in Greek politics, independent of elections and democratic institutions. Let's not forget that Greece was ruled by a fascist military junta between 1967 and 1974, and despite the junta's formal end the fact that it was an *internal* collapse means that the general political and social networks sustaining the autonomous power of the military have likely continued into the present day--as is the often the case when military governments and dictatorships "voluntarily" yield power in order to maintain some level of control, as opposed to how revolutionary movements tend to break old elitist networks entirely and usher in a truly new era.

Case in point: the success of Nicaragua in terms of human development and institution-building over El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Nicaragua was the only country that had a successful revolution against the dictatorship that shattered the power of local oligarchs, whereas the others ended in a stalemate and a "voluntary" reconfiguration of power that continued to maintain oligarch networks and elite-dominated institutions.

Arjun June 24, 2015 at 2:40 am

Let’s not forget that Greece was ruled by a fascist military junta between 1967 and 1974

Greece's junta was not Fascist. They just didn't like Communists.

and despite the junta’s formal end the fact that it was an *internal* collapse means that the general political and social networks sustaining the autonomous power of the military have likely continued into the present day

Interesting that this fact seems to have escaped the notice of everyone else who has ever studied Greece. In fact Greece's military budget has gone in corruption. Ministers have been arrested over it. It has not gone to the military.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akis_Tsochatzopoulos

Case in point: the success of Nicaragua in terms of human development and institution-building over El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Nicaragua is ranked 132 by HDI - a leftist measure that usually discriminates in favor of Leftist regimes. Honduras is ranked 129. Guatemala is ranked 125. El Salvador is ranked 115.

Nicaragua was the only country that had a successful revolution against the dictatorship that shattered the power of local oligarchs

Wasn't Cambodia lucky that they had a revolution that smashed the power of their local oligarchs. Why, they must be a middle income country given how long ago the Khmer Rouge killed 11 out of every 12 classically trained Khmer dancers (aged between 10 and 15) in the country.

HDI as a "leftist" measure lol. I mean really?

You have to admit Luxembourg being so low in the rankings raises an eyebrow.

Your points about the Greek military are a bit rambly, I can't really make sense of them...

As for Central America, fair point about the HDI comparisons. Personally I was specifically thinking about rates of violence, both criminal and political, and how Nicaragua despite having similar histories of civil war and insurgency with El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, has levels of violence comparable to Costa Rica, while the other countries are the most violent in the world. This disparity in violence rates has been tied explicitly to the preservation of political power of the oligarchs and their historic and present ability to leverage state violence for economic and political ends--an ability that was smashed by the success of the 1979 Sandinista Revolution and the subsequent decade of social-democratic reforms [1].

Not sure what your point about Cambodia is supposed to demonstrate; my point was specifically to compare a Central American country that had a revolution with Central American countries that didn't have a revolution.

[1] Jose Miguel Cruz. "Criminal Violence and Criminal Violence in Central America: The Survival of the Violent State". Latin American Politics and Society. 2011

[error in citation, the paper title should read "Criminal Violence and Democratization", not "Criminal Violence and Criminal Violence", lol]

Arjun June 24, 2015 at 4:00 am

1. The Greek military were not Fascists.
2. Greek military spending is a cover for corruption by civilian officials. It has nothing to do with the power of the military.

Nothing rambly about those points.

Nicaragua presently has a Sandinista government. Perhaps torturing people and faking statistics makes the murder rate look low?

I am sure that some Communists have tied the violence to a lack of Communism. But equally well you could say that the violence is caused by Communism. Countries that have had Communist insurgencies and/or governments tend to be very violent. Even if they are just very sympathetic to Communism like Jamaica. But while the Communists are in power they do seem to monopolize the violence.

Nicaragua did not have a social democrat revolution. As the Sandanistas were and are not Social Democrats.

If massacring people who happen to own a bit of land works wonders, then Cambodia, where they massacred a lot of people who owned a bit of land, should be a paradise, right?

A right wing military totalitarian state, which imprisoned (occasionally tortured) critics and with a penchant for silly escapades outside its borders (coup-d'etat in cyprus).

It may not be fascist, but it's pretty darn close.

When did these imaginary massacres of "people who happen to own a bit of land" happen in Nicaragua?

And your assertion that "countries that have had Communist insurgencies and/or governments tend to be very violent" is as bogus a "heads I win/tails you lose" argument as I've ever seen. You're trying to say that if the country was ruled by a left-wing government and is now violent, it's because of the left-wing government. But if it was ruled by an authoritarian, incredibly violent right-wing government -- as both El Salvador and Guatemala were -- and it's now violent, it's because of the left-wing insurgency. Basically, violence in your model is never the responsibility of right-wingers, even though they were responsible for an overwhelming number of the deaths in Central America between 1954-1995.

"Nicaragua presently has a Sandinista government. Perhaps torturing people and faking statistics makes the murder rate look low?"

No. Debate the causes all you want; they are numerous. Nicaragua, however, is simply a much safer country with much less street crime and fewer gangs than Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Achilles June 24, 2015 at 7:41 am

A right wing military totalitarian state, which imprisoned (occasionally tortured) critics and with a penchant for silly escapades outside its borders (coup-d’etat in cyprus). It may not be fascist, but it’s pretty darn close.

It was not remotely totalitarian. Mainstream political parties survived in Greece because the military was merely authoritarian. They did not systematically hunt down and kill anyone who *might* have opposed the state. They did not encourage children to denounce their own parents. It might have been close to Italy, but it was not close to German Fascism much less Communism.

K. Williams June 24, 2015 at 9:18 am

When did these imaginary massacres of “people who happen to own a bit of land” happen in Nicaragua?

I am not claiming that. Arjun is.

You’re trying to say that if the country was ruled by a left-wing government and is now violent, it’s because of the left-wing government. But if it was ruled by an authoritarian, incredibly violent right-wing government — as both El Salvador and Guatemala were — and it’s now violent, it’s because of the left-wing insurgency. Basically, violence in your model is never the responsibility of right-wingers, even though they were responsible for an overwhelming number of the deaths in Central America between 1954-1995.

There have been any number of right wing authoritarian governments in the world. They are rarely violent. Japan for instance. There are any number of countries that used to have left wing totalitarian governments. They are usually violent. There are another group of countries that used to have Communist insurgencies. They are also usually violent. Even the US, with its non-Communist revolution, is significantly more violent than Canada, which did not have one.

j r June 24, 2015 at 9:23 am

No. Debate the causes all you want; they are numerous. Nicaragua, however, is simply a much safer country with much less street crime and fewer gangs than Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

There are lots of ways you can start that argument but "no" is not one of them. Yes, Nicaragua reports lower crime. As I said, perhaps torturing people works. You have shown nothing that would suggest it does not.

Makes sense with potentially hostile Turks next door. I flew the short hop from Istanbul to Athens and it was like flying from a dynamic Islamic metropolis into a scared and anxious provincial city. Good opportunity for Putin to pick up another cheap port, the Piraeus.

What are Turkey's hostile intentions on Greece? None.

Apart from occupying half of Cyprus and a few islands in the Med.

Cyprus is not Greece.

Turkey has been facilitating the flooding of Greece with migrants (overwhelmingly muslim who somehow don't want to stay in muslim Turkey). That is hostile intent right there, especially since it's sabotaging about the only functioning part of the Greek economy - tourism. I was in Kos in early May and the downtown area was already fairly uninviting with all the "refugees" milling around.

Unless NATO can convince the Turkish government to behave like a peaceful neighbor then Greece shouldn't disarm.

An absurdly inaccurate comment since a) the immigrants aren't Turkish and b) they illegal movements are just that, illegal human smuggling. Nothing to do with the Turkish government.

That's like the US saying that Mexico is a hostile country because Guatemalans come into the US through its borders.

The West Bank is not Lebanon. Or Syria. Or Iraq.

And yet aggressive nations that illegally occupy, ethnically cleanse and then colonize with illegal settlements tend to make their neighbors nervous.

That’s like the US saying that Mexico is a hostile country because Guatemalans come into the US through its borders.

I classify providing a conduit for undesirables to your neighbor as a hostile act. Guatemalans can enrich the economy of Mexico, with whom they share far more cultural affinity.

And yet aggressive nations that illegally occupy, ethnically cleanse and then colonize with illegal settlements tend to make their neighbors nervous.

Israel has made 5 separate attempts to devolve power on local Arab authorities or transfer the territories to such authorities. All have come completely a cropper; there is no one to give the territories back to. There is no ethnic cleansing. Referring to Israel's housing developments as 'illegal' is a non sequitur. There is no legitimate authority there but the occupying power.

It's amusing how many falsehoods the world's anti-semites can pack into a single sentence.

Where do I pick up my check?

I'm afraid all my comments are pro bono publico.

Art Deco June 24, 2015 at 7:40 am

Israel has made 5 separate attempts to devolve power on local Arab authorities or transfer the territories to such authorities. All have come completely a cropper; there is no one to give the territories back to.

Israel has expressed a willingness to let the Palestinians, as long as they are not the PLO or Hamas, take out the garbage and mend the streets. Devolve power is such a neat expression. Independence in any real sense is not what is on offer. And of course they have and continue to systematically undermine any Palestinian partner just so that they can say that there is no partner for peace.

There is no ethnic cleansing.

There was in 1948-49 and in 1967.

Referring to Israel’s housing developments as ‘illegal’ is a non sequitur. There is no legitimate authority there but the occupying power.

That is an irrelevant piece of distraction. Whoever the territory belongs to, it does not belong to Israel and Israel is specifically forbidden by international law to build settlements there.

It’s amusing how many falsehoods the world’s anti-semites can pack into a single sentence.

And yet again we can see the memory of the Holocaust exploited as a cheap stunt to avoid debate. Well done.

You are really Naive. Just go and sit in a greek island near turkish territory and witness the cold war between Greece and Turkey. We talking about daily air 'dog fights' which of course dont actually involve actual shooting but its causing an 'accident' every now and then. Just for that they need to spend billions on maintenance and new aircrafts. Turkey always was trying to do a geographical war as wel;l as a demographic by sending immigrants to Greece illegally.

Sorry Tyler but the "facts" are wrong.

The 2.2% of GDP figure is old. In 2010 they cut spending by some 30%. Currently it is around 50% of what it was at its height in 2009.

Currently it is at about ~1.6% of GDP (and of course GDP has fallen quite dramatically too).

Is there room for more cuts? Yeah of course. But did the rather large reduction...by nearly half...have any measurable impact on their ability to deal with their economic problems? Doesn't seem like it.

PS: Correction, the reduction was of some 57%...from 6.9 billion euros in 2008 to ~ 3 billion euros in 2013 (latest number I could find). I suspect it's been lowered in the last 2 years, however.

The % of GDP measure is problematic since it's a race to whichever can decrease fastest.

The 2.2% is accurate as of last year and is after all the cuts. This is all covered in the article here http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/23/why-has-greece-only-now-included-defence-cuts-in-its-brussels-proposals

Here's an article from just yesterday, maybe wrong, saying that Greece was spending over 2.0% of GDP on defense.
http://www.businessinsider.com/nato-member-states-not-making-defense-spending-goals-2015-6

I find it very weird that over 9 hours and 60 comments, there is only one person has pointed out that NATO countries are expected to spend 2.0% of GDP on defense.

Ooh yeah!!!...sssshhhhh Dan Weber ;)

You think Greece would actually mobilize their troops to defend Estonia or the Baltics? Would a Hungarian? Turk? Frenchmen? A German? At least they make their 2% L-o-l

FYI: Support for Ukraine’s NATO membership is lowest in Germany (36%) and Italy (35%), and the pubiics in those countries are also among the most likely to say that NATO should not respond with force if Russia was in an armed conflict with a NATO member (58% in Germany, 51% in Italy).

http://www.pewglobal.org/2015/06/10/nato-publics-blame-russia-for-ukrainian-crisis-but-reluctant-to-provide-military-aid/

All this bad mouthing off Greece as a Russia proxy is unfounded. Most of Europe does not give a **** about Ukraine or Russia.

The point is...% of GDP means nothing to a country whose GDP is plummeting.

What is of interest is actual cuts.

Greece has cut its defense budget by more than half over the last few years, hence....

When you need a coalition partner to remain in power you don't slash the budget of the coalition partner's ministry.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minister_for_National_Defence_%28Greece%29

"The current (defence) minister is Independent Greeks party leader Panos Kammenos."

EU need to think twice about slashing Greece's defence budget , Kammenos is the one threatening to flood EU with illegal migrants.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/islamic-state/11459675/Greeces-defence-minister-threatens-to-send-migrants-including-jihadists-to-Western-Europe.html

Also, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greece%E2%80%93Russia_relations
"Greece is one of the few pre-1990 NATO member countries (alongside Germany for a time) that makes extensive use of Russian weapons." Including the Russian S300 missile system.

No hostility btw Greece and Turkey?

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/30/us-greece-politics-turkey-idUSKBN0L31WH20150130

Turkish fighter jets entered Greek airspace and were intercepted by Greek jets as Defence Minister Panos Kammenos and military chiefs flew by helicopter to the islet of Imia to drop wreaths in memory of three Greek officers killed nearby in a helicopter crash 19 years ago, the Greek Defence Ministry said.

a) Turkish and Greek jets enter each other's space all the time. It's impossible not to.

b) Check out on a map where Imia is.

High military spending (which includes wage and, yeah, bribery) was and still is the price to pay for the military not starting to think about meddling into politics again.. the colonels regime was just yesterday, after all (surprisingly, one of the colonels is still alive today, at 102 years).

This is a government that complains about a humanitarian crisis, but then when they do go against their agreements, they do so in order to hire more police and beef up their propaganda department (sorry, I meant an independent public TV station, which is presenting a balanced view of the Greek situation) [http://www.themoneyillusion.com/?p=29367]. In that case, they didn't even need to fire anybody, just not hire them back.

*

On the power of the Greek military: probably 40 years ago, the US and the UK would have already let them know that they would not oppose a taking of power on their part (and we'll condemn but tolerate a bit of torture if it doesn't get out of hand, wink wink, nudge nudge). Nowadays, that sort of thing is frowned upon and the Greek military should expect international condemnation if they do take over. They'd get kicked out of the EU immediately (in effect, at least, pending restoration of democracy) and would probably be unable to visit any EU country for the rest of their lives without fear of arrest. Unlike in the 1970s, a military coup is just not what people do anymore.

Even excluding the abominable human-rights violations, from a pure power politics sort of view, Chavez-Maduro & Syriza do more for the Washington Consensus than allowing/encouraging a coup would.

I think the "military dictatorship" scenario is not so far away... (specially if u assume like i do that any agreement will be a bullshit agreement, pushing the problem a few more years to the next leaders). Normal parties didnt solve it , left-wing didnt solve it, maybe that golden dawn-like party could win next election... it seems like a downward spiral to me...

The problem with instituting a military government is that only by a great stroke of luck would there be a corps of officers with the judgment to implement good policy. The utility of military governments is that they can suppress obstructive veto groups to implement good policy, but they have to have good ideas and disinterested ideas. Is there any reason to believe that the flag rank officers are any better than anyone else in this respect? Greece needs a Pinochet, but they are as likely to get a bloody-minded clown crew like the cabal which ran Argentina from 1976 to 1983.

"Greece needs a Pinochet."

Wow. Just. Wow. The comments threads on this site have gone way downhill.

I prefer to think of the comments as one crazy person arguing with himself using different names.

It's 2015. I. Can't. Even.

Parliamentary systems can produce poor results. Through democratic process, the Muslim Brotherhood ended up in power in Egypt. To the great relief of the majority of Egyptians, the military deposed them. Greece probably could use a Pinochet or Franco, certainly more than it could use an Allende or Popular Front.

This is so true . This site didn't use to have people aggressively defending the Sandinistas while at the same time exciorating Pinochet. Generally the commenters were a little less shameless than that .

If you read this site often, you see that Art Deco says that all the time loool

K. Williams June 24, 2015 at 9:22 am

Wow. Just. Wow. The comments threads on this site have gone way downhill.

It is the traditional southern European response to democracy. They are forced to allow elections every now and then. The voters vote for some buffoon. When the buffoon's policies are too stupid, the Army steps in, shoots some people, restores the currency somewhat and imposes order. After a while they become corrupt and they are forced to allow an election. Cycle, rinse, repeat.

Now the US seems determined to prevent it happening. Reagan told the military to go back into the barracks and they have not been allowed out since in Latin America. Although Chavez tried.

So now the voters of Venezuela is getting to experience the full force of their preferred policies. As are the Greek voters, or they soon will be. I approve of this. I don't think Venezuela or Greece needs a Pinochet. They need a decade of the governments they have. They need to feel in their very marrow what stupid policies leads to. Then they may learn. For a generation or two. Pinochet meant that the Left could always disclaim responsibility and dream of what might have been. No Chavez supporter can do so.

And yet Tom Friedman can write wistfully about China, and how Obama should have those powers, and nobody whines about that.

It is the traditional southern European response to democracy. They are forced to allow elections every now and then. The voters vote for some buffoon. When the buffoon’s policies are too stupid, the Army steps in, shoots some people, restores the currency somewhat and imposes order. After a while they become corrupt and they are forced to allow an election. Cycle, rinse, repeat.

No, it is not any kind of 'traditional response'. During the inter-war period, parliamentary institutions survived passably in the British Isles, Scandinavia, the Low Countries, France, Switzerland, and Czechoslovakia. In the rest of Europe they were either truncated and damaged (as in Hungary and Roumania) or completely toasted. Even places where they survived had bouts of political violence (Ireland and Finland) and political dynamics which threatened to destroy them (Finland, 1930-33; Czechoslovakia, 1938-39; France 1938-40) before other events intervened. The situation was more prevalent in southern Europe and particularly blood in Spain, but not exclusive to southern Europe at all. I assume you could identify buffoons among the parliamentary politicians in Portugal, Spain, Italy, or Greece. That type is not all that unusual in political life anywhere. Then again, Hitler, Mussolini, and Gen. Queipo de Llano in Spain were not anyone's idea of dignified bearing.

While we're at it, the military coup has not been common in southern Europe in recent decades. There have been all of two coups since 1936, and one of them was a liberalizing measure.

They should sell an island.

If I were to incur a debt and did not have cash available to make the repayments the logical thing to do is to sell something.

They should invite the Germans to visit Rhodes or Corfu. Job done.

Selling an island or two to the U.S. might be win-win: a strategic and potentially commercially interesting sovereign presence for the U.S. in the Med and debt relief for the Greeks. (Or let the Russians do the same thing ...).

I'm not sure why the "sell an island" idea hasn't been raised. After independence, aside from the islands that remained within the Ottoman Empire for some time, groups of Greek islands were owned by the UK and by Italy for decades. It took until World War 2 to get all those islands. They could also sell a 99 year lease on an island instead of selling it outright, with the prospect of eventually getting it back.

That level of military spending is unremarkable.

Third among NATO countries, for a nation that is destitute and without any real military threats?

Next door to Greece is Turkey. The Greek government might take exception to the idea that it faces no threats. That aside, the geography of the republic as a whole may also be a factor here.

So you're saying that its reasonable for a NATO member to feel a military threat from another NATO member?

Been that way since 1974, whether you find it reasonable or not.

Turkey is worthless as a NATO member.

Though the Turks have a half-million-man army, 3,000 tanks, 1,000 military aircraft, and are 60 miles from the ISIS capital of Raqqa in Syria, "the NATO ally" refuses to move. Turkey’s president sees Assad as an ally of Iran.

Yet the US deploys patriot missiles in Turkey to defend Turkey from...?

If you know anything about Greece and its government...is that they take exception to having their own shadow follow them.

Greece has trouble with all it's neighbors, because Greece can't live next to anyone peacefully. When a nation complains about the NAME of it's neighbor, you can imagine...

So, all these "Turkey" excuses don't hold water. Greece has been the aggressor there for nearly a century. And not just on Turkey but all it's neighbors too with whom it has long-standing disputes and grievances.

This isn't the sort of nation you want to "defend".

The only remarkable fact is that Greece is one of the few nations meeting the 2% spending target. ALL NATO nations are supposed to target 2%.

If illegal immigration is a problem, Bulgaria also has a border with Turkey. Somehow, Bulgaria defense budget is 30% less as % of GDP and 5 times less in absolute terms.

Perhaps Cyprus is Greece's Falklands/Malvinas.

Cyprus is populated with over 500,000 ethnic Greeks, among them those expelled from the northern part of the island when it was occupied by Turkey in 1974. The Falklands have a population of fewer than 3,000, mostly of Scottish extraction. The affinity between the Falklanders and Argentina is nil and that population has stated repeatedly in referenda and elections that it wants nothing to do with Argentina. Argentina's claim to the Falklands and its persistence with regard to the issue is completely madcap.

Is Greece rich enough to have a military base and personnel in Cyprus and contribute to UN peace-keeping force in Cyprus?

It would be really ironic that Cyprus stays in the euro zone and Greece don't.

Meanwhile Cyprus government says: "We're not Greece, we followed IMF recommendations. We have cultural ties but that's it".

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/11/eurozone-greece-cyprus-idUSL5N0WC44Q20150311

How exactly is military spending going to impact illegal immigration?

I hate to say I told you so, but I was saying this 4 years ago ...

It would not matter. They'd throw the money away somewhere else.

Greece spends a lot on defense because it's next to a larger constant aggressor: Turkey. Deep violations of airspace - including threats against craft carrying govt ministers - happen on a daily basis. Turkey has been regularly trying to redraw its borders, including occupation of Cyprus, the Imia incident, the outstanding casus belli over sea borders, and regular unsanctioned research in other countries' waters. Turkey is historically very prone to juntas, and that internal instability can affect Greece: most recently, evidence in the Ergenekon trial revealed operation Sledgehammer, a scheme to topple the Erdogan govt through a hot episode with Greece.

Greek armaments also tend to be bought from expensive sources. NATO uses interoperability requirements as a cudgel to keep members buying from within. Some EU members can play sillibuggers with irrelevant parts of EU budget allocation, and that was before having bilateral loan agreements with many of the procuring nations. US orders also need to be overbought because orders for replacement and expendable parts are always fulfilled after large and unpredictable delays.

Internationally, arms procurement is a notoriously corrupt process. In Greece's case, I'd estimate from some previous scandals it's about a tenth of the price. I wouldn't expect that to clear up soon. While Tsohatzopoulos, a man with no shortage of suspect dealings going back to the 80s, seems to finally and rightfully end up in jail, buying from Russia is likely what made him expendable. Meanwhile, Greece bought the aforementioned 4 subs from a German company, despite knowing beforehand that they list while moving straight.

Greek armed forces also have high operating costs. Some of this is fixable, such as its officer heavy structure and associated malfunction, but some of it is not, such as all the interception flight time and the conscript nature of the Army.

An over-simplification worthy of one of those US "conservative" websites where they are calling for the US to bomb Turkey, yesterday. ignorance at it's best.

I don't get the absurd anti-Turkey fetish.

But if you want to come here to give history lessons, you better know your history. Go read a little bit about who's got territorial claims against whom, and a little bit about the 1920s when this whole mess started.

Then go cry me a river about airspace violations and a rock called Imia (you people really only have the same story to repeat?)

PS: Don't worry, when Greece's GDP per capita falls below that of Turkey, which should happen within the next 3 years...Greeks will start immigrating to Turkey, and then everything will be fine.

On the other hand why is the US spending so much on the military for NATO?

It's not that Greece's military spending is unreasonably high, but that of other NATO members is scandalously low. That's the real issue here - why does US want to play policeman for Europe again?

We all know that there are no real threats to NATO nations. We beat Russia and Russia will never again invade another nation.

A consideration as well is that military service is employment. Even in the most stable and open democracies have areas where jobs are few: joining the army offers men and women a way out of the area and to a career (at least short term) with a steady paycheck.

Locate a base in an area with high unemployment and voila, you've made countless direct and indirect jobs. Greek politicians know this as well as any politician in even the top OECD countries.

Except Ukraine of course.
And Georgia.

On a different note, I've noticed that Kerin Hope's FT article reporting a
€1b tax revenue shortfall in May is getting a lot of play, and since I was all over the huge shortfalls in Dec-Jan, and haven't had time to blog lately, I guess I should comment. There was indeed a €870m shortfall in "ordinary revenues" in May (the data specifically for taxes isn't out yet, but won't much differ). But there were €585m and €490m surpluses, respectively, in March and April. So it's a bad signal but not quite clear evidence that Tsipras is losing power to reap revenue. Overall Tsipras has still had much, much better revenue performance than anyone expected, and that has been his strongest card in these Troika negotiations. I'm looking for him to cave and take the deal.

As I pointed out above, most of the comments are mis-characterizing the spending as "too high" because of it's % to GDP.

But that doesn't mean much if no matter how much you cut, the GDP keeps falling off a cliff.

Greece doesn't really spend "too much" on its military, in raw numbers. It's about 3 billion Euros. And this is more than 50% less than it was a few years ago.

http://www.newsweek.com/lack-fuel-leaves-greek-military-helpless-face-turkish-aggression-322287.html

On 20 March, 12 Turkish fighter planes violated Greek airspace no less than 38 times. “(Only) Two engagements ensued with the Hellenic Air Force interception fighters”
...

Koliopoulos, who maintains close links to the military, says that while the government cuts impacted on the armed forces’ morale, the biggest problem is the armed forces ability to acquire fuel.

Koliopoulos' statement quoted in Newsweek cannot be any plainer,

“You’d be very hard-pressed to find one senior (military) officer favourable to Syriza, but they are comfortable with [Right-wing defence minister Panos] Kammenos,” says Koliopoulos.

That's ok. Greece probably still has enough power to intimidate...I mean protect itself from the aggression of...its weaker neighbors like Macedonia and Albania over the names of their countries.

Besides, they can start immigrating to Turkey now, since in a couple of years their GDP per capita will be higher than Greece's anyway.

Greece tells its young men that conscription is a "necessary evil" because of the constantly imminent danger of going to war with Turkey.

If they slash the defence budget they'll soon find it difficult to keep everyone convinced of the horror to come.

And if conscription is abolished then many small businesses in Greece's periphery are going to shut down. Many greek towns are economically dependent on the conscripts' disposable income. That's a lot of votes...

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