02 May 2010

Greek Defense Spending

From the AP:

Greece's defense minister on Thursday promised "colossal" cuts in military operating costs to help the debt-ridden country emerge from its financial crisis and speed up plans to modernize the armed forces.

Defense Minister Evangelos Venizelos Greece is aiming to slash operating costs by up to 25 percent in 2010 from 2009, instead of the planned reduction of 12.6 percent listed in this year's budget.

"That is a colossal amount, reaching the margin of our operating needs," Venizelos said, insisting that the cuts were not a direct result of the Greek debt crisis, nor would affect the strategic balance with historic rival Turkey. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is to visit Athens next month.

Greece remains at odds with neighbor and NATO ally Turkey over the divided island of Cyprus and boundaries in the Aegean Sea but has improved ties over the past decade.

Venizelos did not give details of how the cuts would be achieved, saying only that results of a major armed forces review would be outlined in "several weeks".

Um, yeah, I'm not really buying the second bolded part.

Prior to all of this, Greece had the highest military spending in the EU as a percentage of GDP and the second highest in NATO, behind only the US.

It will be interesting to see the effects of these drastic cuts on the military balance between Greece and Turkey and, more broadly, on their conflict over Cyprus. Turkey should feel a little more secure as a result of these cuts and will likely be able to make some of its own. However, as a bigger and more important country, Turkey's security interests are generally broader than those of its rival, so it may not be able to cut as drastically because of other internal and external threats.

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