November 20, 2012:
The Greek defense budget is taking a major beating because of the recent economic crises the country is going through. Faced with national bankruptcy (because of over a decade of spending a lot of borrowed money they could not afford to repay), Greek government spending has been slashed, and that includes defense. For decades Greece spent more on defense than most other European nations because of the possibility of another war with Turkey. The last such conflict was in the 1920s, and memories are long regarding such matters. The Turks are less concerned and now many Greeks want to be like the Turks. Until two years ago Greece spent 2.6 percent of GDP on defense, compared to 1.6 percent for the rest of Europe. That came to over $7 billion a year. Now it is headed for less than $4 billion a year. Cuts have to be made.
It turns out that such sharp cuts won’t be as damaging as first thought. That’s because corruption was as rampant in the military as it was in the rest of Greek society. As military leaders were ordered to find ways to do more with less, some brought up (quietly at first) the many forms of political corruption that increased the cost of running the military without doing anything for maintaining combat power. Plundering the military budget is an ancient tradition worldwide and Greeks have written accounts of it going back thousands of years. A lot of the waste is easily fixed, as it often involves buying goods or services at inflated prices. Whether politicians will be willing to give up these benefits remains to be seen. But with the troops taking hefty cuts in pay and benefits, the less heavily armed politicians might be persuaded to let go.