Leadership: Greece Downsizes The Turkish Threat

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December 7, 2011: The current financial crisis in Greece has led to enormous cutbacks in government spending. The military has not been exempt. This year alone the defense budget will be cut by about a third. Over the next two years the reduced budget will be cut another 15 percent. The army will lose 11 of its 30 brigades, while the air force has disbanded one of 16 squadrons, but kept the aircraft in service by moving them to surviving squadrons. The navy has retired some older patrol boats.

The army is apparently coping by disbanding many reserve units and retiring older tanks and equipment. There won't be much new equipment purchased for the next few years, at least. Training will also be cut, because operating vehicles, aircraft, and ships for these exercises is expensive. The reduction of training will decrease the combat capabilities of the troops. But the government does not want to dismiss many of the 156,000 active duty troops. That will just increase the already high (approaching 20 percent) unemployment rate. It's never a good idea to have a lot of professional soldiers among the unemployed. Payroll will be reduced by encouraging, or forcing, early retirement and recruiting and conscripting fewer new troops. 

Since the end of the Cold War, Greece has maintained above average (for Europe) defense spending (until recently about three percent of GDP). This was because for a long time Greece has maintained strong forces in anticipation of resuming a 90 year old war with Turkey. This policy continued even after Greece and Turkey joined NATO in 1952. While technically allies, Greece deployed large forces on their Turkish border. This financial crisis may finally end this friction, as Greece would never have fared well in another war with the Turks.

 

 


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