Photo: flickr / jhadow
Greece is implementing tougher austerity measures than anyone else in the eurozone as they attempt to meet fiscal targets set by international creditors in order to trigger the disbursement of additional bailout funds they need to pay the bills domestically.One area of the budget – defence spending – has been relatively shielded from cuts, though, according to Judy Dempsey of the Carnegie Endowment for International Piece.
Dempsey explains that as recently as 2009, defence spending made up 3.2 per cent of GDP in Greece, more than the U.S. or any other country in NATO.
That number has since come down to 2.1 per cent of GDP as austerity measures have been implemented over the past three years, but Dempsey notes that puts Greece second only to the United States in military spending.
There are three reasons that Greece isn’t cutting defence spending more even while they desperately seek to reduce the budget, Dempsey says. First, the country owes Germany and France for all of the subs and tanks it bought from them in recent years, and they’re not about to stop paying back those loans. Second, closing military bases would be wildly unpopular politically.
The third reason is for fear of social unrest. Dempsey writes:
Of the 136,000 personnel, 90,000 are soldiers. That’s a huge army for a country of under 11 million people…”What do you do with young men with a military training? It’s not a good idea making then unemployed,” said Samuel Pelo-Freeman, military analyst at SIPRI.
In other words, in these difficult times, the government is not prepared to introduce such radical defence cuts. The risks could be high.