Sunday, 23 May 2010

Greece's strategic worth in decline

The Greek National Pride website referred to the article below from STRATFOR on Greece's continuing need for high defence expenditure. Greek National Pride also published this article in Greek by International Relations expert Dr Athanasios Drougos, explaining Greece's deteriorating strategic position in the Balkans and the Black Sea, as NATO/the West/America take advantage of more accommodating governments in Bulgaria, Romania and Georgia to advance their interests.

Greece: Defense Spending and the Financial Crisis
Greece and Turkey held a minisummit in Athens on May 14, during which Greece proposed a mutual cut in defense spending of 25 percent. Reining in defense spending is of great interest to Athens in the wake of the financial crisis that has strongly buffeted Greece of late, but this dilemma does not lend itself to any obvious solution.

Greece spends more on defense as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) than any other EU member including the United Kingdom, which maintains a global defense reach, and Poland, which sees itself as needing to be ready to hold out against the vastly superior Russian army. This was true both before the 2008 crisis began, when Greece’s budget deficit stood at 6 percent of GDP, and after recent austerity measures were put in place to bring spending under control.

Greece’s outsized defense spending is a product of its deep insecurities with respect to its much larger (in terms of territory, population and economy) neighbor and historic rival, Turkey. In just one measure of the result of these fears, Greece has a larger — and qualitatively superior — air force than Germany. Air power is an extremely important part of Greek defense strategy because land-route invasions into Greece are paltry, and air superiority over the Aegean is crucial to maintaining communication and transportation links between different islands and points on the mainland.

Historically, Greece has managed to survive by securing an outside sponsor. Such sponsors have sought to bottle up their regional rivals by taking advantage of Greece’s strategic location. Indeed, the modern Greek state owes its independence to the support of the United Kingdom, which sought to use Greece as a means to balance the unraveling Ottoman Turkey with the rise of Imperial Russia in the early 19th century. Most recently, the United States and NATO backed Greece as a part of the Western bid to keep the Soviet Union bottled up in the Black Sea and Yugoslavia bottled up in the Balkans.

With the disappearance of regional power Yugoslavia and the Soviet superpower, however, such support has ended. This left Greece with only its two economic mainstays — shipping and tourism — neither of which has sufficed to plug the spending gap caused not only by defense but also social spending. Greece managed the difference with borrowed money, contributing to the debt nightmare and current financial crisis. Not surprisingly, Athens is therefore eager to persuade Turkey to join it in defense cuts.

The likelihood of significant Turkish defense cuts is low, however. Turkey is expanding its geopolitical prowess, which means that it has to consider the Caucasus, Black Sea and the Middle East in terms of general security concerns. But Ankara has outgrown its security concern with Greece, which explains why it is trying to use conciliatory gestures to reassure Athens that it no longer sees Greece as a challenger. Greece may have to accept such gestures as the best deal it can get, though this will not necessarily be palatable for either its public or its military.


Hermes said...

Stratfor is just a self promoting joke not a serious organisation.

As this article stresses, Turkey in reality lacks strategic depth - it is surrounded internally and externally by powers which are not necessarily friendly.

It is going through a period of exaggerated power because it has recently released itself from its inward looking pose. However, its internal contradictions and the pushback from surrounding powers will see it pull its head in eventually.

Of course, this does not mean we will benefit. We are too busy "building bridges with Turkey" and other claptrap.

John Akritas said...

What will undo the Turks is not Arab or Iranian or Kurdish nationalism, but the dispute between Kemalists and Islamists. You can't expect the AK party to be in power forever, and its likely replacement will be a coalition of the CHP and the Nationalist Action Party. As for Greece, I think the point the stratfor article makes about Greek expectations of joint Greece-Turkey defence cuts being a pipedream – especially since none of the issues that divide – Cyprus, Aegean, Thrace – are likely to be solved soon – is valid. And since Greece will for the foreseeable future have need of strategic alliances, what is it doing to make itself an asset for potential partners or, better still, self-reliant? Answer: nothing.

Hermes said...

Greece has been a diplomatic midget since Pangalos and his crew decided to give up Ocalan. Ironically, Pangalos is deputy PM rather than rotting away in some goal. However, if we were good chess players we would wait until the correlation of forces were arrayed against Turkey and then just before that start touting ourselves as good strategic partners. Russia will always look to shore up Turkey or Greece or for access through the straits.

Anonymous said...

I strongly believe that the monies spent on the military vehicles and war machines are just waste. They will get rusted before they are used.
Then buy new ones that will share the same fate.

It is a game played by the weapon manufacturers. They know how to get your money.

lastgreek said...

It is a game played by the weapon manufacturers. They know how to get your money.-

NATO's function is basically to serve the interests of western European and American (mostly American) weapons manufacturers. Seriously, what's the purpose of the proposed addition of FYROM ("Freedonia") to NATO other than to help line the pockets of government welfare recipients like Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT). If the Greeks really want to screw with the "Freedonians," they should not block "Freedonia's" admission into the NATO alliance. Let the dummies join NATO. Then watch how their budget deficits will soar because of massive military expenditures.

Has anyone thought about outsourcing Greece's military needs, like, let's say, Greece's air defense system to the Royal Australian Air Force? Should save the Greeks some desperately needed euros, no? Besides, the RAAF is one of the best in the business . . . and it's not like they have their hands full at the moment. Just a thought, folks.

Off topic, more or less, thoughts:

Isn't it funny how the ECB is charging the Greeks a higher interest rate than the IMF is charging?

All this austerity pain for the Greeks (not the rich, of course).
How the heck can an economy grow when everything is slashed to the bone? Do the math: How will the Greeks ever pay the usurious interest charges (let alone the principal), imposed by the German/Austrian banksters, with a shrinking GDP?

New German/Austrian mantra for the Greeks: ALL PAIN, NO GAIN.

Hermes, a tattoo? And all for a woman? So out of character for you, mate. ;)

H, what is the name of that brilliant Byzantine emperor--a military genius, actually--who let a woman get the better of him? Was it Nikephoros Phokas?

lastgreek said...

Off topic...

A lot of bitching in the Greek soccer forums about the new world cup Greece soccer jerseys. As far as I am concerned, any jersey style with the Greek flag patch on it would be good. I bought three Greece jerseys (online, of course, since the prices are at least 30% cheaper): two youth jerseys, one for my kid and the other for the nephew; and one for myself--the away jersey. I received them yesterday. Notwitstanding the look (which I like, btw), the feel is great.

Hey, what are you going to do. It's Greece.

John Akritas said...

LG: Wear the shirt with pride while you can, because I fear Greece will tank at the World Cup. I saw the warm-up game with North Korea the other evening, and we were pretty awful, particularly at the back. The game ended 2-2. Greece will do well to get out of its group.

Hermes said...

Re football, if their defence was poor then we are in real trouble as that is our only saving grace. We have no real attacking options.

LG, its only a small tattoo. Many Byzantines let women get the better of them - sometimes it was their wives, mistresses and even mothers. Personally, I admire Manuel Paleologos, he had a fine reputation for being a womaniser. Or Basil II, he never let women get near him as he had more pressing problems.