The Greek and British armies


          The UK has 2.9 active armed services personnel per 1000 people in the country. Greece has 14.6 active service personnel per 1000 people. The Uk is busily cutting its armed service numbers to get its deficit down. Greece is seeking bail out loans from the rest of us to pay the wages of their armed forces.  Is this a sensible approach?


  1. Eric Arthur Blair
    June 18, 2011

    Depends on how you look at it.

    There are ‘fears’ of a military coup being one potential outcome of the trouble in Greece which, at this juncture, could possibly be done with the blessing of the people.

    That, of course, has no resonance for the United Kingdom and it’s political class or civil service. Clearly, there is no evidence whatsoever of a disquiet amongst the British people and absolutely no evidence of a building common narrative based around the word ‘revolution’.

    That many British people would like our armed forces brought back from wars which are not supported and, instead, focus on defending the homeland from all enemies – foreign and domestic – should neither be brought into consideration.

    1. Tim
      June 18, 2011

      They have an army of 100,000 with an 11 million population. They bought billions of pounds worth of submarines from the Germans last year and a similar amount from France for its fighter jets (See EU speach on You Tube). Its estimated that German and French Banks are owed/at risk in the order of £51 billion by Greece. The UK has £8 billion at risk. This is why Franco/German interests are so high on the bailouts and the stupidity of our politicians is highlighted once again. Whilst German and French naturally look after their national interests I’m afraid that the Tory led coalition does not (or NuLabour before them). Greece is broke but still spends way beyond its means. You don’t help a country that can’t afford its existing loans by lending it more. They need to come out of the Euro and devalue their own currency until it is competitive again, living within their own means. We should have no part in these bailouts and that are illegal according to the Maastrict Treaty. As a £14 billion net contributer to this undemocratic monstrous body known as the EU why are we “the Piper” not calling the political tune? Cowardice/ stupidity?
      Give us our in/out referendum so we can get out of this useless organisation.

  2. Elliot Kane
    June 18, 2011

    As Greece is fighting no wars and the likelihood of their being involved in wars in the foreseeable future is non-existent, their approach is clearly crazy.

    As Britain can’t stop itself from sticking its nose into every foreign adventure going, whether it’s our business or not, our approach is clearly completely mad.

    So clearly, Mr Redwood, whichever way your question is taken (And that’s very nice wording, BTW!) the answer is the same: the approach being taken by the government in question is not sensible at all.

    1. Jonathan Tee
      June 21, 2011

      They are next door to a historically predatory neighbour, with a large army, which currently occupies a vast swathe of lands which were cleansed of Greeks in the 20th century, whose largest city was conquered from Greeks, has an Islamist government, and has been aggressive in the area very recently. I bet they wish they could afford a larger army.

      The Greek government might not be very good with money (thats what happens when you vote socialist), but as far as defence goes they are not crazy.

      Reply: Modern Turkey is not about to threaten or invade Greece. The world community supports the current borders.

      1. Jonathan Tee
        June 28, 2011

        I see where you are coming from John, but the world community also supported the Treaty of Sevres much good that it did the Greeks.

        Turkey may not desire armed conflict with Greece at present, indeed the two countries seem to be enjoying a rapprochement, but it is worth noting that the last time the two countries were looking at each other through gun sights was 1996 (Imia & Kardak).

        Clearly the Greeks feel that the military is not a discretionary spend. I understand their point of view. Perhaps a better question would be to ask whether or not it is in Britain’s interests to subsidise a strong Greek military via the IMF?

  3. lifelogic
    June 18, 2011

    You ask “Is this a sensible approach?” of course not but is anything this government does sensible? Why should Greece ever reform or address its structural issues if the EU keep chucking money at it that it that it can repay at a huge discount?

    The current proposals for reform of state sector pensions, for example, are still absurdly generous to the state sector and will need revisiting very soon even if accepted.

    At least Lord Forsyth (sort of) on Question time and even Ed Balls seem to finally recognise the absurdity of the current, self defeating, high level of tax rates. One wonders how much pointless damage to the UK economy, through these, Cameron is prepared to inflict on people for the pathetic & misguided appearance of fairness and childish PR purposes.

    June 18, 2011

    Of course reason why Greeks won’t prune army is that most of the army is probably on the Turkish border……in order to protect Greece from…. Turks……history tends to be remembered by Greeks haha

    1. Robin
      June 18, 2011

      Whereas our history is assiduously being forgotten (rewritten) by the bbc and their fellow travellers. It is often alleged, so as not to offend immigrants although one wonders where the hand of Brussels is in this?

  5. StrongholdBarricades
    June 18, 2011

    Maybe we could simply ask Greece to deploy all it’s forces into Afghanistan, and withdraw both US and UK troops?

    Then we could get about busily re-organising our armed forces to increase morale

  6. Brian Tomkinson
    June 18, 2011

    JR: “Greece has 14.6 active service personnel per 1000 people”

    Perhaps that is why there is now talk that the CIA think there could be a military coup in Greece.

  7. Mark
    June 18, 2011

    Is 14.6 soldiers per thousand sufficient to repress a rioting nation? For sure 2.9 is not, especially when significant numbers are deployed abroad. The Greeks know the Colonels will return, I think. I wonder what they will tell Brussels and the ECB?

    1. Javelin
      June 18, 2011

      Greece has/had conscription and has been on a military standoff with Turkey since the Cyprus takeover. That explains the high military presence. The troops are stationed by Turkey and islands like Lesvos and Corfu. I’m not sure hOw many are in Athens. Since then in the 80s and 90s it almost spilled over to fighting.

      Look up “agean dispute” on wiki for more info.

      What will be at the forefront of Greek Generals minds is the security of Greek land, sea and airspace territory. I think the question is whether the Greeks will cut military spending and whether the Generals perceive this as a threat.

      Thank you for pointing this out as it’s a potential source of instability I hadn’t thought of.

      1. Javelin
        June 18, 2011

        Just been reading the wiki entry and it’s clear that any suggestion of the sale of Greek island would be extremely sensitive to Greece and might trigger a coup.

  8. Duyfken
    June 18, 2011

    The numbers of active forces are roughly the same: Greece 156,600, UK 175,690, although total numbers show: Greece 398,100 and UK 374,970. I do not recall Greece being prominent in international wars/peacekeeping adventures, so I can only presume the Greek military is there as an instrument for internal political power (remember the Colonels?) – certainly not something to which this country should be contributing.

  9. Martin
    June 18, 2011

    Well I think you have just solved the army manpower shortage! Next loan to Greece is conditional on them supplying 100000 troops for whatever war we are in at the time and maybe even a troopship to go with them!

  10. Tim Worstall
    June 18, 2011

    Possibly a slightly unfair comparison as the police in Greece (in common with many other countries) are regarded as a part of the military. I don’t know whether that’s been adjusted for.

    They also have conscription which will boost the numbers rather.

  11. Demetrius
    June 18, 2011

    Sing an old song, “We are Fred Karno’s Army…….”

  12. forthurst
    June 18, 2011

    The size and shape of the armed forces required by a country is dependent on the size and shape of the threats it faces. Our country faces an internal threat which is in the process of destroying us as an identifiable entity with a definable tradition or purpose or future. We belong to NATO, an organisation set up to defend ourselves against the Bolsheviks on whose behalf three hundred thousand of our countrymen died in WWII. Now that the Bolsheviks have been replaced by Russians, Russia no longer poses a threat to us and NATO should have ceased to exist; but apparently not: NATO can no longer pretend that there are any active Bolsheviks, although the Neocons, having tranmuted themselves from Neo-Trotskyites, demonstrate many of their characteristics; NATO has now become the plaything and figleaf of the Neocons to execute their malevolent designs for the the Middle East. So how much manpower do we need? That depends on whether as now we have a traitor as Prime Minister who believes he serves not us but those whose geopolitical ambitions offer no payback for us but plenty of potential blowback. What about Greece? Greece has compulsory miltary conscription of nine months; these are all refusniks as far as the professional military are concerned and will not presumably have access to the most expensive toys; do these conscripts do much more than do battle with the unemployment statistics?

  13. alan jutson
    June 18, 2011

    You can add North Korea to the list, they have a reported million in their armed forces, and according to recent press reports cannot now even feed all of them properly.

    They are however more honest in one sense, they are communist and are pleased to say so, even though it is yet another example of failure of this system of state knows best, but the leader clings to power, just like all the other failuredinstitutions.

    Guess something in the mind must change when you get into power.

    On another note:

    I see The World (residential cruise ship for multimillionairs) visited London recently.

    I remember when intervewed a few years ago the Captain of that ship said he had a fantastic job, in his interview he said, most leaders of Countries claim to have the top job, but only he could say, I truly am the Master of The World.

  14. StevenL
    June 18, 2011

    Don’t they have national service there? As for whether or not Greece/EU/IMF etc is a ‘sensible approach’ I’m guessing that it’s a rhetorical question.

  15. Paul
    June 18, 2011

    And the answer is no, it is not sensible. With the UK armed forces active in Afghanistan and Libya (“saving the world”, Gordon Brown-like), the UK should be demanding soft loans to enable these valuable resources to remain undepleted and able to continue their vital work – as the Chief of the Naval Staff would no doubt agree.

    And in the Greek context, very bad news to have a load of highly-trained killers disgruntled and with time on their hands!

  16. rose
    June 18, 2011

    Yes it is when you consider the numbers of people invading them and sleeping on their streets. Each individual “migrant” is precious and unique in himself, and has his own compelling story to tell, as will his family back home, but the sum of the arrivals from Africa and Asia is extremely threatening, quite apart from the breakdown of law and order within the Greek nation itself.

  17. Bob
    June 18, 2011

    Ask yourself, would Cameron and Osborne be doing it if it was not sensible?

    1. lifelogic
      June 18, 2011

      Sensible for whom?

      The UK, the EU or just for Cameron and Osborne?

      1. Bob
        June 18, 2011

        For their country of course.
        You surely don’t think they would do anything that was not in the national interest?

  18. Denis Cooper
    June 18, 2011

    No, it definitely isn’t a sensible approach; and in more general terms that was why the German government in particular was determined that Economic and Monetary Union should never lead to any such thing happening, and insisted that it must prevented by the insertion of “no bail-out” clauses in the Maastricht Treaty on European Union, which clauses have been carried over to the present EU treaties.

    As the French Finance Minister and would-be IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde frankly admitted in an interview with the WSJ last December:

    “We violated all the rules because we wanted to close ranks and really rescue the euro zone.”

    “”The Greek and Irish rescues – €110 billion and €67.5 billion, respectively – and the creation of the bailout fund were, Ms. Lagarde said, “major transgressions” of the Lisbon Treaty that is the European Union’s governing document. “The Treaty of Lisbon,” she says, “was very straightforward. No bailing out.””

    Of course it has always been open to EU leaders to reconsider those parts of the treaties and decide whether there should legal mechanisms for dealing with a major financial crisis in the eurozone, and if so to then follow the correct procedure for amending the treaties as laid down in the treaties themselves, now Article 48 of the Treaty on European Union on page 41 here:

    Leading to an amending treaty, which could only come into force “after being ratified by all the Member States in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements”, which in our case would have required at least an Act of Parliament.

    After the Treaty of Lisbon had been rejected by the Irish in June 2008, rather than deciding that they should be made to vote again on exactly the same treaty it would have made a lot more sense to have abandoned that outdated treaty and started work on a new amending treaty which addressed the unfolding economic crisis.

    By the time that the Irish voted again in October 2009, even the euro-federalist Wolfang Munchau had come to believe that, writing in the FT:,dwp_uuid=70662e7c-3027-11da-ba9f-00000e2511c8.html?ftcamp=rss#axzz1Pd3MsBlL

    “A pre-crisis treaty for a post-crisis world”

    “There is an intrinsic problem for the Yes campaign in Ireland, but also in other places, which is that the core of the treaty was negotiated seven years ago. This is a pre-crisis treaty for a post-crisis world. It addressed the fears and reflected the aspirations of a previous generation of politicians, who believed that the EU could overtake the US as the world’s leading economic power. If we had to reinvent the treaty from scratch, we would probably produce a very different text.”

    “It is not that easy to explain why this particular treaty is necessary when the real problems of the EU lie so obviously outside its scope.”

    But that isn’t such a difficulty for the EU political leaders because if the EU treaties get in the way of what they want to do then they simply break them, demonstrating their utter contempt for all the democratically elected national parliaments which previously went through the formality of approving the treaties as presented, down to the last comma.

  19. Simon
    June 18, 2011

    Don’t support the 2.9/1000 includes the French serviceman the UK is subcontracting it’s defence requirements out to .

  20. Steve Cox
    June 18, 2011

    Just look at other corrupt Third World countries. Thailand, where I live, has more generals than tanks! Then if you want a huge military compared with the general population, just look at Kim Jon Il’s workers’ paradise in North Korea. Maybe Greece should remodel itself on that if its people are so unhappy?

  21. GJ Wyatt
    June 18, 2011

    Our military top brass have announced to the world that we are at our limits with ongoing military campaigns, which now encourages the Argentines to reassert their claims to “Las Malvinas”. Predators jump on perceived weakness – have they studied history, these generals, admirals etc? The Greeks may be overspending on their armed forces, but they don’t risk that kind of invitation.

    1. Simon
      June 18, 2011

      Good point and just before two exploration companies start drilling in the virtually unexplored Southern Falklands basin in what could turn out to be an enormous field .

      Quite what we could do with 1 aircraft carrier without any planes I don’t know .

      No doubt the French Navy will find an exclusion clause to duck out of protecting the Falklands now that we are subcontracting all our defense requirements to them .

  22. TomTom
    June 18, 2011

    Greece is one of those areas The Ottomans controlled and their legacy is weak government through tribal family dynasties and corruption. Greece is no exception. They buy Leopard tanks and diesel submarines from Germany (quesitons these deals -ed) just like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and South Africa.

    (There could be kickbacks in building projects-ed)

    One of the largest Greek banks has moved to Switzerland to shield its wealthy Greek owners from scrutiny. The Banking Scandal is not incompetence – it is Corruption – in Ireland, in Spain, in Greece, in the USA, in UK – it is secret deals and kickbacks.

    The politicians are now being squeezed by the Banks to bail them out and saddle taxpayers with the burden…not just British, German, French, Swedish taxpayers….but Greek and Irish….and through the IMF….US taxpayers

  23. Iain Gill
    June 18, 2011

    yea but Greece basically has national service, many of my friends did it recently

    they view it not just as a military thing but a way to teach the youth some citizenship skills and discipline

    compare and contrast to our yobs and im not sure we have it right on this one

  24. cosmic
    June 18, 2011

    Whether it’s sensible depends on your point of view. It isn’t sensible for the UK to be involved in these bail outs at all. I can’t see the bail-outs doing much more than keeping the problem at bay for a time anyway. Throwing good money after bad.

    On the other hand, from the point of view of the EU and the present Greek government, it makes a great deal of sense to keep tens of thousands of young men with military training paid and quietly occupied. Unpaid soldiers have a history of causing trouble.

  25. Caterpillar
    June 19, 2011

    Will the question be asked at the next PMQs?

  26. James B
    June 19, 2011

    The German’s exports are being subsidised by the weakness of the other parts of the Eurozone. Germany and France dreamt up this crackpot idea to have the northern and southern economies of the Eurozone with the same interest rates and currency.

    Goodness knows why we are increasing our contributions to the IMF when it is Merkel and Sarkozy that should be reaching into their pocket – certainly not the British taxpayer !

    We had a light escape with the ERM.

  27. James Matthews
    June 19, 2011

    The Greek approach may or may not be prudent (though national servicemen are a lot cheaper than regulars and if I was Greek I wouldn’t want to rely on the long-term benevolence of Turkey, nor the will ,or ability, of NATO to protect my interests), but ours certainly isn’t.

    At the height of the Northern Irish troubles around 20,00 soldiers were deployed in support of the civil power. To sustain 20,000 continuously you need about three times that number. In terms of sharp end forces 60,000 is probably the maximum our army will be able to muster when it is reduced to a total of less than 100, 000 by the forthcoming cuts.

    Northern Ireland is quite a small geographical area with a relatively tiny population. In the event of serious civil unrest and terrorism on the mainland our army would not be able to cope, even if it did nothing elsewhere. Whatever would the Kaiser have thought?

    Finally, it is worth noting that doubling the size of your army does not double the cost. The smaller your armed forces the higher the unit cost.

  28. Lindsay McDougall
    June 20, 2011

    No, it is not. But there are people called Turks.

    1. EJT
      June 21, 2011


    2. rose
      June 23, 2011

      Turks and Serbs need to be understood. It is all too easy to take the lazy Channel 4 News line on these complicated historical questions.

      Turks are about the only people in the world who undersand the Irish Question, besides the English. We should reurn the compliment and study the events of 1974 in Cyprus and Greece with fresh eyes.

  29. Gary Jones
    June 22, 2011

    Anyone going on Holiday to the Greek Islands that border Turkey,will see an impressive arsenal of mainly American armed Greek troops, they believe they are vulnerable to invasion by Turkey.

Comments are closed.