Who should pay for the Greek military?


                Greece has around one sixth the population of the UK, yet is has about the same number of military personnel on the payroll.  The Greek military comprises  around 170,000 active personnel paid by the state, with a further 280,000 in the reserve forces. Maybe instead of heaping ever more misery on the Greek private sector in an effort to pay for the very high Greek public spending the government should take a look at this cost.

                The Greek navy has around 80 warships. The army has more than 1200 tanks. The airforce has around 1000 planes and helicopters. (these are figures taken from public websites).  The question is, who should pay for all this?

                If Greece had armed forces proportionate to her size of country she would have far fewer military personnel and military vehicles, ships and planes. She would save a lot of money , bringing her budget deficit under better control.

               Greece argues that she needs this large military as she does not trust her neighbours. The west could offer her security guarantees – indeed they already do in effect. I do not believe the west would stand by  and watch any invasion of Greece, nor do I think one is any more likely than it has proved in the last few decades.  She probably argues that with recession now would not be a good time to sack a lot of soldiers. Greece believes that the EU and the IMF should pay for her military for a bit. She also believes her creditors should pay permanently for her past maintenance of these large forces, by writing off great chunks of her debts.

                     I am surprised the west has not suggsted other options to nervous Greece. If her allies could persuade her that any threat to Greece would be countered by UN combined action, the country could consider a substantial down size of her forces. There is no immediate need to lose the capability to mobilise rapidly if ever needed, if many more of her forces went over to being reservists.

                     The plan could be to ask many on  the current military payroll to go over to part time contracts, encouraging them to find other work for the time they are not being paid in the military. Success in finding other work could be followed by conversion to reservist, where the individual was paid a retainer and came for a specified period each year to keep up basic training and learn any new requirements.

                  Paying for this large military machine seems to be imposing strains. Maybe it is time to look at other answers for Greek security.


  1. Single Acts
    February 15, 2012

    The politicians may feel that sacking trained killers with access to weapons and upon who their own survival may depend, may not be the best move just now.

  2. David Williams
    February 15, 2012

    If Greece sold off a few of its islands then it would not have to defend as many against Turkish invasion.

    1. rose
      February 16, 2012

      I’m puzzled by all this pro Greek, anti Turk bias, presumably arising from the events of 1974 in Cyprus. I can understand why Englishmen in the 18th and 19th centuries were romantically pro Greek, but not now.

      With our long experience of trying – and usually failing – to resolve the problem of having two nations living in one land, and having to put up with IRA propaganda brainwashing the rest of the world on the Irish Question (which only Turks see through) you would think we would be a bit more sensitive to the Turkish case in Cyprus, and understand that sometimes partition is the only safe and peaceful solution for people being massacred on the ground, even if it looks undemocratic from the outside.

      Why on earth would Turkey want to invade Greece now? Or any of her islands? She only went into Cyprus in 1974 on her own, because the Callaghan government was ducking its responsiblities (for economic reasons some of you may remember)as co-guarantor of the Cypriot constitutional settlement, and looking the other way while the Greeks were attempting to annex the whole Island to Greece. Turkish Cypriots were being massacred and the entire minority was being threatened with annihilation. Someone had to do something quickly, and that someone wasn’t going to be the UN, the UK, or the US.

      1. Kostas Politis
        February 18, 2012

        What planet are you from if you don’t mind me asking?

        1. rose
          February 18, 2012

          From the same overcrowded war-torn one as you. It might interest you to know as well that my father was awarded the Greek Medal for his service in the war – as a stretcher bearer and nurse.

    2. Kostas Politis
      February 18, 2012

      If neighbors like Turkey behaved like civilized countries should behave there would be no need for your suggestion. Ottoman Empire ideas alive and well!

  3. norman
    February 15, 2012

    Wasn’t Greece ruled by a military junta in recent history? I imagine the thought of decimating the military, necessarily including a lot of top brass, isn’t met with much enthusiasm by the current hated lot at the top of Greek politics.

    Maybe Germany could provide a peacekeeping force to forestall such a move though?

    1. Disaffected
      February 15, 2012

      Germany is using economics to takeover Europe this time rather than artillery. They should remember the dire straights Germany was in in 1953 when other nations took haircuts on German debt.

    2. Single Acts
      February 15, 2012

      I would pay good money to see the whermacht, sorry German Army running Greece, oh the irony!

    3. Kostas Politis
      February 18, 2012

      You forgot to mention that the CIA put this junta in place to serve US interests. US later apologized for their involvement. Greeks stood up to the junta dictatorship, sacrificed lives for freedom and won. And, yes, as a very democratic country Greek people stand up when dissatisfied with their politicians…. You are entitled to your views and option, but I would be more careful of ignorant statements.

  4. ian wragg
    February 15, 2012

    Greece knows only too well that the west never came to the aid of Cyprus in 1974 and it still remains a divide island.
    That doesn’t mean I agree with such large forces but if they revert to the Drachma they will be able to maintain them albeit with a devalued currency.
    It appears to be a Tory idea that the first thing to go should be the armed forces. Witness the devastation Cameroon and Osborne have inflicted on ours.
    But still we can afford HS2 and 32,000 useless windmills.

  5. backofanenvelope
    February 15, 2012

    You forgot to mention that Greece has large equipment orders with French and German companies. France and Germany have already told Greece not to cancel these orders. As to threats to Greek security – they are members of NATO – an attack on one is an attack on all.

    1. Charlie the Chump
      February 15, 2012

      Yes indeed, the bailout facilitates not the Greek bailout but German and French arms sales as well as French and German banks

    2. Disaffected
      February 15, 2012

      We have raised this before. the main benefactors are the Germany and France. They know the predicament of Greece and yet still sell them Submarines and fighter aircraft and use their own banks to lend Greece the money to pay for it. And now Germany and France have the cheek to ask the rest of Europe to help with Greek debt when they have deliberately added to it and helped them finance it.

    3. Sebastian Weetabix
      February 15, 2012

      Indeed. But the Greeks have made some small efforts to save money in their military budget. I can tell you (as someone who once had to be on a Greek airbase for some time while serving in HM forces) that they never clean their aeroplanes and rarely cut the grass.

  6. lifelogic
    February 15, 2012

    As you suggest the solution is to persuade them that any threat to Greece would be countered by UN combined action, the country could then have a substantial down size of her forces with many more going over to being reservists. Not that they will find other jobs in Greece easily until after they have left the EURO.

    I see that Newsnight (true to BBC think) last night managed to find three female economic commentator two of whom were of the “cutting too much to quickly school”. Cutting what too quickly I wonder.

    It was interesting to see huge fall in the Nationwide consumer confidence index: http://www.nationwide.co.uk/NR/rdonlyres/459FF12C-E447-4522-954F-AA2508ED503A/0/NCCI_December_2011.pdf
    Cameron in his 21 months has managed to take it from about 80 to 38. When will we get some uplifting vision of lower taxes, less regulation, less state and growth?

    Also I see a report from save the children that 1 Billion + children are at risk of malnutrition. and it kill 2.6 million a year. Meanwhile the overseas aid budget pays for the Pope’s visit (to let us know his view on contraception I assume) and we waste millions on green nonsense, wind farms, pv subsidies, hs2 and suppressing free trade through the EU.

    I assume Cameron/Huhne are proud of this appalling waste as they seems keen fir it to continue. I am sure that in the hugely unlikely events that:- 1. this does lower the temperature in 100 years and 2. it does actually proves beneficial to have a lower temperature – then all the “spirits” of these 260 million deceased children will be very grateful to them.

    1. lifelogic
      February 15, 2012

      The same sorts of people are also usually against genetic engineering of food and nuclear energy I notice. Real solutions do not seem to interest them.

      1. Disaffected
        February 15, 2012

        Banks borrow from the ECB to lend to bankrupt nations rather than small business. Banks have, yet again, failed to meet lending targets. Is that because they are still shoring up EU government debts or preparing for Greek default?

        Meanwhile the Treasury issues its second legal action against the EU for trying to take business away from the City. 1. Cameron was going to negotiate this with the EU in the veto that never was. 2. Does Cameron apologise for throwing away taxpayers’ money on Greece? 3. Why are we still in EU when it is costing the UK so much? 4. Socialist coalition robbing pensioners by QE and using specious rhetoric that people should work longer and down their house, why to give to welfare lifers, overseas aid, EU etc. Cameron must go. Tory MPs wake for goodness sake.

        Reply: The UK opted out of EU aid to Greece

      2. Bazman
        February 16, 2012

        The advantages and profits of nuclear energy and GM are not with the consumer/user that’s for sure.

    2. lifelogic
      February 15, 2012

      One thing Cameron/Osbourne could do now without any cost (as the banks still not lending on sensible terms to small business) is to relax the rules on using ones personal pension fund to lend back (up to 100%) to your own business, should you wish, at market rates. Why on earth have regulations that prevent this – does he want jobs and growth or not?

      1. lifelogic
        February 15, 2012

        They should also allow companies who use the Enterprise Investment Scheme (on a small scale anyway) to give some guarantee to investors and let them hold more than 30% of the equity. This again would help business by pass the obstructive banks and grow more quickly.

      2. Disaffected
        February 15, 2012

        The EU project is more important than your suggestions.

  7. Matt
    February 15, 2012

    Greece, being a member of NATO is afforded some protection.

    1. StevenL
      February 15, 2012

      Turkey is a arguably a more important member given its proximity to the middle east.

  8. Pete
    February 15, 2012

    Maybe they should ask the Greek government why they imagine that anyone would want to invade them? That would be just asking for trouble given the state the country is in.

  9. Kevin Ronald Lohse
    February 15, 2012

    “The Greeks have a military the same size as the UK”. Isn’t it just possible that the Greeks have correctly assessed the threat to their Country whereas the present Government have not produced a White Paper on Foreign Policy assessing the Threat but have just cut our Defence capability on purely economic factors?

  10. Kevin Ronald Lohse
    February 15, 2012

    “I do not think that the West would stand by and watch any invasion of Greece”.
    The West did in 1976, and the Turkish invasion of Greek territory has still not been resolved. Greece has every reason to be nervous of her enemies and suspicious of her,”friends”.

  11. Zorro
    February 15, 2012

    They would need a lot of convincing…..they are still worried about Cyprus and fear that the Turks might fancy some of the islands off their coast like Kps and Rhodes. They might be right to be worried with a new more confident, nationalistic, Islamist Turkey on the horizon. What could the EU do? You can’t join us….ok we’re growing quite nicely. NATO says you’ll have to leave. OK says Turkey get rid of your air bases off our soil. Yes….I can see Greece’s point.


  12. Robert K
    February 15, 2012

    But if they got rid of their military, how could they have another coup?

  13. A.Sedgwick
    February 15, 2012

    It would be interesting to know who supplied this hardware and if with Euros perhaps they would like to buy it back.

    1. A different Simon
      February 15, 2012

      True genius !

  14. alan jutson
    February 15, 2012

    Whilst I take on board your comments about the size of the Greek military, and your comments about possible reductions and cost savings.
    I think it a mistake to compare them with the UK armed forces, as I belive we have now gone too far in making reductions.

    Yes reduce spending on armed forces by all means, but always retain the ability to defend yourself, should the need ever arise.

    As for Treaties, history shows many are willing to sign, but few are willing to act, until often it is very near to being too late.

    Never know, the Greek army may be used to quell civil unreast shortly.

    Certainly agree no one, Country or individual should simply be able to walk away from debt as if nothing has happened, and then expect new loans to be forthcoming to enable them to simply carry on as before.
    There again, where was the sense of those who were lending the money, with no security against repayment !

    1. A different Simon
      February 15, 2012

      Why should the lenders make any effort to establish the Greek’s ability to repay their loans when they knew they were being underwritten at zero cost by their own countries taxpayers ?

      Let the Greeks default and take our banks and their toxic debts with them .

  15. Damien
    February 15, 2012

    If the technocratic government decided to start laying off the military then they would take to the streets. Adding combat trained personnel to an already volatile mix would be fraught with dangers. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is not a coupe anytime soon as the government seem to be operating without legitimacy by signing away the soverignty of the Greek people piece-meal.

  16. Brian A
    February 15, 2012

    I do not recollect Greece being involved in any major conflicts with its neighbours in recent years. Maybe the Greeks would argue that their military strength has deterred those who might have hostile intent, however, I suggest that the Greek military is like much of their public sector, i.e. featherbedded and awash with political patronage. Given their relatively recent history with the Colonels you can imagine why Greek politicians would want to keep the military onside.

  17. frank salmon
    February 15, 2012

    John. What proportion of GDP is spent on the military? Surely any IMF bod could spot the weakness in that? If Greece goes bust it won’t have a military anyway. What other exhorbitant expenditures do the Greeks have?

  18. Chris
    February 15, 2012

    The Greeks have already stated they are making cuts to defence – see Athens News yesterday:

    “The government says a remaining budget gap this year of 325m will be covered by ministry spending cuts and not affect salaries.

    The cuts are the last major hurdle for the coalition government, which is seeking formal approval of 130bn new bailout deal when eurozone finance minister meet on Wednesday evening.

    “The money will come from spending cuts from ministries, from areas including defence,” government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis told Antenna television, noting that the Europeans were determined to see Greece implement the new austerity measures to the letter.”

  19. Electro-Kevin
    February 15, 2012

    “Greece believes that the EU and the IMF should pay for her military for a bit.”

    Well she can thank her lucky stars that Turkey aren’t in the EU yet. Otherwise it would bring new meaning to seasonal birds voting for Christmas.

  20. Electro-Kevin
    February 15, 2012

    Off topic if I may please.

    Binge drinking.

    More police cells ? More police in casualty wards ? A minimum price on alcohol bearing in mind that binge drinkers outside night clubs are happy to pay £6 a pint ?

    ‘Drunk tanks’ are a bad idea. Any police officer will tell you how closely drunk prisoners need to be watched. There will be deaths and fights if they are bunched together and the police will be sued.

    It is still an offence to be drunk in a public place. Why not a nice fat bill for police and medical costs delivered on the door mat a few days later ? That would be an effective deterrent.

    Along with raised alcohol prices expect a sugar (fat) tax too. It appears that sober people and thin people must always be expected to pay for the excesses of others.

    1. A different Simon
      February 15, 2012

      Our patronising P.M. apparently also wants to “tackle racism in football” too .

      How many football matches has this clown been to ?

      All he is doing is proving the stereo-type of wugger-centric toffs who have no comprehension of life of ordinary people .

      Out-harpersoning Harriet herself .

    2. barrie
      February 15, 2012

      That is a good idea!!

    3. David John Wilson
      February 16, 2012

      It is not the alcohol bought in the clubs that is the cause of most drunkeness, it is the preloading on cheap alcohol before they go out for the night. A 45p a unit minimum price would at least double the price of the cheap vodka, strong cider and strong lager that is bought from local supermarkets for the purpose of preloading.
      Most people who drink sensibly at home do not consume the cheap options that are in general not a very pleasant drink. Those that do drink them regularly at home often become a charge on the health service later in life.

  21. Iain Gill
    February 15, 2012

    does the world really want the consequences of Turkey invading Greece? which they would if Greece showed any signs of weakness? is the world really ready for turkish paratroops landing on kos and rhodes in the same way that they did in cyprus which they have openly declared they will if they have any chance of winning? do all those western tourists on holiday beaches really want to get caught up in a shooting match between greece and turkey?

    dont downgrade the Greek military without having a comprehensive approach to stopping Turkey taking advantage, I would be interestd in your views on that?

    Reply: I see no evidence that Turkey will try to do that. NATO and the UN would stand in their way even if they did want to.

    1. Iain Gill
      February 15, 2012

      like they did/do in cyprus eh

      you can forgive the greeks being cynical about that

      1. Zorro
        February 16, 2012

        Kos and Rhodes would be easy pickings for the Turks as I mentioned earlier. The USA do not want to lose their strategic airbases in Turkey or lose Turkey as NATO. Anyway, we may have first hand experience of these legendary organisations with the Falklands. We’ll know our friends then eh?….or do countries tend to have interests?


  22. David Tomlinson
    February 15, 2012

    I think you miss the point. This is about national prestige vis a vis Turkey. Check how many tanks / aircraft Turkey has, and you have the answer. Of course there is no danger of war between two NATO Members (or is there?) but the Greeks will never give up their determination to look big militarily. Think Pakistan / India (and how that ‘war’ is being fought over Afghanistan).

  23. Atlas
    February 15, 2012

    Maybe the Greeks feel they now need this level of military, as the EU uses increasingly threatening rhetoric, in order to protect themselves from their ‘friends’? So much for EU “Solidarity” – a worthless slogan from an anti-democratic super-state.

  24. DiscoveredJoys
    February 15, 2012

    Historically countries with an excess of warriors have either made a grab for another country’s resources (not recommended in today’s global community) or gone into the mercenary business.

    Half the Greek armed forces would make a very tidy UN peacekeeping force. Or perhaps the Greek government could raise fees for putting the armed forces on a ‘call off’ contract? Or perhaps rent out the soldiers for infrastructure works in other counties as a disciplined work force? Or perhaps turn them into a travelling ‘Olympic’ security force which follows the torch from country to country?

    There is obviously a limit to demand (unless there is another World War, shudder) but the Greeks could be the innovators, reduce their debt and regain their self-regard.

  25. English Pensioner
    February 15, 2012

    “Greece has around one sixth the population of the UK, yet is has about the same number of military personnel on the payroll. “
    Or could it be that we should have six time the number of military that we have at present?
    To me, this is not a good comparison.

    1. Iain Gill
      February 16, 2012

      Its also not a good comparison because we dont need to keep troops on the isle of white, jersey, and so on, in fear of invasion from france on a daily basis – which to be fair to greece is exactly the position they are in from turkey

  26. Stephen O
    February 15, 2012

    No they can’t expect the EU & IMF to cover all their costs and cutting the military will likely be part of that.

    However, I do not think much reliance on possible ‘UN Combined action’ protecting them in the unlikely event they need help. Too unreliable for one thing, look at the vetoes on proposed sanctions (a much smaller request to the UNSC than armed intervention) against Syria. For another where is the physical capability? The EU’s major military powers, the UK and France, struggled with a fairly small scale and limited effort in Libya and could not have even managed that without US support. UK defence cuts have further reduced capability since. They could do little for Greece without the US. But the US has made clear that providing (and paying for) security for Europe has dropped way down its priorities and Europe needs to be more self-reliant going forwards. Greece can rely less on the US than before.

    Of course there is one country other than the US, but also a NATO ally with a strong military, which is close enough to easily come to their aid. Unfortunately, Turkey is the neighbour they most worry about. So I think they can either trust their luck (and the US‘s remaining commitment) or accept the political cost of settling their differences with Turkey (on Turkey’s terms).

    They will also need to keep sufficient troops to provide coverage for striking public sector workers, back up the riot police and internal security, through the very difficult times they have ahead. I am also presuming that border security, needed for preventing the smuggling of people and drugs, is not part of the military. As Greece’s border’s are the EU’s borders, the EU should ‘ask’ for this one area to be ring fenced.

  27. Disaffected
    February 15, 2012

    John, We have raised this before. the main benefactors are the Germany and France. They know the predicament of Greece and yet still sell them Submarines and fighter aircraft and use their own banks to lend Greece the money to pay for it. And now Germany and France have the cheek to ask the rest of Europe to help with Greek debt when they have deliberately added to it and helped them finance it.

    I see in the DT today that the UK has launched a second legal challenge against the EU to stop them taking financial services away from the UK. What happened to VCameron’s negotiating and the veto that never was. remember he was going to barter for the Eurozone to use the EU institutions. What a wet blanket he is- all hot air and bluster.

    I hope the people of the City acknowledge Cameron has done nothing to protect their jobs and business- let alone tax for the UK. I also hope pensioners remember that the socialist government are wrecking their pensions through QE. This also applies to all prudent people who have worked and saved to look after themselves. When it comes to finances, the socialist coalition is turning out to be worse than Labour.

  28. sm
    February 15, 2012

    Should we be worried about a military coup yet? Perhaps we should be insisting on an election or referendum for the Greeks? Maintaining order may be required if the will of the people is to be subverted. Would a country under effective quasi-police-military rule qualify for EU membership? or fit in just nicely.

  29. Bernard Otway
    February 15, 2012

    Asking the Greeks to lose a lot of their military,even with well argued and profound reasons,
    is like asking our public service and politicians to save only 10% on the cost of the public service,AND through efficiency only.Basically it is asking Turkeys to vote for XMAS.
    The west is now as addicted to government largesse just as much as the USSR was,that is why many people call a certain organisation the EUSSR,and Lambeth where I used to live
    “THE PEOPLES REPUBLIC OF SOUTH THAMES” among many other such boroughs.

  30. Neil Craig
    February 15, 2012

    Greece has a very legitimate worry about Turkey as history proves. Indeed I would suggest that some sort of Turkish (action-ed), probably involving massive population movement, is the most likely military threat Europe may face within Europe.

    The problem with assuring Greece that we will do our share is, firstly, that as part of NATO the assuance, as you suggest already exists and secondly that western aussurances are hardly to be trusted.

    “If her allies could persuade her that any threat to Greece would be countered by UN combined action,” Hmmm.

    Remeber that these same countries persuaded Yugoslavia that we would honour our treaty promise in the helsinki Treaty to “take no action against the territorial integrity or unity” of any europena country and when the USSR folded immediately broke this treatry and international law by bombing Yugoslavs to help (people the commentator does not like-ed)

    I strongly suspect that if that treaty had not been broken there would indeed be no territorial disputes threatening war in Europe, including the one Greece is concerned about. That is what you get when you sow the wind, or in our case destroy all the rules of international law and our most solemn promises.

    Reply: I see no evidence of planned aggressive action towards Greece by Turkey.

  31. Bernard Otway
    February 15, 2012

    OH and by the way the MAIN neighbour Greece does not trust is it’s old RULER,TURKEY
    yet Turkey has applied to join the EU,makes you THINK !!!. It does not trust a potential fellow member of the EU.

  32. Keith Peat
    February 15, 2012

    Wow Greece could invade us then? Maybe her fear is Turkey who still isn’t in the EU?

    But this tends to enforce my point on another topic. How puny we are against Europe as a whole. If we are to leave it, we must always consider the bottom line worst case scenario which, IMHO, is war no less!

  33. Dave B
    February 15, 2012

    UN, League of Nations, promises have been shown to be worthless many times. I can’t fault Greeks for doubting that, and Turkey has the largest army in Nato.


  34. JimF
    February 15, 2012

    But what else would those folk do who are in the military?

    Build Mercedes perhaps?
    They have factories in
    Argentina (buses, trucks and the Sprinter van. The first Mercedes-Benz factory outside of Germany)
    Austria (G-Class)
    Bosnia and Herzegovina
    Brazil Manufacture the trucks, buses and the C-Class. Established in 1956. The A-Class (W168) was produced from 1999 to 2005 as well.
    Egypt via Egyptian German Automotive Company
    Hungary (construction of a new plant in the country announced on 18 June 2008, for the next generation A- and B-Class)
    Nigeria(buses, trucks, utility motors and the Sprinter van)
    Russia (E-Class)
    Spain, factory at Vitoria-Gasteiz, Mercedes-Benz Vito have been built there.
    South Africa
    South Korea (Mercedes-Benz Musso and MB100 models manufactured by SsangYong Motor Company)
    Thailand (assembly of C, E and S class vehicles by the Thonburi Group)
    United Kingdom

    But not Greece.

    Or they could join the brick-throwers.

    Or Greece could leave the Euro, devalue and keep their army.

  35. Steve Cox
    February 15, 2012

    Surely, the main threat the Greeks perceive is from their old foe Turkey? As Turkey is a lynchpin of NATO it is hard to see how NATO could guarantee Greece’s safety in the event of a major bust-up between the two countries. The USA sees Turkey as a much more important regional ally than Greece, and in the event of military clashes would no doubt sit on the sidelines. They didn’t exactly help us, special relationship or not, during the 1982 Falklands conflict, at least not until Maggie handbagged Reagan (Cameron really should get himself one of those, far more potent than a cruise missile!) 🙂

  36. Marko
    February 15, 2012

    Having worked in Greece and Turkey for years I feel I can contribute.

    The Turkish would be glad to ratchet their military expenditure down if Greece did the same. It is an artificial situation on both sides and only the idiots in Cyprus (on both sides) want the standoff to continue.
    Privately both sides view their respective Cypriots with distaste but would never say it in public.

    If Greece were to cancel their advanced orders for Ships, Tanks and Aircraft from France and Germany it would save then Billions. Then they could start on the Orthodox church which is completely tax free and riddled with corruption. It wouldn’t be bad if they told the Church to pay its own wages as currently every single member is paid by the Government.

    Nothing quoted here is anything other than standard comments from my Greek friends that they would never admit to in public.

    1. rose
      February 15, 2012

      A comment fair to Turkey at last, but not quite fair enough. It was the Greeks who stirred up the trouble in Cyprus. The Turks only took unilateral retrospective defensive action there on behalf of their oppressed minority when we refused to help them uphold the treaty we were co-guarantors of, and which the Greeks had violated. So it is the Turks who have reason not to trust their near neighbour or their NATO allies. The Turks pay their own way too. A proud and independent nation – unlike so many of the rest of us.

      1. rose
        February 16, 2012

        There is an oilfield, recently discovered, exactly half way between Turkey and Greece. Perhaps we should hear more about this during these Greek debt talks. If Turkey and Greece could come to some agreement on ownership, this could prove helpful to us all. But what guarantee would the Turks have that the Greeks would keep to their side of the bargain, bearing in mind the Greek violation of the 1959 Zurich Treaty in 1963/4, and 1974?

  37. David
    February 15, 2012

    Perhaps next time we give them aid we should get them to put some soldiers on the Falklands to protect as a quid pro quo!

  38. David Langley
    February 15, 2012

    Sorry John, keeping a large military force might cost a lot but right now its a job. When the country is keeping itself better by coming out of its adherence to the EU stranglehold. That might be the time to speed up the process by releasing men and women back to civilian life. The cash must come first, then the axe. In fact just like here with all our drones. By the way UN combined action against the Turks say would not happen. If it did we would be counting a lot of UN body bags, on this one I have experience.

  39. Phil Richmond
    February 15, 2012

    Hi John,

    It seems that the Greek goverment is the oppopsite to the coalition in some respects. We in this country desperately need to cut the millions of clipboard inspectors, outreach coordinators and general useless members of the non-job brigade. In turn we desperately need to increase the size of our depleted military.
    Possible conflict is brewing with Iran & Argentina. China & Russia are increasing their military power and god knows what lies around the corner in this unstable world.
    A Conservative would never be so foolish as to play fast & loose with the realms security. The only theory I can come up with as to why Cameron could be so stupid is that his only conviction in this world is to dominate the so called “mythical” middle-ground and maintaining a strong defence is seen as “right-wing”.
    Either way this disgraceful PM has to go. (Conservative party voter/member 1987-2009)

    1. Martyn
      February 15, 2012

      I think that you will find Mr Cameron’s attitude has more to do with the EU forming its own army. It already has a navy (EUNAVFOR) with its HQ at Northwood and a British commander, quite how much of the RN is committed to EUNAVFOR I know not, but it seems substantial.

      Across the EU defence cuts are pretty common and I think that there is a move towards a joint army (call it what you will) and this has a lot to do with the way the UK is hacking its armed forces to the bare minimum. Of course history tells us over and over again that this is a very dangerous way to go, but hey! history is bunk, is it not? Well, yes, but only if you’ve the same mindset as far too many modern politicians appear to have these days. We live in dangerous times….

    2. Keith Peat
      February 15, 2012

      But Cam has to play the coalition game. He did not win an election. We cannot make a judgement on him until he has a clear majority. In fact it’s not a bad idea to go through the austerity stage with the Lib Dems backing it and part of it too. As it stands, it’s Labour v the rest on that. We need to patiently await the end of the coalition and then for Cam it will be ‘England expects’.

  40. Barbara Stevens
    February 15, 2012

    It seems Greece is better off than the UK with it’s services, and machinary to hand. Who should pay for it, well the Greeks themselves, and cut back where necessary. However, the Greeks have a fear from Turkey who have difficulties in the past, take Cyprus as a question mark. I think they do need to maintain their services as they are as well on the front line of ilegal immigrants which they find it difficult to maintain. They should therefore cut and like you say having reservists is one option. I cannot see other EU countries approving money to maintain an army and navy or airforce, they are having difficulties themselves. Take outselves, we are cutting our forces so they might have to do the same. I would object to money going to Greece for this purpose. I just hope we don’t get caught out and be drawn into questions on this.

  41. BobE
    February 15, 2012

    Wed Feb 15, 2012 8:13am EST
    By Luke Baker and Jan Strupczewski
    BRUSSELS, Feb 15 (Reuters) – Euro zone finance officials are examining ways of delaying parts or even all of the second bailout programme for Greece while still avoiding a disorderly default, several EU sources said on Wednesday.
    Delays could possibly last until after the country holds elections expected in April, they said While most of the elements of the package, which will total 130 billion euros, are in place, euro zone finance ministers are not satisfied that Greece’s political leaders are sufficiently committed to the deal, which requires Athens to make further spending cuts and introduce deeply unpopular labour reforms.
    Germany, Finland and the Netherlands are the countries pushing to delay the package, two other officials said, with Germany the most adamant and suggesting that final approval should only be granted after new elections are held.
    Data from Athens on Tuesday showed the economy shrank 7.0 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 .
    Euro zone finance ministers will hold a conference call from 1600 GMT to discuss how to proceed. The call replaces a face-to-face meeting, which was cancelled late on Tuesday because Greece had not provided sufficient commitments from its side and not all the paperwork was in place.

  42. Elli Ron
    February 15, 2012

    Most of the above is reasonable, Greece has to limit it’s expenditure (in all areas) to it’s financial ability, and that includes the military.
    However, John’s suggestion of the UN as a guarantor is a sad joke, this is not an option (look at Syria), even NATO (and Turkey is a member and although it wasn’t named above, it is the principle adversary to Greece) is a hollow force which has no real credibility.

  43. Acorn
    February 15, 2012

    Off topic but I am getting bored with the EU’s travails. Please JR, could you get your gang together and give Osbourne some bother about Corporate Dividend and Equity Capital Gains Taxes – for the next budget. E&Y have done this double taxation piece for a US group but the UK is mentioned in comparisons. Equity investors – compared to debt investors – get a poor deal in the US and the UK. What say you?

    See “International comparison of dividend and capital gains taxes”. Page 8 – 13 on the document. http://images.politico.com/global/2012/02/120208_asidividend.html

  44. Martyn
    February 15, 2012

    It might not pay Greece to shed too much of their armed forces – by the looks of things in that unfortunate country they might be needed to maintain order in the cities and towns across the nation if the population starts a revolution. The police alone probably couldn’t cope, but the army could and if push came to shove we might soon be in the extraordinary position of witnessing another military coup in Greece.

  45. John Reeks
    February 15, 2012

    Fair comment, but, although enormous, the Greek military only costs a fraction of the UK’s armed services, at about 7-8 billion. Even 25% cuts would achieve very little in terms of bringing down Greek debt. Also, the middle of a social and economic storm is usually the least good time to start making soldiers redundant.

  46. fox in sox
    February 15, 2012

    If your neighbour was Tukey, with six times the population and claims on much of your land and sea, you would also see why the Greeks need such forces. Greece has always been Europes front line against invasion from the middle east, from classical times fighting the Persians to contemporary times .

    1. Zorro
      February 16, 2012

      ‘go tell the Spartans passerby, that here by Spartan law we lie….’


  47. Mark
    February 15, 2012

    What would really compromise Greek security is further EU expansion among its neighbours. Then they would have to let the invaders invade. Probably another reason why Greece will end up outside the EU…

  48. cosmic
    February 15, 2012

    Greece is a member of NATO.

    The UN has been notably useless at military intervention.

    Surely, it’s largely a matter for Greece to decide the size of its armed forces and the amount it wants to spend? For example, it doesn’t appear that they are involved in dangerous military posturing. I suspect the large army is convenient to the Greek government for reasons other than security, such as keeping people in some sort of employment.

    In general, I think Greece has to sort out its own problems.

  49. wonderfulforhisage
    February 15, 2012

    Why don’t we offer to lease some Greek tanks, planes, warships and ancillary troops on a mercenary basis? I’d suggest enough to bring our forces up to the strength needed to handle another Falklands crisis. One way or another we’re going to have to pay for the Greek armed forces. We may as well get something back for our money.

  50. Iain Gill
    February 15, 2012

    The other thing to remember is that the Greek people use the military as a sort of sophisticated youth training scheme. I doubt it costs much more to put the youth through their national service than keeping large numbers of them kicking cans on street corners on benefits like we do. In terms of building self-discipline and national unity there is probably lots to be said for doing something more productive with the money spent on young folk than just giving them money to play bingo like we do.

    1. rose
      February 17, 2012

      Or go to “Uni” as they call it now.

  51. Timaction
    February 15, 2012

    I totally agree. The same can be said of our foreign aid budget subsidising the military might of India and Pakististan. They choose to fund this, nucleur power and in Indias case a space programme. So why are we borrowing to give billions away in foreign aid?

  52. John B
    February 15, 2012

    Military take over of Greece when – seems the most important question about Greece.

  53. Sean O'Hare
    February 15, 2012

    I understood Greece was still a member of NATO, even though they partially withdrew from 1974 – 1984 following the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. All they really need to maintain are their commitments to NATO as I believe it’s other members would be duty bound to assist them in case of another invasion. I suppose it would be a bit tricky if that invading state were Turkey though.

  54. uanime5
    February 15, 2012

    I wonder how the Greek people would react to this? Perhaps they should start by cutting military equipment that would be of any use against a Turkish invasion. Alternatively they could try to convince both Greece and Turkey to reduce the size of their armies.

  55. Dan H.
    February 15, 2012

    As I see it, the problem Greece has with its large military is threefold. First and foremost, they’re caught in a stand-off with Turkey and feel that they need the forces to keep Turkey from getting unwelcome ideas. Secondly, once you train people to be soldiers, you have people who know all about how to fight and defeat other forces such as police; from the point of view of the Greek government, the military are a coup (or several coups) waiting to happen. Finally, the military is at least one sector of Government employees who’re not striking or rioting.

    There is, however, an easy solution to all of this. The West is currently embroiled in a conflict in Afganistan which needs a lot of manpower to keep quiet. Why not simply pay Greece for the use of some of its soldiers to do the paramilitary policing that Afganistan currently needs to keep it quiet, thus removing a political problem for us, giving the Greeks a nice little earner, and removing a lot of potential rioters from the Greek mainland? One might even suggest using Turkish soldiers for the same purpose (taking care to keep the two lots separated by large distances) to maintain the relative sizes of forces in Cyprus, so neither side gets antsy over the situation.

  56. Jon
    February 15, 2012

    For an army larger than ours how come they seem conspicuous by their absence in the world when military intervention is required?

    Sounds like its an outward bound holiday camp where you get a salary and a pension for going on it. How many of those 170,000 have seen action and how many of those 1000 aircraft and 80 warships have we seen in action in the troubles over the last 30 years?

  57. pete
    February 15, 2012

    From my army days when we used to train with them I seem to remember their equipment being dated back to the 50s thus their capabilities being questionable.

    They certainly didn’t have much of a deployment capability and I cant see too much has changed in the last 15 years.

    With all due respect were they to come up against a better equipped force they would be like the Polish cavalary in WW2 fighting against German panzers

    There is a large cost with a standing army even with old kit with the wages etc but they are a member of NATO. The biggest enemy seems to be their neighbour Turkey which is also a NATO member, apart from that I cant see any other reason to maintain an a military of that size.

    At the end of the day though its their democracy so it has to be up to them, they need to come out of the stupid Euro straightjacket and sort themselves out. What they are doing has done nothing for growth so they need to be encouraged to print new drachmas and switch over in an orderly fashion.

  58. Ryan
    February 15, 2012

    I brilliant insight from John and a necessary cut.

    Unfortunately a group of disciplined, armed, former military men is probably not helpful in a country with a history which includes the overthrow of a democratic government by a military junta.

  59. Lindsay McDougall
    February 15, 2012

    Greece’s problem is that Turkey is its historical enemy and there are still tensions. Greece thinks that Turkey has taken too much of Cyprus and Turkey believes that the Greek islands close to Turkey should belong to Turkey.

    Turkey is a member of NATO and will always be backed by America in preference to Greece, if only because it is a very cost effective way for America to keep in with the Islamic world. So international guarantees are unlikely to be forthcoming, and certainly not reliable. Of course, we could always invite Russia to have a military presence in the Balkans to protect both Serbian and Greek interests, but somehow I don’t think that is what is intended.

  60. Backwoodsman
    February 16, 2012

    This sounds sensible on paper,and no doubt will find enthusiastic advocates throughout the Western world.However,it will almost certainly not have the same resonance in Athens as it does in Wokingham.
    Firstly,it would further humiliate national feeling at a point at which it is already inflamed,and do so by targeting those who are most likely to be nationalistic,and potentially able to act on their feelings.
    It would come at a point in time also when Turkey ,a much larger country,is increasingly Islamic and assertive,and when all the old religious insecurities of the Muslim-Christian frontier are resurgent.I doubt that Turkey has any serious hostile intentions,but it is quite easy to understand that ,given the historical background on both sides,and the ever-present Cyprus dispute,Greeks may see it differently..
    As to external guarantees ;who has the will, and willingness to spend ,to render these credible?The Germans,or some German-funded EU operation? Is that likely to be acceptable in Athens? Nato ?Is it credible that the US/UK ,for example, would ever intervene between Greece and Turkey?
    It is hard to see any Greek government relying on external asssurances of safety in the present febrile context.Apart from which,as a practical matter, it may very well need the troops onside,to avert a coup,or to maintain internal order in a rapidly deteriorating situation on the streets.
    For want of a better suggestion,perhaps a guarantee and and modest retrenchment might achieve a little.But how much would any cutting ,not utterly draconian ,really do to resolve the country’s plight,and at what cost to national self-esteem and stability ?
    A month or two ago the idea might have had some prospects.It is hard to see it being productive of much of real worth now,and it could have seriously negative consequences.

  61. Max Dunbar
    February 16, 2012

    I’m not sure that the Greeks will take up your suggestions for saving cash in this area.
    Their government will be nervous about the intentions of their armed forces at present. Unlike the UK there is no monarchy or other credible moderating authority to which the Greek armed forces owe allegiance as far as I am aware. The situation can only become more unstable as the political factions become more polarised. No doubt the Greek government are well enough informed about the views of the army at present. The balance must be a choice between civil breakdown and violent disorder on one hand and a military coup on the other. The military would be required to nip civil insurrection in the bud – provided that the army is loyal to the government. Possibly, the government may have assigned the more hostile army elements to far-flung islands in the Aegean – as the Spanish Republican government attempted to do in the 1930s – unsuccessfully.
    Incidentally, I’m not sure how you can simply extrapolate figures for forces reduction from Britain or any other country and apply it to the Greeks. The subject is highly complex and not a basic number crunching excercise.

  62. Simon
    February 16, 2012

    Greek military spending is none of our business – our business is making an appropriate decision as to whether or not to lend (?) them the money. The Greeks aren’t children to be told by anyone else what to do.

    If we start making pronouncements about what they should be spending their money on then we get sucked into a game whereby the Greeks could argue along the lines “we scrapped three of our fighter jets – so where’s our bailout?”

    Why muddy the waters?

    We should only lend them the money if we think it’s reasonably likely we’ll get it back. If it isn’t then we should either gift them the money or say no can do.

  63. Gideon Mack
    February 16, 2012

    The Germans.

  64. BobE
    February 16, 2012

    Wouldn’t Dave Cameron be better off supporting Scotish Independance? It would garantee a Conservative English Parliment and consign Labour to be the Scottish parlament.

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