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Greece's serious financial troubles are going to affect their military spending. Yhe highest in the European Union and second in NATO only to the United States, the Greeks spend 2.8% of their GDP on defense, compared to an average 1.7% in the other European NATO countries. Defense personnel account for 2.9% of the active population against an average 1.1% in other NATO member states.Deputy defense minister Panos Beglitis was asked earlier this week by my colleagues at Le Monde about the defense budget. “We have lived totally surealistically,” he conceded, adding that the 2010 defense budget would amount to €6 billion, a 6.6% cut on the 2009 one. “We are the ministry which is the most engaged in the joint effort to reduce our deficit,” he said. But he was careful to add that “we are rationalizing our spending but not at the expense of our military capacity.”The historic reason behind Greece's massive arms spending lies with neighbor Turkey with whom it entertains, shall we say, difficult relations. Beglitis noted “Turkish provocations” from the Turkish army's occupation of the northern part of the island of Cyprus in 1974 to the “continued violations of Greek air space”.Jean-Paul Hébert, a defense analyst, notes that “when one of the two countries buys 50 tanks the other orders 60.” The two nations ranked amongst the world's top arms importers in 2008 with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and India.But as far as Greece is concerned that ranking is likely to drop considerably in 2010 and beyond.
ar99, Greece, Turkey, spending
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