On December 16th, Greek parliament approved the 2021 state budget, which includes a massive increase in defense expenditures.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the government aims to increase spending on military capacity by 57% compared to that of 2019.
Greece’s defense budget is projected to reach around 5.5 billion euros (US$6.6 billion). This actually isn’t 50% more, but actually more than doubles 2019’s spending.
This year’s economic contraction is expected to reach 10.5%, according to a government projection in the country’s 2021 budget.
Despite that defense spending is at an all-time high, mostly because of tensions with Turkey.
Despite the hardship, Greece will purchase 18 French Rafale fighter jets, for which it will pay 1.5 billion euros in 2021 from a total of 2.5 billion euros.
“Within a few days, the deal on the acquisition of eighteen Rafale type jets from France will be signed here in Athens,” PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis told members of parliament.
“Never before has such a complex and important military program been carried out so quickly and efficiently,” he said.
He also said the Greek government wishes to acquire new frigates, helicopters, and drones, upgrade its F-16 fleet and recruit an additional 15,000 personnel to its ranks.
Specifically, Greece also wants to buy four new frigates as well as ammunition and other accessories.
The deal with France should be approved in the days following December 16th, and French Defense Minister Florence Parly will sign the contract in Athens during her visit in the week starting on December 21st.
Pilots will begin training in France in early 2021, while the first six planes — which have been previously used — will arrive in Greece by July, Defense Ministry officials said.
In 2019, Greece spent 2.3% of gross domestic product on defense, placing it third behind the United States and Bulgaria in terms of proportion of the economy.
Greece has always had high military spending compared to other NATO members, even during the financial crash in 2007.
The government’s decision to increase defense spending, of course, wasn’t hailed by everybody, as opposition politician Alexis Tsipras had the following to say:
“If there is one word that describes the draft state budget for 2021 and the government’s management of all critical issues, it is ‘failure,’” he said.
Commenting on the government’s plan for the military budget, Tsipras said “we are not voting against the spending increase. But we do not give you a blank check, without consultation, without a plan and strategy.”
Turkey hasn’t commented on the increase in spending, but both countries are also allied NATO members. Regardless, the key reason for the massive increase is the tensions between Athens and Ankara, mostly caused due to Turkey’s actions in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
Turkey also flooded the Greek border with illegal migrants, and even had its armed forces attempt to break down a border fence and shot tear gas, and more, in an attempt to pressure the European Union in a softer stance towards its activities in Syria’s Idlib.
France, who’s selling warplanes to Greece, also strongly opposes Turkey’s intervention in Libya against Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).
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