6 April 2010

The Effect of Greece’s Economic Crisis on Military Purchases - Ali Külebi

For many years, Greece’s baseless paranoia about Turkey led it to allocate huge budgets (Europe’s third largest) to weapons acquisitions, and given the effects of the worldwide crisis, Greece has walked into an economic dead end, one that is both long expected and serious.

For this reason, especially during the last few weeks with every day international credit providers bring bad news concerning Greece and announce that its credit rating is being lowered.

Actually, it was known that this nation’s entry into the European Union was characterized by an apparent lassitude and that it had begun to live on aid and grants obtained from the EU. In order to obtain more aid the Greeks even lied and inflated figures about their agricultural production, and EU bureaucrats have been very busy with this matter for a long time. As well as all of these problems and mistakes, other heralds of the recently emerging crisis were the enduring financial burden on the economy of the 2004 Athens Olympics, which is expected to last for some time, and the cost of the Greeks’ armament efforts against Turkey.

In terms of solutions, the option of kicking Greece out of the Eurozone is not very likely because it would be too heavy a blow to the prestige of the Euro.

While excessive arms purchases in recent years and the Olympic Games’ expenditures put the Greek government in extreme debt, Greece’s persistent arms acquisitions, and the fact that they did not pay for various weapons, in particular, S-214 submarines and Leopard tanks acquired from Germany, became an international problem.

Geopolitically, Greece is located on the axes of the junction of three continents. It has a medium scale strategic position on energy transportation lines and the seaways connecting the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, namely, the Aegean. Greece’s importance to NATO was significantly diminished with the elimination of the Soviet threat and the strategy of gaining access to the Mediterranean by invading Greece through the Balkans.
However, it is also obvious that Greece had an important role in ensuring Turkey’s connection to the West, which was under significant Soviet threat during the Cold War era.
Nevertheless, perhaps the Greeks often attributed too much importance to their own role, and complained that their allies did not appreciate their importance as much as they did. From a geopolitical perspective, Greek complaints concerning this issue can be interpreted as the result of Turkey being attributed much more importance due to its having many neighbors.

When Greece chose to join NATO in 1951 as a direct result of Soviet pressure, it also took its domestic communist threats into account. Despite their entry into NATO, the Greeks oriented their strategy mainly towards Turkey, and even saw both fighting the Soviet armies to stop them from reaching the Mediterranean and countering its domestic communist threat as a secondary choice and a diversionary small scale conflict.

Military Doctrine in Jeopardy

Thinking that the US support for them in Cyprus in 1974 was insufficient, the Greeks distanced itself from the US step by step and developed good relations with the European community. After this development Greece tried to strengthen its army with the support of the Europeans and sophisticated weapons which they made sure to buy from them. In this period, the Kardak crisis with Turkey and efforts to unilaterally change the air space and territorial waters were critical episodes.

With the 1974 defeat resulting in the partition of the island of Cyprus, 37% going to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and the remainder to the Greek Administration of Southern Cyprus, the Greeks were traumatized and could not accept the situation. They first supported the Armenian terrorist organization, ASALA, and then the PKK terrorist organization. On the other hand, while they were arming the Aegean Islands, they began to establish military doctrine entirely oriented towards Turkey. Meanwhile, they also tried to give the impression to the public and the outside world that Turkey had begun to follow a policy of expansion, and even of challenging the status quo in the region. This is why they began their efforts to arm themselves excessively, which is one of the most important reasons for their financial problems today.

Sophisticated Weapons Purchases

Since the beginning of the 1990s, Greece has been systematically acquiring short, medium and long range air defense rockets. Thus they own almost all the world’s leading systems, such as the PAC-3 Patriot, S-300, TOR-1 Ms, 1-Hawk, OSA-AK (SA-8), SKYGUARD/SPARROW and CROTALE NG/GR. Apart from these, here we should also mention the six frigates that will constitute additional strength for air defense in the Aegean.

It is understood that Greece plans to strengthen its armored units rapidly. In addition to their existing inventory of German Leopard-2 tanks, brand new 170 Leopard-2 HEL tanks will be jointly produced by the German Krauss Maffei and the Greek ELVO firms. In terms of tanks, the Greek army is understood to have decided to switch from American platforms to German platforms. They have ordered 130 Leopard 2A4 tanks in addition to the 170 Leopard-2 HELs from Krauss Maffei.

According to the 2007 treaty between Moscow and Athens, Greece is expected to buy 40 billion dollars worth of weapons from Russia. The first part of the 40 billion dollar Greek deal is an agreement to buy 415 BMP-3 tanks and armored vehicles. The EU, disturbed by the Greeks acquiring weapons from non-NATO countries, is expected to block most of these purchases due to the economic crisis. European officials see the cancellation of a portion of these purchases as certain.

Four of the 12 AH-64 (D) radar equipped attack helicopters purchased by the Greek army, said to have the capacity to track 256 targets at once, have been received. The remainder of the delivery is expected to be delayed.

The Greek army’s air power will supplement its Hueys, which have been serving since 1970s, with 20 NH90 helicopters that they plan to buy from Eurocopter, and with 12 Apache attack helicopters, and gradually retire the Hueys. This plan is also expected to be delayed, at least until 2015.

It is known that Greece, which had a heavily American weapon inventory as a result of its NATO membership, is leaning towards having more French and German weapons platforms in its inventory due to its EU membership.

In order to develop their Navy, they have ordered 3 Papanikolis (Type 214) class submarines, in addition to 8 type 209 submarines. These type 214 submarines are interesting because they can be submerged for a long time with its fuel cell equipment, they are quietness and difficult to detect. However, budget constraints and a series of malfunctions with the first delivered submarine may delay the deployment of the submarines and even lead to the cancellation of the order.

The air force continues to be rapidly strengthened with the new F-16 Block 52+ and Mirage 2000-5 Mk2. All of these developments are significant enough to influence the regional balances of military power. However, the deepening economic crisis also affects these billion dollar purchases. Europe puts serious limits on Athens’ military acquisitions in the name of European budget discipline, and this is understood to mean that the US and Russia stand to lose. On the other hand, it is thought that Germany, which is expected to lend money to Greece, will have an advantageous position in weapons sales.

The Justifications for Armament

It can be seen that Greece’s excessive armament is based on the idea that the Turkish military’s increasing sophistication and experience has given Turkey a serious advantage in the military balance of force.

The Greek doctrine does not believe that the rapidity or kind of intervention and aid by forces such as the EU, the US or NATO is sufficient for a wartime situation. However, Turkey’s power and potential is incomparably larger than countries in the Near East and even Europe itself.

The justifications for the development of Greek military doctrine can be listed as follows:

1) Turkey, with its population of over 70 million, its large territory and hinterland, is a giant.
2) Turkish shores are a few kilometers away from Greece.
3) Turkey cannot accept the fact that Greece owns most of the Aegean Sea.
4) Turkey is disturbed by the fact that some of the Aegean islands are under Greek rule and equipped with military bases.
5) Nationalist and even Panturkist tendencies in Turkey have expansionist aims.
6) Turkey is resolute about not compromising its territorial waters and air space.
7) Since the 1990s, Turkey has seriously emphasized the acquisition of war planes, helicopters, battleships, armored vehicles and rocket systems, creating a very modern armed forces.

While these justifications for the Greek military doctrine are shared with the public, it is not mentioned that Turkey is very busy with externally supported terrorism across its territory, with some level of contribution from Greece itself.

Since the end of the Cold War when Greece focused all its armament efforts and strategies on Turkey, there are three important war alarms that Greek strategy experts emphasize. These are: Cyprus, the Aegean Sea and Thrace. Conflict might erupt in one or two of these or all three at the same time. It is obvious that the likelihood of conflict in the Aegean Sea is higher now because Greece’s territorial waters and air space demands persist and Turkey opposes these with the principle of casus belli.

The Military Doctrine’s Dead Ends

In 1994 the Common Defense Doctrine between Greece and the Greek administration of Northern Cyprus was put into effect. Accordingly, military cooperation is foreseen in case of a Turkish intervention in Greek Cyprus.

One deficit that arose after the Cyprus Peace Operation was the slackness of the Greek system of mobilization. The need for serious efforts to eliminate this problem arose.

Although the Greek military doctrine is defense oriented in comparison to NATO strategy, it should be mentioned that signs of a defense approach that starts beyond its borders can be seen.

Greece also developed strategies for deterring a potential enemy without using force. Accordingly, it focused on armament and military structure that shows it is power to respond. There was a special focus on establishing more mobile military units and in this context, brigades and battalions were formed, rather than divisions and regiments.

Qualitative improvements were sought by downsizing and mobilizing military units and by increasing training levels. The new doctrine was expected to offer a more modern approach, to increase cooperation between land, air and sea forces and to deploy capabilities to enemy territories when necessary. In order to create force multiplier effects sophisticated weapons were also acquired in this context.

An important subject of argument concerning Greek military doctrine is less dependency on defense since it is obvious that the outcome of wars in our day is determined by air power. It is a mistake to allow your opponent get the initiative during an air attack because it is no longer possible to hide ground forces in the hinterland and draw enemy forces into your territory. As a result, Greece does not have the luxury to wait for an eventual attack. Turkey’s high military level, its number of soldiers and its geopolitical depth can cost its opponent serious losses on the first attack, and when the opponent grows weaker, due to its territorial depth and Greece’s small territory, it can reach its targets without facing much resistance. Greek strategists oppose a defense oriented doctrine from this point of view. In light of these issues, in today’s wars a complete defense strategy is impossible to implement and more importantly, is equivalent to suicide. In order to eliminate the problems of this approach to defense, Greek military doctrine emphasizes issues that move away from this passive understanding.

The fact that the war will be lost in the first days, in case of a Turkish initial attack, Greeks have to consider the option of their own initiating attack.

However, the economic crisis made it necessary for them to review all their defense options and arms purchases. It is necessary to take into account the fact that it will take a minimum of three years to normalize after the criss. And this will mean a three year waiting period for Greece to establish its new military doctrine and purchase weapons accordingly.

Table 1

Greek Armed Forces

Greek Army
Troops: 93,500 active and 198,000 reserve soldiers

1 armored division headquarters
3 mechanized infantry division headquarters
2 service and support divisions
4 armored brigades
7 mechanized infantry brigades
5 infantry brigades
1 airborne brigade
3 special forces brigades (1 marine, 1 parachute, 1 special operations)
1 army air brigade
4 service and support brigades
1 logistics headquarters

Tanks: 1,730 (Leopard 2A4, M-60 A, Leopard 1A and M-48 A5)
Armored vehicles: 172 VBL
Armored personnel carriers and battle vehicles: 2175 (BMP, Leonidas ve M-113A)
Cannons: 845 (approximately)
Multi-projectile rockets: 115 RM-70, 36 MLRS
Air defense missiles: 42 1-HAWK, 21 TOR-1M, 31 OSA-AK and 1250 Stingers
in the 4 helicopter transport battalions:
38 UI7A, 74UH1, 15 CH-47D, 20 AH-64-A Apache, 28 AB-205, 14 AB-206
Ground to air missiles: 2, 200 (MIM-23B I-HAWK, SA-8B “GECKO”, FIM-92 RMP “Stinger”)

Table 2

Greek Naval Forces

Military personnel: 20,000 (4,000 reserves)
10 Fifty class destroyers
4 Hydra class (MEKO) destroyers
4 Glaucos (type 209) submarines
4 Poseidon (updated to 209) submarines
3 +2 Roussen assault boat
4 Laskos class assault boat
6 Votsis class (old German S148 class) assault boat
4 Nike class (old German Tethys class) assault boat
2 Kaos class patrol boat
4 Andromeda class torpedo boat
2 Stamov class patrol boats
4 Ketallina class amphibious craft
9 Naxos class amphibious craft

Table 3

Greek Air Force

Military personnel: 31,500 (30,000 reserves)
Total war planes: 293 (F-16 Block 30, F-16 Block-52, RF-4 and F-4E, F-16 Block 52+, Mirage 200 EGM, A-7 and Mirage 2000-5
Air defense missiles: 6 batteries (36 ramp)
6 Skyguard/Sparrow, 2 SU-300 batteries (12 ramp), 4 TOR-MI, 9 CROTALE NG
Air transport planes: 118 craft (including helicopters) (C-130 B/H, C-27, CL-215, DO-28, CL-415, EMB-135 AEW& C, P3-B Orion, AB-205, B-212, AS-332, A-109)

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