The miracle of Greece's defence spending efficiency

Back in 2009 I wrote about the relatively high military spending of Greece and my expectation about its impending reduction.* I wrote:

Greece's military spending is about 3 % GDP, about twice as much as necessary in comparison with allies. That's already less than the 2005 figure of 4.3%. I expect a military budget crunch down to about 1.5-2% GDP till 2015.

According to SIPRI military expenditures fell from 7.660 billion EUR in 2009 to 4.472 billion EUR in 2013.

According to Eurostat** Greece's GDP fell from 237.4 billion EUR in 2009 to 182.4 billion in 2013.

This yields a drop from 4.21% GDP in 2009 to 2.45% GDP in 2013.
The CIA World Factbook offers a much smaller figure; 1.72% GDP in 2012.

- - - - -

Now let's consider what's missing in this picture:
An aggression against Greece. There was none.
Nor did the EU as an alliance or NATO as an alliance get into trouble because the Greeks spent less on their military.

This is the best real world experiment imaginable for the thesis that the Greek state overspent on defence. It wasted likely 1-3% GDP during almost the entire post-Cold War period. Furthermore, an unnecessarily high quantity of young men were removed from the private sector or had their education interrupted.***

Similar natural experiments happened for U.S.military spending: The U.S.Army and U.S.Marine Corps were very much fixed in Iraq and Afghanistan and had their training reoriented for occupation duties for years. Meanwhile, North Korea did not attack South Korea. PR China did not attack Taiwan. Not a single ally, much less the U.S. themselves were attacked by any real threat during these years. This is the best evidence imaginable in support of the thesis that the U.S. overspends on defence: All those army brigades busy with preparing for, being in or recovering after being in Iraq or Afghanistan weren't really needed for national or alliance defence at all.

One may consider such natural experiments as weak evidence, but they face no evidence at all pointing at the opposite conclusion!
There are merely claims and conjectures supporting the size of the military expenditures, not any natural experiment results. Never in modern history did a military budget cut lead to a series of events that ended with aggression - no matter how often the pro-military spending people assert that budget cuts put lives at risk and similar.

Greece's military spending efficiency was increased very much, as they got the same national security at a much lower price. Has the Greek military improved very much, become incredibly smarter? No, not at all. It was merely inflated well beyond the optimum previously (and I suppose it's still well above optimum today).
The reason for the oversized military spending was the stupid Little Cold War between Greece and Turkey. Turkey cannot possibly take even a single island away from Greece by force because Greece could call on all EU allies for defence, while nobody would be obliged to help Turkey. Still, politicians played with the myth of a Turkish threat for decades, similar to what happens in Pakistan. Now guess what the new government's minister of defence did right after taking office? He provoked Turkey with his new toys.


**: I'd like to use this opportunity to voice my extreme disdain for the EUROSTAT website.
***: I know of a Greek student who wanted to become an engineer in Germany and was recalled for a pointless conscript service before he was able to complete his almost for-free university study in Germany. This happened after the Fiscal troubles blew up in Greece.


  1. Turkey has threaten Greece with war if Greece expands its terittorial water from 6 nm to 12 nm according to international laws. The last 30 years Greece has lost close to 30 pilots from accidents over the Aegean due to turkish fighters violations of the Greek air space. They invited Cyprous and you think we are over reacting? Do you actually believe that European countries will sent they troops to die for Greece? Your arguments are pathetics the least

    1. Not invaded, not blockaded, not bombed - nothing terrible happened.

      To spend more on the military will give more planes, more kerosene, more bullshit dogfights with Turkish AF, more deaths. To spend more does not reduce the damage done to Greece, it increases the damage done.

      Greece got issues with Turkey? It should ask the European Union to sanction Turkey, go to international courts, call the UNSC and/or simply sanction Turkey itself.
      To waste more money on military toys is OBVIOUSLY no cure. Notice; those deaths (which I can't confirm) would have happened during the phase of high military spending. Obviously, said high spending didn't prevent them.