Greek military goes shopping – Le Monde diplomatique

Christmas has come early for Greece’s armed forces: this year the government is giving them 24 Rafale fighter jets and three cutting-edge frigates; later, they’ll be getting Lockheed Martin F-35s, Sikorsky helicopters, drones, torpedoes and missiles. The Greek military won’t be the only ones celebrating, though: French arms manufacturers, Dassault in particular, are among their biggest suppliers.

Back in 2015, Greece was ruined, gasping, reduced to a protectorate of the ‘troika’ — the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund — which scrutinised every last item of its spending to force it to repay a debt even the IMF acknowledged was ‘unsustainable’. On Germany’s insistence, the troika was particularly tough on social welfare spending. There were huge increases in tax and health insurance contributions, and reductions in unemployment benefit and the minimum wage (cut by 32% for under 25s); retirement age rose to 67 (while pensions shrank 14 times in a row); and over-crowded hospitals ran short ofresources and drugs.

But military spending seems to have escaped these strict controls, rising from 2.46% of GDP in 2015 to 2.79% in 2020, the highest in the EU. Clearly, if you want peace, prepare for war. Greece does indeed feel threatened by Turkey, which is acting more and more provocatively in the eastern Mediterranean, and has illegally occupied part of Cyprus for nearly 50 years. But that hasn’t stopped Greece and Turkey from both being members of NATO, nor Germany from being one of Turkey’s main arms suppliers.

In 2015, when the European banks crushed the ‘Greek Spring’, Le Figaro was particularly savage, saying that Greece, even bled dry, was like ‘a patient who slaps his doctor in the face’ when it should be paying its creditors on the nail. Otherwise, Le Figaro claimed (as did almost all French media), ‘every French citizen will have to pay €735 to write off Greece’s debt’ (1). In 2015 that debt was 177% of GDP; as of December 2020 it had topped 205%. Yet Le Figaro has stopped worrying about European lenders. Why? No one dares suggest it is because Greece is buying armaments from the Dassault group, which owns Le Figaro (2).

There won’t be a happy ending until Turkish submarines purchased from Germany sink Greek frigates built in France. Then Greece may finally decide to buy back the port it sold to China (Piraeus) (3). And the ‘Franco-German partnership’ having demonstrated its flexibility, ‘Europe’s strategic autonomy’ will be well on its way…

Source: Greek military goes shopping, by Serge Halimi (Le Monde diplomatique – English edition, November 2021)