Greece Warned Against Further Defense Cuts

Greece Warned Against Further Defense Cuts

Experts have warned Greece’s new, radical left wing government not to make further cuts to the country’s defense budget, claiming there is very little left to trim following years of biting economic downturn.

Greece’s Syriza party won elections in Greece on Jan. 25 with promises to reverse five years of state staff lay-offs, tax hikes and wage cuts blamed for devastating the Greek economy.

The austerity measures were imposed by the International Monetary Fund and European Union in 2010 in return for a massive €240 billion (US $272 billion) bail out designed to help Greece tackle interest payments on its debt pile, worth €320 billion.

While the measures were designed to rein in profligate Greek spending and slim down a top-heavy state, they have instead been blamed for shrinking national output by 25 percent and pushing youth unemployment over 50 percent.

The new government, led by Alexis Tsipras, has promised to walk away from debt payments and cancel austerity policies, threatening a clash with Europe.

What is less clear is whether the party, which is a mix of Marxists and far left thinkers, will fund social spending programs it has promised by cutting defense spending.

“Greek defense has already been reduced so much I am not sure you can cut anymore,” said Thanos Dokos, head of the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy. “My feeling is that the new government will leave defense alone for a year, possibly undertaking a defense review. In the meantime, there has been a freezing of major procurement programs and we are still paying off previous ones.”

During the years of economic crisis starting in 2008, Greek defense spending has come down, albeit from the huge amounts spent previously as the country armed to defend against its old foe Turkey.

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