While most Greeks are critical of the reforms on which the troika of the EU, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank are insisting, many also feel that Germany and France share some of the blame for Greece’s overspending.
Over much of the past decade, Greece – which has a population of 11 million – has been one of the top five arms importers in the world.
Most of the vastly expensive weapons, including submarines, tanks and combat aircraft, were made in Germany, France and the United States.
The arms purchases were beyond Greece’s capacity to absorb, even before the financial crisis struck in 2009. Several hundred Leopard battle tanks were bought from Germany, but there was no money to pay for ammunition for their guns. Even in 2010, when the extent of the financial disaster was apparent, Greece bought 223 howitzers and a submarine from Germany at a cost of €403 million.
In the new bailout agreement, Greece will pledge to reduce its defense spending by some €400 million. Eurozone leaders have hitherto been notably more tolerant of Greece’s arms expenditure – though this is twice the size of the NATO average as a proportion of GDP – than they have of excessive spending on health or pensions.