Greece Defense Expenditure - savunmaanaliz
Defense Expenditures

Greece Defense Expenditure


savunmaanaliz aims to produce technical analysis about the defense expenditures of countries. This will be a series of articles and the first one is Greece defense expenditures. Greece is a beautiful country located at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa. The Greece mainland lies between the Ionian Sea and Aegean Sea. Its location at the heart of the Mediterranean is very strategic. Greece population is 10,768,477.[1]

Greece is one of the smallest economies in the European Union (EU). Agriculture, tourism and shipping are the major contributors to its economy. Greece economy has been on a downward slide into crisis since 2008. EU and the IMF have funded rescue packages for Greece.

Greece is a member of the EU and NATO. Both institutions have successfully involved into various peace keeping and stabilization operations in Europe and other conflict areas. NATO has the responsibility to protect member countries (NATO Article 5). EU has also “security and defense policy” and rapid deployable forces. Moreover, Greece makes full use of alliances on diplomatic, security and economic issues. Then, why does Greece allocates a significant amount of its national income to defense?

Defense Expenditure

2021 Global Fire Power defense expenditure review ranked Greece 29 out of 139 countries.[2]. Greece also continues to maintain sizeable armed forces. Its defense spending started to increase steadily, especially after the 1996 Kardak crisis. Because of 2008 economic crisis, a serious decline started on defense expenditure as seen on the graph below. Despite the lack of a serious improvement in the country’s economy a new increase in defense expenditures started after 2015. (

Greece Defense Expenditure – Historical Data

The Greek defense expenditure as a percentage of GDP is higher than EU average. The highest levels of total expenditure on defense in the EU countries in 2019 were observed in Greece (2.0% of GDP) after Estonia. At the same period, average defense expenditure of EU is 1.2% of GDP according to eurostat.[3] Below graph shows the defense expenditures of EU countries (Source: Eurostat)

Total General Government Expenditure On Defense, 2019

Similarly, the rank of Greek defense expenditure as a share of GDP  is also the highest among NATO countries after US. It is above the NATO guideline 2.0%. This is of course something that NATO likes, but not the Greek people. The below chart from NATO sources shows NATO Defense expenditure as a share of GDP.

NATO Defense expenditure as a share of GDP, 2020

As a result, Greek government prioritizes national defense and security. According to 2021 budget, the government wants to increase 57% of the financial plan on military material compared to 2019.[5] The basic question is “What is Greece preparing for?”. It is commonly accepted that high defense spending along with other factors was one of the main reason of 2008 economic crisis.

New Defense Programs

Greece has started to implement new defense programs. Some of the big programs are as follows. Greece and France signed a 2.5-billion-euro ($3 billion) fighter aircraft deal. Greece will take delivery of 18 French-made Rafale fighter jets next year and upgrade 10 of its Mirage 2000s into the “-5” standard.[6]

Another important modernization project is the F-16 C / D modernization. 114 Lockheed Martin F-16C/D is the backbone of the Greek Air Force. The country has signed a deal with Lockheed Martin to upgrade 84 of those jets into the F-16V variant. After this modernization, Greece will have the most modern F-16V fleet with increased range. The modernization program is summarized in the picture below. Moreover, US is contemplating including F-35 stealth fighter jets in its defense partnership with its ally as well. Athen’s interest is buying 18 to 24 F-35s.[7]

Greece F-16 Modernization Program (Source: Lockheed)

Finally and most importantly, Greece is also establishing defense partnersip with different countries. In this concept, Greece approves $1.68B military partnership with Israel. Israel will provide 10 M-346 twin-engine transonic trainer aircraft and maintenance for the T-6 trainer aircraft. In addition, Haifa-based Elbit Systems will be responsible for the creation of and training at a new air defense educational institution for the Hellenic Air Force patterned after the Israeli Air Force Flight Academy.[8]


It is clear that a modern and well-trained military force is required for all independent countries. But the balance of security and welfare must be observed by governments. As a member of EU and NATO, Greece should resolve its realistically and well-defined national security problems by diplomacy and international adjudication. Because procuring more weapon systems is not a solution. The negative effect of defense expenditure on Greece economy is very obvious. Because as given some examples above, Greece is a big importer of military equipment and only has a very small and underdeveloped defense industry.[9]

Greece should “escape” from the security dilemma. Greece strategic objective should be economic development instead of arms race . It should meet the security needs at a reasonable level and reduce defense spending by taking advantage of the EU’s “Pooling and Sharing” and NATO’s “Smart Defense” concepts.

In conclusion, the savings from defense expenditure should be spent on well-being of Greek people. Otherwise, only the countries that export weapons will be the winner.

[1] OECD Country Book, 2020








[9] John Paul Dunne, Eftychia Nikolaidou, Military expenditure and economic growth: A demand and supply model for Greece, 1960-96,  January 2001, Defence and Peace Economics 12(1):47-67

[10] Ioannis N. Grigoriadis, Greek-Turkish Relations: The Post-Helsinki Era, The Oxford Handbook Of Modern Greek Politics, November 2020

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