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Greece Tops Defense Spending as Percentage of GDP in NATO

Greece Defense Spending NATO
Since 2019, Greece has substantially increased its defense budget to counter the threat posed by Turkey. Credit: GEETHA

Greece is the NATO country with the highest defense spending as a percentage of GDP among all allies, including the US, data released on Tuesday show.

According to NATO’s Annual Report for 2022 presented in Brussels by Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Greece is estimated to have spent 7.44 billion euros on defense last year ($8.01 billion).

This represents 3.54 percent of GDP. The US is in second place with a defense expenditure of 3.46 percent of GDP. Lithuania, Poland, the United Kingdom, Estonia, and Latvia follow. Greece and the above 6 countries have achieved the NATO guideline of 2 percent of GDP on defense. Turkey has only spent 1.37 percent of its GDP on defense.

Despite that finding, defense spending across the alliance increased by 2.2 percent in real terms from the year before. Total NATO military spending in 2022 was “estimated to exceed” $1 trillion, figures from the annual report reveal.

Greece has seen a spectacular rise in its defense expenditure since 2019 when the conservative government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis assumed power and vowed to modernize its armed forces to improve the balance of power in the Aegean.

Previously, years of austerity had kept defense expenditure in Greece low.

Defense expenditure in 2019 was 4,483 billion euros, in 2020 4,812 billion, and gradually increased to 6,764 billion in 2021 and 7,445 billion in 2022.

Greece’s defense spending on modern systems

Greece procures a wide range of complex defense systems in order to modernize its armed forces and to boost its army potential in accordance with the threat posed by Turkey.

Greece signed deals to buy 3 Belharra (Belh@rra) navy frigates and 24 Rafale fighter jets from France. It will also upgrade 83 F-16 fighter jets to the VIPER configuration in the next coming five years.

The US State Department has also approved a possible foreign military sale to Greece for the modernization of four MEKO-class frigates at an estimated cost of $2.5 billion.

Greece has also signed a collaboration agreement with Israel for the establishment of a flight school for the Greek Air Force, which includes 10 Leonardo M-346 Lavi aircraft for the training of Greek pilots, and also the purchase of simulators and other logistical support elements.

Most recently Greece announced it will buy dozens of US amphibious vehicles from the US.

NATO calls for an increase in defense spending

Presenting NATO’s Annual Report, Stoltenberg welcomed that 2022 was the eighth consecutive year of increased defense spending across Europe and Canada, amounting to a 2.2% rise in real terms and a total of $350 billion extra since 2014.

“We are moving in the right direction, but we are not moving as fast as the dangerous world we live in demands,” he said, adding that “it is obvious that we need to do more, and we need to do it faster.”

Stoltenberg said he expected Allies to agree an ambitious new defense investment pledge at the Vilnius Summit in July, with 2% of GDP as a minimum to be invested in defense.

Related: Greece Vs Turkey: The Military Balance in the Aegean

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