ATHENS – After complaining that Greece has engaged in an arms race it can’t win, Turkey said its rival spends too much on defense, the ratio rising markedly under the New Democracy government.
Greece’s defense expenditure rose to 3.76 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2022, up from 2.45 percent in 2019 when the major opposition SYRIZA was in power, said the Turkish news site Anadolu Agency.
It didn’t mention that Turkish provocations after picked up since New Democracy took power and that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has openly threatened an invasion and is eyeing Greek islands.
The report said Greece spends $8.4 billion now for defense compared to $5 billion three years earlier, an increase of more than 60 percent, but didn’t mention that Turkey spends 26 billion euros ($25.76 billion) on defense.
Erdogan said that includes an increase of $5.38 billion he authorized for 2022 while Defense Minister Hulusi Akar called on Greece to stop buying weapons.
“It should be known to all that the enthusiasm of Greece or the Greek-Cypriots in procuring arms will not help in any way, except for increasing tensions and leading the situation to an impasse,” he said.
The report said Greece now spends $730 per person on defense but didn’t say that Erdogan said it would be a cause for war if Greece doubles its maritime boundaries to 12 miles and that Turkey is challenging Greece’s sovereignty.
It defended Turkey’s huge defense budget as only 1.22 percent of GDP, or $166 per person but didn’t note how many more weapons and military materials and how much more manpower itws has than Greece.
Fearing a conflict, Greece has been increasing its arsenal to include a $6 billion purchase of 24 French Rafale fighter jets and warships as well as American warships, and is eager to buy U.S.-made F-35 fighter jets.
Those were denied Turkey after it purchased Russian S-400 missile defense systems that could be used against Greece and which undermine the security of NATO, to which Greece and Turkey belong.
Turkey will match Greece’s boosting of its arsenal, Erdogan said previously, also declaring his country has hegemony over the seas between the countries and will decide what energy projects in the Eastern Mediterranean will be allowed.
He had said earlier that he will send an energy research vessel and warships back aground the Greek island of Kastellorizo to look for oil and gas and would do the same off Crete at some point.
In an interview with the pro-government private TV network NTV – Erdogan’s administration is jailing other journalists – he warned that, “Turkey will not sit and watch Greece strengthen, it will be shielded.”
“We are not a big country,” Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias in January. “Yet, we have more heavy tanks than Germany and France together. We have one of the biggest, if not the biggest Air Force of Europe. We have more than 250 fighter planes. And we are not the biggest economy in Europe.”
Why does a country which represents just 0.25% of the world’s GDP spend more on defense than major military powers? asked Investigate Europe. “Why do we need that?” Dendias said. “Because we face a threat.”