Europeans Cut Military Spending During Economic Crisis

While the euro-crisis has resulted in a significant amount of misery and anxiety across Europe, it has prompted some European governments to do something the U.S. Congress will not do. In light of the economic situation many European governments are reducing the size of their militaries. Italy, Spain, Greece, and the U.K are all taking steps to reduce spending on military expenditure. 

Of course the U.K is the only European country to have contributed heavily in Afghanistan and Iraq, but even European countries that are not currently engaged in wars still have sizeable militaries. Ben Vickers from Bloomberg explained the odd size of some European militaries:

Between 2003 and 2007, Greece, with a population of just 11 million, was the fourth-largest arms importer, behind China, India and the United Arab Emirates, according to Sipri. Greece was the top client for German arms exports, taking 11 percent of the total, Greg Viscusi reports. The Greek military has 136,000 personnel – that is more than Spain but for a population a quarter of the size. It has been spending more on its soldiers as a proportion of its economy than any other EU member for ten years.

Why Greece, a country whose 21st century military exploits includes contributing one hundred and twelve soldiers to ISAF in Afghanistan and one frigate to the Libyan blockade needs a military of 136,000 people is baffling.

Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party presidential nominee, has pledged to cut U.S. military spending by forty three percent. Many might think this reduction extreme until one considers that such spending reductions would scale our military back to its 2003 size.The U.S. could easily afford to make these cuts and it is remarkable such cuts are not being considered in the current economic situation.

One of the main arguments for the existence of the European Union was that without some sort of political union Europe would eventually descend back into internal warfare. Anyone looking at the situation in Europe in the last twenty-five years can see that this argument is absurd. Thankfully, it looks like some European leaders are accepting that large established and mostly unused militaries are a detriment to economic prosperity. Too bad American politicians are not doing the same. 

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  • wareagle||

    isn't sequestration also a reduction on European military spending?

    With Greece the increase sounds like a new jobs program. Being a soldier seems a bit more noble than being a bureaucrat, and it is probably less dangerous given the country's adventures.

  • Lyle||

    Yep, Europe is a weakling. They're left to fight the good fights with only words.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    I'm pretty sure it's not the European nations' vast armies and armadas and air forces that are bankrupting them.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Personally, if I were living near Russia, I wouldn't demilitarize or simply defer to the U.S. to protect me. Because you never know what the future might bring.

  • Cytotoxic||

    This is dumb. Really dumb. Granted, Greece's military might be too big but this is the exception. All the European countries have pathetic militaries. One cannot have a serious country without a serious military-especially next to Russia. This will not fix Europe's woes and could lead to serious problems when America wises up and stops covering for them.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Say, is, um, Germany cutting its military?

  • Generic Stranger||

    Good question. Anyone else remember when members of the German .gov speculated that there may be war if the PIIGS didn't get with the program? They didn't come out and say that THEY would start it, but it's freaking Germany; they didn't really need to.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    Why would Russia do anything as stupid and economically suicidal as invade Europe proper? I could see some sort of "voluntary" union with Ukraine, but even to invade the Baltics would trash their economy. The only thing they export is oil, and it would be embargoed so fast the back pressure in the pipelines would blow up the pumping stations and flood them.

    All Russia ever invaded in the past was Baltic countries to get a warm weather seaport.

    I really am curious why you think Russia would be a military threat to Europe.

  • DJF||

    Because we have always been at war with Russian and at peace with Germany, France, Britain etc. Or maybe not?

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    Compared to the usual European norm of the last couple of millenia, Russia has been remarkably peaceful. Even the Soviet Union kept to itself pretty much, other than stopping a revolution in the buffer states every 12 years and trying to get a warm weather seaport in Afghanistan.

  • Sevo||

    Scarecrow Repair|7.17.12 @ 8:36PM|#
    'Why would *PUTIN* do anything as stupid and economically suicidal as invade Europe proper?'

    Dunno. I hope he isn't the power-hungry ignoramus he appears to be.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    Putin can't even beat up Chechnya very well. By the time the Russians care enough and have enough money to be able to do that, Putin will be long gone. Europe would have plenty of warning time if Russia actually did manage a competent rebuild.

  • Drake||

    Why would Russia want to conquer a continent of lazy, aging, constantly bitchy semi-socialists?

  • Generic Stranger||

    Europe is able to cut military spending because most of it lives under the US security umbrella. If we cut our military down to where we ought to, European nations would no longer have the luxury of spending so little on defense. At that point, they'd have to cut their entitlements or go down in flames faster than they already are.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    If the U.S. was providing their generous benefits, Europe could afford to spend less on those, too, during this time of crisis.

  • Paul.||

    Ahem, governments/budgets/revenue... always a time of crisis.

    No deal on budget crisis; special session set May 12

    By David Postman and Ralph Thomas

    Seattle Times staff reporters

    OLYMPIA — The Legislature failed last night to agree on a fix for the state's worst budget shortfall in decades. In a battle of numbers, a projected $2.6 billion deficit looked like it would outlast the 105 days of the legislative session and the millions of special-interest dollars spent lobbying lawmakers on the budget.
    The dispute will be settled in special session. In a meeting last night, Gov. Gary Locke and legislative leaders agreed to convene a special session May 12.

    Date of article: April 28, 2003.

    Pick a year, any year. *spins the wheel*

    2001:

    Olympic bombs

    A budget crisis greets the 2001 Legislature.

    By Roger Downey Wednesday, Jan 10 2001

    http://www.seattleweekly.com/2.....pic-bombs/

  • ||

    Right, the US is valiantly protecting Europe from...uh...Algeria? Itself?

  • Generic Stranger||

    Up until 1992, it was the Soviets. After that it's pretty much just been coasting on the status quo. However, nations generally need to have a defense force capable of dealing with both foreseen and unforeseen events, and right now few European nations have a military large enough to adequately defend their nation.

    Also, don't forget that just because Europeans have generally been playing nice for the past 60 years doesn't mean they will continue to play nice. That continent does not have a history of extended peaces.

  • ||

    Indeed not, which is why I am baffled that folks here are calling for more military spending by Europeans. Europeans are butchers. Seriously, why don't you give a drunk more liquor?

    Moreover, any European country that starts arming sets off a continental arms race, and as history teaches us, standing armies don't stand around long.

    European nations should be abolishing their militaries, not rearming.

  • Sevo||

    JerseyPatriot|7.17.12 @ 8:01PM|#
    "Indeed not, which is why I am baffled that folks here are calling for more military spending by Europeans."
    'Cause I'm tired of paying for their defense, that's why.

    "Europeans are butchers. Seriously, why don't you give a drunk more liquor?"
    Sorry, not my problem.

    "Moreover, any European country that starts arming sets off a continental arms race, and as history teaches us, standing armies don't stand around long.
    European nations should be abolishing their militaries, not rearming."
    You bet! Just let the US defend their lazy butts!

  • Generic Stranger||

    If the disarmament isn't multilateral (which it is unlikely to be), the countries that disarm will be defenseless against those that don't, and will become very tempting targets. That makes total disarmament extremely unlikely.

  • Paul.||

    Valiantly protecting Serbs from Croats, or Croats from Serbs, or the Serbs from the Bosnians or the...

  • Generic Stranger||

    That too. Forgot about the Balkans.

  • Fluffy||

    It's not that mystifying. The Greeks really and truly expect to be back fighting the Turks at any moment.

    They are nominal allies because we force them to say that they are, but under the surface they loathe their Aegean neighbor and there's a complete absence of trust.

  • ||

    The Cyprus Problem is never far from their minds.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Quite so - the Greek officers I spoke to were more concerned about the Turks than anything else...NATO fellowship be damned.

  • Sevo||

    LTC(ret) John|7.17.12 @ 8:00PM|#
    "Quite so - the Greek officers I spoke to were more concerned about the Turks than anything else...NATO fellowship be damned."

    Pretty sure NATO is now a solution in search of a problem.

  • Paul.||

    Using Greece as the example, it doesn't sound like they have much to cut. So while it looks all exciting in a look-even-they're-cutting-the-military way, it looks like it won't amount to much.

    Sure as Feeney notes, the Greeks (don't make me post that picture) don't do much with their military, so justifying 136,000 people might seem dubious. But think about it. 136,000 people. There are companies which employ more people than the entire Greek military.

    Hewlett Packard has 172,000 employees. You could essentially hand each HP employee an M4 and you could occupy Greece and still be home before Christmas.

    So if the Greeks cut their military by 50%, I can't imagine it would even have a statistically significant impact on their overall budget.

    But if it does, then if I were the Greek president, I'd simply cut the military by 90% and go full-bore European: depend on the US for my protection.

  • GILMORE||

    You could essentially hand each HP employee an M4 and you could occupy Greece and still be home before Christmas.

    THATS WHAT XERXES SAID! (old greek joke)

  • Gladstone||

    OT: Teh gaurdian thinks Batman is Romney.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/film.....CMP=twt_gu

  • Gladstone||

    So tell me if the US were to completely dismantle its military how much money would it safe?

  • Paul.||

    About 700 billion per annum.

    If you could magically cut all defense-related spending (which is politically impossible because you'd have to stop pension payments, veterans affairs payments and shut off the spigot of veteran healthcare) about 1.4 trillion.

    Source: Wiki "**eric is a fag**" pedia.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M.....ted_States

  • Gladstone||

    So basically the US would have a small surplus for like one year or two?

  • Gladstone||

    If you go for the full 1.4 trillion that is.

  • Sevo||

    Gladstone|7.17.12 @ 7:52PM|#
    "So basically the US would have a small surplus for like one year or two?"

    I'm not gonna look up the numbers again, but if the US totally abolished the military, I think it would fund Medicare for a year or so.

  • GILMORE||

    how much money would it safe?

    repeat this = IS IT SAFE??

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dG5Qk-jB0D4

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    I like that picture. Are you available for wedding photography?

  • GILMORE||

    Why Greece....needs a military of 136,000 people is baffling.

    Dude. Turks. They hates them.

    also (perhaps more rationally) = to protect the government from the people.

  • ant1sthenes||

    Maybe we should invade and conquer them. I mean, if we don't, someone else will, and why should Russia or China or some Middle Eastern power get all that plunder?

  • R C Dean||

    Why Greece, a country whose 21st century military exploits includes contributing one hundred and twelve soldiers to ISAF in Afghanistan and one frigate to the Libyan blockade needs a military of 136,000 people is baffling.

    If I was next door to the Balkans, and in a long-running territorial dispute with the Turks, I'd want a decent military, myself.

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