Stop the arms race

It’s been 18 years since the Stockholm conference where Greece and Turkey agreed on confidence and security-building measures (CSBMs). CSBMs, widely seen as a first and necessary step in the peaceful resolution of bilateral disputes with Turkey, have regrettably produced little fruit. For one thing, the expansion by one month (September) of the annual July-August moratorium, agreed in 1988, on air exercises over the Aegean cannot be considered a sign of substantial progress. In fact, the driving force behind CSBMs is the summer tourist influx rather than local populations. CSBMs were designed to discourage military conflict and promote disarmament. However, even as the two foreign ministers met in Istanbul over the weekend, reports emerged on the countries’ continuing high levels of military spending. According to the report, since 1988 Greece has spent over $7 billion or 4.5 percent of its GDP each year on defense. Turkey’s annual budget stands at $11 billion or 4.8 percent of GDP. The respective figures are 1.5 percent for Germany and 2.6 percent for France and Britain. Greece and Turkey’s contribution to NATO pales next to their levels of military spending. Furthermore, the types of procurement and the troops’ deployment primarily reflect the scenario of a Greek-Turkish conflict rather than NATO’s overall strategy. Talks between the two countries should focus on reducing arms purchases. Any initiative for arms reduction will probably come from Greece, for three reasons: First, Turkey’s military superiority fuels Greek skepticism over Turkey’s peaceful intentions. Second, the military’s influence over Turkey’s political system makes such an initiative highly unlikely. Finally, regardless of the outcome, Greece will have shown its sincere intention to find a peaceful settlement to bilateral disputes.

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