Greece’s defence minister on Wednesday dismissed reports that his country would spend 10 billion euros on an arms overhaul announced at the weekend.
“It’s not a 10-billion-euro spending spree, let me make that very clear. It’s a series of very calculated, prioritised, smart moves addressing our needs to the maximum,” Nikos Panagiotopoulos told an Economist conference in Athens.
“We have to be very selective… we will not do it without limits… it will take place over time,” he said.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Saturday announced a major arms programme involving warplanes, frigates, helicopters and 15,000 full-time soldiers to be hired over the next five years.
New anti-tank weapons, navy torpedoes and airforce missiles will be secured, Mitsotakis said.
The initiative, which includes upgrades of another existing four frigates, is also designed to create thousands of jobs by pouring resources into the national arms industry, he said.
Mitsotakis later clarified that 12 of the Rafales would be pre-used, and did not put a price tag on the overall programme.
Athens was “engaged in discussions with potential strategic partners” for Greece’s state defence industries including airspace and shipyards, defence minister Panagiotopoulos said on Wednesday.
What appears to be Greece’s most ambitious military overhaul in nearly two decades was unveiled as it is engaged in a growing stand-off with Turkey over hydrocarbon resources and naval influence in the waters off their coasts.
The bitter row between the NATO allies has roped in other European powers, raising concern about a more widespread escalation.