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Military Upheaval As Greek Government Staggers

The Greek government, staggering under what may be its terminal political crisis, stunned the country and infuriated the opposition by making sudden and sweeping changes to the military leadership.  From the Athens Times:

In a surprise move, on Tuesday evening the defence minister replaced the country’s top brass.
An extraordinary meeting of the Government Council of Foreign Affairs and Defence (Kysea), which comprises the prime minister and other key cabinet members, accepted Defence Minister Panos Beglitis’ proposal that the following changes be made to army, navy and air force and the general staff…
It is understood that the personnel changes took many members of the government and of the armed forces by surprise.

The changes were sweeping indeed: the Chief of Staff and the heads of the army, navy and air force were all suddenly replaced.

Greece was under military rule following a coup in 1967 until 1974, and the experience left lasting scars.  It is not clear why the government felt these changes were needed now.  There is some question as to whether Prime Minister George Papandreou’s government can survive until the weekend as a significant number of party members have challenged the decision to call a referendum on the latest austerity program.

The opposition reaction to the changes in military leadership does not allay fears that things are coming unstuck in the land of the Hellenes:

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) defence spokesman Margaritis Tzimas spoke of “an undemocratic act which is directed against national interest”, adding that “at the time when the Pasok government is collapsing, it is proceeding with … changes in the leadership of the country’s armed forces”. He said that his party would not recognise the decisions.

The world needs less drama from Greece; it doesn’t look like we will get that anytime soon.

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  • SteveMG

    It seems to me that the man on horseback is usually not a general.

    You can’t sack the entire officer corps, though.

  • Gordon

    I’m truly fearful for the global economy. I also fear for the future my children will have.

  • Mike Larkin

    It was the Athens News that carried the story, a paper I used to read during my many visits to Athens in the 70’s & 80’s.

  • Uncle Joe


    Joe Stalin pretty much did just that.

  • egoist

    May you live in interesting times

  • KevMo

    Greece still has a military??? Who knew?

  • Danny K.

    Those people have been playing with fire for way too long now. They have been a petulant and uncooperative member of the EU, they abrogate agreements such as the agreement with Macedonia, they pick fights with neighboring states. This is Karma.

  • SJM

    I am finding myself more and more annoyed with Greece. What the heck are they doing over there that they have caused so much havoc in the world economy? Is the Euro the worst idea ever in that it just made everyone susceptible to the fatal financial mistakes of other nations (spending MUCH more than they take in, just like the US unfortunately)? Someone please help me understand why this was a good idea. Why can’t they just be dumped from the EU? Too much to lose? Why didn’t this vote thing come up last week before the deal? Why would the PM commit political suicide like this? I hate all this instability.

  • Kevin M

    It is obvious that the Papandreou folks have utterly failed. That they’ve been allowed to go on this long is criminal. A military coup is preferable to their continuance in office. Hopefully, there is a better way to get a change in government.

  • Richard

    We and the Europeans would be better off without both the Euro and the EU. They are the remnants of De Gaulle’s anti-American policies. Why should German taxpayers bailout feckless Greek bureaucrats, so that French and Belgian bureaucrats make nanny state laws covering all the other EU states? The Common Market was okay, further integration has been foolish and should be abandoned.

  • Arty

    Finacial chaos, check. Rioting over cutbacks, check. Upcoming national referendum, check. Military leaders sacked and replaced, yes.

    If this wasn’t sophisticated Europeans, I’d swear a coup was in the works.

  • SDN

    I suspect that a coup was in the works; the government picked up on it and tried to disrupt it by shuffling the possible leaders away from their supportive subordinates.

  • Jiranz

    I was in Athens and under house arrest for weeks when the Colonels last seized power. There is no way the people will want to go through military law again. Their government is exercising democracy by allowing the people to make their own decisions by referendum while the military is kept in check. At least for a short time.

  • willis

    Boy, the world sure is losing its grip. Next thing you know prominent politicians in America will be calling for the suspension of elections here so Congress can have time to do its work without distraction.

  • dearieme

    “Greece still has a military??? Who knew?”

    American parochialism still flourishes, then?

  • dearieme

    “Their government is exercising democracy…”: I suspect that it’s getting its men into the top positions before it loses office.

  • Eurydice

    Everything in Greece is political. Papandreou has a 2 vote majority in the parliament and there’s only so far he can bully his party. Whenever there’s a political crisis the ruling party (PASOK for most of the past several decades) rearranges the deck chairs to achieve more control – it happens in the military and in the civilian ministries.

    There will never be less drama in Greece – it’s drama’s birthplace. What the world has to do is put Greece in perspective. Greece is responsible for its own profligacy, but it’s not reponsible for the flaws of the Euro, the ieffectiveness of the EU leadership or the poor risk management of the major European banks. Right now, everybody’s acting as if the health of the entire planet depends on Greece. But whether Greece accepts the referendum or not, whether Greece goes bankrupt tomorrow or staggers along for a decade, the greater problems will still be there. And then the world will be fixated on the internal politics of Italy or France or Germany.

  • Corlyss

    I think the EU requires at least a pretense of participation in whatever passes for its pretense “defense policy,” which to my understanding was, as far as it goes, “Let the Yanks do it.”

  • Mark in Texas

    The Germans tell the Greeks that unless they vote for austerity their debts will pile up so high they will blot out the sun.

    The Greeks reply, “Then we will borrow and spend in the shade.”

  • kcs

    First the referendum, and now changing the military leadership.

    What other surprises will come from this government?

  • Lambros Sarantakos

    Just to clarify things a bit, the talk about a military coup is simply ludicrous, surreal. Most officers here don’t think about coups, but about organizing parties for their soldiers with eastern european girls (preferrably Slovak or Ukrainian) and drinking whiskey (sadly ouzo is now popular only with German and Scandinavian tourists). Occasionally, they will rant about Turkish provocations. I served in the Army from 2002-2003, as in Greece military service is still obligatory.
    The heads of the armed forces were fired because the Papandreou family didn’t like their political views, that’s it.

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