Greece, also known as the Hellenic Republic, has been a valuable member of the NATO alliance since 1952. A nation whose people are descendants of a long lineage of warriors and empires, Athens has long been a shield of the defense pact along the Mediterranean Sea.

Over the past year, due to Russian threats, various NATO members have pledged remilitarization and increased their military’s GDP spending. While most of Europe was caught off guard and realized they needed to progress towards a comprehensive security apparatus, Greece has remained one step ahead.

President Joe Biden greets Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in the Oval Office on Monday, May 16, 2022. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

From Disorganized to Professional

Before NATO’s existence in the early 20th century, Greece went through various unstable governments. The perpetual conflicts inside the Hellenic Kingdom and Republic would affect their military negatively, as various juntas and power plays would ensue throughout the century.

Initially having the most professional army in the Balkans pre-WWI, when the British and French forced Greece to join the Great War, the nation suffered a humiliating setback against the Kemalists in the Greco-Turkish War.

The Greco-Turkish War exposed Greece’s logistics and leadership problems, affecting unit cohesion between the pro-royalist and Venizelist officers. The war ended with a Turkish victory and the near collapse of the Hellenic forces.

In WWII, the Hellenic military was more organized and scored decisive victories against Italy, where Nazi Germany had to intervene on the latter’s behalf. Despite being pushed out by the Germans, the Hellenic army continued to fight in exile, and the Greeks led a successful partisan movement that expelled the Axis without troops from the US, UK, and USSR.

The growing relations between Greece and the West would help them achieve NATO ascension alongside their longtime geopolitical rival, Turkey, in 1952. Nevertheless, fatal flaws in Athens’ security apparatus, such as more coups, politicking, and not having an early warning system on the Mediterranean, led to catastrophic consequences for themselves and Cyprus in 1974.