ATHENS, December 02. /ITAR-TASS/. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu who starts his visit to Greece on Monday will sign an agreement in military-technical cooperation, the Russian embassy in Athens told Itar-Tass.
The official program will begin on December 3 with a flower laying ceremony to the Monument to the Unknown Soldier on Syntagma (Constitution) Square in central Athens.
Shoigu will discuss military-technical cooperation with his Greek counterpart Dimitrios Avramopoulos and Prime Minister Antonios Samaras.
“I think Shoigu will put forward far-reaching proposals in military-technical cooperation to Greece,” Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov told a news conference at Itar-Tass on November 29. “The visit will be as always energetic, short and busy with concrete meetings and talks. There are no doubts that this visit will make cooperation between the two countries grow at a fast pace.”
Before the 2009 financial crisis Greece made large-scale purchases of Russian military hardware. In fact, it was the only NATO member-state that successfully developed military-technical cooperation with Moscow. The first large contract to buy the Russian hardware was signed back in 1998. Since then Russian enterprises have supplied to the Greek armed forces dozens of Tor-M1 and Osa-AKM air defense missile complexes, Kornet anti-tank guided missiles, Krasnopol-M1 guided artillery weapons systems and three Zubr small-size air-cushion landing ships.
In 1998-2001 Greece imported Russian arms and military hardware worth $1.1 billion and in 2002-2005 exceeded this volume. The S-300 surface-to-air missile system delivered from Cyprus has been deployed in Crete.
In 2008 the Greek government decided to buy 420 BMP-3 infantry combat vehicles worth over 1.2 billion euro, but this deal had not been translated into reality. The Greek Defense Ministry has repeatedly discussed with Russia possible purchase of spare parts, missiles and shells to Russia’s armament systems, including the S-300 missile system, Greece has in service.
Over the past several years Athens strongly reduced its arms imports over the economic crisis and the high national debt. In 2012 Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in its report on global arms for 2011 said the military import shrank by 18 percent from 2002 to 2011. In 2002 Greece ranked fourth on the list of the world’s largest arms importers, but in 2011 it slid down to the tenth place.
Greek newspapers reported that Shoigu’s visit to Athens would take place the week ahead of the first planned firing exercise of the S-300 surface-to-air missile system in Crete.