Greek civil-military relations (CMR) have been fraught with tension and conflict for a long time, almost since the country’s independence in 1830. A high number of military coups and mutual mistrust between political elites and military officers characterized periods of civilian rule for most of the 20th century. However, and that is what makes the Greek case especially interesting, the restoration of democratic rule after the last military coup in 1967 has been both swift and successful. Ever since 1974, Greece’s CMR have stabilized along the archetypal examples of advanced Western democracies. Interpreting this impressive transformation of Greek CMR is an exercise that needs to bring together distinct factors: the country’s historical evolution, its political transformation, and its economic development. When in 1974 the Cyprus fiasco exposed the colonels’ regime as inept and incapable of defending the country’s national interests, the country was politically ready for a smooth transition to institutional normality. External factors, such as the prospect of European Union (EU) membership, assisted the country’s civilian leadership by offering Greece a path toward economic prosperity and political stability. For all of the country’s economic problems in the early 21st century, that path has been followed consistently ever since
Military coups happen for various political, economic, and historical reasons. A vast literature investigates the external factors that affect coup vulnerability, including interstate wars, security threats, regional spillovers, and foreign economic linkages. An even more impressive number of studies, going back almost seven decades, focuses on the domestic causes of military coups. These causes of coups can be classified under two broad headings: background causes and triggering causes. Background causes are those structural determinants that generally increase coup vulnerability in a given country and create motives for coup attempts. The most prevalent background causes concern the regime type and characteristics, historical legacies and cultural diversity, and economic conditions. The triggering causes are temporally and spatially more specific conditions that determine the opportunities for coup plotters. Various types of political instability and violence, such as popular protests and civil wars, can become important triggers. Additionally, the characteristics of the military organization and the effectiveness of coup-proofing strategies fall under this category. An extensive review of the cross-national civil-military relations literature reveals that very few of the proposed determinants survive empirical scrutiny. Three findings stand out as consistently robust predictors of coup activity. First and most notably, there is broad consensus that the “coup trap” is an empirical reality: coups breed coups. This finding is bolstered by the fact that military regimes are especially vulnerable to coup attempts. Second, income and wealth have a strong negative correlation with coup probability. All else equal, poor countries are more coup prone than their richer and more developed counterparts. Last but not the least, political instability and violence increase coup likelihood, although scholars differ on which exact type of instability or popular unrest is the most significant. Many other oft-cited factors such as colonial legacy, culture, ethnic fractionalization, resource wealth, and economic crisis are not consistently robust in global samples. This observation highlights the need for more metastudies to separate the relevant variables from idiosyncratic effects.