Your Ad Here

Friday, April 23, 2010

Turkish submarine program in place, Greece to sell one

While senior Turkish and Greek officials have voiced a wish to reduce their countries' defense spending, Ankara's major Navy modernization programs, including a multibillion-dollar deal to buy new submarines, remain in place.

The initiative to reduce military spending took off last month when Turkish state minister for EU affairs, Egemen Bağış, suggested the two neighbors cut defense spending.

"Greece doesn’t need new tanks or missiles or submarines or fighter planes; neither does Turkey. It’s time to cut military expenditure throughout the world, but especially between Turkey and Greece," he said in an interview with the Financial Times. "Neither Greece nor Turkey needs German nor French submarines."

The Athens government is presently experiencing a punishing financial crisis, while Ankara was only partly affected by the 2008 and 2009 global economic crisis. The combined Turkish and Greek defense spending in 2008 was 18.4 billion euros, according to NATO (6.9 billion euros for Greece, or 2.8 percent of its gross domestic product, or GDP; and 11.9 billion euros for Turkey, or 1.8 percent of its GDP).

Confidence-building measures

But nearly 15 years after the two former foes almost went to war over a sovereignty dispute in the Aegean, they have agreed on a fresh set of confidence-building measures, including strengthening contacts between their militaries.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and acting Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas earlier this month agreed in talks here on a number of confidence-building measures. "These measures will help bring our countries, peoples and armies closer," Droutsas said. "We should allocate our budgets not to arms, but health, education and welfare," Davutoğlu said at a joint news conference on April 8.

The latest measures include joint training programs at Greek and Turkish facilities within the framework of NATO's 22-member Peace for Partnership program. The contacts would also include visits by each other's chiefs of staff to give lectures at military academies, conduct joint research and visit staff colleges.

But there are still problems facing mutual disarmament. Turkey and Greece have territorial disputes in the Aegean and diverging views over Cyprus. The territorial disputes include differences on the sizes of territorial waters, airspace and continental shelf. The two neighbors' navy modernization programs are mostly designed to counter potential threats from each other.

Rival submarine deals

While some political obstacles remain in place, Turkey's defense modernization programs, including major Navy deals, are continuing as planned.

The Turkish Navy will buy six modern submarines, built by Germany's HDW shipyards and Turkish partners. The U-214 type submarines will cost nearly 2 billion euros under a contract signed last summer.

Meanwhile, Greece last month announced that it was planning to sell one of the four submarines it would acquire also from the German HDW. Greece hopes to earn some 350 million euros by reselling the first German-built submarine whose delivery had earlier been dogged by technical concerns, Greek Defense Minister Evangelos Venizelos said March 17.

In 2006, Athens refused to accept delivery of the submarine after Greek navy inspectors declared it defective during test runs off the port of Kiel. But the issue was resolved in talks earlier this year, with Greece agreeing to receive the vessels. Greece originally ordered the submarines in 2000. It is planning to sell the first one to an unspecified country and will likely keep the rest to bolster its navy.