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Germany Supports Turkey in the Aegean Over EU Ally Greece

Germany supports Turkey
U-214-type submarine of the Portuguese Navy, Credit: Pedro Vilela/Wikipedia CC BY 2.0

Greece has decried Germany for supporting Turkey after Berlin’s decision to sell six new submarines to Ankara, even after the country’s hostile rhetoric.

In June, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias asked Berlin to stop arming a country that has repeatedly violated territorial rights of two EU member states, Greece and Cyprus.

Germany’s Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer rejected the Greek request saying that the sale can not be stopped or even delayed.

According to the German ministry, Thyssen, the company constructing the six type U-214 submarines is bound by a contract signed in 2002.

What is Turkey aiming at?

The Eastern Mediterranean is a region of grave geopolitical importance. It involves military bases, natural gas deposits, gas pipelines and submarine cables.

It is a sensitive, strategic area where both super powers, NATO and Russia, compete for decades.

In recent years, Turkey, a NATO member, is playing in both fields: Declares allegiance to NATO and asks to become a EU member, while at the same time purchases the S-400 missile system from Russia.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan makes territorial claims against two EU members, and then asks the EU to expedite accession procedures.

Now Ankara tries to boost its naval power by procuring the new submarines from Germany, a move that shows it wants to flex its muscle in the Eastern Mediterranean.

And this is not just to show Greece that it has the military power to achieve its unfounded claims in the Aegean, but also to take a better and larger spot in the international military and economic arena.

Turkey is boosting its naval power

Until now, Turkey was lacking in the maritime challenges. Even though its ground armed forces and air force have participated in armed conflicts in Syria and Libya, its navy has been lagging behind.

Now Erdogan is focusing on his bavy. Not only in the surface, but also in deep waters, meaning submarines.

The Eastern Mediterranean seabed has become an arena of conflicting interests, whether it is for natural gas and oil exploration, but also as an underwater highway for gas pipes and power cables.

Not only is it the conventional attack capability that makes submarines a fundamental war  component, but it is fundamental to a range of actions that submarines can perform.

Such actions range from protecting strategic infrastructure in the background to special forces and intelligence operations, both espionage and counter-espionage.

Greece is watching Erdogan beefing up his naval arsenal with concern, as the country’s submarine power will be outnumbered once the new German U-214-type submarines will be put in action.

Specifically, these submarines can operate without having to rise to the surface to access the oxygen that supplies the diesel engine (the so-called anaerobic propulsion).

Thus, the vessel can navigate underwater for weeks without being seen and with almost no sound emission. A technology that German engineers have focused on.

Greece has the same submarines

The U-214 project has been sold to Greece. The Greek Navy has four units of submarines in operation that are all equipped with these technologies.

However, Germany supports Turkey by agreeing to the construction of these vessels in Turkish shipyards and by selling this technology to Ankara, thus essentially eliminating Athens’ advantage at this particular moment.

Escalations in the Eastern Mediterranean show that tension between Greece and Turkey is always very high, especially when it comes to rights at sea.

With Turkey challenging the Law of the Sea and international treaties, claiming Greek territorial waters – even islands – as its own, the last thing Athens would like to see is a reinforced Turkish Navy, especially under water.

Despite Greek demands to halt EU military exports to Ankara, Germany continues to support Turkey.

Germany’s strategy is to avoid rifts with Erdogan, both on immigration issues and for strategic and economic reasons, as the submarine deal is worth several billion euros.

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