The reinforcement of military cooperation will be one of the axes of the VII Spanish-Turkish High Level Meeting (RAN) that will be held next Wednesday in Ankara, under the presidency of the head of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, and the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, The Spanish second and third vice presidents of the Government, Yolanda Díaz and Teresa Ribera, and the ministers of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares, Defense, Margarita Robles, and Industry, Commerce and Tourism, will participate in the summit. Reyes, Maroto.
Spain is one of Turkey’s best allies in the EU and the NATO partner that has maintained a battery of Patriot missiles on the Syrian-Turkish border since 2015. Turkey awarded the Spanish shipyard Navantia the design of an LHD amphibious assault ship similar to the Juan Carlos I which is due to enter service next year. The contract included the option to build a second unit of the same type, the Thrace, but this has not materialized so far. Turkey planned to use both vessels as platforms for an embarked unit of F-35 jets, but the Pentagon canceled the sale after Erdogan bought the S-400 air defense system from Russia. The Turkish Navy is now reorienting the operational employment of the Anatolia to equip it with drones. In addition to aiming for Ankara to execute the option for a second LHD, Navantia participated last August in the Idef arms fair in Istanbul, where it presented the F-110 frigate and the S-80 submarine, which it builds for the Spanish Navy.
The traditional dispute between Greece and Turkey for control of the Aegean Sea has intensified with the discovery of gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean, which has brought the respective navies to the brink of confrontation, although in recent months there has been a “De-escalated”, according to Spanish diplomatic sources.
In the midst of this dispute, the two neighbors have embarked on an arms race in which European countries are involved. Greece unsuccessfully tried to get Germany to cancel the sale to Turkey of six Reis-class submarines, with air-independent propulsion (AIP), for about € 4 billion. Greece countered with the purchase of three French frigates (with the option of a fourth) of the Belharra class for between 3,000 and 5,000 million.
France has not only become the closest ally of Athens (to whom it has sold 24 Rafale fighter jets), but also Turkey’s main European adversary. Last summer its warships were threatened in the central Mediterranean due to crusade support from Paris and Ankara to the opposing sides in Libya. In the arms race between Turkey and Greece, Spain has placed itself on the side of the former. Or rather they have placed it. Last June, Greece removed Navantia’s offer for its frigate program.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.