Turkey Signals it Won’t Oppose Europe Missile Shield Plan

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said yesterday it was “out of the question” that his government would block defensive actions agreed upon by NATO states. His remarks appear to take off the table any possibility of Ankara seeking to subvert a proposal to build an alliance-wide missile defense system, the Wall Street Journal reported (see GSN, Oct. 27).

While Davutoglu filled in specific details on Ankara’s stance on the antimissile proposal, he did not provide any hint on whether Turkey would allow the installation of a U.S. radar base on its territory to support the system.

“NATO can develop defense systems by taking into consideration security risks,” Ankara’s chief diplomat said while traveling in China.

NATO members are set to vote this month in Lisbon, Portugal, on whether to adopt missile defense as a key alliance objective. That would open the door for connecting and augmenting systems now operated by member states to the military alliance, which requires decisions to be agreed upon by consensus.

The NATO summit comes as the Obama administration moved ahead with an intertwined plan for European missile defense, which entails the phased deployment of land- and sea-based missile interceptors around the continent as a hedge against possible short- and medium-range missiles launched from Iran.

“NATO is obliged to take into account the security of all allied countries,” Davutoglu said in remarks carried by the official Turkish news agency Anadolu Ajansi. “Accordingly, a system excluding some parts of Turkey is unacceptable.”

Diplomatic sources say that Turkey is the desired location, though not the sole potential site, for hosting missile-tracking radar technology due to its close proximity with Iran. Washington and other Western governments suspect Tehran of seeking a nuclear-weapon capability, an assertion strongly rejected by the Middle Eastern state’s leaders (see related GSN story, today).

Davutoglu added that Turkey would not see itself pushed to the forefront for NATO operations as was the case in the Cold War, the Journal reported.

“We do not have a perception of threat in our adjacent areas, including Iran, Russia, Syria and the other adjacent countries,” the foreign minister said. “NATO should exclude any formula that confronts Turkey with a group of countries in its threat definitions and planning. … We do not want a Cold War zone or psychology around us.”

Informed diplomatic sources said that that Ankara is requesting that any alliance agreement that comes out of the Lisbon meeting not single Iran out as a threat. The Obama administration, though, has highlighted Iran as a danger that necessitates antimissile deployments.

As a NATO member with warm relations with Tehran, Turkey has found itself in a delicate situation, not wishing to antagonize either side. Ankara also does not want to anger Russia, which has objected to U.S. missile defense plans in the past out of concern they would undermine its own strategic arsenal (Marc Champion, Wall Street Journal, Nov. 1).

“Essentially we’ve told Turkey that missile-defense is an acid test of its commitment to the collective security arrangements it has with its Western allies,” a high-ranking U.S. official said to the London Telegraph(Praveen Swami, London Telegraph, Oct. 29).

Meanwhile, Moscow is continuing discussions with the alliance and the Obama administration on planned antimissile deployments, RIA Novosti reported on Saturday.

“We have a special group, set up by the decision of the presidents (Dmitry) Medvedev and (Barack) Obama, that is assessing the risks of missile proliferation,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Vietnam, where he met with his U.S. counterpart, Hillary Clinton.

“This work continues both within our cooperation with the United States and within the Russia-NATO Council,” he added.

Medvedev is expected to attend the Lisbon summit (RIA Novosti/GlobalSecurity.org, Oct. 30).