Monday, November 1, 2010

Turkish Opposition To NATO Missile Shield Fuels Tension

A proposed $280 million NATO missile defense system upgrade is straining relations between the United States and Turkey in the run-up to a NATO summit in Lisbon later this month.

Turkish officials say they will only agree to basing radar components of the system on Turkish soil if NATO abstains from identifying any potential target of the system and promises not to share intelligence with non-NATO members.

The Turkish demands reflect a mounting divergence in US and Turkish foreign policy with Turkey no longer signing up to Western policies simply to align itself with the West but making a cost-benefit analysis a key element of its decision-making. As a result, Turkey is demanding a quid-pro-quid for its accommodation of the proposed missile defense shield upgrade that could put it between a rock and a hard place. If Turkey rejects the upgrade, it risks angering its US and NATO allies; if it joins the shield, it would upset Iran, a neighbor and major energy supplier, and could complicate its relations with Russia, which opposed the upgrade when it was first proposed by US President George W. Bush.

The Turkish demand that NATO refrain from identifying the system’s target strikes at declared US policy: a White House fact sheet recently described Iran as the threat the proposed shield would be designed to counter. Turkey, concerned that any US or Israeli military effort to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program would further destabilize the Middle East, further wants assurances that any intelligence garnered from radars on its territory will not be shared with Israel.

Analysts say the quid-pro-quid Turkey is seeking for possible accommodation of NATO is US pressure on France and Germany to reverse policies that are preventing progress in negotiations for Turkish European Union membership. They note that the agenda of a US-EU summit scheduled immediately after the NATO gathering features Turkish EU membership high on its agenda.

Some analysts suggest the United States’ perceived preoccupation with security risks posed by the Middle East and China at the expense of its past focus on Europe may help sway France and Germany, where calls for a new European security architecture that would put a greater emphasis on the role of Turkey as well as Russia are gaining momentum.

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