Senators Wary of U.S. Relationship With Turkey

A bipartisan group of senators on Monday delivered a letter to the White House voicing concerns about the U.S. relationship with Turkey, which recently agreed to host an early warning radar system as part of NATO efforts to protect Europe from missile attacks, Foreign Policy reported (see GSN, Sept. 14).

Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and other lawmakers addressed "concern regarding the Turkish government's recent foreign policy decisions that call into question its commitment to the NATO alliance, threaten regional stability and undermine U.S. interests."

Among the actions cited in the letter are Ankara's ejection of Israel's ambassador to Turkey and calling home its own envoy from Israel. Those moves followed Jerusalem's dismissal of any potential apology for the deaths of Turkish citizens during an Israeli military action against a flotilla heading to Gaza.

Ankara has also called off the 2011 NATO Anatolian Eagle air drill, which for 10 years has included Israel, and has prohibited Israeli commercial airplanes from entering Turkey's airspace, according to the letter.

"Mr. President, it appears that Turkey is shifting to a policy of confrontation, if not hostility, towards our allies in Israel and we urge you to mount a diplomatic offensive to reverse this course," the lawmakers stated. "We ask you to outline Turkey's eroding support in Congress with Prime Minister Erdogan at the earliest opportunity and how its current ill-advised policy toward the state of Israel will also negatively reflect on U.S.-Turkish relations and Turkey's role in the future of NATO."

The lawmakers were also looking for confirmation to Congress that information provided by the Turkey-based radar would be provided to Israel without delay. Leaders in Ankara reportedly object to such data sharing.

The Obama administration has said it has not agreed to any measure that would prevent sharing of radar information with Israel.

"There is an understanding that the radar is a NATO system that is designed to protect NATO from threats from the Middle East. It's understood that the U.S. has a separate and robust missile defense cooperation program with Israel," according to one high-level administration official, adding that an AN/TPY-2 X-band radar like the one being sent to Turkey has already been deployed in Israel.

"Data from all U.S. missile defense assets worldwide, including not only from radars in Turkey and Israel, but from other sensors as well, is fused to maximize the effectiveness of our missile defenses worldwide; this data can be shared with our allies and partners in this effort," another top-level administration official said.

However, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Sunday asserted that Israel would not receive information from the radar station.

"We will provide support only for systems that belong to NATO and are used solely by members of NATO," he said, calling contradictory claims a "manipulation."

Along with Kirk, the letter's signatories included Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.).

Kirk is also battling against U.S. antimissile collaboration with Russia, Foreign Policy reported.

The United States and NATO have sought to draw Moscow into the European missile shield plan, thereby allaying its concerns that the system would be aimed at countering the Russian nuclear deterrent. No deal has been reached amid continued disagreements about how such a collaborative effort should be structured.

Kirk said secret Russian activities, along with missile and nuclear collaboration with Iran, should preclude the Kremlin from any missile shield deal with the United States, according to a Sept. 8 memorandum to the heads of the House Armed Services Committee.

"The danger is that Russia will have access to America's most time-sensitive, real time missile defense data," Kirk stated.

"We remain convinced this could be a major win-win for the U.S.-Russia relationship and the Russia-NATO relationship," a high-level administration official countered. "But they remain skeptical on the impact of the system on Russia's security, so we have a lot of work still to do" (Josh Rogin, Foreign Policy, Sept. 19).

Meanwhile, U.S. defense contractor Raytheon is recommending installing its Standard Missile 3 interceptor on 10 European naval vessels, Aviation International News reported on Monday. The proposal is aimed at spreading responsibility for the European missile shield among a number of NATO nation beyond the United States (Chris Pocock, Aviation International News, Sept. 19).

September 20, 2011
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A bipartisan group of senators on Monday delivered a letter to the White House voicing concerns about the U.S. relationship with Turkey, which recently agreed to host an early warning radar system as part of NATO efforts to protect Europe from missile attacks, Foreign Policy reported (see GSN, Sept. 14).

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