Turkey announced on Friday it had struck a deal to house a U.S. long-range radar system in accordance with NATO efforts to construct a ballistic missile defense system for Europe, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, Aug. 3).
Negotiations are in “their final stages,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement provided to reporters. Details were not shared regarding the planned location for the early warning system or at what point it would be deployed.
U.S. Defense Department spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said the Obama administration wants to see the radar station in place in 2011. Washington and Ankara, though, must still fully sign off on the deal, he said.
The radar station would be a key element of an envisioned European antimissile system, which is intended to thwart potential missile attacks from the Middle East. Over the course of the next decade, the United States plans to deploy increasingly advanced sea- and land-based interceptors around the continent. Those efforts would be folded into a broader NATO plan to link and enhance individual member nations’ antimissile capabilities.
Turkey’s warm relations with Iran , which is viewed as the most likely source of a missile strike on Europe, had for a time raised doubts regarding the radar plan moving forward. Ankara has objected to U.S.-led efforts to impose strict international sanctions on Iran over its contested nuclear and missile development work (see related GSN story, today; Associated Press/Google News, Sept. 2).
Iran’s defense chief on Tuesday blasted the radar agreement, Reuters reported.
"The West claims the radar system (in Turkey) is to confront Iranian missiles but they should be aware that we will not tolerate any aggression against our national interests," Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi was reported by state media to have said.
Turkey maintains the planned radar base is not aimed against any one nation, but that did not stop Vahidi from criticizing Ankara over the deal. "We regard the presence of America and the West as a troublesome and harmful presence for the Islamic countries," he said. Turkey is a principally Muslim nation.
Russia has also objected to NATO’s missile defense plans, but its representative to the Western military bloc said the planned radar base was not a threat to his nation. Moscow and NATO have held a series of meetings on the potential for collaborating on missile defense but have yet to reach an accord (Reuters, Sept. 6).
"The prospect of Turkey hosting a radar system which is an element of U.S. strategic infrastructure makes it even more urgent to obtain from the United States and NATO solid, legally binding assurances that their missile defenses in Europe would not be directed at Russian strategic nuclear forces," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement published on Friday.
"It’s also necessary to intensify and flesh out with real content the ongoing Russia-NATO Council discussions of the concept and architecture of a European missile defense system, inter alia, in terms of its impact on regional and global stability," the statement continued (Russian Foreign Ministry statement, Sept. 2).