from From the Potomac to the Euphrates and Middle East Program

Turkey and NATO

November 19, 2010

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Not a lot of time to post on the NATO summit in Lisbon today, but below is an excerpt from "Turkey Being Turkey" where I discuss Turkey’s concerns with the NATO missile defense system.

The next big issue on the U.S.-Turkey agenda is a proposed NATO missile defense system, that if it is developed, will have a radar component based on Turkish soil. The Turks are deeply uneasy about these plans, which will likely make for some turbulence in the run up to the NATO meeting in Lisbon on November 19-20. At the moment, the Turks have two demands. They do not want any country (i.e. Iran) to be identified as the “target” of the system and they do not want any non-NATO countries to have access to the intelligence used for the missile defense system. (Can you spell I-S-R-A-E-L?) Some Turks argue, unconvingcingly, that in the event of an Israeli or American strike on Iran’s nuclear program, Turkey, by dint of hosting the radar site, would be a target of retaliation. More persuasively, they fear that a military attack on Iran will destabilize the region. They saw this happen in Iraq, and they would like to avoid it in Iran. Ankara is also worried that sanctions and/or a military strike will disrupt Turkey’s plans to upgrade its trade relations with Iran, which the Justice and Development Party hopes will reach $30 billion in the next 5 years.

I have heard a lot of this before, but what seems different this time is the sense that Turkey is calculating the costs of its alliance with the West. It used to be issues like missile defense were hard, but because aligning with NATO was an identity issue, the Turks would ultimately sign up. Ankara is not walking away from NATO, and there will be a compromise—the Turks are not asking for anything unreasonable—but it seems clear that cost-benefit analysis is now the order of the day in Ankara.

Look out for a guest post on Yemen early next week.

Have a great weekend.

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