Turkey has officially agreed to house a U.S./NATO radar as part of the NATO missile defense system in Europe. Despite their love affair with missile defense, two Republican Senators may try to obstruct the deal.
The Senators, Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill), have already criticized the plan in a July 12 letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. The letter outlined four ill thought out conditions.
Condition 1: That the radar is deployed in a location “that will ensure the best defense of the United States against the Iranian long-range ballistic missile threat.”
Senators Kyl and Kirk proposed Georgia or Azerbaijan as alternative sites because in a meeting with a senior Missile Defense Agency representative they were advised that placing the radar in Georgia or Azerbaijan would be advantageous U.S. despite the fact that neither Georgia nor Azerbaijan is a member of NATO.
Moreover, given Georgia’s recent war with Russia, Moscow would see a radar in Georgia as a deliberate provocation and evidence that missile defense is aimed at Russia. Additionally, while the Senators consider Turkey’s delicate relationship with Iran to be problematic, they express no concern with Georgia’s pro-active pursuit of stronger relations with Iran.
Finally, by endorsing Azerbaijan, the Senators are simply repeating former Russian Prime Minster, Vladimir Putin’s Azerbaijan proposal, which President Bush rejected.
Condition 2: That the radar will be under the command of U.S. personnel only and operational 24/7, excepting routine maintenance and other U.S.-designated periods.
At the Lisbon Summit in 2010, the U.S. and NATO agreed that the “Phased Adaptive Approach” – the plan to place U.S. missile defenses in Europe- would fall under NATO’s command. As members of NATO, it is logical that that Turks would participate in control of the radar. Senators Kirk and Kyl did not make such a demand when the Czech Republic was considered for the radar.
Condition 3: That data collected by the radar be made available “in real time, to the state of Israel to be fully integrated into its battle management command and control.”
The Turkish government originally said that it would only accept the radar if the U.S. did not share the radar data with Israel, in light of Turkey’s deteriorating relationships with Israel and Iran. However, the Turkish government accepted the radar without this condition because they recognized that they could not prevent the U.S. from sharing such information with Israel.
Condition 4: That “Turkish entities are not engaged, or suspected of engaging, in any of the prohibited activities listed in the Iran Sanctions Act, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Divestment and Accountability Act, the Iran, North Korea and Syria Transactions Regulations, or that the Administration has designated all entities known to be in violation of such activities.”
Turkey has committed to abiding by U.N. sanctions but not the U.S.’s more stringent standards. If isolating Iran is the Senators’ top concern, then a more reasonable condition would be to encourage Turkey to accept the E.U. sanctions, which extend beyond those of the U.N. Turkey might be more willing to take on E.U. sanctions than U.S. sanctions and challenge Iran because of its aspiration to join the E.U.
“The Administration’s plans for missile defense will require the cooperation of Congress; the prospects for such cooperation are jeopardized if the Congress is not provided the information it requests,” Kyl and Kirk threatened in their letter. The U.S.-Turkish relationship is extremely important to the realization of U.S. missile defense and other security goals in the Middle East. Kyl and Kirk seem bent on jeopardizing it with overblown criticisms and impractical demands of Turkey.
Turkey has now accepted the radar. If Sens. Kyl and Kirk are looking for ways to hold the Obama administration accountable on missile defense, they should ask whether the Phased Adaptive Approach as a whole is cost-effective and likely to function in operationally realistic conditions.