US, NATO Missile Defense Radar Goes to Turkey Instead of Bulgaria
Turkey has agreed to host the radar of the US/NATO missile defense system in Europe, for which Bulgaria was also considered as a possible location, a senior Turkish official announced.
"The deployment of this [missile defense] element in Turkey will constitute our contribution to the defense system being developed within NATO's new strategic concept and it will strengthen our national defense system," the ministry said in a statement released early on Friday morning, as cited by Today's Zaman.
The ministry's statement came in the form of an answer to journalists' questions by Foreign Ministry spokesperson Sel?uk ?nal, who noted that Turkey's contribution to the alliance missile defense shield had reached "their final stages."
As recently as June 2011, senior officials from the Bulgarian government indicated that Bulgaria would be ready to host the US/NATO missile shield radar if Turkey refused to do so.
At the 2010 NATO summit in Lisbon, Turkey formally backed NATO plans to build a missile defense system, saying it would also contribute to national defense against the growing threat of ballistic missile proliferation.
During its summit in November 2010 in Lisbon, NATO agreed to adopt the previously purely US missile shield project as its own. The summit did cast some serious doubts over Turkey's participation in the missile defense system because it insisted that its Muslim neighbors Iran and Syria should not be mentioned as a source of threat in the respective documents, and eventually prevailed.
Ankara insisted that the proposed system should provide protection for all territories of member states and that reference to any country would undermine the defensive nature of the shield by antagonizing countries singled out as a threat. At the end, the NATO summit endorsed the missile defense system plans without naming any country as a potential threat.
The deployment of the early warning radar which has been allocated by the US to NATO was confirmed during a meeting between Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davuto?lu and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as the two met in Paris on Thursday on the sidelines of a meeting on Libya.
Senior diplomatic sources told Today's Zaman on Friday that Turkey's expectations have to a large extent been met. The same sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the venue where the radar will be deployed had been decided upon, without elaborating.
A representative from Turkey will be assigned both to the command center for the radar to be established in Turkey and to the central command of the entire missile defense program, which will be established in Germany, the sources said. Turkey, which will be represented at the level of a general in Germany, will be one of the few NATO members that will have this position at the center, they underlined.
The officials also said no missiles will be deployed in Turkey as part of the program, while suggesting that the entire program will benefit Turkey since the early warning radar system will constitute a deterring element vis-?-vis ballistic missile threats.
Under NATO plans, a limited system of US anti-missile interceptors and radars already planned for Europe -- which includes interceptors in Romania and Poland as well as the radar in Turkey -- would be linked to expanded European-operated missile defenses. This would create a broad system that protects every NATO country against a medium-range missile attack.
Turkey has built close economic ties with Iran and has been at odds with the US on its stance toward Iran's nuclear program, arguing for a diplomatic solution for the standoff instead of sanctions.
But the agreement over hosting the radar comes at a time when Turkey and Iran appear to be differing on their approach toward Syria, with Turkey becoming increasingly critical of Iranian ally Syria and its brutal suppression of anti-regime protests.
"The to-be established system will serve in a defense-oriented capacity which does not aim at any offensive against another country. Ankara gives high importance to the fact that this defensive system will not only make a contribution to the NATO countries' security but will also contribute to regional and global security and efforts for disarmament in general," Turkish officials highlighted.
Back in June 2011, Bulgaria's Deputy Defense Minister Avgustina Tsvetkova said Bulgaria was likely to host elements of the US/NATO missile defense system in Europe instead of Turkey if Turkey refused to host them.
Turkey's position about hosting elements of the US and NATO missile shield, most likely its radar system, should be clear by the fall of 2011, Tsvetkova said back in June. Should Turkey decide against hosting part of the missile defense, then Bulgaria could start talks with NATO to host the same elements, she explained.
Tsvetkova did point out that for the time being there were no plans to station elements of the US and NATO missile defense system in Europe on Bulgarian territory. She reiterated the official position of the government, which insists that Bulgaria's entire territory must be covered by the future missile shield.
The past few months since the NATO summit in Lisbon in November 2010 took a decision to adopt the project for the US missile system in Europe as an Alliance-wide shield have seen occasional reports that Bulgaria might host elements the radar of the system.
The original missile defense in Europe plan of George W. Bush administration provided for stationing interceptors in Poland and the radar station in the Czech Republic. The modification of the plan by the Obama Administration switched it to sea-borne missiles and, later on, locations in southeastern Europe. Initially, there were reports and expectations that Romania and Bulgaria will replace Poland and the Czech Republic, respectively.
In May 2011, the US State Department and Romanian President Traian Basescu announced that the interceptor missiles of the future NATO/US missile shield in Europe will be stationed at the Deveselu Air Base near Caracal, Romania.
The System employs the SM-3 interceptor (also referred to as the "Aegis Ashore System") while the deployment to Romania is anticipated to occur in the 2015 timeframe as part of the second phase of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) – the US national contribution to a NATO missile defense architecture.
The US Ballistic Missile Defense site is approximately 430 acres (175 hectares) and is located within the existing Romanian Air Base at Deveselu.
Deveselu is about 50 km away from the Romanian-Bulgarian border. The closest Bulgarian location is the village of Zagrazhden between the towns of Oryahovo and Nikopol.
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