WASHINGTON — The Obamaadministration’s decision to take adierent tack on ballistic missiledeense architecture has opened avigorous debate in policy circles onboth sides o the Atlantic. For some,strategic reassurance in Central andEastern Europe and a tough line onRussia should have been paramountconsiderations. For others, near-termoperational needs and strategic lex-ibility are the touchstones. Few doubtthe need to address NATO’s exposure toIranian ballistic missiles o increasingrange and accuracy. Without questionthe new approach makes southernEurope and the Mediterranean thecenter o gravity or theater missiledeense over the next decade, withpotentially important implications orTurkey and its alliance relationships.
The Bush administration’s plan or mis-sile deenses in Poland and the CzechRepublic turned on an assessment o Iran’s commitment to the developmento longer-range theater and multi-stage intercontinental ballistic missiles(ICBMs). In recent years, Iran hasclearly made a substantial investmentin the development o missiles withranges in excess o 1,000 kilometers.This growing capability has reinorcedU.S., European, and Israeli concernsabout Iran’s nuclear intentions, notleast because it would make little senseor Tehran to invest in weapons o thisrange merely to deliver relatively smallconventional warheads with limitedaccuracy. That said, the Obama admin-istration argues that Iran’s short andmedium range missile programs haveprogressed more rapidly than its ICBMambitions. As a result, Iran’s growingstrategic reach is being elt rst andoremost in the eastern Mediterranean,southern Europe, and the Gul. NATO’ssouthern allies, above all Turkey, areparticularly exposed. The new missiledeense architecture is aimed ataddressing these shorter range “theater”risks.This exposure is nothing new orTurkey. During the rst Iraq War,Baghdad threatened to target Turk-ish territory with its Scud missiles i Ankara allowed the United States touse Incirlik airbase and other acilitiesor air strikes against Iraq. The threatwas reiterated at the time o Opera-tion Provide Comort (later NorthernWatch). These experiences and the tardy NATO response to Turkish requests orair deense reinorcements —repeated in2003—had a considerable infuence onTurkey’s deense debate. It spurred Turk-ish interest in cooperation with Israel’sArrow anti-missile program, and helpedto place air deense at the top o Ankara’sdeense modernization agenda.
The New Look in Missile Defense: ThinkingThrough Turkish Stakes
by Dr. Ian O. Lesser
September 28, 2009
Dr. Ian O. Lesser is a senior transatlantic fellow with the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF). The views expressedhere are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of GMF.
The Obama adminis-
tration’s decision to recongure
its missile defense plans in
Europe will have signicant
implications for Turkey and itsalliance relationships. The new
architecture will align more
closely with near-term risks fromIran and elsewhere, and willoffer improved defenses and
strategic reassurance to NATO’s
southern allies, above all, Turkey.
To capture the benets of this
shift, the United States and
NATO need to explore thepossibility of basing some
elements of the new system
in Turkey. With NATO, Turkeycan also play a leading role in
new missile and air defenseinitiatives in the eastern
Mediterranean. All of this willcast a spotlight on Turkey’s
policy toward Iran’s nuclear
ambitions, and looming
decisions on sanctions and the possible use of force.