Turkey agreed this month to host a radar system in its southeast that will be part of NATO’s missile defense system despite strong local protest against what is perceived as a concession to the United States.
The defense system aims to counter ballistic missile threats from Iran, a neighbor of Turkey’s that has predicated a deterioration in bilateral relations and regional stability if Ankara were to station the early warning radar on its soil.
The Turkish government insists that the shield isn’t targeted at any particular country.
Russia previously objected to the construction of the system, interceptors of which are built in Poland and Romania. Turkey is pivotal to the watered down version of the shield that was first proposed by the Bush Administration.
While negotiating a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia and hoping to “reset” relations with a former Cold War rival, the Obama Administration embarked on a conciliatory course last year which included a less powerful missile defense in Europe.
Turkey was hesitant to site part of the system while pursuing a “zero problems with neighbors” policy in the Middle East. It tried to establish itself as an interlocutor in negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program between Tehran and the West but the nuclear fuel swap agreement it reached with Iran in May of last year was rejected by other NATO countries which felt that the Islamic Republic was merely bidding for time.