Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Unguided Missiles

As James Traub points out in his most recent Foreign Policy column, Turkey currently aspires to be many things, some of which may ultimately contradict each other. Can one have rapidly warming political and trade ties with Iran while at the same time playing host to a new NATO-sponsored missile defense system that is squarely aimed at countering an Iranian threat? That appears to be the fix Ankara is currently in.

With NATO and Washington pushing for a new missile defense system, one that would make extensive use of Turkey's strategic geographic location, Ankara is now looking for ways to neither offend its neighbor to the east nor its allies in the West. In a column in Today's Zaman, analyst Lale Kemal takes a look at what appears to be Turkey's solution to the conundrum it is facing, which is to only agree to join the missile defense program if it doesn't name any specific targets. Is Tehran assuaged that easily? Perhaps.

Not joining the missile shield program is, of course, also an option for Turkey, but it would certainly only give only more ammunition to those making the case that the country is "drifting east," with more articles like this one certain to come. All in all, the missile defense decision appears to be one that crystalizes the difficult balancing act Turkey is trying to maintain while both hanging on to its traditional role as a reliable NATO member and developing its new role as a more independent and unconventional regional player.

More background on the missile defense debate in Turkey can be found in previous posts, here.

No comments: