A letter by Republican Senators Jon Kyl of Arizona and Mark Kirk of Illinois to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta voiced objections to the stationing of a NATO missile defense radar system in Turkey. The Senators preposterously allege that Turkey is not a reliable US ally and, hence, demand that unless Turkey is completely removed from the system’s operation and its data collection and sharing, it should not be positioned in Turkey. The Senators further demand guarantees that data collected from the system will be shared with Israel, a non-NATO country, placing Turkey and its citizens in the cross hairs in the event of a shooting war between Israel and Iran, a risk Turkey should not have to bear.
First, the Turkish Coalition of America (TCA) categorically rejects the allegations made by the two Senators that Turkey is not a reliable NATO ally. The recent visit by Secretary Clinton to Turkey has demonstrated once again that the foreign and security policy interests of the United States and Turkey converge on nearly all vital issues in the region and beyond. The visit was testimony to the fact that the two countries are working side by side to address the most important challenges that this region and the world face today. It seems like the two senators’ real objective, reflected by their baseless accusations leveled against Turkey, may indeed be to jeopardize the current atmosphere of cooperation and allied spirit between the two countries, while pandering to domestic and foreign special interests.
Second, Senator Kyle’s and Senator Kirk’s statements echo the worst uninformed rhetoric about Turkey heard in certain circles in Washington, which may find partial support in the halls of Congress around this significant issue. TCA remains concerned that this kind of rhetoric may create serious contention between Turkey and the United States at this critical period in time, with spill-over effect on other areas where the need for close US-Turkey cooperation is paramount.
Turkey is a NATO front-line country in a challenging region. First and foremost, then, both the U.S. and Turkey ought to measure the wisdom of stationing this missile defense radar in Turkey against any impact it would have on Turkey's demonstrated ability to constructively engage its neighbors. Preserving this unique regional role of Turkey may provide the greatest peace dividends of all.