Alexander Vershbow said objections by Prime Minister Tayyip
Erdogan's government had resulted in part from confusion about a
Turkish-hosted NATO radar. Ankara had been further assuaged by
alliance Patriot anti-missile batteries assigned to protect its
territory from Syria.
A leaked U.S. diplomatic cable from 2010 described the
Islamist-rooted Erdogan, under whom Turkey's once-solid ties with
the Jewish state have deteriorated, as worrying that the NATO shield
might provide cover for a threatened Israeli attack on Iran's
Addressing an Israeli security forum, Vershbow said there had been
"a lot of confusion" in Turkey, including over the similarity
between its NATO radar and a U.S. radar posted in Israel to help it
spot any ballistic missile launches by Iran.
"I think that there was misperception that somehow the NATO system
would be focused on the protection of Israel and that Israeli-based
assets would be part of the NATO system, whereas in fact these are
two separate issues," he told Tel Aviv University's Institute for
National Security Studies (INSS).
"So I think that issue has receded. It may still be a problem among
some parts of Turkish public opinion, but I think Turkey is now as a
government supportive of missile defense."
He linked that support to the fact the Erdogan government has "been
benefitting from the deployed Patriots now for more than a year,
deterring the Assad regime from firing some of its Scud missiles
against civilian population centers in Turkey".
Ankara agreed in 2011 to host an early-warning radar system as part
of the NATO ballistic missile defense system.
The NATO missile defense system, which Vershbow envisaged being
complete by the early part of the next decade, has encountered
fierce opposition from Russia though the alliance insists the plan
is not to counter its capabilities.
[to top of second column]
Vershbow chided Moscow for not taking up NATO offers to cooperate on
missile defense and for apparently ignoring the assessments of
Russian experts that the shield's technologies and deployment were
inconsistent with a threat on the country.
"This has actually been documented in numerous scholarly articles by
Russian generals and rocket scientists in Russian journals," said
Vershbow, a former U.S. ambassador to Moscow and Pentagon official.
"But the bad news is that Russian leaders and senior officials seem
to pay no attention to their experts ... Instead they continue to
beat the drum about the purported threat posed by NATO's missile
defense system to Russia's strategic retaliatory capability coupled
with ominous warnings of retaliation against a threat that does not
Among such messages have been media reports of new Russian missile
deployments in Kaliningrad, a western enclave of Russia lodged
between NATO members Poland and Lithuania.
"After some days of ambiguity they made clear that they haven't yet
deployed them," he told Reuters.
"There is expectation that they will replace the older generation
(of missiles). They have recast this system thing that they had
planned to do and they are characterizing it as a retaliation at
least in part to (NATO) missile defense."
(Writing by Dan Williams; editing by Ralph Boulton)
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