Turkish nationalism prone to exploitation
It was no surprise when Iran and Russia, backers of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose brutality against the opposition in his country has been continuing unabated, reacted sharply to a Turkish decision to ask NATO to deploy Patriot missiles on Turkish soil.
Syria's reaction was also quick to come. It said that Turkey's request for NATO missiles was provocative. Neither of these reactions or criticisms can be justified or taken seriously when one bears in mind Iran and Russia's policy of furthering instability in the region by

backing the Assad regime's crackdown on rebels. On the contrary, the main reason behind these countries' criticisms and reactions over the possible deployment of Patriot missiles on Turkish soil is that they did not like seeing NATO demonstrate that it will not leave its ally, Turkey, alone when it faces a security risk due to the deepening crisis in neighboring Syria and the spillover effect on Turkey.

That Turkey's request for Patriot missiles from NATO has triggered a regional reaction is one aspect of the missile issue; the other aspect is that the request has provoked already strong Turkish nationalism.

In an attempt to assuage the Turkish public's reaction to the expected arrival of a foreign system, i.e., the Patriots, together with around 300 foreign soldiers from the countries or country that will lend Turkey those anti-ballistic and anti-warplane missiles, Turkish officials have stated that Ankara will have control over the systems. In other words, without Turkish approval, those missiles will not be launched and it will be Turkish experts who push the button to launch the missiles if necessary.

The Turkish government's attempts to suppress nationalistic fervor over the possible Patriot deployment have once again demonstrated the deep Turkish mistrust even of NATO, in which Turkey is a member. Above all, it has brought Turkish nationalism back to the surface.

Regardless of where NATO's missiles are deployed, firing them will be a NATO decision and only NATO and the country that supplies them can activate the system. For citizens who act reasonably, who controls the Patriot system should not be an issue as the operators from the nation that supplies the system should act within seconds to take out an incoming enemy missile. Hence, nobody can have the luxury of handing over control of the system to those who are not experts on Patriots.

The US -- the manufacturer of the system -- Germany and Holland are the three NATO countries that have Patriot missiles in their arsenals and one or two of these nations will provide Turkey with likely one Patriot system.

However, Turkish nationalism is so strong that Turks cannot think reasonably and rationally and thus are prone to exploitation by the country's decision-makers.

There is a close link between this argument of mine and Turkey's planned acquisition of costly long-range missile systems. US Lockheed Martin and Raytheon with their PAC-3 missiles -- identical to the Patriots NATO will lend to Turkey -- are competing with Russia and its S-300 missiles in Turkey's international tender to acquire 12 missile systems at a cost of about $4 billion. China and a European consortium named Eurosam are also competing in the Turkish tender, but the main rival systems in this bid are the PAC-3s and S-300s.

A US military delegation briefed Turkish generals on the technical details of Patriots several weeks ago in the midst of Turkey's negotiations with NATO to borrow their Patriots. Hence, with this briefing, the US has killed two birds with one stone in the sense that it has sweetened the US companies' Patriot offer. There is no problem lobbying to sell your products in the meantime.

It is also worth noting that Russia has also become uneasy with the fact that its chance at winning the Turkish tender has been reduced, as the Patriots to be borrowed by Turkey through NATO are most likely to be US-made. This has increased the chance of the US companies winning the tender with its PAC-3 offer. It is notable that the US has long urged Turkey not to opt for a system that will not be interoperable with the alliance's system, i.e., not the S-300s.

Turkey's top military procurement body, chaired by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, will meet on Dec. 17 to decide the winner of the long-standing long-range missile acquisition plan.

I don't think the majority of Turks will question Turkey's possible acquisition of such a costly missile systems because the decision-makers will easily sell the idea to nationalist Turks by

saying: "We can't even trust NATO. Here is a national missile system over which we have full control." Such nationalistic rhetoric will divert attention from the fact that when required, NATO supplies these systems to Turkey and Ankara does not have to buy costly systems unnecessarily.

LALE KEMAL (Cihan/Today's Zaman) CİHAN
Last Modified: 2012-11-27 12:00:01
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