There are several weird elements in the missile defense drama suddenly being played out in Turkey. Alert readers won’t be surprised that two of those weird elements are Russia and Iran.
Seemingly out of the blue, Germany announced this past weekend that the German contingent of two Patriot missile batteries, deployed to Turkey as a defensive measure in January 2013 – against the threat of Syrian Scuds – would be withdrawn ahead of schedule.
Within hours, the U.S. had made the same announcement about the American Patriot missiles that were deployed to Turkey at the same time. The German and American contingents represent four of the five NATO Patriot batteries now in Turkey (the fifth is from Spain). The four units will be gone by the end of 2015.
The New York Times puts the abruptness of this move down to the delicacy of recent negotiations over U.S. use of air bases in Turkey for the fight against Islamic State. The NYT article – apparently conveying information supplied on background from the Obama administration – suggests that it would have jeopardized the priority of base access if the Turks had been told earlier, during negotiations, that the Patriot missiles were to be pulled out, at the behest of the Pentagon, due to the lack of a threat from Syria.
Instead, the U.S. kept the Patriot withdrawal a secret until the Turks had agreed to a base access proposal. Says NYT:
Four American officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a diplomatic issue, said Sunday that Turkish officials were livid when told two weeks ago that the United States was withdrawing the Patriots.
So the Obama administration continues to win friends and influence people.
Here are the main weird elements in this tale.