NATO to boost defense presence in Turkey after Russian violation
by Emre Özüm
ANKARAFeb 02, 2016 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Emre Özüm
Feb 02, 2016 12:00 am
According to statements a NATO official gave to Daily Sabah on Monday, NATO is in the process of increasing the military hardware deployed for the defense of Turkey, especially after the second violation of Turkish airspace by Russian jets in two months. The latest violation by a Russian Su-34 jet, which occurred on Friday and was addressed by Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in a statement on Saturday, has further exacerbated tensions in the Middle East, prompting NATO to improve its defense plan in the region. Further commenting on the matter, the official said: "We welcome Spain's decision to extend its Patriot [missile] deployment to Turkey in 2016 and we expect more announcements shortly."
The official further indicated the importance of Turkey's security in the region, saying: "All security actions indicate the strong commitment of Turkish allies to the defense of the country."
In a statement, a NATO official indicated the importance of a tailored security package, saying: "On Dec. 18, NATO's allies decided on a tailored package of assurance measures for Turkey that takes into account the volatile situation in the region. This package includes the presence of additional AWACS [Airborne Warning and Control System], increased air force presence, an increased naval presence and the inclusion of port calls, exercises and maritime patrol aircraft in the Eastern Mediterranean." The NATO Security Plan also involves "reviewing long-standing defense plans for Turkey and [NATO] will continue to augment Turkey's air defenses with defensive anti-missile systems," the NATO official said.
Syrian forces previously shot down a Turkish RF-4E Phantom, an unarmed reconnaissance version of an F4 fighter jet, which, according to Ankara, was on a solo mission to test its domestic radar systems when it was hit in international airspace after briefly entering Syrian airspace on June 22, 2012. Thereafter, the Netherlands, Germany and the United States had each sent Patriot missile batteries and soldiers to Turkey in early 2013 after Ankara called for aid to defend itself against attacks from Syria on its southern border. Ending a three-year mandate in Turkey, almost all NATO members, with the exception of Spain, withdrew their Patriot missile systems from Turkey, and NATO has agreed to keep Spanish Patriot missile batteries in the southern province of Adana for another year to protect Turkey from potential threats from neighboring Syria while other Patriot systems, which were located in Şanlıurfa and Gaziantep, were withdrawn. Some link the withdrawal of the Patriot missile defense systems from Turkey to Russia acting more freely in the region. The Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday that Ankara had summoned the Russian ambassador on Friday over the latest Russian violation of Turkish airspace.