Last week, the Obama Administration made a step toward implementation of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA), its four-phase ballistic missile defense plan for the protection of allies and friends in the European region. The Turkish foreign ministry announced its decision to host an X-band radar AN/TPY-2 in its territory. This is a welcome step in the development of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) ballistic missile defense capability, which became a core competency of the alliance in November. Data from the radar in Turkey will be integrated with U.S. Navy Aegis missile defense capable cruisers and destroyers deployed in the Mediterranean in support of the EPAA.
Turkey has been a NATO member since 1952, and it has been one of Washington’s most critical allies in the region ever since. It is situated at the pivotal gateway between Europe, Russia, and the Middle East. The radar will be deployed at the Kurecik military base in Turkey’s Malatya province in the east. The base’s unique location will allow the radar to track ballistic missiles of all ranges launched primarily from the Middle East (especially Iran).
According to the EPAA’s first phase timeline, the radar should be deployed by the end of the year. Given its transportability, this deadline should not be difficult to meet. It is essential that the schedule is kept on track, since the United States is already failing to keep pace with the advancing ballistic missile threat.
The AN/TPY-2 radar possesses a unique capability and must be permitted to make the greatest possible contribution to the ballistic missile defense capability of the United States and its friends and allies. This capability has been hampered by steps that the Obama Administration took during its first year in office, when it proposed to cut $1.6 billion from the missile defense budget. In addition, the Administration canceled or curtailed promising U.S. missile defense programs, such as the Multiple Kill Vehicle (MKV), the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS), or the Airborne Laser and the ground-based midcourse defense (GMD).
Whether all phases of the EPAA will be implemented on schedule will be resolved in the coming months and years. In light of the proliferation of threats in today’s uncertain, multipolar world, fielding a comprehensive missile defense must be a priority of the Obama Administration. Another unanswered question is whether the Administration will back off this agreement with Turkey, as it did with Poland and the Czech Republic—to make arms control agreements with Russia.