NATO Says Anti-Missile Defense for Turkey Does Not Open Door to Syria No-Fly Zone
NATO agreed Tuesday to send new American-made air defenses to Turkey’s volatile border with Syria, a boost to an alliance member on the front lines of the civil war and a potential backstop for wider U.S. or NATO air operations if Syria deteriorates further.
The military alliance’s approval of Patriot anti-missile batteries for southern Turkey represents NATO’s first significant military involvement in the 20-month-long crisis, even if at the very margins. NATO and U.S. officials insisted that the system is entirely devoted to defending Turkey and is not a precursor to military intervention in Syria. The system would provide no protection for Syrian civilians or rebels fighting to unseat President Bashar al-Assad.
“Turkey has asked for NATO’s support, and we stand with Turkey in the spirit of strong solidarity,” NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said following approval by the 28-member alliance. “To the Turkish people we say, ‘We are determined to defend you and your territory.’ To anyone who would want to attack Turkey we say, ‘Don’t even think about it.”
The Patriots will be part symbolic show of support for the NATO member most directly affected by the 20-month Syrian civil war and part hedge by the alliance against any future military intervention, something that has seemed highly unlikely until now.