U.S‑Turkish Alliance in Good Shape, Gates Says

WASHINGTON, Oct. 18, 2010 — The U.S.-Turkey alliance is built on fun­da­men­tal com­mon inter­ests, and the defense part­ner­ship between the two nations is as close as it has ever been, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates said here today.

Gates was the keynote speak­er at the Amer­i­can Turk­ish Coun­cil Con­ven­tion at the Ritz-Carl­ton Hotel. The Unit­ed States and Turkey are allies that have fought togeth­er in Korea, Koso­vo and Kab­ul, and remain allies even when they dis­agree, he said. 

“Even as our views and approach­es on some issues may dif­fer, we are allies, we share fun­da­men­tal inter­ests in the region, and our goals remain the same: A respect for sov­er­eign­ty and rule of law; eco­nom­ic growth and devel­op­ment; and endur­ing sta­bil­i­ty and secu­ri­ty,” Gates said. 

Turkey is a stal­wart NATO ally and has 1,700 troops in Afghanistan. Gates thanked Turkey for lead­ing the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force in the past and for extend­ing its com­mand of the Kab­ul Region­al Com­mand for anoth­er year. Gates also com­pli­ment­ed Turkey for its engage­ment with Iraq. He said Turk­ish lead­ers reg­u­lar­ly work with Iraqis “to rein­force that nation’s emerg­ing democ­ra­cy, encour­ag­ing nation­al rec­on­cil­i­a­tion ini­tia­tives and work­ing to rebuild defense and secu­ri­ty ties with the Iraqi Secu­ri­ty Forces.” 

The sec­re­tary reaf­firmed the U.S. pledge to con­front the PKK -– a Kur­dish ter­ror­ist group that has tar­get­ed Turkey, as well as its offi­cials and military. 

“In response to the rise in PKK ter­ror­ist attacks against Turk­ish mil­i­tary forces and civil­ians over the past year, the U.S. has increased its efforts to crack down on PKK crim­i­nal enter­pris­es, enhanced its intel­li­gence sup­port, and reached out to our Euro­pean allies to encour­age them to freeze PKK assets in Europe,” he said. 

Gates also touched upon the need for NATO reform, and urged all NATO nations to sup­port the new strate­gic con­cept that heads of state will dis­cuss and vote on at next month’s Lis­bon Sum­mit in Portugal. 

The threats have changed over the years, Gates said, and NATO must change too. “Reflect­ing this strate­gic real­i­ty, NATO is now pur­su­ing new mis­sions far from its orig­i­nal geo­graph­ic bound­aries –- whether in the hills of the Hin­du Kush or off the coast of Soma­lia,” the sec­re­tary said. 

NATO is chang­ing oper­a­tional­ly, Gates said. How­ev­er, like the Defense Depart­ment, he added, the alliance requires struc­tur­al reform. 

“The alliance has long had too many com­mit­tees, too many head­quar­ters and too much bureau­cra­cy over­see­ing too few deploy­able and prop­er­ly resourced mil­i­tary capa­bil­i­ties,” he said. “To some degree, the insti­tu­tion­al reforms being pur­sued at NATO reflect many of the changes under­way in our own Depart­ment of Defense -– all for the pur­pose of reduc­ing over­head and shift­ing more resources to our fight­ing forces.” 

Gates also wants the NATO allies to agree to take up the phased adap­tive approach to mis­sile defense. Rogue states, such as Iran, can launch mis­siles against NATO allies, he said. “Two-and-a-half years ago in Bucharest, NATO’s heads of state and gov­ern­ment rec­og­nized the need for an alliance-wide response to the threat of bal­lis­tic mis­siles in the hands of those who might seek to intim­i­date or harm NATO,” he said. “We resolved then to devel­op options that could extend cov­er­age to all Euro­pean allied ter­ri­to­ry and pop­u­la­tions, a res­o­lu­tion echoed at sub­se­quent high-lev­el meetings.” 

The phased adap­tive approach, Gates said, offers a ter­ri­to­r­i­al mis­sile defense sys­tem based on proven tech­nolo­gies that can be adapt­ed to meet future dan­gers and pro­tect a steadi­ly increas­ing swath of NATO territory. 

“As the threat from bal­lis­tic mis­siles grows, so will the scope and effec­tive­ness of NATO’s defens­es against them,” he said. “Our object is the fullest-pos­si­ble cov­er­age of NATO allies and, over time, to pro­vide cov­er­age for all of NATO.” 

The first phase becomes oper­a­tional next year, Gates said, with sea-based SM‑3 inter­cep­tor mis­siles deployed to areas where the threat is great­est. The sec­ond phase, due in 2015, involves plac­ing upgrad­ed, ground-based SM-3s in Roma­nia as well as at sea. 

“Phas­es three and four will deploy even more advanced inter­cep­tors, includ­ing a sec­ond land-based inter­cep­tor site in Poland,” he said. “Over­all, this approach pro­vides the alliance with a great deal of flex­i­bil­i­ty to pro­tect against the range of threats posed by bal­lis­tic mis­siles, and to adapt as new threats devel­op and old ones recede.” 

Gates said he wants to keep the U.S.-Turkish rela­tion­ship on track. 

“The Unit­ed States and Turkey have wise­ly remem­bered our friend­ship dur­ing times of agree­ment and dis­agree­ment, and it is incum­bent for us to con­tin­ue to do so,” he said. “There is too much at stake for us not to do so –- for our pros­per­i­ty, for our secu­ri­ty, and for the cred­i­bil­i­ty of our alliance.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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