Turkish missiles over Brussels, Paris, Berlin, Rome (and others)

Turkish missiles over Brussels, Paris, Berlin, Rome (and others)

The Ottoman siege of Vienna may have failed in 1683. But the Turks will soon be back at the gates (well, this time, the skies) of Europe.

Much to the pride of millions of Turks, the state scientific research institute, TÜBITAK, recently reported that its scientists this year would finish an all-Turkish missile with a range of 1,500 km, and, in 2014, another with a range of 2,500 km (no typo here).

The head of TÜBITAK said the order for the missile program had come from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. 

I read daily Hürriyet quoting TÜBITAK’s president, Professor Yücel Altınbaşak, as saying that “this is a most realistic project.” And I watched an engineer from TÜBITAK’s missile project group, telling state television channel TRT that “the Turkish missiles were more advanced than the U.S. or German missiles.” I felt proud. 

Yet I was curious and checked the world map. Put the country which claims to maintain zero problems with its neighbors and others at the epicenter of a circle with a diameter of 2,500 km, and here are some of the cities which may in the future see Turkish missiles over their skies: Athens, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Beirut, Brussels, Geneva, Algiers, Jeddah, Cairo, Copenhagen, Kiev, London, Milan, Moscow, Paris, Rome, Stockholm, Damascus, Tehran, Tel Aviv, Tripoli, Warsaw, Vienna, Zurich and Amman. 

I failed to guess which one(s) of these cities could be a security threat to Turkey in the future. But apparently, the Turco-Persian sectarian rivalry is heating up as Tehran already has the 1,300-km Shahab-3 missiles in its inventory. In any case, the move is just another indication that Turkey does not see its future within the largely inter-operable NATO and European security structures. 

Contrary to common knowledge, ballistic missiles often lack precision, can be intercepted and can carry limited payload (an average 500-1,000 kg). In comparison, a conventional F-16 fighter can carry a payload that if four or five times bigger and is considered an agile war asset. There is a big “but” here. Rogue states often tend to opt for missiles, calculating that these war toys can also carry biological, chemical and nuclear warheads. 

And the big question here is why should Turkey, which boasts a modern air force with highly deterrent firepower, need ballistic or cruise missiles? With which countries within a diameter of 2,500 km does Turkey think it may, in the future, have to battle? Which targets within a range of 2,500 kilometers may it hope to hit which it cannot with a 1,000-km missile? 

What justifies the earmarking of – possibly – hundreds of millions of dollars worth of taxpayer money for the Turkish missiles? Are biological, chemical or nuclear weapons in Turkey’s various contingency plans for future warfare? What’s the point of NATO membership, then? Does Turkey intend to leave the alliance? More importantly, what are the political deliberations behind this ambitious plan? 

With a delay of a few decades, Turkey is going along the path that countries like North Korea, Libya and Iraq tried in the 1990s – and Iran in the last decade. In fact, observers have invariably suspected a strong link between Iran’s ambitions for missiles and a future nuclear weapons program. 
For the moment, New York, Beijing, Seoul, Brasilia, Ottawa and Tokyo look safe and immune to future Turkish anger. But give Mr. Erdoğan another 10 years in power and Turkey might have another one with a range of 15,000 km by then. 

There are a couple of minor problems, though. Since Turkey is a signatory to the Missile Technology Control Regime, it may now find more difficult access to some of the “ingredients” necessary to make a missile. 

Second, I am not sure whether the punishing Turkish missile should be dubbed the Attila, or the Sultan Mehmed II. Third, and on a less significant basis, one triviality about the future Turkish ballistic missile could be that once shot and targeting, say, Tel Aviv, it may just be last seen over the skies of Edirne…