Niklas Anzinger – a Philosophy and Economics student at the University of Bayreuth in Germany – has kindly offered to summarize the debates taking place in Germany about the deployment of Patriot missile batteries and troops to Turkey. Anzinger spent seven months in Istanbul studying at Marmara University and working as an editorial assistant for Turkish Policy Quarterly.
On 14 December 2012, the German Bundestag voted on a mandate in response to Turkey’s request for NATO military assistance. The mandate references Article 51 of the United Nations Charter for collective self-defense in the frame of NATO integrated air-defense. The Bundeswehr mission entails: support of NATO for the defense of the Turkish population and Turkish state territory, air-surveillance assistance and the exchange of intelligence. The Bundeswehr forces are deployed in Kahramanmaraş – a town 120 kilometers away from the Syrian border – and manned by 350 active duty and 50 reservist soldiers. The soldiers will operate two Patriot-air-defense batteries equipped with the PAC-2 and PAC-3 interceptor [As a side note, the Patriot anti-missile battery is usually deployed with both the PAC-2 and PAC-3]. The deployment will also include two RS Fuchs, which are vehicles designed to rapidly detect Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical (NBC) warfare agents. The mandate includes support by German AWACS air-intelligence and is set to expire on 31 January 2014.
The mandate lists the potential threat from chemical weapons and ballistic artillery from Syria as the primary reason for the decision to deploy Patriot, but makes clear that the deployment is for “self-defense” and makes no reference to their use to help establish a no-fly-zone. The German Parliament believes that, for now, Syria remains unlikely to target Turkey with its chemical arsenal, but has thus far refused to rule out their use in an “irrational endgame” scenario. During the Parliamentary debates, Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere (CDU) and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle (FDP) said that reasons for the deployment were “alliance solidarity” and “deterrence”.
461 (out of a possible 555) Parliamentarians voted to support the deployment. 86 voted against the mandate and 8 abstaned. The conservative Christian-Democratic Union (CDU/CSU) and the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FPD) voted almost unequivocally in favor of the deployment. The Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Green Party (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) were also predominantly in favor of the deployment. The leftist Party (Die Linke), however, was almost unanimously opposed to the deployment and voted against the mandate. Die Linke Party-chief Gregor Gysi said after the vote that Germany has made herself a “war party” in an act of “invasion of the Middle East”.
Markus Kaim and Gunter Seufert from the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP), the most influential government-funded foreign policy think-tank, see “no strategy” behind the decision, and have called the deployment of Patriot a “symbolic act”. Kaim and Seufert argue that the ostensible threat to Turkish territory is “non-existent at the moment”. They also argue that if the situation were to worsen, the German parliament would be in a situation “dominated by other actors” outside of its control. Kaim specifies that the decision does not “end the murder in Syria” and the ineffective step might turn out to be an act of “complacency” of the German parliament. Michael Wolffsohn, an esteemed historian and scholar at the Bundeswehr University in Munich, even called it “a cynical moral compensation which makes no sense politically or militarily” because the the Syrian people are not being defended from the attacks by Assad’s forces.
I have argued that the deployment is necessary to reassure Ankara that NATO is committed to Turkish security. Moreover, it is important to remind Ankara of NATO´s importance for its own security. This reassurance is necessary, considering my belief that Turkish foreign policy has been drifting “between East and West” and has underestimated Iranian hegemonic ambitions. Moreover, it has alienated Israel – an important supplier of arms. I saw Turkey’s recent foreign policy as Erdogan´s and Davutoglu´s overconfidence in Turkey’s regional power. Moreover, I believe that the Turkish foreign policy establishment lacked a complete understanding of what was happening in the region. My hope is that Turkey might re-evaluate its stance towards Iran and in the best case the strategic importance of a military reconciliation with Israel. The first signs of this are becoming apparent: while Turkey actively blocked Israeli participation in NATO exercises and meetings, it now seems to have eased its reservations.
In Germany, the deployment of Patriot is seen with indifference because the costs associated with its deployment pale in comparison to Germany’s central role in financing debt relief for the troubled Euro Zone. Moreover, the deployment does not entail the same risks as those posed by the German deployment in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, the German public is highly averse to anything that could be seen as a bellicose act, or any move that could imply military action. If there is any truth to the allegations that Turkey will push (however limited) for a NATO-led military intervention, perhaps in concert with the US and the Netherlands, I predict that Germany would try to block these calls. For now, this scenario remains extremely unlikely, considering how distracted the American populace is with domestic issues and NATO’s emphasis on the defensive nature of the deployment. However, it does underscore just how difficult it would be for the Alliance to come a consensus on further action in Syria.