The question is quite simple: Who would want to attack the “Western” countries? In other words, against whom will this project be implemented? Some people are worried that Iran or radical groups that may be able to seize power in Pakistan, Afghanistan or Yemen will carry out nuclear attacks against the West. However, such a worry does not exist in Turkey.
If the Turks’ lack of concern is the result of the Turkish public opinion’s misinformation, then the latter should quickly be informed. But if the risk is indeed small, and if we should really not worry, then someone has to tell us why such a system is necessary. If no one is capable of giving a concrete answer to the question “Who do we have to defend NATO countries from?” it may be easier to clearly identify the NATO countries that need to be protected. But if the system is to cover only some parts of the NATO area, then one can suggest that NATO’s priority is not to defend its member countries but only some parts of their territories. We can then ask another question: What parts of Turkish territory are important to NATO? However, what we keep hearing from the media is perhaps wrong and, who knows, it may be that all of Turkish territory will benefit from this protection.
Maybe countries at risk are not even NATO members and maybe the real purpose of the anti-missile system is to protect them. But, even if we imagine that the missile system is indeed designed to protect NATO allies alone, one needs to explain how a system implemented in Turkey will be able to protect US or Canadian soil. A missile fired from the “East” can be destroyed in many other parts of the globe before it reaches the North American continent. However, it seems that if it is destroyed before reaching European airspace, this will be more meaningful to some. It may sound odd when we say “European” airspace without including Turkey in it, but the impression we get from the ongoing debate is that Turkey is not considered European, but only a country that can contribute to Europe’s defense.
The missile defense system is part of another debate, too. Why is Turkey invited to take risks for Europe but not included in the EU, within which common defense systems are envisaged? It seems many people in Europe will be relieved if Turkey agrees to make its territory a shield. In fact, the anti-missile system has even become an instrument to sanction Turkey: If Ankara agrees, Turkey will be considered “Western”; if not, it will become “Eastern.” What if Turkey accepts the implementation of the system but decides to become “Eastern” later on?
If Turkey were an EU member, the controversy between NATO and the EU about this anti-missile defense system would not be very harsh. Besides, it would be easier to design common defense strategies, and the US’s technological superiority in this domain would not be very noticeable.
Turkey can still give its consent to this project, which may harm its relations with the East, knowing that the price to pay will be high. However, in order to convince Turkey to pay that bill, it should be persuaded that the long-term gains will be much higher. Because Turkey perceives no missile threat, one cannot convince it by promising more security -- but EU membership can be used as a convincing tool.