NATO: "That’s what the alliance of free nations
is all about."

By Kathleen T. Rhem, AFPS

WASHINGTON, Feb. 19, 2003 — NATO is sending several defensive weapons systems to Turkey to protect that alliance member from possible attack by neighboring Iraq.

"Today this alliance is providing equipment to Turkey to help protect our Turkish ally from potential attack from Iraq," President Bush said in a brief White House appearance with NATO Secretary-General George Robertson.

Robertson announced the alliance is sending airborne warning and control system aircraft, Patriot air-defense artillery batteries, and biological and chemical protective equipment to Turkey.

Officials have expressed concerns Turkey might come under attack if the United States engages Iraq militarily. Iraq launched Scud missiles at Israel during the 1991 Gulf War, and it has used chemical weapons against Iran and its own Kurdish minority in northern Iraq.

NATO is acting under Article V of its charter, which allows for the alliance to act in defense of any of its neighbors. Article V was invoked immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, when European NATO countries sent AWACS aircraft and crews to fly patrols over the United States.

NATO members Germany, France and Belgium originally vetoed moving to protect Turkey, but member countries eventually reached a compromise. Robertson today admitted it took some time to come to Turkey’s aid, but said the alliance made the right decision in the end.

"That’s what the alliance of free nations is all about," he said.