By Samuel Burke, CNN
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen confirmed on Monday that the military alliance is expected to deploy Patriot missiles to Turkey's border as a preventive measure against spillover from Syria’s civil war.
Rasmussen told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that he anticipates that foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Tuesday would make a decision the same day and expects them to “respond positively” to the Turkish requests.
Three locations along Turkey’s southeast border with Syria have already been identified as possible locations for the Patriot missiles, which would come from the United States, Germany and the Netherlands, and would take just weeks to deploy according to Rasmussen.
U.S. officials tell CNN that they are increasingly concerned that Bashar al-Assad is preparing chemical weapons for use.
President Barack Obama has repeatedly warned that the use or mass movement of Syrian chemical weapons would bring a swift and dramatic response.
Rasmussen hopes that the Patriot missiles might prevent chemical weapons from being used.
“I do hope that the fact that we will deploy Patriot Missiles in Turkey will serve as an effective deterrent so that any potential aggressor will have to think twice before even considering an attack on Turkey,” Rasmussen said. He also made clear that the existence of stockpiles of chemical weapons in Syria is a matter of “great concern.”
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan told Amanpour in September, “If the slightest suggestion of such an attempt should emerge, not only in Turkey, but the attitude of the entire globe is going to change forever. And that's my biggest concern.”
NATO Allies are monitoring the chemical weapons closely.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying it would “not use these types of weapons, if they were available, under any circumstances against its own people."
But Rasmussen admitted that it is hard to know what the Syrians would actually do, given everything the regime has done during the 20-month civil war.
The Patriot Missiles bring along with them anti-aircraft capabilities, though Rasmussen maintained that they are not an aim at preparing a no-fly zone.
“I do believe that it will have a deescalating effect because the deterrent in itself will make it necessary for potential aggressors to think twice before they even think about attacking Turkey,” Rasmussen told Amanpour. He added that NATO has no intention to intervene militarily, saying, “I do believe that the right way forward, when it comes to the conflict in Syria, is to find a political solution.”
Syria has called the Patriot plan “provocative,” and its allies Russia and Iran have protested what they regard as a first step toward implementing a no-fly zone or military action against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Turkey Monday for meetings including with Erdogan.
A U.S. State Department official traveling with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the U.S. is supporting Turkey’s request for the missiles, and that the provision of a missile defense system should not be seen as a shadow effort to set up a no-fly zone or a safe haven for Syrian rebels along the Turkish border.