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Cold War Years
TURKEY’S RELATIONS WITH THE U.S.A. AND POSSIBLE FUTURE DEVELOPMENTS (*)
Foreign policy formation in the United States is not always determined solely by military exigencies and Turkish-U.S. relations are affected generally from other overriding variable factors. There are four dates which signify turning points in the Turkish-U.S. relations. A review of what has happened on those dates would indicate the ups and downs of the Turkish-U.S. relations.
I believe there are four dates which signify turning points in the Turkish-U.S. relations. A review of what has happened on those dates would indicate the ups and downs of the Turkish-U.S. relations and how statesmen of both countries have addressed themselves to the issues.
The first significant date is January 18, 1927 when the United States Senate, by six votes short, rejected the Treaty of Lausanne under the pressure of strong Armenian and church opposition which prevailed under an atmosphere of partisan political struggle. The Treaty, which ran almost parallel to the other Lausanne Treaty signed between Turkey and her former enemies, sought to regularize Turkey’s diplomatic relations with the United States, ended capitulations and brought most favored nation treatment principles. At that time the Turkish reaction was expressed by Kemal Atatürk. As quoted by Ambassador Joseph Grew Atatürk said there was no foundamental reason why the United States and Turkey should not exist in complete harmony. He could not understand, however. «how it was possible in a country where culture and civilization form the keynote of the social fabric of the nation, that a fanatical minority could impose its will on an enlightened majority.»
This Congressional attitude, however, did not prevent the establishment of diplomatic relations, nor did it assume a permanent character of hostility on the part of the U.S. Congress, although anti-Turkish propaganda has continued on and off to blacken the Turkish image in the United States.
In the subsequent years it was possible to maintain mutually satisfactory relations because the basic objective of the United States was confined to the protection of its traditional missionary, philanthropic, cultural and economic interests in Turkey. Since U.S. was politically disinterested until the Second World War in the Middle East, there was no conflict of interest. During the same period United States was a good trade partner for Turkey’s traditional agricultural products. In the 1923-1941 the balance of trade between the two countries every year favored Turkey. From 1920s to 1939, the political non-involvement of the United States was a factor of great weight in determining the American role in the Turkish economic development. One interesting constant picture has been the nature of Turkish exports to the United States. Tobacco accounted for 73 % of Turkish exports to the United States in 1938 and in 1976 it accounted for almost 90 % of Turkey’s exports to the same country.
The United States was in the second place as the purchaser of Turkish goods, and seventh as an exporter to Turkey. Capital goods constituted fifty per cent of American exports. Outside one or two still-born attempts, U.S. capital Investments in Turkey, were negligible. The reasons given for this, lies more in the Turkish attitude towards foreign capital. The new republic, which was still under the shadows of the Ottoman capitulations, “tended to judge considerations of a national character from a political, rather than from an economical standpoint.” I believe this observation still maintains its validity.
In the international political scene there was not any major problem or conflict between the United States interests and those of Turkey. It might be worthwhile to mention, though, the United States attitude concerning the Turkish Straits. This attitude was initially formulated by President Wilson in his program for Peace of January 8 ,1918. In Point Twelve dealing with the Ottoman Empire he said in part: “… and the Dardanelles should be permanently opened as a free passage to the ships and commerce of all nations under international guarantees.” In early 1930s when Turkey became rather concerned with the security of the Straits due to the rise of the power of the Axis and informed the signatories of the Lausanne Treaty of its intention to revise the status, it also informed the United States. The United States then thought that it had no treaty right, direct or indirect with respect to the Straits Convention or any concern with the military and political aspects of the
problem. U.S. maintained this position until the end of the Second World War.
The United States attitude towards the Middle East and Turkey began to change somewhat during the Second World War. By the beginning of the War, Turkey had a clear idea of the intentions and ambitions of Stalin concerning both the Turkish Straits and the revival of Tsarist ambitions to reach “warm waters”. Turkey was also threatened by Mussolini and the expansionist danger of Nazi Germany. In order not to be dragged into the war from which Turkey had no chance of coming out intact and independent, Turkish leaders were forced to play the delicate policy of balance. On December 3, 1941 President Roosevelt extended “lend-lease” assistance to Turkey. In 1944 he declared that the United States had vital interests in the Middle East, although the British Government was held responsible for Allied actions in the area. The “lend-lease” was not made subject of an agreement between the two countries but during the War Turkey continued to receive American defense material and services. An agreement was signed only on February 23,1945 which stipulated that the aid would terminate at the end of the War, which was soon to come, and Turkey would be left only to whatever military aid she could get from Great Britain.
During the War, against Turkish worries about Russia, the U.S. interest was focused on the war with the Axis and Japan and a somewhat wishful-thinking prevailed about the Soviet Union. It is for this reason that the U.S. had a benevolent attitude at Yalta and Postdam towards Soviet requests concerning the Turkish Straits. Furthermore, the United States did not favor the entry of Turkey into active war against Germany. In 1944, the United States Chief of Staff indicated their approval in principle but warned that the United States should not be committed to military, naval or air support of any campaign in the Balkans. This was due to U.S. concentration on the Western Front.
The second date which marks another milestone in Turkish-U.S. relations is March 12, 1947 when President Truman announced his famous Doctrine in a joint sitting of the U.S. Congress. The proclamation of this Doctrine not only marked a change In U.S.- Turkish relations but in the global policies of the U.S. as well. I need not outline here at length the details of the developments that led to this change, but refer briefly to several points which culminated in the reassessment of the U.S. policies.
It was as far back as in 1940. Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov had proposed Germany as the Soviet price for collaboration with the Axis, a new regime for the Turkish Straits, with bases and provision of joint defense and had declared that the center of gravity of Soviet policy and interest lay in the area south of Baku and Batum. The Soviet policy did not change after the War.
During the Potsdam Conference, Soviet Union wanted to have the question of Straits and Soviet territorial demands on Turkey to be taken up directly between Turkey and the Soviet Union. While President Truman disagreed with the first, he agreed that the latter could be resolved between the two countries.
The change in the U.S. credulence in peaceful intentions of the Soviet Union did not come abruptly. First, change came in 1945 when the United States came close to Turkish view regarding the Russian demands on the Turkish Straits and in 1946, U.S. began to be interested in the territorial integrity of Turkey. On April 6, 1946 on the occasion of the Army Day, President Truman expressed U.S. interest in the Middle East area where he stressed no country had interests which could not be reconciled with those of other nations through the United Nations. The same day U.S. battleship Missouri was paying a visit to İstanbul. As early as in January 1946 President Truman was convinced that the Soviets intended to attack Turkey. Unless they were “faced with an iron fist and strong language, another war was in making.”
Soviet pressures on Turkey, which were conducted in keeping with Lenin’s famous teaching: “In a bayonet attack when you hit mush continue; when you hit rock withdraw,” did not disappear but rescinded in the face of the resolute attitude of the Turkish Government and people, and the reaction of the United States and Great Britain. The change of attitude of the United States did not originate from Soviet menace on Turkey alone. The Soviets had probably overplayed their hands in the entire area. Greece was immersed in a civil war, where the Communists seemed determined to take over, and in Iran they were attempting to set up pro-Soviet regional governments. It was the regional character of the Soviet challenge that actually led to American action to defend Greece, Turkey and Iran.
For a white there was a division of opinion in the United States concerning military support to Turkey. Britain had expressed its decision to abondon their military aid to Turkey. George Kennan, one of President Truman’s major foreign policy advisors was of the opinion that emphasis should have been placed on “firmness of diplomatic stance, not on military preparations.” His fear was that U.S. military aid might provoke Soviet aggression. However, the United States did in the end decide to come to provide military aid to Turkey. Kennan suspected that “what had really happened was that the Pentagon had exploited a favorable set of circumstances in order to infiltrate a military aid program for Turkey in what was supposed to be primarily a political and economic program for Greece.”
Nevertheless, in his message to the U.S. Congress on March 12, 1947 President Truman was announcing his Doctrine by declaring that the United States was prepared to assist both Greece and Turkey in defending their independence. If Greece fell under the control of an armed minority its effect on Turkey would be immediate and serious and confusion and disorder might well spread throughout the Middle East. For this purpose he asked an allocation of four hundred million dollars of aid to be spent for supporting the shattered economy of Greece and provide military aid both to Turkey and Greece. Deterrence against Soviet armed aggression had become one of the general goals of the United States foreign policy. Marshall Plan, Korean War, formation of NATO, CENTO and SEATO in the following years might be considered as concrete steps towards this foreign policy goal on which there seemed to be a general public consensus in the United States. As far as Turkey was concerned, Truman Doctrine did not have the effect of an alliance which the Turks felt was necessary for two basic reasons: First, the deterrence quality of the Turkish-U.S. military cooperation would be enhanced, and secondly, the volatility of the U.S. public opinion on matters concerning Turkey might once again play a trick and Turkey might have been abondoned. Therefore, Turkey looked on to NATO as an instrument that would secure alliance with the United Satetes. Disappointment was great when Turkey was left outside NATO when it was formed. The United States undertook only to “accord friendly and careful consideration to the security problem of the Turkish Republic.” European partners of NATO were also against the extension of the Pact to include Turkey. The objections that are being advanced today in some European countries against the inclusion of Turkey in the European Community were put forward between 1949 and 1951 against Turkey’s admission to NATO. These objections ranged from strategy to religion. However, Turkish participation In the Korean War and the skillful diplomacy that was followed culminated in the membership of both Turkey and Greece within NATO. Turkey looked towards NATO membership as establishing a definitely Western identity long cherished by Atatürk, considered U.S. alliance as the greatest and best support for Turkey’s economic and security problems and in fact gave predominance to Allied interests which were considered as Turkish interests as well.
The Americans were given almost a free hand, with bi-lateral executive agreements, in making whatever defense and security arrengements they deemed necessary, including permission to build military bases and allow U-2 flights and station nuclear warheads. The Turkish mlitary forces were standardized on American patterns and the entirety of it were placed at the disposal of NATO. During that period Turkey and the United States cooperated for the conclusion of the Baghdad Pact, which became after Iraqi revolution, CENTO. Turkey tried, with the Balkan Pact to provide some security to Marshall Tito. It is admitted that while Turkey provided full support to and laid emphasis on its relations with the United States, it ignored the sentiments and feelings of its neighbours, especially Arabs, and its action to organise a regional defense system under the Baghdad Pact became counter-productive with the extension of Soviet influence to the Arab World by-passing Turkey.
In the economic field, as from 1950, Turkey adopted the principles of liberal economy in the hope that integration with Western economies and the assistance to be provided by Turkey’s allies would enable her to achieve rapid economic development and increase the welfare of the Turkish people who had long suffered economic deprivation.
While Turkey had obtained the military support and cooperation from the United States both in the form of Treaty guarantees and in actual fact, there was a difference of understanding and concept regarding the sense of alliance between Turks and Americans. As Ambassador Parker T. Hart points out “arkadaş”, the Turkish word for friend and ally, literally means “the one who walks behind you” i.e. to protect your back. «For twenty five years the attachment of the Turkist people to the United States was that of the “arkadaş”, affectionate, grateful and ready for sacrifices. Yet, the United States looked on the alliance with Turkey not in this sense but in the sense of cooperation with a basically alien country for limited purposes. This conceptual difference as well as inability of the Turks to measure politics in terms of economy, created a number of difficulties. The United States was not prepared to underwrite the financial cost of a rapid development of Turkish economy. It was ready to provide whatever economic assistance it had to in order to keep Turkey away from economic collapse. In 1950’s Turkey’s attempts to bring American private capital in substantial quantities failed, and Turkey was led from one foreign exchange bottleneck to another. For various factors, the United States, instead of providing more assistance on a regular basis, pressured Turkey to reduce the rate of its economic development and change its priorities from more consumption to more exports and tourism. This basic attitude still continues to be a source of friction in the present decade.
The third date which is from the Turkish viewpoint a milestone and signify a change in the character of the Turkish-U.S. relations is June 4, 1964 when President Lyndon Johnson wrote to Prime Minister İnönü “…Furthermore, a military intervention in Cyprus by Turkey could lead to a direct involvement by the Soviet Union. I hope you will understand that your NATO Allies have not had the chance to consider whether they have an obligation to protect Turkey against the Soviet Union if Turkey takes a step which results in Soviet intervention without the full consent and understanding of its NATO allies.”
Only seven years ago when Soviet Union was extensively arming Syria, Turkey had taken certain defensive military measures along her frontiers. These measures had infuriated the Russians and in an interview on October 9, 1957 Mr. Kruschev had said that if a war broke out, Turkish resistance would not last even for one day. U.S. State Department has issued a statement the next day in which the U.S. Government had pledged itself that “if aggression took place against Turkey, U.S. would fulfill its obligations within NATO and aid Turkey with all its power.” Much had changed in the U.S. attitude.
Until the end of 1963 Turkey’s leaders had not only maintained their fullfledged and almost blind support of Western Alliance but at the same time had rendered service to U.S. interests in the region even though some of these interests had clashed with Turkey’s regional interests. Johnson’s letter, obviously written in haste, reflected a shift in the U.S. priorities and in assessment of threat resulting from Khruschev’s policy of “peaceful co-existence”, brought certain perplexities to Turkish minds on the very nature of its ties with the West and even on its own identitiy card. Questions began to be asked loudly in the Turkish public opinion whether Turkey had been placing too much reliance on Western and U.S. alliance, There is no doubt that President Johnson’s letter had initiated a chain of course corrections in the conduct of Turkish foreign policy, as well as certain new currents in Turkish domestic policies.
There are arguments that Johnson’s letter might have been given more emphasis than it really deserves. For some people, it is quite clear that on the question of Cyprus, the United States was bent towards supporting the Greek case, and Presidnet Johnson had chosen to blackmail Turkey to accept a de facto situation. On the other hand, the supporters of his action would claim that a Turkish-Greek conflict would in effect destroy the validity of the Atlantic Alliance in the region. Both arguments have certain justification. There is no doubt that there is a basic difference in the United States attitude towards Greece and Turkey. The existence and influence of the Greek community in the United States and intermingled economic interests, not to mention historical attitudes towards Greece, establish a special bond of relationship between Americans and the Greeks. This added dimension had been neglected by the Turkish public opinion since many years. Turkey and Greece were included together in the Truman Doctrine, Marshall Plan, NATO and even were made associate members of the European Economic Community and they were treated equally. As regards Cyprus, Turks had expected equal treatment, too. Until 1964 U.S. attitudes had been equitable. Turks were realizing that Western attachment to Greece was so dear that they might even put the position of Turkey into jeopardy.
Later on, I will take this subject once again within the framework of principles guiding the relations of Turkey and the United States.
The realization that both the United States and West European powers would not take concrete steps in resolving the Cyprus question in an equitable way, brought a shift in the conduct of Turkish foreign policy. By perceptible degrees Turkey abondoned its monolithic pro-U.S. and Western stance and entered into a phase of a multi-faceted policy. Turkey decided to respond favorably to Soviet overtures which had been continuing since Stalin’s death in 1953 for a rapprochment between the two countries. Turkey tried to improve its ties with the Third World countries, the Arab World and the Socialist bloc. I would call the period after 1964 a phase of disengagement in Turkish-U.S. relations. While NATO adopted the flexible response strategy, the United States began its low profile policies. In the process of detente that actually began to encompass relations in Europe, the American debacle in Vietnam, the advent of EEC, China and Japan, the changes in weapons technology, the rise of Soviet naval power were factors that changed the international climate and led to reassessment of international relations and strategic doctrines. In 1967 the renewed Cyprus crisis and the Vance mission partially satisfied Turkish objectives but these did not bring a solution to the question which flared up once again in 1974. I distinctly remember talking to an American diplomat on the day President Nixon signed Moscow declarations which initiated detente process in 1972. He asked me, “Now, that U.S. and Soviet Union ended the Cold-War what will Turkey do?”
The last turning point I will mention is 1974. Not July and August 1974 when Turks landed and carried out two military operations in Cyprus, but December 18, 1974 when the United States Congress imposed an arms embargo on Turkey effective from February 5, 1975. Once again clock had been turned back to 1927, The United States Congress under the influence of the Greek lobby had dealt a heavy blow on Turkish-U.S. relations. Atatürk’s incredulity in 1927 once again dominated Turkish minds. This time though, more effectively, because in 1927 there were no security relationships between Turkey and United States, and the two countries were not allies. In any event, the two situations had certain similarities. The Turkish reaction to the Congress’ action this time was more profound also for another reason. That is the pluralist nature of the Turkish society. This character had reduced the freedom of action of statesmen In Turkey in overcoming the harmful political implications of the embargo. Nevertheless, it was up to the statesmen of both countries to overcome the effects of the embargo motivated crisis in our relations. I would say they have succeeded by their sober and far-sighted actions and cooperation to eliminate substantially the crisis stage of our relationship, although it must be admitted that it will never be possible to return to the days of euphoria that prevailed during the fifties and early sixties.
By referring to four dates which marked substantial changes in the Turkish-U.S. relations I tried also to give a rough idea of the history of these relations during the past fifty years. To put it briefly, these relations turned from friendly relations between two distant countries, into a partnership and alliance which in turn became as George Harris termed it a “troubled alliance”. There is no dispute in both countries on the vital necessity of this alliance, but outside that, there seems to be many differences. It would be necessary therefore, to dwell briefly on the nature of national aims and coincidence of interests, point out divergencies and try to explain inherent and artificial influences that cause distortions in our relations.
In a Congressional document in mid-seventies the fundamental national security aims of the United States in the Mediterranean and the Middle East were explained on the basis of the following constants: General Goals: – Deter Soviet armed aggression against the United States, NATO, Europe and the Middle East-Project sufficient power to defend effectively if deterrence fails. Specific Goals: – Secure NATO’s south flank – Encourage stability in the Middle East – Support Israel – Maintain free world supply lines in the Mediterranean – Ensure continued access to Middle East oil.
From the United States point of view what is the roie of Turkey for the pursuit of U.S. national security objectives? Out of the debates complicated by lobby influences and public ignorance on details what should be clear ideas are somewhat blurred from time to time. I would like to quote a few excerpts from a speech delivered by Vice President Mondale when he was a senator in 1974. Senator Mondale was speaking in the heat of the opium debate. Proposing a total economic and military embargo on Turkey, Senator Mondale invited the U.S. Administration to give reconsideration to the strategic situation : “Our relations with the Arab countries have markedly improved” he said. “We are no longer clinging to the Northern edge of the Eastern Mediterranean. We are homeporting naval vessels in Greece which enables us to offset the expansion in the Soviet Navy’s Mediterranean deployment. Our alliance in NATO has done nothing to curb the Soviet naval build up in the Mediterranean even though their life-line runs right through the Bosporus…. It is important to recognize that we cannot use our bases in Turkey except when Turkey is at war with the Soviet Union. Otherwise they are worthless. During the Arab-Israeli war of October 1973, the Turks permitted the Soviet Union to overfly Turkey to resupply the Arabs, but would not let us use our bases to refuel our reconnaissance aircraft. This example of favoritism to the Soviet Union provides a measure of how much our so called strategic position in Turkey Is worth. In the remote case of a conflict with the Soviet Union, our bases would be used to support the Turks. We apparently do not consider this threat imminent since a good portion of the U.S. aircraft in Turkey are based half of the time in Spain. We do not plan to mount strategic attacks on the Soviet Union from Turkey. In terms of overall strategic nuclear deterrence our bases there are obsolete. Their real utility is to deter local aggression against Turkey. The Turks are not doing us a favor by letting us have the bases. It is other way round. The alleged strategic value of Turkey should no longer control our decisions in this age of strategic missiles, intelligence satellites, detente with the Soviet Union and rapprochement with the Arabs. It is not worth the kind of bargain in which we give Turkey almost a quarter of a billion dollars in economic and military assistance.” On the question of opium, Senator Mondale and his colleagues did not succeed but at the end of the same year they succeeded to impose a military embargo on the occasion of Turkey’s intervention in Cyprus using more or less similar reasoning.
In the military terms, the value o! Turkey for the U.S. is evaluated in a different way by military circles. Prof. Albert Wohlstetter considers Turkey’s presence in NATO useful at least for the following reasons: Turkey’s participation in NATO sharply increases Soviet force requirements for Bulgarian or combined Bulgarian-Soviet attacks on Greece. Even if Turkish forces were less actively involved, they would tie down considerable strength in the Black Sea, Balkan and Caucasus fronts. This could be true so long as the Soviets could not be sure of Turkish neutrality. As regards NATO’s southern flank, he says, if flanks are neutralized by political or mili-tary action, an adversary can concentrate more massively against the center. The defense of the center cannot be separated from the flank. Referring to potential role of Turkey in the case of a U.S.-Soviet conflict in the Middle East, Professor Wohlstetter points out that if the Soviets can overfly Turkey at will, they can cut out in half the time needed to deploy forces by air to an objective near the Gulf. Roughly the same time is true for deployments to Lebanon and Israel. Regarding the military and intelligence bases in Turkey, Professor Wohlstetter says: “lt should be stressed that we should not regard it as a choice so to speak, between technology and Turkey. Many advanced and continually improved technologies can be used to great advantage from facilities in Turkey.” Military circles also point out that Turkey’s presence in the Alliance, makes Russian supply lines to Middle East insecure.
From these two arguments which I tried to quote emerge some conclusions:
While there is some controversy regarding the continued value of Turkey to strategic interests of the United States, the primary cause of U.S. involvement is nevertheless a military one closely related to U.S. security objectives in the region, as well as those of NATO.
The motives that lead the United States to support Turkey within the context of the global and regional U.S. objectives may thus be summarized as follows :
- From the military point of view Turkey’s cooperation with the United States is essential for the defense of the South flank of NATO.
- From the point of view of S. interests in the Middle East i.e. defense of Israel and access to oil routes, unlimited Soviet passage rights over Turkey must be prevented.
- Since intelligence equipment and possibilities in Turkey are as yet needed for observing Soviet compiance with SALT agreements and for other military intelligence, Turkey represents another asset which the S. military establishment wishes to preserve.
- Finally, Turkey’s place within the Alliance makes Soviet supply routes to client states in Africa and the Middle East
These are the principal U.S. military and security interests in Turkey and others may be added by the experts. However, foreign policy formation in the United States is not always determined solely by military exigencies and Turkish-U.S. relations are affected generally from other overriding variable factors. These could be summarized as follows:
- a) Perception of Threat:
The euphoria of detente of late sixties and early seventies passed away with the post-Helsinki Russian attitudes and increasing Soviet military potential. But it is obvious that the Soviets are still upprepared to risk a major military confrontation with the West, even though they ore nearing supremacy in strategic and conventional weapons Short of direct and overt menace it is not possible to secure a consensus in the United States on political aspects of military requirements especially under post-Vietnam conditions. In the case of Turkey, political opinion differs widely; so much so that the anti-Turkish lobby even challenges the military value of Turkey for the Western alliance.
- b) Changes of Strategy :
In the global confrontation between the Soviet power and the West, new weapons, technological developments, political considerations, international climate have caused continuous changes in strategies of both the United States and the Soviet Union. As a consequence, Turkey’s role in the United States strategies also keep changing. I will not get into details of these changes because of the scope of this paper; but, let me suffice by mentioning the fact that the U.S. military thinking consider some Turkish military postures which were assets in the past no longer so, to the disappointment of Turks.
- c) Perception of Turkey and the Turks:
Again there is no common perception of Turkey and the Turks in the United States. For the people of the United States, Turks and their aspirations, character and culture are little known. Their image is continuously blackened by traditionally anti-Turkish forces which have ways of influencing U.S. public. In the absence of an effective Turkish lobby and propaganda in the United States and since the U.S. people do not consider Turkey as a «parent» country like the rest of Western Europe, the task of defending Turkey and Turkey’s image is generally left to the executive branch of the U.S. Government in the hope that they will be able to defend Turkey because U.S. needs Turkish alliance. However, as we have seen in the past U.S. executive branch may often be over-ridden under tense domestic political climate or when anti-Turkish lobbies may become effective also in the executive branch.
- Another negative factor has been the absence of a thorough appreciation of Turkey’s non-military role and capabilities in the region. The fact that Turkey has maintained a democratic form of government, respecting human rights, with an active free enterprise system, devoted to its economic and social development and full of peaceful intentions for her neighbours have received little attention in the United States, despite the fact that U.S. support of unpopular regimes in the world has led from one debacle to another.
- S. has shown a definitive interest in the economic development of Turkey and has provided substantial assistance which I will refer later; but neither in the economic sense nor in the military sense policies recommended, the amount and quality of aid were adequate to meet actual requirements for rapid development. I am ready to admit that on this subject a great part of the blame falls on the Turks for not having followed rational economic policies.
- f) There has never been, in the U.S. public and for a certain period in the U.S. Administration, too, an appreciation of the constraints imposed on Turkish foreign and security policy by the history and geography of the region, and Turkey’s objectives which became time to time counter-productive in Turkey’s relations with her neighbours or caused resentment in the Turkish public opinion. Some of these constraints are still not appreciated by the S. public and when these are translated into political action, there is an uproar in the U.S.
Having referred to the advantages and the negative aspects of Turkish-U.S. relations from U.S. standpoints, I would tike to tackle these relations from a Turkish stand point. I must caution, however, that the assessment I will present may be considered controversial by other Turkish participants.
At the end of the World War II, Turkey was faced with the following situation : Soviets were threatening Turkey with their territorial and political claims; the country had come out of the war impoverished, even hungry, although it had not actually fought; the Western type institutions which Atatürk had introduced into the country had begun to take roots; Turkey’s Western allies and the United States were the victors and they were destined to lead in reshaping the post-war world.The U.S. had committed itself under the Truman Doctrine to support Turkey against the Soviet menace.
All these factors led the Turkish leaders to search for military and economic cooperation with the United States, which was very eager and with Western Europe, even though they were not so eager. Turkey was ready to make every sacrifice in order to achieve full admission into the Western camp and pay for this purpose whatever political price imposed on it, in the hope that thanks to assistance to be received such sacrifices would be more than compensated with rise of standard of living of the Turkish people and security obtained. Turkey was also eager to turn its economy and political regime into Western patterns despite the reticense of the Turkish bureaucracy and historically rooted public opinion objections. U.S. advisors were brought in and U.S. military and economic aid was made available. Turkish Army was well equipped and trained on American standards and it was integrated in the NATO military structure. Turkey was admitted to the Council of Europe and NATO as a strong partner. Turkey was looked on as a bastion of the West.
In the field of economy, however, Turkey was constrained by several priorities she felt politically necessary to follow : with the exception of a brief period in 1930’s and in 1950’s Turkish «etatism» was the dominant economic concept which worked against and limited the growth of the private sector. This conceptual difference between Turkey and the United States may be considered as the primary obstacle for further development of economic inter-dependence between Turkey and the United States. I do not intend to try to explain the causes of Turkish «etatlsm» which has remained so strong and even grown until now. But, its use or misuse has substantially reduced the participation of foreign capital in the development of Turkish economy. In any event, the Turks have always maintained their suspicion and dislike for foreign capital.
Until mid-sixties there was a complacency in Turkey regarding Turkey’s alliance with the West and military and economic cooperation with the United States. It was taken for granted that Western aid would continue and the standard of living would keep rising in Turkey. This complacency and euphoria was so prevalent that Turkey ignored Russian overtures, cast a benevolent eye to what little advantages Greeks were trying to secure in the Aegean and took a distant view of the Middle East crisis to the chagrin of the Arabs.
In 1963 Turkey had signed the Ankara Treaty which, if faithfully carried by everyone, would give Turkey the right to become a member of the European Economic Community in 1995.
U.S. economic aid to Turkey began to phase out as from 1965. The Johnson letter which I mentioned earlier cast serious doubt in the Turkish minds regarding the automatlcity of U.S. support and help in case of an aggression by the Soviet Union. The honeymoon period was over but our alliance had to go on basically for two reasons: The alliance still had an appreciable deterrance value; and Turkey was so much integrated with the West and relied so much on economic support of the West that a major shift of its foreign policy orientation was not feasible without traumatic domestic results nor such a change was desired by the Turkish public. The «multi-faceted» foreign policy pursued after 1965, by its nature, began to bring several new constraints into Turkish-US. relations in areas where objectives of Turkey and the U.S. did not coincide. Turkey began to respond to Soviet attempts to improve relations by signing a cultural agreement and by accepting Soviet credits in order to maintain its industrial development as a supplement to phasing-out Western credits. Turkey began to give political support to the Arab cause and prevented U.S. military bases In Turkey to be used for the support of Israel in an effort to improve its relations with the Arab world. While the developments during the decade that followed 1965 did not cause a major change of course in Turkey’s objectives, the trauma of the military embargo which was imposed in 1975 and the ensuing alienation from the West in terms of political perception, led to an «identity» crisis in Turkey which is still continuing. The political spectrum in Turkey is sharply divided in the assessment of Turkey’s place in the Western camp. While extremist parties are vehement on taking Turkey out of the West, the center parties, at least for public image purposes do not wish to appear as ardently pro-Western. Consequently, the following differences have become vocal in specific Turktsh-U.S. security and political objectives in the region.
Security – NATO’s Southern Flank : There seems to be an identity of view in both countries as to the validity of the purpose. However, there are various conceptual and practical differences between the two countries. Several of these differences can be summarized as follows :
- a) The defense of Turkey : In the Turkish view point forward defense in Turkey is the most efficient way of achieving the purpose of securing NATO’s southeast flank. This can be obtained by maintaining an all round modernized and highly capable Turkish armed forces which could act as a deterrent. The allies therefore are expected to provide the necessary weapons Turkey need and assist Turkey in developing its arms industry. Otherwise, Turkey’s contribution in this regards can be only in the measure its economy permits.
The Western support for Turkey in this regard has suffered a shock with the embargo and has been sparing ever since. This may have been caused by the U.S. political constraint to keep Turkish armed strength in par with if not inferior to those of Greece; to force Turks to a settlement with Greece on their dispute in Cyprus and the Aegean, and to their belief that an attack on Turkey is not the first item on the Soviet agenda.
- b) Ever since automatism of NATO’s support for Turkey has become problematical as a result of Johnson letter of 1964 and the military embargo which is an action not in conformity with alliance rules but hostile in character, Turkey looks on to NATO as a factor of balance to the evergrowing Soviet power. Only such a balance can preserve conditions needed for the development of detente. Consequently, this concept constrains Turkey in supporting actions (a) that may not be fully attributable directly to NATO interests, and (b) may be considered harmful and provocative for the Turkish policy of detente and cooperation with her neighbours.
- S. Policy in the Middle East: The declared U.S. policy objectives in the Middle East, i.e. support Israel, encourage stability and maintain access to Middle East oil are not entirely identical with those of Turkish objectives and unqualified Turkish support for these policies cause a number of problems for Turkey. Turkish policy in the Middle East since 1965 is based on political support to the Arab cause by insisting on the evacuation of all Israeli occupied Arab lands, recognition of the legitimate rights of the Palestinians to set up their own state. Turkey does not want to become involved in problems among the Arab states, in their domestic issues. In order to ensure her oil supplies Turkey heavily relies on cooperation with Iraq and Libya. It is known that these two countries are the opponents of US. policies in the Middle East. Today, the existence of Turkey’s diplomatic relations, even at a low-key level, with Israel is subject of criticism in the Arab world. As a result, if U.S. oil interests and support of Israel in the Middle East involve confrontation with the Arab states .such a development is bound to adversely affect Turkish-U.S. harmony.
- S. policy to supply free world supply lines in the Mediterranean is in confirmity with the Turkish interests also. However, there are several differences between Turks and Americans as to the role each must play. Turks feel that they must not rely solely on the 6th Fleet but they must also have a fairly strong open sea navy to carry out their missions while politically oriented U.S. strategists tend to confine the Turkish Navy to coastal defense capability. Furthermore, political thinking in U.S. differ on the role Cyprus has for keeping Turkish sealanes open. U.S. also seems indifferent to Turkish interests in the Aegean with specific reference for keeping Turkish supply lines open.
Before taking up the future perspectives of the U.S.-Turkish relations, I must briefly refer to Turkish-U.S. economic relations.
I believe economic relations between Turkey and the U.S. must be studied under three categories : “trade”, “economic aid” and “investments”.
Earlier in my paper I gave some figures concerning Turkey’s commercial relations with the United States during the period preceding the Second World War. I now wish to refer to current trade patterns. The seventy percent of Turkey’s imports are formed by crude-oil and refined products (30 %), machinery (17 %) chemicals (16 %) and iron and steel products (9 %). On the other hand about 70 % of its exports are formed by cotton (17 %) hazel nuts (15 %), textiles (14 %), wheat and other cereals (11 %), tobacco (7 %), raisins (5 %). This traditional pattern of Turkey’s imports and exports finds reflection in Turkey’s trade with the United States. The United States received $191,410,000 dollars worth of Turkish products in 1976 which represents 9.8 % of Turkey’s total exports. This share dropped to 6.9% in 1977. 1978 estimate is 5 %. U.S. share in Turkey’s imports was 8.5 % in 1976, 8.7 % in 1977 and about 5.5 % In 1978. Turkey’s place in overall U.S. foreign trade is well under 1 %. The U.S. has the third place in Turkey’s imports and second place in exports.
There are significant difficulties in developing trade between U.S. and Turkey. Turkey is not in a position to provide industrial products in the quality and quantity required by the U.S. markets. Since U.S. is an agricultural producer, there are very few basic Turkish agricultural products in which U.S. is interested, chief among which is tobacco. The export of most of these products is also becoming object of competition with other suppliers. As regards U.S. industrial products, the American prices are generally 20 to 30 % higher than European and Japanese competition. Therefore, the import of capital equipment from the U.S. is more subject to provision of tied loans unless superior technology is involved. During the period when AID loans were available and Ex-Im Bank loans more readily available Turkish capital equipment imports from U.S. were higher.
In the period from 1946 to 1977 the United States provided Turkey with 2.7 billion dollars of economic assistance of which 1.2 billions were grants and 1.4 billion in credits. So far Turkey has repaid 648 million dollars of the credits. Furthermore, from counterpart funds U.S. enabled Turkey to utilize 1.5 billion Turkish liras for economic development until 1963, when grant aid was stopped. On the other hand, the United States provided Turkey with about 336 million dollars worth of Ex-Im Bank loans between 1946 and 1977.
In foreign capital investment in Turkey, the United States foreign capital invested in Turkey from 1954 to 1976 formed only 17.08 % of the total foreign capital amounting to only about 20 million dollars under the Encouragement of Foreign Investments Law. Therefore, the amount of U.S. capital in Turkey is rather insignificant and falls far behind European investments in Turkey. In the smallness of U.S. investments in Turkey one may notice several points : first is that Turkey has never been an attractive place for foreign investments despite periodic attempts of Turkish governments to improve the existing conditions and regulations. Secondly, Turklsh-U.S. relations have not been stable for a long period. Thirdly, the vulnerability of Turkey in the international area have limited private U.S. capital interest.
One last point, I would like to mention in this context, is the possibility of cooperation between Turkey and the U.S. for military production. There are several areas where existing Turkish facilities may provide excellent opportunity for replacing some Turkish military imports from the U.S. by local production with U.S. technological assistance. The economic implications of this cooperation will be significant.
SOME CONCLUSIONS AND FUTURE PESPECTIVES
- Currently the image of Turkey and the Turks is no so bright in the S. public opinion. This unfavorable image is created by a host of factors among which Greek lobby currently plays the biggest part and takes full advantage of the U.S. media.
- Similarly, the image of the S. in the Turkish public opinion has also been damaged in the past decade and a half. The principal cause for this damage is the perception of U.S. support of Greece against Turkey. The leftist and pro-Islamic political forces in Turkey have been markedly critical of U.S. behaviour all over the world, and embargo and other U.S. acts have also influenced the attitude of center forces in Turkey towards the U.S.
- S. interests in Turkey is basicaly security oriented and U.S. politicians, expect her in return for minimal economic and military aid to support changing U.S. policies and doctrines
uncoditionally, disregarding Turkey’s own constraints and policy preferences. On the other hand, Turks expect the United States to provide full economic, military and political support for Turkey because of Turkey’s geopolitical position. In other words, there seems to be over-expectotions from Turkish-U.S. cooperation on both sides of the Atlantic.
- It is obvious that in the formation of S. policies security considerations do not prove to be the primary factor once public opinion and the U.S. Congress becomes involved. In any event, security considerations and concepts are not static and subject to the degree of threat perceived. This perception, in turn, is basically a combination of military and political assessment. Under the influence of domestic political factors, potential threat is sometimes ignored or given low priority. This argument is valid both for Turkey and the U.S. In Turkey, security considerations still predominate, but they are now debated more than ever in Turkey’s history.
- In view of the existence in the public opinions of both countries, of hostile influences which affect public policies when issues are presented to them, and since delicate security relations must be maintained a heavy burden falls on the statesmen, and diplomats of both countries to keep the relations on their track. It is necessary to recall the spirit that guided the Turkish and S. statesmen in 1927 and to accept the role of quiet diplomacy.
- While it is necessary to increase the Turkish public relations efforts in the S. it is also incumbent on U.S. administration to assist Turkey which does not have an effective lobby in the U.S. For example, in 1930’s when Armenians in the United States wanted to prepare a film out of an anti-Turkish book, the U.S. Government could quietly pressure the film company to drop the idea. Today a “Midnight Express” is even awarded an Oscar.
Let me now turn to the future of our relations :
The most likely trend is the continuation of Turkey’s Western orientation which may eventually guide the Turkish destiny and give their identity to Turkey of the coming decades.
The most likely trend is the continuation of Turkey’s Western orientation. This trend may succeed only if Turkey becomes part of the European Community. In such a case it will be possible to give a healthy character to U.S.-Turkish relations on a long term basis, and increase the dimensions of our relations with the West.
What would happen if Turkey ceases to become a member of Western camp?
Ambassador Parker Hart thinks that if and when the sipirit of NATO alliance is dead «Turkey gradually will turn leftward because only a regimented philosophy and discipline will be open to it. In the age of socialist polycentrism, it could decide to become a Yugoslavia, seeking accomodation with the USSR and security by neutrality and strengthened Third World ties. It would be counting on the U.S. to recognize this that is far preferable to complete absorption into the Communist bloc.”
Dr. Scott Thompson of Tufts University, on the other hand, thinks that by the middle of 1980s Soviet Union might be able to take over Turkey by indirect means.
The third alternative discussed is that Turkey may be dragged into Islamic revivalism aligning itself with the Arab world.
I believe these observers are influenced by the tragedy of economic conditions and increasing political violence prevailing in Turkey. Although, both factors constitute bad omens for Turkey, the clock is not irreversibly advanced.
The greatest part of the Turkish people are determined to preserve their democratic and secular way of life and independence. If the United States and Western powers decide to show understanding for the assets that Turkey constitutes for Western interests and translate their understanding into political and material action by helping to ease Turkey’s economic and security problems, they will increase their own power in this region and at the same time will make it easier for Turkey to continue to share common values with them.
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Harry N. HOWARD, “The Bicentennial in American-Turkish Relations”, Middle East Journal, Summer 1976
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Jacob M, LANDAU, Johnson’s 1964 Letter to İnönü and Greek Lobbying of the While House, Jerusalem Papers on Peace Problems, 1979