On May 20, 1989, a top-of-the-line Soviet MiG-29 fighter evaded pursuing Soviet interceptors and landed at Trabzon airport in northern Turkey. An apparent intelligence bonanza had literally landed in NATO’s lap. Though a regular exhibit at Western air shows and sold to India, Iraq, Yugoslavia and other countries, the MiG-29 had never been closely inspected by the US. Within 36 hours, however, the plane and its weaponry were on their way back to the Soviet Union, despite a personal entreaty from Adm. William Crowe, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to General Necip Torumtay, his Turkish counterpart.

Members of Congress wrote Secretary of State James Baker that Turkey’s rejection of the US request was “unacceptable for a member of NATO receiving millions of dollars in aid.” A State Department official later noted understandingly that the Turkish decision to return the plane immediately may have been to defuse the growing controversy in Turkey over how the plane had managed to evade air defenses. “If occasionally Turkey didn’t behave in this manner,” he concluded, “we would virtually forget the realities under which Turkish foreign policy operates.” [1]

A further reminder of these realities came a week later, during meetings of the North Atlantic Assembly. Vice Adm. Güven Erkaya of the Turkish General Staff noted that while Europe was moving to disarm, Turkey still had its long border with the Soviet Union. Its southern neighbors, moreover, now had long-range missiles in their arsenals. Glasnost and perestroika, Erkaya declared, provoked hard questions about Turkey’s NATO role. Anti-communism, the historic basis for its place in the Western alliance, was eroding and Europe was resisting Turkey’s drive to integrate its economy with those of the EEC countries. “If Europe excludes Turkey from its moves toward political, economic and military integration under the twin umbrellas of the Western European Union and the European Economic Community,” he asked, “how will Turkey’s security be maintained? Is it in the global interests of the West for Turkey to be gradually pulled into regional crises and disputes?” [2]

This dilemma stands in contrast to the apparent certainties of the new Cold War of the 1980s, after the Iranian revolution and the Soviet intervention into Afghanistan. Ronald Reagan spoke of bringing US-Turkish ties “back to the period of the fifties.” [3] The new military regime in Ankara was only too happy for such unstinting US support at a time when the September 1980 coup and the repression that followed had soured relations with Europe.

Washington increased economic and military assistance. Stronger ties with Ankara translated into expanded US military facilities and weapons inventory on Turkish soil. In 1983, Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle termed US relations with Turkey as “the largest, most productive and least understood program in Southern Europe.” [4] Incirlik airbase, in southern Turkey, the most important US military facility between Italy and South Korea, resumed operations as a NATO alert base. Thirty-two US F-16 fighters, up from the 18 older F-4 Phantoms prior to 1980, are now based at Incirlik, some of them on constant runway alert — the same level of readiness as US-based ICBMs, cruise missiles and some bombers in Europe. [5] Turkey ranks fourth in the number of US nuclear weapons deployed overseas — some 489 in 1985. [6] There are four MUNSS (munitions support squadrons, or nuclear bomb custodians) at the Turkish airbases of Eskişehir, Erhaç, Mürted and Balıkesir. The Munitions Bulletin, a publication of the US Air Force Headquarters in Europe, reported in October 1983 that the US nuclear weapons mission in Turkey was in an “aggressive stage of growth.” [7]

US facilities in Turkey (over 30 at last count, with 5,000 US personnel), include communications and intelligence facilities which would be targeted in a war even if they posed no immediate threat to the Soviet Union. Incirlik airbase, aside from its nuclear inventory, is a main command and communication center linked to the global US strategic network. In 1988, the Pentagon decided to modernize Incirlik with shelters against chemical attacks. [8] Pirinçlik, in eastern Turkey, is a base for the US Nineteenth Surveillance Squadron, and tracks Soviet missile tests. Diyarbakır, also in eastern Turkey, and Belbaşı near Ankara, are among a number of other communications relay stations, seismographic and meteorological units, satellite tracking stations and NATO early-warning stations. [9]

Building a Military Relationship

The US-Turkish alliance is now entering its fifth decade. Turkey has consistently ranked among the top five recipients of US military aid. From the Truman Doctrine of the late 1940s to the Carter and Reagan doctrines of the 1980s, Turkey has been part of every strategic doctrine devised by Washington.

The basis of the relationship dates back to the end of World War II, when Allied strategists saw Turkey’s control of naval passage from the Mediterranean into the Black Sea and its long border with the USSR as an invaluable strategic asset for offensive operations against Moscow in case of war. An early draft of what became the Truman Doctrine also stressed Turkey’s proximity to the “great natural resources” of the Persian Gulf. [10]

On September 1, 1947, the Turkish Parliament ratified a military assistance agreement with Washington. US material and personnel flowed into Turkey and the Turkish army was reorganized along US lines. US strategists drafted plans for a network of US bases and other facilities, including the combat airbase at Incirlik. In an era in which ICBMs were but a gleam in the eye of strategists, the Pentagon was preparing in Turkey the infrastructure to serve as an outpost for the doctrine of massive retaliation, and to project US power into the Middle East. [11]

In July 1950, the newly elected prime minister, Adnan Menderes, unilaterally decided to send 5,000 Turkish combat troops to Korea, primarily in order to facilitate Turkish membership in NATO. [12] The Europeans, initially unenthusiastic about Turkish membership, bowed to the US argument that Turkey’s 18 army divisions would not only divert Soviet forces to the south in the event of war; they would do so cheaply, since Turkish troops were by far less costly to maintain. This proposition is still true: the cost of outfitting a Turkish soldier in 1986 was approximately seven times cheaper than for a US GI. [13]

Turkey joined NATO in February 1952. In 1954, the US and Turkey signed a Military Facilities Agreement, formalizing earlier unofficial understandings. A Status of Forces Agreement removed US military personnel, whose numbers were growing rapidly, from the purview of the Turkish judicial system. US facilities, many now under the NATO flag, were nearing completion. Incirlik joined the network of Strategic Air Command bases worldwide.

The US funneled assistance through the Joint United States Military Mission for Aid to Turkey (JUSMMAT). The United States Logistics Group (TUSLOG) served as the command center for all American military supply and maintenance services. US military manuals were translated to replace Turkish material in the curricula of the Staff Officer Academy. Every year hundreds of officers underwent training in the US, or by US personnel in Turkey.

Throughout the 1950s, the US was also busy organizing an anti-communist labor federation and funding numerous civilian projects. But US-Turkish ties were predominantly military in character. The Pentagon overshadowed normal diplomatic venues. In addition to formal agreements, Washington concluded numerous secret agreements with the Turkish general staff which were never ratified by parliament or even disclosed to the civilian establishment. Similar secret agreements were made with the Foreign Ministry, the National Security Organization and the Interior Ministry (responsible for internal security). [14]

Turkey’s main assignment in the alliance was to engage the Soviet Union, but Ankara also played a major role in the strategy to preserve and extend Western interests in the Middle East. Attempts to create a pro-Western, anti-Soviet alliance in the region initially foundered on Arab-Israeli hostilities and the Arab struggle against the remaining British colonial presence, until the 1955 Baghdad Pact joined Turkey with Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Britain. Both Egypt and Syria countered by strengthening political, economic and military ties with the Soviet Union. This polarization led to the Israeli-French-British invasion of Suez in October 1956 and the proclamation of the Eisenhower Doctrine in January 1957.

The danger of these dynamics to Turkey became clear in June 1957. The Menderes government, acting in concert with Washington, moved troops to the Syrian border to threaten the nationalist regime in Damascus. In response, the Soviet Union mobilized troops on its border with Turkey. [15] That crisis subsided, but Turkey threatened to intervene in the wake of the July 1958 revolution which deposed the Iraqi monarchy and took that country out of the Baghdad Pact. The Incirlik airbase was a major staging point when the US landed 16,000 Marines in Beirut in that crisis, which had nothing to do with Turkey’s NATO commitments. And there had been no meaningful prior consultation.

From Coup to Counterinsurgency

These developments contributed to the crisis of the Menderes regime. The government banned opposition views from the state-run radio service, imprisoned journalists and tightly restricted political demonstrations. In 1957 the government had discovered a group of plotters in the army; mindful of the Iraqi example, the Menderes government reached an agreement with Washington on March 5, 1959, stipulating that in the event of “internal aggression” the US would “take such appropriate action, including the use of armed force…in order to assist the Government of Turkey at its request.” [16] That same year the Turkish government agreed to base nuclear-armed Jupiter missiles in Turkey.

By the spring of 1960, with the government moving to close down the opposition and violent demonstrations a daily occurrence, many Turks in the opposition feared US military intervention to save the government. For Washington, however, the Menderes government was only important as long as it could safeguard its interests. Already in South Korea the overthrow of strongman Syngman Rhee demonstrated that Washington could accommodate regime changes which did not jeopardize its position.

On May 27, 1960 the military seized power. The Committee of National Unity (CNU), as the junta called itself, declared firm support for NATO and CENTO in its very first pronouncement. With its close ties to the Turkish military, the US surely knew of the coup beforehand; Washington quickly released economic aid to the new regime. [17]

During this period, Turkey’s general staff established an office to centralize the process by which the US entered into agreements with various Turkish ministries and agencies. For the first time, Turkish policymakers were able to get a handle on the extent of ties with the US. (Voices within the CNU challenged these close ties and termed the relationship “colonial,” but a purge in October 1960 removed all such views.) The military failed to resolve two abrasive issues: the status of US personnel in Turkey, and the question of parliamentary oversight for foreign agreements. What were matters of national sovereignty to Turkey had global implications for the US and its worldwide network of bases.

In October 1961, the military turned the government back to civilian politicians. The 1960s, with its freer politics and some major international crises, led to more forceful Turkish questioning of the nature of the alliance. The Cuban missile crisis was a major shock to Turkish confidence. Nuclear weapons based in Turkey were supposed to enhance security by deterring Soviet moves. The Turkish public had been repeatedly told that these weapons represented an allied force under joint US-Turkish control. Yet the Kennedy administration unilaterally linked the Soviet missiles in Cuba to the Jupiters in Turkey and promised that the Jupiters, officially Turkish property, would be removed once Soviet missiles left Cuba. [18]

The 1964 Cyprus crisis proved the most telling blow to close US-Turkish ties. A 1959 agreement between Britain, Greece and Turkey led to a constitution and independence for the island. In 1963 the Greek majority declared the constitution, with its intricate division of powers between the two communities, unworkable, and called for union with Greece. Fighting erupted on the island in November 1963 and the small Turkish Cypriot community steadily lost ground. Turkey announced its intention to land troops in March 1964. President Lyndon Johnson notified Ankara that weaponry supplied under the 1947 agreement could not be used without US consent, and that NATO would not come to Turkey's aid should the Soviet Union take military action.

Public and official indignation ran high, but there was little Turkey could do. A cut-off of military and financial aid would cripple the army and the economy. The Johnson letter marked a watershed in US-Turkish relations, exposing in even more dramatic fashion than the Cuban missile crisis Turkey’s dependent relationship with the US. [19] Turkish leaders decided to pursue new avenues in foreign policy — not to disengage from the US but to gain greater freedom of movement within the confines of the relationship. One option was to develop Turkey’s role as a political and commercial bridge between the Middle East and Europe, giving Ankara greater leverage in its relations with Europe. Another was to improve relations with the Soviet Union.

Special Warfare

Relations — in particular military relations — with the US also changed in this period. Washington’s new doctrine of “flexible response” assumed that nuclear parity with the Soviets made deterrence based on massive retaliation no longer credible. Out of this new environment — which included the US intervention in Vietnam — flowed the doctrines and techniques of counterinsurgency. They found their way into Turkey and contributed to undermining the country’s fragile democracy.

In the mid-1960s, a large population shift from the countryside to the cities, rapid industrialization and other factors helped unravel traditional social relations. The working class expanded its organizational structure and a growing leftist movement coalesced around the Turkish Labor Party. Younger leaders of the old Republican People’s Party, like Bülent Ecevit, argued for a left-of-center party appealing to the urban middle class and labor. Turkey’s conservative forces maintained an appearance of unity behind the center-right Justice Party, but no single party could appeal simultaneously to the internationally linked corporate industrial sector and the traditional merchants and small businesses it was displacing. [20]

To counteract this appeal of the left and the weaknesses in the conservative camp, Washington threw its support behind Süleyman Demirel, the new Justice Party leader. In 1964, Demirel brought down the RPP coalition government in heated parliamentary maneuvers (during which Demirel consulted with US Ambassador Raymond Hare). RPP leader Ismet Inönü later commented that "the Americans found a prime minister." In the parliamentary elections of 1965, Washington’s support for Demirel became a political issue when the Central Bank released blocked US aid, providing funds that helped influence the outcome. [21]

US political intervention was not limited to parliamentary politics. The agreement of March 1959 included the establishment within the Turkish General Staff of a Department of Special Warfare, headquartered in the JUSMMAT complex in Ankara and getting special US funds. One of its training texts, The Repression of Popular Uprisings: Theory and Praxis, written by CIA officer David Gallula, was translated into Turkish and distributed within the military in 1965:

Our security isn’t threatened just by external attacks. In addition there are other threats which are much more dangerous…these camouflaged attacks…are at times civil wars, at times uprisings, but also democratic and reformist movements. It is our intention to prevent the rise of these movements. [22]

Recruits to the Special Warfare department were first trained in the US and Panama and then in Turkey by US specialists. The US also established contacts with the neo-fascist Nationalist Movement Party and its militants, the Grey Wolves. [23] The Special Warfare department included a counter-guerrilla section, composed of “patriotic” civilians scattered throughout Turkey with access to secret arms depots and contacts with neo-fascist militants. (The civilian political establishment got a glimpse into the organization in 1974, when the US curtailed its contribution and the general staff requested funds from Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit. [24])

By the late 1960s, and particularly after another confrontation with Washington over Cyprus in 1967, the left was able to appeal with some success to Turkish patriotism and public opinion. Prime Minister Demirel began talks in 1966 to lessen the US presence in the country while keeping the basic relationship intact. The negotiations came at a time when submarine-based Polaris missiles allowed the US to consider cutbacks in the array of bases connected with its global nuclear network. On the other hand, the new flexible response doctrine underlined Turkey’s need for a more mobile and modern military, only possible with increased US military aid.

The Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) of 1969 did not fundamentally change the status of US bases, though it stressed their use within NATO guidelines and reduced the 35,000 US military personnel and their dependents to 16,000 in 1970 (and to around 10,000 by 1979). [25] The US gave up some bases in the Black Sea region, Ankara, and elsewhere, while other bases were enlarged: Diyarbakır in eastern Turkey, Karamürsel on the Sea of Marmara, the Sinop intelligence facility on the Black Sea and the Incirlik complex.

The 1971 Military Intervention

The new agreement came at a time when growing public opposition to the US presence had curtailed other US activities. On February 16, 1969, Turkey’s Bloody Sunday, hundreds of neo-fascist and religious reactionaries attacked a legal and peaceful demonstration by 30,000 people in Istanbul protesting visits by Sixth Fleet warships, killing two and injuring 200. The attackers came from declared military zones. Later reports asserted they had been paid and armed by Justice Party members. [26]

Bloody Sunday underlined the Justice Party’s inability to cope with mounting political and economic problems. In 1970 the government felt compelled to impose harsh International Monetary Fund (IMF) stabilization measures. At the same time, a minority within the left despaired of working within the parliamentary system and opted for violence: Among their targets were US and NATO facilities and personnel.

Such attacks represented a relatively simple security problem. More serious challenges were an increasingly assertive labor movement and Kurdish demands for greater civil and political rights. Both were met with repression from security forces and neo-fascist “commandos.” With left-wing nationalism gaining among the younger ranks, there were also fears within the general staff of splits in the armed forces. [27]

On March 12, 1971, the army forced Demirel out of office. Operation Dev-Kur (“Saving the State”) was prepared by the US-supported Special Warfare Department. [28] Most of the detainees were trade unionists, intellectuals and Kurdish activists. Systematic torture became part of the detention process, and Turkey’s newly trained special forces tried out their US-taught counterinsurgency techniques in the Kurdish provinces. The army was unable to resolve the social crisis, and again returned to the barracks in 1973.

For the US, detente and the strategic rapprochement with China had decreased its base needs in Turkey. Once again, though, Cyprus shattered Washington and Ankara’s complacent relationship. On July 15, 1974, Greek Cypriots, supported by the junta in Athens, staged a coup against the government of Archbishop Makarios and declared a “Hellenic” republic. Prime Minister Ecevit ordered the army to land troops on the island, partitioning it and leading the US Congress to impose an arms embargo on February 5, 1975.

The embargo appeared to confirm Turkey’s lessened importance. In July 1975 Prime Minister Demirel, back in power as head of the right-wing Nationalist Front coalition, bowed to public opinion, abrogated the 1969 military agreement and closed US bases not related to NATO — mostly intelligence and navigation facilities. (Incirlik continued to operate.) Coalitions headed alternately by the RPP and the JP proved unable to contain political violence. By 1978 the government, then under Prime Minister Ecevit, was forced to declare martial law, but Ecevit’s attempts to uncover the curtain behind which the army’s counter-guerrilla section carried out its activities and his support for constitutional safeguards irked the military. [29]

The Iranian revolution transformed the political landscape in the region and refocused US attention on Turkey. The fall of the Shah left a void in the intelligence network covering the southern USSR and the military installations close to the oil-rich Gulf. President Jimmy Carter prevailed on Congress in September 1978 to lift the arms embargo. US intelligence facilities resumed their activities and talks started on a new defense cooperation agreement.

But US debate over ratification of the SALT II arms agreement with the USSR intruded on US-Turkish relations. To satisfy critics, Carter pressed Turkey to allow U-2 spy planes to overfly Soviet territory from Turkish bases. Ankara demurred: These flights were not covered by SALT II, and Moscow had announced it would view such flights as hostile. Congress reduced aid to Turkey in June 1979 and Ankara hardened its position. Secretary of Defense Harold Brown bluntly urged General Kemal Evren, Turkey’s visiting chief of staff, to press Ecevit to allow the overflights. [30] Washington seemed to be signaling its frustration with parliamentary politics in Turkey and the political deadlock it had created.

Earlier in 1980, the US and Turkey initialed a new Defense and Economic Cooperation Agreement (DECA), promising Turkey $2.5 billion over the next five years. The US secured access to 26 facilities and permission to modernize these to compensate for the neglect of the 1970s and the loss of intelligence facilities in Iran. The political situation, though, had deteriorated to virtual anarchy. The economic crisis finally forced the government, now again under Demirel, to implement harsh measures in January 1980, but massive working-class resistance made this unrealistic unless the labor movement could be neutralized. Throughout the spring of 1980, it appeared as if the army was deliberately letting the rampant violence destroy whatever confidence remained in the parliamentary regime. [31] The parliament could not manage to elect a president.

The 1980 Coup and the New Cold War

On the evening of September 11, 1980, Paul Henze, former CIA operative in Turkey and at that time on President Carter’s National Security Council, received a call from the situation room at the White House: “Paul, your guys have done it.” [32] Carter received a call at the Kennedy Center from Secretary of State Edmund Muskie informing him of the coup and went back to watching “Fiddler on the Roof.”

The military abrogated the constitution, closed down Parliament and all political parties, banned strikes, closed all labor and professional associations and set about restructuring Turkey’s economic and political institutions. Within weeks the political violence which had plagued the country, and against which the military appeared helpless, was over. By the end of the year the military had detained some 175,000 people, the overwhelming majority leftists. [33] The IMF “austerity” measures drastically reduced living standards and produced a quantum jump in unemployment.

The junta’s brutal repression quickly soured relations with Europe, but the US provided uncritical support. The rationale for this endorsement was practically identical to the rhetoric of the Truman era. “Turkey sits on the flank of any Soviet thrust into Iran or the Persian Gulf and is the only alliance nation which is Muslim and geographically located in the Middle East,” wrote then commander-in-chief of Allied Forces Southern Europe, Adm. William Crowe. “No Western or Soviet planner can address the Middle East challenge without considering Turkey’s orientation, terrain, airspace, forces and bases.” [34]

In May 1982, NATO changed its guidelines to reserve the “right” to intervene outside the territories of its member states. [35] Reaffirmed in a June 1983 NATO ministerial communiqué, this statement of Western interests in the Middle East clearly implied a special role for Turkey — NATO’s only member in the region and, with an army of over 770,000, the largest in NATO after the US. A US military mission visited the area in late 1980 and recommended building a new airbase at Muş and modernizing the small Batman field. (Though officially NATO bases, a 1984 report for Congress lists both as US bases. [36]) From Muş and Batman warplanes could reach all of the Caucasus as well as the Persian Gulf. A 1981 agreement led to the modernization of ten additional Turkish airbases, while a 1982 Air Bases Operating Agreement allowed the US to preposition equipment, stipulating that a total of 16 airbases could be used for reinforcement purposes. [37]

Turkey repositioned some of its most capable military units to the eastern and southeastern parts of the country. Airborne troops and Special Forces have been deployed against Kurdish insurgents, including several forays into northern Iraq. The Turkish Third Army Corps, responsible for the Soviet border region, has gotten priority in modernization efforts, including new communication and early warning installations. Many of the 200 tactical nuclear warheads for select Turkish artillery units are stored in Erzurum, headquarters of the Third Corps, under the supervision of US Army Custodial detachments. The headquarters of the Second Army Corps, charged with the defense of southern and southeastern Turkey, has moved east, from Konya to Malatya. Konya, in central Anatolia, has become a base for NATO AWACS planes.

Another venue for strengthening Turkey’s military capabilities while catering to Turkish demands for greater autonomy has been to assist Turkey’s evolving arms industries. This allowed the US and other NATO countries to provide military assistance without the political controversies that accompany aid. These now include the $4.2 billion project for the assembly of F-16 fighters, a $1.1 billion project for the manufacture of the US FMC corporation’s AIFV armored vehicle, and a $1 billion project to manufacture the MLRS artillery rocket system. Turkey has joined a European consortium manufacturing Stinger and Maverick ground-to-air missiles. West German technical assistance allows Turkey to build submarines, frigates and guided missile boats. [38]

Openings East?

Where does this leave Turkey today? The difficulty that Adm. Erkaya and other Turkish decision-makers perceive is this: Soviet rapprochement with the West means that Turkey can be less sure of the Western military aid that it has depended on to cover up its debits on the economic and political fronts. Turkey’s main asset is its strategic position, but the changed international climate lessens the premium that commands.

Another aspect of Turkey’s dilemma is growing regional economic integration. What Turkey brings to joint arms ventures with Europeans — cheap manpower and a large untapped market — is precisely what Ankara hopes will eventually sway the EEC into accepting it as a full member. This is the main direction of Ankara’s present foreign policy. It is clear, though, that there will be no positive answer from the EEC before the end of the century. The community has already taken steps to slow down the full membership procedure. [39] The best that Ankara can hope for might be an interim arrangement which would sharply restrict the movement of workers from Turkey while allowing greater access to European markets.

One alternative in the back of many minds in Turkey is a reorientation toward the east. Turkey “has chosen Europe, yet we cannot wait forever,” says industrialist Jak Kamhi, the current head of the Turkish Economic Development Fund, a private enterprise think tank created to support Turkish membership in the EEC. “While we believe that economic development will be more rapid within the framework of the EEC…we do have alternatives if we are rejected. Turkey’s economic ties with the Soviet Union are progressing rapidly. Strong economic links have been established with the Islamic countries.” [40]

Yet without access to the more stable markets of Europe, Turkey’s drive toward an industrial economy will decelerate and falter. Turkey recently had to negotiate a common barter price for oil that Iraq and Libya want to use to pay off debts from Turkish sales and construction contracts earlier in the decade. This experience illustrates some of the problems of dealing with economies dependent on a single commodity susceptible to extensive and unpredictable price fluctuations. The political tensions in the region also make long-term planning a risky proposition. In 1988, Turkey’s acceptance of Kurdish refugees from Iraq soured relations with Baghdad and complicated efforts to reach an economic agreement. Turkey’s $8 billion Southeastern Anatolia Project — a series of dams on the Euphrates River to irrigate vast areas — is also a source of potential conflict with Syria and Iraq. Relations with Iran continue to be good: Turkey was the only NATO country to fly its flags at half mast to mark Ayatollah Khomeini’s death, a cause of much indignation in the Turkish press and among the opposition. Here Turkey looks for lucrative reconstruction deals, but these hopes confront Tehran’s precarious economy and its preference for barter deals.

The Soviet market is just now opening up to Turkish businessmen. Work has begun on construction deals worth $250 million for hotels and hospitals in the USSR. [41] Other Turkish contractors are working with Soviet companies in joint tenders of over $600 million in the Middle East. [42] Still, during the first session of the Turkish-Soviet Business Council in August 1988, the Turkish side objected to the fact that most dealings with Moscow continue to be based on barter, while the Soviets complained about the quality of services provided following the sale of Turkish industrial products. [43]

For all the Turkish concern about the future, ties with the US seem relatively stable. The Bush administration supported repeal of the 7 to 10 aid ratio with Greece, but after the MiG-29 affair the House Foreign Affairs Committee defeated the proposal. [44] Ankara is counting on increased US investment and greater access to US markets to offset reduced aid. The joint ventures with US corporations for arms assembly and production have required General Dynamics, General Electric, FMC and other firms to invest in civilian ventures as well. These companies now comprise a pro-Turkey corporate lobby that did not exist before.

Military relations have not yet been hurt by recent cuts in aid. During his June 1988 visit to Washington, President Evren invited the US to use a new Turkish naval base in the Mediterranean to service the Sixth Fleet. In August 1988, Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci visited Turkey with plans to modernize the intelligence facilities at Sinop and Pirinçlik and to find a new location for the Belbaşı intelligence facility near Ankara, whose operations are reportedly hampered by the rapid growth of the capital. [45]

Washington’s strategic focus may be shifting from an East-West to a North-South axis, but the importance of Southwest Asia to both superpowers means that neither will disengage from the region. Superpower relations will continue to exert a powerful influence over US-Turkish ties even if Turkey does succeed in joining the EEC.

Close ties between Washington and Ankara coincide with periods of authoritarian rule in Turkey, while the unequal nature of the relationship comes under popular scrutiny in periods of democratic rule. The late 1980s conforms to this pattern. The opposition Social Democratic Populist Party has questioned US control over the F-16s being built in Turkey, for instance, and the press continues to criticize the American presence as a whole. [46]

Turkey’s political instability remains a source of concern in Washington. High inflation, high unemployment, a debt of some $39 billion and unprecedented corruption led to a massive defeat for Prime Minister Turgut Özal during the local elections of March 1989. National elections will undoubtedly further complicate the economic scene; the government will surely engage in one last effort to stave off defeat with a spending spree. On the social front, Turkey’s resurgent labor unions have initiated work slowdowns and strikes.

For now, there appears little danger that the country will revert to the political chaos of the 1970s. The very experience of the violence of the 1970s and the brutal aftermath of the coup remain vivid in public memory. Another factor is the global crisis facing the left, and its inability to propose a credible alternative. Neither Turkey’s social democrats nor the labor unions have much to set against the vision of greater integration with the global capitalist market. With some 1 million Iranian refugees from the Islamic Republic in Turkey, the Islamist movement, with the Iranian revolution in shambles, now poses even less of a credible alternative. In fact, the Islamists have mainly been a source of support cultivated by the Özal regime. A worsening economic situation and inconclusive national elections, though, could once again lead to a role for Turkey’s generals, who still see themselves as the final arbiters of national politics.


[1] Cumhuriyet, May 24, 1989.
[2] Cumhuriyet, May 29, 1989.
[3] New Statesman, May 14, 1982.
[4] William Arkin, “Playing Chicken in Turkey,” The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist, October 1983, p. 4.
[5] Ibid.
[6] William Arkin and Richard Fieldhouse, Nuclear Battlefields (Cambridge, MA: Ballinger/Institute for Policy Studies, 1985), p. 232.
[7] Arkin, “Playing Chicken.”
[8] Cumhuriyet, May 21, 1988.
[9] South, March 1986, pp. 91-92.
[10] Richard Barnet, Roots of War (New York, 1972), p. 162.
[11] Melvyn P. Leffler, “Strategy, Diplomacy and the Cold War: The United States, Turkey and NATO, 1945-1952,” Journal of American History 71/4 (March 1985), pp. 807-825.
[12] Feroz Ahmad, The Turkish Experiment in Democracy, 1950-1975 (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1977), p. 391.
[13] Info-Turk, "Turco-American Relations after the Coup" (Brussels: Info-Turk, 1988), p. 47.
[14] George Harris, Troubled Alliance: Turkish American Relations in Historical Perspective, 1945-1971 (Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute, 1972), pp. 54-57.
[15] Ahmad, p. 397.
[16] The full text is in Harris, pp. 221-223.
[17] Ibid., p. 87.
[18] Ferenc Vali, The Turkish Straits and NATO (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1972), pp. 128-129.
[19] Emre Kongar, Turkey's Social Structure (Istanbul: Cem Yayinevi, 1976), pp. 314-319.
[20] Cağlar Keyder, "The Political Economy of Turkish Democracy," New Left Review (May/June 1979).
[21] Ahmad, pp. 224-227.
[22] Retranslated from Turkish original in Emin Değer, CIA, Kontragerilla ve Turkiye (Ankara, 1977), p. 595. Also see Counterspy, February-April 1982, p. 23.
[23] The CIA’s ties with the fascist movement are becoming better known as many former militants once in the pay of Turkish intelligence divulge their secrets. For an extended interview with Enver Altayli, a NMP militant and a former agent of Turkish intelligence, see Nokta, August 7, 1988.
[24] Mehmet Ali Birand, The Generals’ Coup in Turkey (London: Brassey’s Defence Publishers, 1987), pp. 42-44.
[25] Richard F. Nyrop, ed., Turkey: A Country Study (Washington, DC: The American University), p. 278.
[26] Nokta, February 1, 1987, pp. 12-21.
[27] Birand, p. 13.
[28] Counterspy, February-April 1982, p. 25. Translated from Jürgen Roth, Die Turkei: Republik unter Wölfen (Bornheim-Mertan, West Germany: Lamuv Verlag, 1981).
[29] Mehmet Ali Birand, 12 Eylul: Saat 04:00 (September 12: 04:00 Hours) (Istanbul: Karacan Yayinlari, 1984), pp. 86-91.
[30] Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, “Bungle on the U-2,” Washington Post, July 9, 1979.
[31] Both Demirel and Ecevit were aware of the army’s hands-off attitude and alarmed by it. See Arthur Miller, “Dinner With the Ambassador,” The Nation, May 18, 1985.
[32] Birand, The Generals’ Coup, p. 185.
[33] Helsinki Watch Committee, Human Rights in Turkey’s “Transition to Democracy,” (New York, 1983).
[34] Christian Science Monitor, October 22, 1980. For a virtually identical statement from 1952, see Senate testimony of then Joint Chief of Staff Gen. Omar Bradley in Harry N. Howard, Turkey, the Straits and US Policy (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974), pp. 265-266.
[35] Info-Turk, “Turco-American Relations after the Coup,” p. 15.
[36] Ufuk Güldemir, Cevik Kuvvetin Golgesinde Türkiye, 1980-1984 (Turkey in the Shadows of the Rapid Deployment Force) (Istanbul: Tekin Yayinevi, 1987), p. 165.
[37] Info-Turk, p. 16.
[38] For background, see Ömer Karasapan, “Turkey’s Armaments Industries,” MERIP Middle East Report 144 (January-February 1987), pp. 27-31.
[39] Cumhuriyet, May 24, 1989.
[40] Ibid.
[41] Middle East Economic Digest, July 7, 1989.
[42] Ibid.
[43] 2000’E DOGRU, August 14, 1988.
[44] Cumhuriyet, June 2, 1989.
[45] Cumhuriyet, July 28, 1988.
[46] Nokta, January 3, 1988.

How to cite this article:

Ömer Karasapan "Turkey and US Strategy in the Age of Glasnost," Middle East Report 160 (September/October 1989).

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