395. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • President’s Meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Alican of Turkey, September 30, 1963


  • Deputy Prime Minister Ekrem Alican
  • Turkish Finance Minister Ferit Melen
  • Ambassador Turgut Menemencioglu
  • The President
  • Deputy Assistant Secretary John Jernegan
  • R. W. Komer

Deputy Prime Minister Alican said President Gursel and Prime Minister Inonu sent their best wishes to the President and had asked [Page 761] Alican and Melen to tell him about Turkey’s problems. The present Turkish Government was a coalition of three parties, which he described. Turkey’s situation was becoming more stabilized every day, even though coalition government was a new thing (it was actually the second in modern Turkish history). The Turks were also facing a new experience in planned economic life. The Five Year Plan was in its first year. Planned economy was not easy to run; there were difficulties—especially in external financing. However, the Consortium had come through, with United States help.1 Alican asked the President to help continue the Consortium approach and resolution of such difficulties as existed.

He stressed that Turkey’s very friendly feelings toward the United States were from the people, from the nation itself, and not just the government. Through all the events since May 1960, there had been no change in the friendship of the Turkish people toward the American people—no sign of animosity toward Americans. Turkey’s friendship came from the nation itself.

Today Turkey was not hesitating at all in its basic political philosophy. It was loyal to Western principles, and loyal to NATO. But the economic problem remained—if Turkey could get through the Five Year Plan successfully, everything would go well. But if the Plan failed, there was trouble ahead. As to internal financing, the Turks had made every sacrifice and met Plan goals. They had levied 1.5 billion TL in new taxes in the first Plan year. While they understood the difficulties facing their European and American friends, they needed our help in the Consortium. Since things were going a little slowly, they were spending their own reserves. Alican said, “If the United States supports us, the rest of the Consortium will too. The economic problems of Turkey are vital in this phase of Turkish life; if the Five-Year Plan is a success, Turkey will turn the corner.” The President responded that “Our relations with Turkey are one of our strongest ties. We regard Turkey as essential.” He commented that we had put a lot of money into Turkey, but it was largely military aid, so the domestic economy had not been able to expand very much. Therefore, the President thought it proper we concentrate our energies on economic matters now. Turkey had greater military security today than ever before. Khrushchev was in trouble with China and at home. We had a hostage in Cuba—if he attacked elsewhere we could do the same in Cuba. This did not mean we could relax. We had been close to collision three times—Cuba, Laos, Berlin—in the last three years. The President did not see much hope of a real detente, [Page 762] but neither did he see much likelihood of Soviet attack. The United States was keeping our defenses strong, and would continue to do so. Next year’s United States military budget would be greater than this year’s. The President agreed with Alican we should concentrate on the economic front. Turkey should keep its guard up too, but the President did not see much military threat. He did see other risks, however. The Communists were still strong in Italy, there might be a popular front in France after De Gaulle, the Communist Party was still strong in Greece—here were the places where Khrushchev could make trouble. Turkey had not had these problems, but they might occur if the Turkish people did not begin to see a better life.

The President then described his aid problems on Capitol Hill and the likely cuts. He said we would still regard Turkey as a major recipient, but we would not have the resources this year we had last year. We had balance of payments problems too, though we could manage these over time. In any case, our security commitment to Turkey was “strong”. We saw it as the keystone of the CENTO/SEATO system. We would continue to work with the Consortium. We should maintain our military strength but focus on the domestic economy. This was the most important battle for the next few years. We had helped Turkey a lot, especially militarily but had not helped much economically.

Alican responded that United States economic aid too had helped. Also military aid had helped Turkey avoid trouble with small neighbors like Iraq and Syria. If Turkey could improve its economic situation, its army would be maintained at its present strong level. “Our most important program is the Five-Year Plan. If it fails, the Turkish nation’s hopes will decline. We have accepted economic planning, and are going for a 7% GNP rise annually. We are trying to maintain a balance between the developed parts of the country and the under-developed eastern parts where Kurds live. The Five-Year Plan is vital to Turkey.”

There followed some discussion of the problems Turkey confronted in the Consortium. The $250 million first-year target had been met, but Alican complained that the terms offered by various Europeans were unsatisfactory. Ambassador Menemencioglu interjected that Turkey would probably be unable to use some of the credits for this reason. Alican concluded that for 1963 the Consortium contribution would be satisfactory but that this was less likely for 1964. He urged our help with the Europeans, saying if “the United States will support us, we will make it.”

The President assured Alican, “We will work with you.” He said we too wished we could get the Europeans to give better terms. We had had the same trouble in the Indian and Pakistani cases; we would do the best we could. We thought Turkey was essential. Our chief problem now was to get aid through Congress so we could help. Our guarantees [Page 763] were strong and we were pretty sure we could avoid war, so we should give emphasis to economic problems. We would maintain our strength because Khrushchev was out to cause us what trouble he could. Alican wished the President every success in this endeavor.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL Tur–US. Secret. Drafted by Komer and approved in the White House on October 30.
  2. At its July 5 meeting, the OECD’s Turkish Aid Consortium discussed increasing the aid pledges of its individual member nations with the objective of assisting Turkey to meet the goals of its Five-Year Plan.