428. National Intelligence Estimate1

NIE 29.2–70



This estimate assesses likely developments in respect of Turkey through the mid-1970s, with particular attention to Turkeyʼs international relationships.


[2½ lines not declassified] The government will be concerned primarily with trying to improve living conditions and also with tackling [Page 1055] fundamental economic problems. Turkeyʼs economy is basically sound, but Turkey will continue to have a substantial trade deficit and, for several years at least, will need more foreign aid than it appears likely to get, if it is to maintain recent growth rates. [21/2 lines not declassified] Direct military intervention in political affairs is, however, unlikely.
Turkey retains its historic suspicion of Russian designs against the Straits and rates highly its continued membership in NATO. At the same time, the Turks, like other NATO members, want more independence in foreign policy and will move toward better relations with Moscow. Nonetheless, Turkish-Soviet relations will be far short of warmth, and the Turks will take care to restrict Soviet presence and influence in Turkey.
Turkey will remain a useful ally of the US for the period of this estimate and probably for much longer, but it will have at least some ideas which are not in harmony with US views. The Turks want US forces to stay in Turkey but are concerned about the visibility of these forces. US-Turkish relations will depend in considerable part on questions of US economic and especially military aid, discussed in paragraphs 29–32.


[Omitted here are sections I. “Introduction” and II. “The Domestic Scene.”]

III. Turkeyʼs International Position

20. Turkeyʼs westward orientation reached its peak in the 1950s when Turkey became uniquely committed to a special bilateral relationship with the US within the framework of NATO membership. Ankara adopted this policy in response to a number of aggressive moves in Turkeyʼs vicinity after World War II—the communist rebellion in Greece, Moscowʼs attempt to establish a Soviet Republic in Azerbaijan, and the USSRʼs demand that Turkey give Russia a predominant role in the Straits and hand back the border districts of Kars and Ardahan, whose return to Turkey had been conceded by the Bolsheviks in 1921. In these circumstances, alliance with the US and West European states appealed to most Turks, especially to the Menderes regime and to the military leadership, and Turkey joined NATO in 1952. Even then, there were some critics of Turkeyʼs move to a foreign policy substantially different from that of earlier years.

Changing Attitudes

21. For some years, growing numbers of Turks have come to feel that Turkey needed more flexibility in its foreign relations and have increasingly questioned the value of a foreign policy exclusively tied to the US and NATO. These views were influenced by similar earlier shifts [Page 1056] in opinions in Europe on the major issues concerning relations among Europe, the US, and the USSR. In the mid-1960s, Turkeyʼs feeling of isolation over the Cyprus dispute further strengthened these sentiments, which have gradually had their effect on the attitude of the Turkish Government itself. Although Menderes entertained the idea of improving relations with the USSR, changes in Turkish Government foreign policy had to wait for the termination of the military takeover which ended the Menderes regime and for the improving atmosphere of East-West relations of the early 1960s.

22. Turkey is certainly not about to leave NATO. Its civilian leaders—in government, the business community, and intellectual circles—are too oriented toward the cultural, political, and social values of European and Atlantic society. Its material interests are with Western Europe and North America; 75 percent of its yearly trade, $3.5 billion of economic aid over the past two decades, and all its foreign military supplies come from its NATO allies. Turkeyʼs military leaders are even more disposed in these directions than their civilian counterparts. Stalinʼs hard-line pressure tactics of 1943–1953, though quickly and clearly repudiated by his successors, reinforced persistent Turkish feeling that the Czarist dream of controlling the Straits remains Russiaʼs goal.

23. Both the JP and the RPP consider that some loosening of relations within the Atlantic Alliance is desirable, that Turkey should have a larger voice within the alliance, and that a better relationship with the USSR is in Turkeyʼs interests. The RPP—partly because it is not in office—is generally more disposed to these views than the JP. While many factors have entered into the changes in Turkish government policy, the principal catalyst was the Cyprus crisis which began at the end of 1963. Turkish opinion was shocked by what it considered a US failure to support an ally. Moreover, in 1964 Turks generally were gravely affronted by what they considered an unnecessarily harsh letter from President Johnson to Prime Minister Inonu. This letter,2 which became widely known in the country, implied that the US would withhold support for Turkey—even if Turkey were attacked by the Soviets as a result of an action such as a military intervention on Cyprus. Then in 1965, the USSR, after initially favoring the Greek Cypriot position, came out in support of the separate identity of the Turkish Cypriot community—a position close to Ankaraʼs and one which Moscow still holds.


24. The warming trend in Turkish-Soviet relations is likely to continue in several fields. Once most of the presently planned Soviet [Page 1057] supported projects are well under way, there almost certainly will be more such offers by Moscow. Visits back and forth by high officials will become more commonplace. Official Turkish policy stresses strict compliance with the terms of the Montreux Convention governing use of the Turkish Straits by the Soviets, but the Turks will continue to permit minor infringements in the interest of the new Soviet-Turkish relationship. Yet all this is likely to be carefully controlled and kept within bounds by Ankara. Turks going to the USSR will continue to be screened as to membership and limited as to type—e.g., civil servants rather than independent trade unionists. Ankara is not about to give the Soviets free run of the Straits and will on occasion remind Moscow of Turkeyʼs sovereign rights by strictly enforcing regulations concerning transit. Within limits, the Turks will want the US periodically to show its flag in the Black Sea, but they will probably be more sensitive to US activities there which they think would seriously offend Moscow. In sum, the prospect is for a growing regularization of Turkish-Soviet relations, but one which falls far short of warmth and cordiality and which will limit Soviet access to Turkey.

25. It is probable that any attack on Turkey by a member of the Warsaw Pact would be made only as part of an overall assault against NATO. In conventional warfare, Turkey is capable of fighting a limited delaying action (approximately one week) against Warsaw Pact forces in European Thrace but could not hold out longer without outside assistance. A simultaneous attack in Eastern Turkey could be contained for a longer period, but Turkey soon would need outside assistance in this area as well. The Turkish Army is well aware of its deficiencies vis-à-vis the Warsaw Pact powers and will continue to urge that Turkey be given the equipment necessary to counter such an attack.

The Middle East

26. Turkeyʼs relations with its Middle Eastern neighbors are likely to become more complex than the kind of “either friend or enemy” approach which once characterized Turkish attitudes in the area. Turkey does not have the worries about enemies in this area which impel the Shah of Iran to seek allies. Though CENTO still exists as a defense pact, the defense aspect is much less important to Turkey than commercial and communication links with Iran and Pakistan. Turkish-Israeli relations are good and likely to remain so, but Ankara will see no particular benefit in closer relations with Israel at the expense of impairing its efforts to improve relations with Arab states.

27. [1½ lines not declassified] Ankara has more comfortable relations with conservative Near Eastern states such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia than with Syria and Iraq. It dislikes the radicalism of government in the latter states but does not believe they constitute a threat to Turkey itself. Turkish relations with Egypt have been untroubled but fairly [Page 1058] distant since the breakup of the UAR in 1961. Turkey will probably continue low key political and economic ties with its Arab neighbors, but will seek to avoid too close an involvement in inter-Arab affairs. It will probably continue recent moves to improve ties with the four North African Arab states.

Turkey and the US

28. The process of modifying the relationship between the US and Turkey inevitably involves strains. Difficulties between the two countries do not arise from differing assessments of the USSRʼs long-term policies and intentions. Rather they arise out of differing views about the current usefulness of various aspects of the alliance. The Turks value the presence of US forces on Turkish soil. There are, however, about 18,000 US military personnel and dependents in the country, mostly in or near the major cities, and the Turks are concerned about the visibility of these forces. For similar psychological and domestic political reasons, Turkey wishes to create some national forces which would not be committed to NATO. Nevertheless, for most purposes, e.g., defense of the Straits, the mission of national and NATO-committed forces would be identical.

29. Another major factor in the Turkish-US relationships is the question of economic and military aid. Since 1948, the US has provided Turkey with about $3 billion in grant military aid and some $2.5 billion in economic aid. While annual amounts have declined in recent years, US aid is still very important, both in itself and as a stimulant to OECD donors. The Turkish Government resents advice by US and other aid donors to the effect that drastic economic reforms in the fields of taxation and industrial efficiency are at least as important for rapid economic progress as is aid. [2 lines not declassified]

30. In 1966, the US undertook, subject to Congressional action, to provide $670 million of military aid over the period 1967–1971, an annual average of $134 million. This amount (the so-called McNaughton level) was considerably less than the Turkish military establishment desired. The Turkish military leaders, however, accepted—with some doubts—the argument that Turkeyʼs allies would quickly come to its aid in a time of crisis. But the McNaughton level was met only in the first year; in 1968 and in 1969 MAP was only about $100 million. The Turks have accepted the exigencies of the Vietnam situation as a reason for this decline, but they expect the gaps to be made up when possible. Even if new aid levels included making up shortfalls, however, the Turkish military establishment would continue to feel that it lacked sufficient modern equipment.

31. It is in part US military aid that induces the Turks to accept the present visibility of the US military presence. A substantial drop in military aid would generate fairly widespread resentment within the Turk [Page 1059] ish Armed Forces. [3 lines not declassified] A return to something like the McNaughton levels would probably prevent this eventuality and make it easier to deal with the Turkish Government. Turkish dissatisfaction might also be mitigated to a degree by increased arms sales on concessionary terms. Even such sales would, however, add to Turkeyʼs already large foreign debt burden. A drop of a few million dollars from the current aid level would probably not have much impact. However, a drop of tens of millions would not only affect military relationships but would also cause political friction in Turkeyʼs relations with the US, though the level of such friction would probably be about the same whether the cut were 20 or 40 million. Except in the case of a virtual cessation of MAP, however, there is almost no possibility of complete termination or interdiction of US activities.

32. Large reductions in US military aid would also affect economic and political affairs within Turkey. The military establishment would be inclined to press the government for funds to purchase military equipment abroad. With a tight foreign exchange situation, the administration would face the unpleasant alternatives of reducing imports needed for the economy or of rebuffing the military. Military leaders would probably regard a large drop in US aid as at least partly stemming from JP failures in conducting relations with the US. [2 lines not declassified]

33. Despite these negative aspects, Turkey will remain a committed member of NATO and a useful ally of the US for the period of this estimate and probably for much longer. Far more than in the past, however, it will be an ally with ideas of its own, some of which will not be in harmony with US views. For example, Turkey would be unlikely to assent to US use of bases in Turkey to support military operations in the Middle East. Ankara will pursue the path of regularizing relations with the USSR. It will continue to seek improvement of relations with countries in the Mediterranean area, such as the Arab states on the North African coast, and in time probably with other countries in Asia and Africa. Turkey will probably seek commercial markets in such areas for goods it cannot sell in the EEC market. In the next five years at least, these steps will be limited.

IV. Cyprus—The Troublesome Contingency

34. The foregoing estimate is in many respects reassuring. One issue which could radically alter much of the outlook for Turkish foreign affairs is Cyprus. Since the last flareup of hostilities between the Greek and Turkish communities on the island at the end of 1967, matters have been fairly quiet. The present Greek Government has not supported the union of Cyprus with Greece, and almost all of the Greek illegal armed force left the island early in 1968. Representatives of the two communities have been engaged for 18 months in talks designed [Page 1060] to explore means of constructing a new political order in Cyprus. Some progress has been made, but the chief contribution of the talks has been to damp down tensions between the two communities by giving a sense of hope that some non-violent solution may in time be reached. Yet Greek and Turk on Cyprus are still far apart.

35. There is an outside chance that the talks between the two communities will achieve enough progress on marginal issues to permit movement toward settlement of the central question. This boils down to the degree of autonomy, of freedom from Greek administrative and police control, that the Turkish community would have under a new constitution. On the whole, the chances are fairly good that the combination of the talks themselves, some progress within them, and the generally benevolent attitude of Greece and Turkey will suffice to keep the situation from erupting into serious hostilities. Yet there remain within the Greek Cypriot community die-hard advocates of union with Greece. And there is a chance that an accident—and shooting incidents occur from time to time—could escalate into a major communal confrontation, despite the desires of many on both sides to avoid one and despite the presence of the UN force on Cyprus. If Ankara perceived a large-scale threat to Turkish Cypriot lives, it would feel under strong pressure to intervene. We do not think such a development is likely, but it cannot be ruled out.

36. If the Turks did come to feel a need to use force, their first choice would be selected application of it, e.g., through airstrikes, as a warning. If that tactic failed, it is at least possible that they would invade Cyprus. Since the Turks would undoubtedly have local air superiority, the Greeks would probably not seek to reinforce their compatriots on the island. But some form of hostilities between Greece and Turkey would be probable, and in any case there would be serious disruption of the eastern wing of NATO. To repeat, however, this is a contingency, not a likelihood.

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, NIC Files, Job 79–R1012A, NIEs and SNIEs. Secret. The CIA and the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State and Defense, and the National Security Agency participated in the preparation of this estimate. The Director of Central Intelligence submitted it with the concurrence of all members of the USIB, except the representatives of FBI and AEC who abstained on the grounds it was outside their jurisdiction.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. XVI, Cyprus; Greece; Turkey, Document 54.