217. Interagency Intelligence Memorandum1

DCI/NIO 386–75

[Omitted here is a table of contents.]



It is too early to predict with much confidence precisely how Turkey will behave in reaction to the cutoff of US military aid.2 Indeed, it seems clear that the Turks themselves are just beginning to address the problem, largely because—until now—the prospect of such a cutoff has been for them unthinkable.

As Turkey searches for a way out of the dilemma, however, we can identify some of the factors that will weigh heavily in Turkish calculations. These factors may provide clues with respect to the options open to Ankara and to how these impinge on US interests. The degree of Turkish dependence on US arms aid, the likely outcome of the inevitable search for alternate sources of military equipment, and the durability of Turkey’s present orientation toward the West are some of the issues this paper addresses.

For purposes of this paper, an indefinite cutoff of US military assistance is assumed. We try to look at least several months into the future.

Principal Conclusions

The Turks have no satisfactory alternative to US supply of arms, at least over the near term. Hence, the effectiveness of the Turkish armed forces and their ability to perform their key role in NATO will steadily deteriorate. The strategic implications of a protracted US cutoff could be profound, particularly in view of Turkey’s geographic position anchoring NATO’s southern flank and controlling Soviet access to the Mediterranean.

Although the Turks are shocked and appalled at the termination of US arms aid, their reaction thus far has been measured and they will [Page 704] probably avoid any rash response. If the arms cutoff continues, it is highly likely that the Turks will retaliate against the US in stages, including steps to curtail US use of facilities in Turkey. This could seriously weaken the ability of US forces—primarily naval and air—to operate in the area as well as jeopardize key intelligence collection programs.

Turkey’s ties with NATO will also be damaged, but probably not as seriously as Turkish relations with the US. For at least the short term, much will depend on whether Turkey is successful in obtaining military equipment from other NATO countries to help compensate for the loss of US supply. If those countries are able to help Ankara in this way, moderate forces in Turkey will be strengthened and the country’s ties to Western Europe will probably remain strong.

If, on the other hand, the Turks conclude that their basic military needs cannot be met by their European allies, they are likely to read this as de facto isolation from NATO and will react much more strongly. In these circumstances, Turkey is likely to explore alternative sources of support abroad—from Arab states, for example—but will probably not be able to satisfy its needs in this way. The results might be an inward-turning isolation and a reversion to domestic conservatism which could spell trouble for Turkey’s economic health and its role in southern Europe.

I. Turkey’s Dependence on US Military Equipment

The degree of Turkish military dependence upon the US is difficult to overstate. All told, the US has supplied over 90 percent of Turkey’s military equipment. Since 1950, over $3 billion of military equipment has been provided through the US Military Assistance Program (MAP); an additional $1 billion was programed for the next five years. The US has supplied the Turkish Army with over 95 percent of its medium tank inventory, all of its personnel carriers, and all of its post-World War II field artillery. About 85 percent of Turkey’s aircraft have come from the US. Almost all major naval combatants are former US vessels supplied through the MAP or built in Turkey under a cost-sharing program. More than 18,500 Turkish military personnel have been trained over the past
With this US assistance, Turkey has been able to maintain the second largest army and the third largest overall armed forces in NATO. The Turks have accepted an important mission—defense of NATO’s southeastern flank and the Turkish Straits.

Impact of US Aid Cutoff

3. The termination of US military assistance will affect the Turkish armed forces in two key respects: first, the loss of new supplies of space parts will severely compound maintenance problems; and, second, the force modernization program will be stifled.

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Spare Parts

Nearly 30 percent of the undelivered balance of MAP assistance was intended for spare parts, overhaul, repair, and rehabilitation. The large amount of aid needed simply to keep existing equipment in working condition underscores Turkey’s heavy dependence on the US.
Turkey’s stocks of spare parts have been low for some time. A three-week cutoff of spare parts in December caused a drawdown of stocks, rescheduling of maintenance, and even some cannibalization. Making a virtue of necessity, the Turks have displayed unusual adeptness in keeping aging equipment operable. This kind of maintenance, however, can be only a temporary expedient, and eventually results in serious degrading of equipment and capabilities.
The cutoff of the flow of spare parts will be felt immediately. The pace of deterioration in the combat readiness of the Turkish armed forces, however, will vary from service to service. The Air Force is the most vulnerable to the US arms cutoff and will begin to feel a serious impact in about three months, if it cannot get spare parts elsewhere. It will take somewhat longer for the other services to be seriously hampered.
The lack of spare parts will also have an immediate impact on training, which will probably now be cut to a bare minimum in all three services. This will adversely affect the proficiency of pilots and also of small unit commanders and troops.
The impact of the cutoff would be much more serious if the Turks came to blows with Greece over conflicting claims to rights to the Aegean seabed, or if serious fighting were to resume on Cyprus. According to one recent report, senior Turkish officers believe that, with the limited amount of spare parts on hand, Turkish forces would run short after only seven to ten days of fighting with Greece.

Force Modernization Program

9. The impact of the US arms cutoff on the modernization program will not be as quickly felt as in the case of spare parts, but it is likely to be as severe over the longer run. The ground forces will be particularly hard hit. The Army will probably not be able to proceed, for example, with plans to modernize some 800 tanks to make them a better match for the Soviet T–62. The Air Force too will be hurt badly; Turkey has received only 16 of the 40 F–4E fighter-bombers purchased through the foreign military sales program. Plans for improvements in the Navy will also be set back.

II. Other Sources of Supply

Until early this month, the Turks felt that some way would be found to avoid a cutoff of US arms. Hence, they have just begun to [Page 706] make a serious effort to identify other sources of supply. Ankara is now weighing the prospects for:
  • —greater reliance on domestic production.
  • —purchasing arms from other NATO countries, especially West Germany and Italy.
  • —getting help from wealthy Middle Eastern states, such as Iran and Libya.
  • There seems to be a general consensus already among the Turks that there are no sources, or combinations of sources, that can be tapped in the near future to enable the Turkish armed forces to maintain their current capability.
Turkey has long spent a higher percentage of its GNP on defense than most other NATO members and is taking steps to increase its defense spending still more in the light of the US aid cutoff. The Turks would like to devote additional funds to domestic arms production and to buying weapons abroad. They are handicapped, however, by a high rate of inflation, a large trade deficit, and a sharp drop recently in foreign exchange reserves. These problems do not altogether prevent Ankara from attempting to use its own resources to help compensate for the loss of US aid, but the Turks realize that such efforts could hamper their economic development.

Reliance on Domestic Production

Turkey lacks the basic industrial capacity, investable funds, and skilled manpower needed to produce major military equipment. Hence, the Turks will not be able to satisfy their major military requirements in this way for many years, if ever.
[less than 1 line not declassified] a thorough study of Turkey’s capability to produce military equipment. A detailed inventory of Turkish industry is being drawn up in order to determine what kinds of equipment can be produced in-country and to identify areas that should be the target of military R&D programs.
Turkey now produces small arms, ammunition, and some naval vessels. In addition, the Turks have the capability to modernize some of their more important military equipment. They would still be dependent, however, on outside suppliers for major subassemblies. The Turks are completely dependent on foreign sources for aircraft, tanks, submarines, and other more complex systems, and [less than 1 line not declassified] indicate an awareness that Turkey will remain so for a long time to come.

Arms From Other NATO Members

Prime Minister Irmak has said publicly that Turkey will begin shopping for arms “first from NATO countries, and, failing that, wherever it can buy them.” The Defense Minister has spoken of attempts to [Page 707] negotiate new arms deals in five NATO countries. In the past, other NATO members have provided most of the equipment that has not come from the US. Some of this equipment, however, such as the M–48 tanks supplied by West Germany, is US-built and requires US permission for transfer to Turkey.
US legal restrictions now appear to prevent the transfer of US- built equipment to Turkey, but the Turks can continue to obtain non- US equipment from Western Europe. West Germany, which has been Turkey’s major non-US source, has its own program of military assistance and sales to Turkey and has provided aircraft, submarines, patrol boats, and other equipment. Italy has sold the Turks fighter aircraft, helicopters, and trucks. Sales and assistance from other NATO countries, however, cannot match in quantity, quality, or financial benefit, what Turkey expected from the US.
The Turks are afraid that they will be unable to obtain, from other NATO states or elsewhere, military equipment produced in third countries under licensing agreements with the US. Many of the spare parts Turkey badly needs are manufactured under such licensing agreements, as are the F–104/S aircraft which the Turks recently bought from Italy.
The rising cost of foreign sales is another factor that will weigh heavily in the Turks’ calculations. They had to pay almost $4 million for each of the F–104/S aircraft purchased from Italy.

Help From Middle Eastern States

Middle Eastern countries may assist the Turks, particularly in financing arms purchases. Relations between Turkey and Libya, for example, have improved considerably since the outbreak of fighting in Cyprus last year. The Libyans apparently provided spare parts or other material assistance for the Turkish forces at that time. Since then, ties between the two countries have continued to improve, with the Turks trying—with some success—to tap Libyan financial resources for military assistance. Tripoli apparently financed the purchase of Italian F–104s, for example, and a new Turkish-Libyan agreement provides for some unspecified form of cooperation in the production of military equipment.
The Turks will also seek to improve relations with other wealthy states in the Middle East. Iran, for example, shares with Turkey a historical hostility toward the mutual neighbors to the north, and the Shah is a possible source of support. The Turks know, however, that maintaining the strength of their forces is a question not only of money, but also of access to the proper kinds of weapons and equipment. Even if Middle Eastern countries were willing to spend as much as the US was spending for military assistance to Turkey, the Turks could not obtain all the spare parts needed to maintain their current inventory of US-built equipment. Nor are they likely to get sophisticated items like the F–4s and electronic warfare equipment which they were counting on to upgrade their forces.
Substantial financial assistance from wealthy benefactors would make it theoretically possible for the Turks eventually to reequip their forces with non-US equipment, such as French Mirage aircraft, West German Leopard tanks, and British naval vessels, if the producer countries were willing to sell them to Ankara. (The French, West Germans, and British would have to weigh carefully, inter alia, the repercussions of such sales on their respective relations with Greece.) The Turks realize, however, that in the best of circumstances, a massive re-equipment program would take several years to complete. In the interim there would be no way to avoid a confused and cumbersome supply system which would weaken the preparedness of Turkey’s armed forces.
One way of speeding a re-equipment program would be for friendly states to transfer equipment directly from their inventories to Turkey. This would be possible for Libya, which currently has more modern aircraft and tanks than its forces are capable of using efficiently. Libya and other Arab states, however, would probably be reluctant to part with any major weapons at a time when they believe another war with Israel is possible.
The Turks are doubtless aware that re-equipment of their forces with non-US weapons would carry risks and would substitute dependence on other foreign states for dependence on the US. Nevertheless, Ankara will probably take some steps in this direction, even if US aid is later resumed, since the danger of relying on a single source of supply has been made abundantly clear.

From Russia?

24. We do not believe that the Turks are now seriously considering turning to the Soviet Union or any other Warsaw Pact country for military supplies. Although the USSR has the capability to re-equip Turkish forces, the Turks would probably see little value in becoming dependent on the Soviets. Ankara nonetheless may try to use the specter of a turn to the USSR as leverage to induce Western states to provide military equipment.

III. When the Turks React

Turkey’s reaction in the initial period following the cutoff of US arms aid has followed predictable lines. Believing, as the Turks did, that some way would be found to avoid the cutoff despite the lack of progress on Cyprus, they were surprised, dismayed, and angry. There is no sign that they drew up contingency plans in the event the aid was actually stopped. Even now, Turkish leaders continue to harbor hopes that the arms tap can soon be turned on again. In these circumstances, Ankara’s relatively restrained response thus far is probably not a reliable gauge of what is to come.
Turkish confidence in the mutual security relationship with the US has already been seriously shaken. If US aid is not reinstated soon— the end of February has been cited as the outer limit of Turkish patience—retaliatory moves by the Turks against the US are inevitable. Ankara has already let it be known that all defense agreements with the US will be subject to re-examination unless military deliveries are resumed. In the paragraphs that follow we assume for purposes of analysis that the US arms cutoff continues indefinitely and we offer preliminary judgements as to how the Turks may respond.

Impact on US-Turkish Relations

The Turks’ measured reaction thus far strongly suggests a determination not to let matters get out of hand either in the diplomatic arena or with respect to public opinion in Turkey. As the weeks go by, Ankara is likely first to restrict or eliminate privileges enjoyed by the US in Turkey under informal agreements. Next, the Turks will probably curtail US use of facilities in Turkey for military operations and intelligence collection. Those facilities most conspicuous to the public would probably be among those most vulnerable. Installations that do not directly contribute to the defense of Turkey but are extremely valuable to the US—for example, certain intelligence collection facilities— would also be fair game. We believe it likely that Turkey will eventually demand that some, if not all, of these installations be closed down. Turkey’s leaders could demand a high price for continued use of facilities permitted to remain. They would probably not shrink from these steps even though they realize that such actions will do nothing to help them out of their present dilemma.
The venom injected into US-Turkish relations by the controversy over military aid is likely to poison other important bilateral dealings as well. It will be difficult, for example, to conduct fruitful discussions on sensitive issues like the opium problem.

Domestic Repercussions

There are some tentative signs that the halt in US military aid may create sufficient pressure to break the political stalemate in Ankara, now in its fifth month. The armed forces’ disenchantment with squabbling politicians has become increasingly evident in recent weeks, and the military may now seize the occasion to apply more pressure on political leaders to resolve their differences. This could bring stronger efforts to form a coalition or a move toward elections. The Turkish press has recently carried reports that new elections will be held some time in June.
If an election is held, the aid cutoff will undoubtedly be one of the major issues, and extreme nationalists will find a much more receptive audience for anti-US rhetoric. An election will conceivably result in a government committed to ending all cooperation with the US, [Page 710] but the possibility of intervention by the Turkish military would increase in this event.

Turkey, Europe, and NATO

Turkey has now been forced to re-examine its role in NATO since—until now—the Turks have looked on membership in the Alliance as synonymous with very close military ties to the US. Ankara’s relationship with NATO has thus been shaken and it is too early to predict the eventual outcome. Over the short run at least, Turkish ties with the Alliance are not likely to suffer as much as bilateral relations with the US. Turkey’s modern leaders have pointed the nation toward Europe and this direction will not change overnight.
Turkey is an associate of the EC, looking toward full membership by 1995, and a member of several other European regional organizations. NATO, however, is Turkey’s most important tie to the West and the Turks have taken great pride in the active role they have played in the organization.
The Turks have already said that the cutoff of US military assistance will weaken their capability to meet their NATO commitments, and they are likely to reduce their military participation in NATO, at least temporarily. The Turkish government has stressed, however, that it has no present intention to withdraw from the Alliance. Indeed, Ankara is not likely to step out of NATO without an in-depth review of Turkey’s entire foreign policy, and a basic decision to change it radically. The military especially—still the final arbiter of power in Turkey—would be most reluctant to sever all ties with the Western Alliance.
Turkey’s eventual course will be greatly influenced by the results of its search for alternative sources of military equipment—and that search will take time. If other NATO countries are willing and able to step into and fill some of the breach, this will buy time and help strengthen forces for moderation in Ankara, especially those in the military who want to hold losses to a minimum. If, however, the Turks are cut off from these alternative sources, they are likely to read this as de facto isolation from NATO, and they will react much more strongly.

Relations Between Turkey and Greece

The Turks, of course, blame Greece for the US arms cutoff, and they are particularly incensed at continued US military deliveries to the Greeks. Moreover, tensions remain high over Cyprus. It is possible that the arms cutoff may add a constraint on Turkey to avoid provoking the Greeks in such a way as to risk getting drawn into a protracted military conflict. This consideration may have played some part in Ankara’s recent decision to respond favorably to Athens’ proposal to take the dispute over the Aegean seabed to the International Court of Justice.
On the other hand, if Turkey should feel seriously threatened by the Greeks, it would retain various options not yet foreclosed by the arms cutoff. If, for example, Ankara were to conclude that war with Greece is inevitable, the Turks might opt for a surprise attack aimed at inflicting serious damage on Greek forces before the Turks’ supply problem becomes more acute.

Turkey and Cyprus

Turkey’s recent actions with respect to Cyprus are meant to underscore Turkish determination to deal from a position of strength and to prove that Ankara is immune to outside pressure on the Cyprus issue. There is no chance that this tough stance will weaken any time soon. The Turks may retain, however, some flexibility with regard to the size of the Turkish Cypriot sector, the number of Greek Cypriots permitted to live there, and the powers granted to any central government eventually created on the island.
Recent Turkish reinforcement on Cyprus indicates that Ankara does not intend to pull out forces any time soon. In time, however, the drain on scarce military resources would argue for withdrawal of a significant portion of Turkish forces on the island. The Turks would have additional incentive to pull out military units if their efforts to obtain arms and spare parts are unsuccessful, and if they believe that such a withdrawal would bring a resumption of US arms deliveries.

Looking Around for Friends …

If the halt in arms aid continues, the Turks are likely to weigh more far-reaching steps, particularly if they find that their basic military needs cannot be met by their European allies. Closer relations with Middle Eastern states and an improvement in relations with the USSR and Eastern Europe are options that would probably be examined. All would have serious drawbacks for the Turks.
As mentioned above, the Turks have already made some attempts to improve relations with the Arabs, and Libya has been especially active in courting Turkey. A major shift toward Arab countries, however, would be a difficult one for the Turks who would not wish to depend on Arab governments, and particularly not one led by so mercurial a leader as Qadhafi. [7 lines not declassified]
A substantial shift toward the USSR would seem even less likely than one toward the Arabs. Shortly after the US aid cutoff, there were unconfirmed reports that the Turks would consider a nonaggression pact with the Soviet Union. There is no sign that a serious initiative of this kind is in the cards, but something like it may come to be seen as an alternative, if Turkey eventually concludes that it has been deserted by its allies and left relatively defenseless.
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42. Since Turkey controls the Soviets’ access to the Mediterranean through the Bosporus and Dardanelles and their direct air routes to the Middle East, the Turks would have some strong bargaining chips if they decided to cultivate closer ties with the Soviet Union. The two nations have been rivals for centuries, however, and the Turks retain a deep-seated fear and suspicion of Russian intentions, despite the modest improvement in relations in recent years. There have been unconfirmed reports that Moscow has recently offered some limited arms assistance, but the Soviets probably have no illusions about their chances of replacing the US as Ankara’s principal arms supplier.

… or Turning Inward

43. There is no sign yet of any fundamental reorientation of Turkish foreign policy. Indeed, it would seem equally likely that Turkey’s current troubles could result in growing isolationist feeling and a return to domestic conservatism. This could spell trouble for Turkey’s economic prospects and for its role in southern Europe.

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, NIC Files, Job 79–R01012A. Secret; No Foreign Dissem; Background Use Only; Controlled Dissem. A note on the first page reads: CIA and DIA and has been reviewed and endorsed by representatives of State/INR as well as CIA and DIA.”
  2. The ban on Turkish military aid took effect on February 5, in accordance with the Congress and the Nation, Vol. IV, 1973–1976, pp. 858–860, 866) For the President’s statement, see Document 173.