238. Telegram From the Embassy in Turkey to the Department of State1

8214. Subj: Current Situation in Turkey.

Those who have followed recent Embassy reporting are aware current situation here is a discouraging one. This telegram summarizes where matters now stand in the key areas of USG interests.
With respect to Cyprus, it is increasingly clear that the GOT’s capacity for maneuver is severely circumscribed. DEMIREL and Caglayangil have found a way to get Turks to the table and in a stance which incorporates willingness to discuss territory adjustments. But it is by a tortured back-door process that this has been achieved. And what must seem to objective observers elsewhere as a notably limited and tentative initiative on the Turkish part is, in effect, presented to us [Page 795] here by Turk officials as a precarious, high-risk effort in view of the difficult domestic political situation the DEMIREL–Caglayangil team is facing. In effect, the Turks have said they will discuss territory if it is raised at the resumed talks, but Ankara’s political exigencies require that any initiative on this subject come from the other side. When one sees how difficult it has been for the GOT to achieve even this position, a serious question arises as to whether, once a negotiation begins, there is any real possibility that the Turks can show even a minimum of flexibility or spirit of compromise. DEMIREL and Caglayangil are adroit maneuverers and they may therefore find a way to do so (especially if the military supports them behind the scenes)—but our present assessment is that the odds of the PriMin–FonMin team accomplishing this are very long against.
Unpromising as these odds are, however, I think we have for the present made all the approaches we should to the GOT on this subject. We should now reserve our next round of effort for the period when the talks are actually about to start. Then, through both diplomatic and military channels, we should do all we can to get the Turks to display at least the necessary minimum of flexibility, on territory and other issues, as the talks get underway.
With respect to a revised US-Turkish defense cooperation relationship, the situation is equally discouraging. The Turkish opening position is a source of serious concern. There is a one-sidedness to the Turk position which radically undercuts the kind of mutuality of sacrifice and commitment that is essential for a viable relationship. If I thought this Turk document was simply an extreme opening position in a tough bargaining situation, I would not be as concerned as I am. Unfortunately, however, while the Turks obviously have some “give” in their initial position, I doubt that there is very much. Moreover, what little there is, is not likely to be forthcoming very quickly.
Here again, therefore, an objective look at the situation brings disturbing conclusions. We must recognize that the shortsighted requirements of Turkish nationalism and the weakness of the current government are likely to override a realistic sense of Turkey’s security needs. This could well mean that either (A) we will not be able to negotiate an acceptable basis for a security partnership on anything like the scale we have known here before, or that in any event (B) this process will take so long that through an inevitable interim attrition our security position here will have largely disappeared long before a new modus vivendi is achieved.
Things do not have to turn out this badly, of course. I have scant hope that the Turks will respond affirmatively (they have not yet given us an answer) to the Secretary’s request for a partial reactivation of closed Common Defense Installations (CDI’s) as our revised security [Page 796] relationship negotiations get underway. I think there is some possibility, however, that as the negotiations proceed, we will be able to bridge the gap in some areas of difference in a way that will permit, at some point in the weeks ahead, a resumption of some CDI activities here. I do not think the prospects are particularly good for this, but on the other hand the possibility cannot be ruled out. In the meantime, I urge that Washington adopt the Embassy’s recommendation that we eschew arguments over principle and instead go back to the Elekdag negotiators with a specific counter-proposal as soon as possible. Concerned as I am by a number of the unacceptable principles which underlie the Turk draft, it is a losing game to take these principles on frontally. The Turks, with their weak government, in their current super nationalist phase, and in their post embargo period, will be largely unyielding. We must seek instead to find a practicable and acceptable modus vivendi out of the grey areas lying between the Turkish and American drafts. We should support the basic points of our counter-draft by references to the essential partnership principles which underlie them, but if we are to make any progress we must keep the basic negotiations away from arguments over principles and instead on modus vivendi specifics.
Serious as should be the state of our concern over the current US-Turkish relationship, we must carefully avoid for the present escalating this concern in a dramatic or confrontation-type way. The embargo-embroiled US-Turkish relationship is far more bruised than sometimes is realized—and is badly in need of a respite. After eight months of embargo, the October 2 vote has supplied this in part, but whatever respite we now have, it needs to last somewhat longer before we can afford to get into anything like the early rounds of a showdown over the new defense cooperation relationship.
To avoid this latter (and also not to undermine whatever influence we have on the Cyprus situation), our counter-position respecting our future relationship on security should be pursued primarily in the ongoing Elekdag level negotiations and should not be escalated in any major way to higher levels of the GOT at this point. If in these negotiations the gap subsequently proves to be as unbridgeable as I fear, then that will be the time to escalate our efforts.
This does not mean we should not mention our concerns (as I have done and will do again) in a general way to the FonMin and high government officials here. But the basic point is that despite the very serious nature of the problem we are facing vis-à-vis our future security relationship, we should continue for the present to focus on negotiations Macomber channel and (B) while eschewing arguments over principle seek to narrow the gap in very specific areas between the two competing draft agreements.
The foregoing are my two major areas of conern, and I will not lengthen this message further by detailing still others of considerable importance which have to do—the above problems aside—with the question of whether Turkey is going to remain capable of being an effective and useful ally. The weak government situation here is not only a liability with respect to Cyprus and US security relationships. The Turkish economy is in a deteriorating condition and no Turkish Government has taken effective measures to deal with it for a dangerously long period. Reserves are declining; inflation is rampant; unemployment is staggering. Student violence continues to paralyze major sections of the university community. And under such circumstances of a deteriorating Turkish internal and international position, the question that always lurks in the background is just how much more will the Turk military take before intervening.
Despite the foregoing catalog of problems, however, Turkish society remains relatively stable and resilient. The Turks remain as one of the most courageous and patriotic people of any of our Western allies. Turkish geography has not lost its value for the defense of the West, nor have the Turkish people lost any of their zeal and determination to protect it from incursions from the North. The game is therefore still very much worth the candle. At the same time, it is obvious that the nature of the relationship which has existed between Turkey and the U.S. for 30 years is undergoing a serious sea change. Down the road we should be able to reconstruct a new and viable relationship, but in today’s circumstances it seems almost inevitable that it will be a relationship based on less mutual sacrifice, and less mutual confidence and commitment, than that which existed prior to February 5,
  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Country Files for Middle East and South Asia, Box 34, Turkey, Exdis to Secretary of State 2. Confidential; Immediate; Exdis. Repeated to Athens, Nicosia, Istanbul, Adana, and Izmir.