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

8462. For Eagleburger and Hartman. Subj: Future Course of US/Turkish Security Relationship.

The failure of the 94th Congress to approve the new US/Turkish Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) prior to its early Oct adjournment2 may turn out to have more significant consequences than as yet sensed either by the Congress or by many Turks.
If the Congress had endorsed the DCA before adjournment the Turkish Parliament would almost certainly have soon followed suit, thereby again placing the presently threatened US/Turk military partnership on a stable foundation. Some months from now we may find ourselves looking back on last summer as a lost opportunity which may not come back to us again. This is not inevitable; matters may not take such an unfortunate turn. But it is a sufficiently real possibility as to require that we take clear note of it at this time—and make a major effort to avoid it.
A key to the problem is timing. Even if the next Congress endorses the DCA, the effort to restore our relationships here can still fail. It can fail because of the congressional action’s not coming soon enough to avoid the pre-election campaign which we will soon be headed into here in Turkey.
The Turkish general elections have to be held not later than next October, and they may come as early as this coming spring. As in the United States, the Turkish political campaigns begin many months before election day and once this period is under way, the Parliament’s tendency is to put off controversial legislative actions until after the election. Acting at least in part on this same principle, the Congress has delayed action on the DCA until mid-winter at the earliest.
Even if President Ford had been re-elected, it would appear from our vantage point here that it would at best have been problematic as to whether completion of congressional action on the DCA could have been achieved by a mid-winter time period. With the arrival of a new administration, it would appear that this would be even more problematic. Presumably, any new administration would wish to reexamine the DCA before deciding the stance it would take respecting it. After weighing current circumstances—and our basic interests—in the Eastern Mediterranean, however, I would very much hope that the new administration will decide to endorse this agreement as it is presently written and seek early congressional approval. But even if it should decide to do this, there is still the danger that in competition with the many other problems the new administration must face, this decision will be delayed to a point where mid-winter congressional action becomes an impossibility.
An additional factor is the timing of USGGOG agreement on a new US/Greek DCA.3 It is possible that the conclusion of this agreement may be delayed until some time after the new administration takes office. If, as we assume, the new administration will wish, if it is [Page 853] at all possible, to go to the Congress with both agreements at the same time, this could cause further delay in seeking congressional action on the US-Turkish DCA.
While deadline predictions are especially risky, it would appear to me now that if the Congress has not completed action on the DCA by mid-March, it will then be too late for the Turkish Parliament to act on it prior to their own election campaigns. If I am correct in my assumption that the elections will be next fall rather than next spring, this means that Turkish parliamentary action will be delayed for the better part of an additional year. Moreover, it is likely to mean that the agreement itself will become an important and controversial issue in the campaign. For the longer the Congress delays action on the DCA the more likely it is that the political opposition to the Demirel government DCA, and/or that the Demirel government itself may collapse or be defeated, thus leaving the DCA with no sponsor. All this in turn means that by November
In addition, the longer we delay in putting back on a solid basis the US/Turk relationship, the longer we add to the risk of serious Greek/Turk confrontations—confrontations which could eventually be of a character to threaten prospects for restoring military partnerships with either Turkey or Greece.
We have considered what the situation would be here if Congress did not complete action on the DCA before the Turkish political campaign started but did give its endorsement sometime after the campaign was underway. This would perhaps have a marginally beneficial effect in reducing the political contentiousness of this issue in the campaign, but only a marginal one. It would also give us the opportunity to argue that all the shut down installations should immediately be reopened. (Turk negotiators in Washington last March said that these installations would be reopened immediately after favorable congressional action, but that was before the GOT decided that the agreement also had to be put through its own Parliament.) Unfortunately, however, I believe that the GOT could not agree to do this prior to its own Parliament having acted, particularly in the midst of a hard-fought political campaign.
Possibly the consequences of delayed congressional action could turn out to be less serious than the foregoing suggests. If Congress should continue to vote significant military assistance levels to [Page 854] Turkey in the interim, both governments could end up muddling through an extended additional period of uncertainty. It is also possible, although I think unlikely, that in the intervening period, international and/or Turkish domestic developments would not rule out congressional and parliamentary approval roughly 13 to 15 months from now. To count on this, however, is a high-risk course indeed.
It is also possible that having found that we can get through one additional year or somewhat more without an agreement (but with continuing military assistance appropriations), we could then continue to get along in the years thereafter, still without either side having acted formally on the DCA. Again this would be a high-risk course, but it is a possibility that cannot be ruled out altogether. Should we end up following this latter route, we would have to insist on the opening of most of our closed down installations. We might not need to insist on all being reopened but certainly most of them must be allowed to function if the flow of our assistance is to continue. Even if our relationship could limp along in this way, however, it would be seriously plagued by the absence of all the key administrative and other vital arrangments which have been so carefully battled over in the DCA. Eventually we would have to work out, formally or informally, substitute arrangements which are not likely to be as desirable or workable as those embodied in the present DCA.
Another course that the new administration may examine is the negotiating of a new DCA, or at least the entering into of new negotiations designed to amend the present DCA—while insuring that at least the present level of military assistance continues to flow while this process is under way. The serious danger here, however, is that such an action would continue to invite all the basic risks of delay noted earlier. It also risks our ending up with either no agreement or an agreement less advantageous to us than the present one.
Still another approach would be to adopt the position of a number of congressional critics, i.e., that the DCA should be pressed with the Congress only when there is substantial progress in the Cyprus situation. Any public attempt to use this kind of open leverage on the Turks will be as unwise and unsuccessful in the future as it has been in the past. It will not produce progress on Cyprus. It will only hasten the deterioration of the US-Turk security partnership. On the other hand, the Turks have an even greater security stake in restoring the US-Turk partnership than does the US. If they can, without a display of public duress, be pushed into a more flexible and constructive stance on the Cyprus problem, this could help immeasurably with the Congress and thus help also Turkey’s own security position. For the basic reasons repeatedly spelled out in the Embassy’s earlier reporting, this will not be easy to accomplish. In a separate message, however, we will [Page 855] be commenting on how a new effort in this regard might most effectively be mounted.4
Regardless of whether such an effort can succeed, however, the basic point of this message remains: namely, that failure to get early congressional endorsement of the new DCA risks the continued deterioration and disintegration of the US-Turk security partnership. Given the importance of this partnership to the world strategic balance and to US security interests, it therefore seems to me that it is essential that the present administration make a major effort to convince the new administration of the need to move the DCA through the Congress in the early weeks of the next congressional session.
Otherwise we may find that inadvertently, but quite possibly irrevocably, we have lost a military partnership which, in our own security interest, we simply cannot afford to lose. This is not to suggest that if the partnership does disintegrate the Turks will switch sides in the Cold War. Initially they will probably not leave NATO. What will take place, however, (along with a probable increase in Greek-Turkish tensions) is (1) a disintegration of strength on the eastern flank of NATO; (2) the creation of a power vacuum in this area with all the obvious dangers this entails; and (3) a serious diminution of the US presence in the Eastern Mediterranean, along with all that this in turn entails not only for our NATO interests, but also for our interests with respect to Israel and the rest of the Middle East.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1976. Confidential. Repeated to Istanbul, Izmir, Adana, Athens, Nicosia, USNATO, USNMR SHAPE, USDOCOSOUTH INTAF Naples, EUCOM, and the Department of Defense.
  2. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee considered S.J. Res. 204, which implemented the DCA, in September at the request of the Ford administration in order to show Turkey that the process to restore bilateral relations had begun. No action was taken on the resolution prior to adjournment. (Congress and the Nation, 1973–1976, Vol. IV, p. 888)
  3. See Document 64 and footnote 3 thereto.
  4. Not found.