162. Memorandum From the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Ford1 2


  • Turkish Opium

The announcement on July 1 by the Turkish Government that it is lifting its three-year-old ban on opium cultivation requires your decision as to the proper US Government response.


Turkey’s ban on opium cultivation was decreed in June 1971 at the strong urging of the United States Government and through President Nixon’s personal efforts. Up to that time, Turkish opium had been the major source of heroin smuggled into the United States. Since the imposition of the Turkish ban there has been a dramatic decline in heroin addiction in the United States.

In the months preceding the July announcement, it was clear that there was strong popular sentiment in Turkey in favor of the repeal of the ban. Despite US grants of $35.7 million to compensate and assist Turkish farmers in affected areas, the ban was highly unpopular among these farmers and others in Turkey; they insisted that the US assistance was inadequate and that the ban served US interests at Turkey’s expense. US officials, aware in recent months that the Turkish Government was moving toward lifting the ban, strongly and repeatedly urged Turkish authorities at all levels not to take such a step. We emphasized to them that the ban had played a key role in combating a major US problem, and that US public and Congressional reaction to a revocation of the ban could seriously harm US-Turkish relations.

Since the announcement repealing the ban, there has been considerable adverse US public and Congressional reaction. On July 11 the Senate passed an amendment requiring suspension of all US military and economic aid to Turkey after January 1975 unless Turkey has by then taken effective steps to control opium smuggling. The House on August 5 passed and sent to the Senate a somewhat different resolution which would require that we enter into talks with the Turks on establishing controls and that we suspend assistance under existing legislation if these talks prove unfruitful.

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The existing legislation—Section 481 of the Foreign Assistance Act—requires that you suspend all US assistance to a country if you determine that its government has failed to take adequate steps to prevent narcotics produced there from illegally entering the US. US military assistance to Turkey has been running at $150–200 million annually in recent years. Economic aid has been much smaller; our request to Congress for fiscal 1975 economic aid to Turkey is for $23 million, and the final figure is expected to be much lower.

The US Response

The Turkish decision to lift the opium ban appears irreversible. That being the case, I believe that the US response should aim at achieving the following objectives:

  • —To minimize the adverse impact of the Turkish decision on our battle against domestic heroin addiction;
  • —To make clear to the Congress, the American people, and foreign governments your commitment to combating international narcotics trafficking;
  • —To accomplish the above with the least possible damage to our important security relationship with Turkey.

Prime Minister Ecevit and his government have assured us that they would welcome the cooperation of the US, the UN, and others in developing an effective control system. US Government and UN agencies have already developed a number of ideas and plans as to how an effective control system might be established in Turkey.

I believe we have three broad types of response to Turkey’s lifting of the ban:


Soft-line approach:

We could enter into discussion with Turkey on ways to establish an effective control system, while maintaining business as usual in all other aspects of US-Turkish relations.


Middle-ground approach (recommended option):

We could enter into discussions as in option #1, while pointing out to the Turks that the Foreign Assistance Act requires suspension of our military and economic assistance to them if they fail to take adequate steps to prevent smuggling into the US. This would underscore our concern and show responsiveness to the concerns of Congress and others.


Harder-line approach:

We could enter into discussions as in options #1 and #2, while also applying pressure on Turkey in several key areas at the outset of the negotiating process.

The first, soft-line approach, would please the Turks and minimize damage to US-Turkish cooperation. However, it would convey the implication that the Administration’s previously expressed concerns about a lifting of the ban were overstated. Also, it would not satisfy the Congress and would weaken the credibility of our narcotics control efforts in other countries. Congress is likely to mandate an early aid cut-off if it is not satisfied that we are moving positively. No US Government agency advocates this soft-line approach.

The third, or harder-line approach, has been endorsed by several agencies. OMB, the Domestic Council, Treasury, and AID all favor applying sanctions against the Turks at the outset of the negotiations. They believe this is necessary to demonstrate that the US will not tolerate a renewal of illegal opium trafficking. They recommend that virtually the whole range of US assistance to Turkey—FY 1975 development assistance ($23 million), FY 1975 military grant assistance and military sales credits ($170–180 million), and deliveries from the current military assistance pipeline—be suspended, pending agreement on establishment of an adequate control system. These agencies believe that this tougher approach would be more convincing to the Turks and the Congress but would not irrevocably terminate any programs if the Turks respond satisfactorily.

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This harder-line posture might be popular with Congress and the press and would make clear the firmness of our commitment against illicit narcotics traffic. But it could also jeopardize our mutual security relationship with Turkey, threatening such US security interests as our use of military bases and intelligence installations there, our Sixth Fleet’s ability to operate in the Black Sea and use Turkish ports, and our extensive use of Turkish air space to fly from Europe into the Middle East and Asia. Turkey is, of course, an important NATO ally and its control over the Turkish Straits gives NATO an ability to cut off Soviet access to the Mediterranean if necessary. Most importantly, there is no assurance that these costs would be offset by any gains in the effort to control illegal drug traffic into the US; indeed, the hard-line approach, by seriously damaging our relations with Turkey, could greatly diminish our ability to limit that traffic.

Serious thought has been also given within the US Government to a modified version of this harder-line posture, in which we would suspend just one or two categories of our assistance at the outset of talks. No US agency now endorses this approach, however, and I believe—given Turkish pride and nationalism—that such an approach would probably do as much damage to US-Turkish relations and cooperation as would the broader suspension advocated by OMB and the other three agencies.

While we may eventually want to impose all or some of the sanctions envisaged in the harder-line approach if Turkey proves obdurate in the negotiations, I believe that to do so at the outset would produce a negative Turkish reaction that could defeat our efforts to get good controls. Under the more moderate approach we would retain the option to get tougher if the situation demands but leave the Turks some room to work out their own domestic problems while meeting our needs.

Therefore, I recommend the moderate approach of option 2. The Departments of State and Defense, CIA, and USIA all support this approach, I believe it offers the best chance of obtaining an adequate control system. Moreover, it would at least partially assuage Congressional and public demands for a firm US response to Turkey’s action, while holding open the prospects for Turkish cooperation both on opium and mutual security matters.

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The memorandum at Tab A would establish option #2 as US policy. (State, Defense, CIA and USIA concur).

RECOMMENDATION: That you approve my signing the memorandum at Tab A.

Approve. [GRF initialed]

Disapprove (prefer option #3 harder line, suspending aid now pending agreement on establishment of an adequate control system. OMB, Domestic Council, Treasury, and. AID favor).__________

Disapprove (prefer modified version of harder line, suspending one or two categories of aid now. No agencies favor).__________

Disapprove (prefer very soft line described in option #1. No agencies favor).__________

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 54, NSDM 267, Turkish Opium Production (1). Secret. Sent for action. Ford initialed his approval. Tab A is Document 164.
  2. Kissinger assessed options for responding to the reintroduction of Turkish poppy production.