118. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Bilateral Between Secretary Brown and Prime Minister Ecevit at Turkish Embassy, 5 June 1978


  • US
  • Secretary Brown
  • Deputy Secretary Duncan
  • Assistant Secretary (ISA) McGiffert
  • Deputy Assistant Secretary (ISA) Siena
  • Ambassador to Turkey Spiers
  • Mil Asst to SecDef, RADM Hanson
  • Asst for Southern Europe (ISA), Col Walker (notetaker)
  • Turkey
  • Prime Minister Ecevit
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs Okcun
  • Minister of National Defense Isik
  • Ambassador to the US Esenbel

After opening pleasantries, Prime Minister Ecevit thanked Secretary Brown for his personal efforts in attempting to lift the embargo. Secretary Brown responded that everyone in the Administration will do all he can to persuade Congress of the importance of removing the embargo. It is essential that the Administration move forward in this effort. He noted that on 4 June during his interview on FACE THE NATION, he had been able to work in a reference to the effort even though the question had not been asked. At a cabinet meeting on June 5 the President had stated that the embargo question has the highest priority.2 The President will more than likely make a substantive statement at his next press conference.3 We are urging Congress to hold other hearings so that we may point out once again the urgent need for lifting the embargo; this is important for strengthening the Alliance. Secretary Brown observed that the Prime Minister’s recent statement on the subject during the Summit was very helpful, and that he should continue such statements since we are “in this together.”

[Page 372]

Prime Minister Ecevit said that since the embargo is the cause of the present difficulty in our relationship, he appreciates the stand that Secretary Brown and Secretary Vance have taken. He noted that he is hopeful of a promising result, and that he will continue his own efforts. Neither country can allow the suspension to continue, since the suspension has lasted too long already. The balance of detente (sic) [defense?] must be maintained on the Southeastern flank in order to counter the Soviet threat. Serious consequences will result from the formation of a vacuum in the Turkish area. But stability must be based on deterrence, not on lofty words. Even if the embargo is lifted, however, we must consider a new concept and structure. It must be based upon new political conditions, the new feeling in NATO, and changes in the international situation and in military considerations. The military must be streamlined and made more efficient and not constitute a burden on the economy, but act as a spur to the economy.

There are joint measures that the US and Turkey can take to improve the situation. Turkey has been handicapped by restricted outside supply sources and too much dependence on a single source. The Prime Minister stated that he would like to see that dependence eased by Turkey’s being included in co-production schemes as with European nations. Such arrangements would involve technology transfers, foreign payment supports and formation of new industries. However, such a scheme of interdependence would allay concerns of the people of other allied countries as to which direction Turkey would go. There is obviously a close relationship between industry and defense; that is, a heavy defense structure cannot be built on a weak economy. Turkey would like the US to be more aware of that relationship in the future. Ecevit pointed out that in certain areas Turkey can export military equipment to the Allies, as well as supply some of her own needs. He mentioned that he had suggested to President Carter that this offshore purchasing system could give new economic impetus. It would be possible to enlarge several industries in Turkey in order both to meet Turkish needs and to supply other Allies. Examples are the manufacture of rockets, anti-tank munitions, and communications and electronic equipment, including co-production. Additionally, Turkish shipyards could build submarines for Allies and other friendlies. Repair and modernization facilities in Turkey could be enlarged, but financial assistance would be required, under appropriate provisions of the North Atlantic Treaty.

Ecevit stated that apart from these industrial matters, the Turkish Armed Forces need to be discussed. As General Haig noted, the Turkish Armed Forces have lost about 50% of their effectiveness, primarily because of lack of needed material such as T–38 training aircraft. It would be helpful if the US could find a way to assist in this area, even [Page 373] before the embargo is lifted. He further noted that he appreciated Secretary Brown’s contribution to the reorganization issue discussed at the recent Ministerial in Brussels. A continuing need exists for NATO air training facilities in Turkey. He noted that Turkish pilots formerly won almost all NATO contests, but are now suffering from a lack of proficiency and a decrease in morale.

The Prime Minister emphasized what he considers the worst bottleneck currently affecting defense and NATO cooperation—a shortage of infrastructure construction in Turkey. He believes this results from a lack of interest in NATO, as well as neglect by the Turkish economy. Such infrastructure projects include pipelines, port facilities, airfields, and storage facilities. Unless priority is given this important area, Turkey’s reinforcement reception capability will be seriously affected. Assistance is required either bilaterally or through NATO.

In addition to the economic problems, a serious problem exists in the definition of areas of responsibility in the Aegean. No-one in NATO, Turkey, or Greece knows his area of responsibility, and confusion would exist if something happened in the Aegean area.

In regard to the DCA, the Prime Minister stated that Turkey would be willing to negotiate immediately after the embargo is lifted. There is no legal basis for resumption of base operations, but the situation could be handled. The joint US-Turkish facilities, particularly the identification, control and communications facilities, are important for security purposes, as well as SALT, MBFR, etc. The Soviets think such facilities are a provocation, but Ecevit said that he sees them as serving peaceful purposes. In any case, the Turks would have no objection in principle to resumption of talks immediately after the embargo is lifted.

Secretary Brown told the Prime Minister that he would respond to the points that he had raised, but necessarily in varying degrees of specificity. He stated that we understand and agree with the need for the Turkish economy to support defense needs. This in turn would mean that the Turkish Armed Forces would be better able to carry out their NATO role. Secretary Brown said that once the embargo is lifted a joint planning study should be the first step. The State Counselor raised this point last February, as well as the question of Turkey’s defense industry capability for meeting its own and Allied requirements.4 He told Ecevit that he had asked members of the Defense Department to look at these points. He pointed out to Ecevit the importance of private invest[Page 374]ment, although that is not the only way out. The tank repair and modernization facilities, etc., would be part of it. DoD experts will visit and look at those facilities at the appropriate time. This will not solve the balance of payments problem; it will be a long time before Turkey will be able to manufacture modern aircraft, for example.

The matter of joint training facilities also came up at the DPC. It is imperative to have joint training facilities in Europe, not to replace existing facilities but as a supplement. In regard to military infrastructure, Secretary Brown suggested that Turkish planners participate with the planners of other Allies in the Long Term Defense Program. Whatever is accomplished in this area will be accomplished through this structure. Concerning the Aegean, General Haig is working hard with both Turkish and Greek leaders. The problem is obviously not solved yet, but these discussions have so far prevented the political problems from worsening. Secretary Brown agreed that we should move forward on the DCA as soon as possible, but such movement obviously could occur only after the embargo is lifted. However, in the interim, he believes we will be able to establish a working arrangement. He summarized his remarks by noting that the Administration is working hard with Congress in order to address the important elements that the Prime Minister had introduced.

Prime Minister Ecevit thanked Secretary Brown for the opportunity to discuss these items with him. He observed that he is glad to see that we basically agree on the nature of the problems confronting us. He further stated that our joint planning efforts, even in rudimentary form, will aid considerably later this year when Turkey is developing its new strategy plan. It will give the Turks confidence.

The meeting terminated, and a short statement was made by each principal to press representatives.

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–81–0202, Box 69, Turkey 1978. Confidential. Drafted by Colonel Norman Walker. The meeting took place at the Turkish Embassy. In an attached note to Walker, dated June 7,Rear Admiral Thor Hanson reported that he approved the memorandum but had added “a couple small things.” The handwritten revisions have been silently incorporated into the text.
  2. According to the President’s Daily Diary, the meeting took place from 9 to 11:10 a.m. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials)
  3. Carter opened his June 14 press conference with a statement about the embargo. (Public Papers: Carter, 1978, Book I, p. 291)
  4. During a February 23 meeting in Ankara with Şükrü Elekdağ, Nimetz suggested such a planning study to determine how the Turkish military could meet NATO commitments. Nimetz added that no such study should commence until after the Defense Cooperation Agreement between the two countries was signed. (Telegram 1408 from Ankara, February 23; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780084–0665)