130. Memorandum From Paul B. Henze of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Turkey

The initial good effect of martial law in Turkey which I described after I returned from my visit there last month was negated by the assassination of Abdi Ipekçi.2 The country is back in the condition of tension and un[Page 403]certainty of December. Extension of martial law will help keep things from getting worse—but there is a great potential for further deterioration. Martial law covers less than 20% of the area of the country and less than 30% of the population. Disruptive forces have moved to the non-martial law regions and are intensifying strains there. The economic situation has not improved and the country remains solvent only by astute financial juggling. The combined western effort to provide short-term economic aid is stretching out and the good psychological effect of Guadeloupe and the Christopher mission could rapidly turn into a mood of frustration and negativeness if increased economic and military aid continue always to be over the horizon, promised but not delivered.3 (U)

We should not underestimate the effect of the Iranian collapse on Turkey.4 The two most basic effects are: it reinforces Turks’ worries about U.S. ability to assert itself; it raises the specter of fragmentation of Iran and especially of Kurdish troubles, which Turkey deeply fears. These worries are much more serious for Turks than concern that religious influences from Iran will spill over into Turkey; Turks are confident that they will not. (U)

If we want to keep Turkey on our side and keep the country from deteriorating further, we will have to exert ourselves more than we have to date and be ready to pay a higher price. So far we have tried to get by on the cheap and it isn’t working. We have also tried to push responsibility for economic and military aid for Turkey off on our NATO and other allies—and this is working poorly. We have to take the lead ourselves. In our base negotiations now under way, we have tried to slip by with a fragmentary agreement that is convenient for us but which in no way meets Turkish material and political requirements. The price we have to pay for the idiocy of the arms embargo is commitment to a comprehensive arrangement with Turkey—political, economic and military—in order to keep Turkey a member of the NATO alliance and enjoy the use of facilities there. The sooner we face up to this fact, the better our chances of success will be; our approach to date has been founded on illusion and wishful thinking. (C)

Talk about a multi-billion arms commitment to Egypt galls Turks. They have stayed in the western alliance consistently for 30 years and we tell them we can provide only $200 million in FMS for 1980 and no MAP! Egypt, which has worked against American purposes for the better part of the past 30 years, gets sympathy because its Soviet-supplied arsenal needs modernization. Loyalty seems to Turks not to produce div[Page 404]idends. Turks see the tactical value of keeping Egypt on our side now, but they think they are at least as important to basic U.S. strategic purposes. Turks are determined not to be taken for granted. They want credit for their commitment to democracy and feel they don’t get it. No Turkish political leader who ignores these deeply felt attitudes can gain or stay in office, nor will the Turkish military go on tolerating political leadership that does not ensure the bare minimum the military leadership feels it must have to maintain respectable armed forces. (C)

What is to be done? We need to find occasion to underscore our commitment to Turkey publicly and back it with a commitment to provide increased military and economic aid. Unless we put our money where our mouth is, neither the Turks nor our NATO allies will take us seriously. Specifically, the Administration should seek a supplemental appropriation from Congress to cover a stand-by credit for Turkey of an impressively large amount—say $300 million for economic purposes and $200 for military modernization. The funds need not all be made available at once and there can be conditions attached to them (but not Cyprus conditions; the Greeks are at least as responsible for current lack of movement on Cyprus as the Turks are). The psychological effect of such a commitment on our part will be enormous; it will not only bolster Turkish confidence in themselves, it will encourage other Western governments to provide more generous aid and it will demonstrate to the international banking community that we are committed to Turkey. Bankers will thus be prepared to provide commercial credit in quantity—the only way Turkey can overcome her present short-term debt repayment and balance-of-payments crisis. (C)

Turkey is a good bet economically. Its total indebtedness is modest in proportion to its GNP and its prospects for future economic growth. It can, with better management, repeat the economic performance of Brazil or Korea. Turkey is also a better bet politically than any country in the area. It has had its revolution and it manages, under difficult circumstances, to continue to practice democracy. Its society has safety valves. It has no hopeless ethnic or religious cleavages. It is to our benefit to capitalize on its strength. It is still, last but not least, a military partner well worth having. If we provide reasonably generous aid, we can have more direct influence on its military modernization. We should restore MAP for Turkey immediately. The symbolism of this act would be of enormous importance to the Turkish military and the cost would be small. (C)

When we have taken these steps to demonstrate our support for Turkey, we should send a really senior Administration official there to underscore our commitment. Vance is the only cabinet-level official to have visited Turkey in this Administration. That is not enough for a major ally. [Page 405] You would be the best one to go, but Harold Brown should also find occasion for a visit. (C)

The whole area is watching how we respond to Turkey’s current predicament. If we let Turkey stumble and falter, the loss will be much greater than Turkey, for our friends and allies in both the Middle East and Europe will inevitably revise their judgments about the value of association with us and commitment to the kind of world order we are working for. If we can’t muster the capacity to help Turkey out of its current predicament, we aren’t likely to meet some of the larger challenges we are going to have to face in the years ahead. By responding to Turkey’s current need for help, we can demonstrate that we do know where we are going in the world and reinforce in other countries the desire to be with us. (U)

I attach a very strong cable Ron Spiers sent in a few days ago. Everything he says is valid.5 (U)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 75, Turkey: 8/78–3/79. Confidential. Sent for information. Copies were sent to Sick, Larrabee, Owen, Poats, Hunter, and Ermarth. A stamped notation at the top of the first page reads: “ZB has seen.”
  2. Henze spent 11 days in Turkey in mid-January and reported his impressions in a January 15 memorandum to Brzezinski. In the memorandum, titled “Turkey—How do Things Stand?,” Henze asserted that Ecevit’s political strength was intact, that he remained committed to the West, and that the economic situation was bleak but not beyond rescue. Henze connected increased U.S. military aid to maintaining political stability in Turkey. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Horn/Special, Box 3, 1/79) On February 1, Abdi Ipekçi, the editor and publisher of Milliyet, a major Turkish newspaper, was killed in a drive-by shooting in Istanbul. In a February 2 memorandum to Brzezinski, Henze surmised that the politically mainstream tone of Milliyet could only mean that Ipekçi’s killer’s were “bent on silencing voices of moderation and good sense and undermining Turks’ confidence in themselves.” (Ibid.)
  3. See footnote 2, Document 129.
  4. Reference is to the political turmoil in Iran that forced Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi to flee the country in January 1979.
  5. Not attached. Reference is likely to telegram 1397 from Ankara, February 16. Spiers cautioned that the United States was in danger of positioning itself for a “major political setback” should it fail to provide immediate economic assistance to Turkey as promised at the Guadeloupe Summit. Spiers contended that without such aid, Ecevit’s government was in danger of collapse, which was particularly worrisome because there appeared to be no viable government to replace it. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840137–2596)