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

2911. Dept pls pass White House and Dept of Defense. Subject: US–GOT Relations; Defense Negotiations.

1. Secret-entire text.

2. Action message bearing on U.S. position in continued US–GOT defense negotiations.

3. Summary: Embassy believes changed circumstances both within Turkey and strategically within region indicate need for review at highest levels in Washington of the value of U.S. military installations in Turkey and the nature of our defense relationship. Maintenance of [Page 411] present instructions in our bilateral negotiations could well result in failure. This subject should be a prime candidate for possible high level discussions here. End summary.

4. Our present negotiation instructions (State 45098)2 were formulated before the impact of Iran, SALT and the Middle East peace settlement. We believe our present approach should be the focus of renewed careful attention at the very highest levels in Washington.3

5. Pursuant to instructions, we have told the Turks that their approach, with its integral 5-year force modernization plan, is outside the realm of the possible. The practical consequences of this position could be failure to reach agreement in our negotiations. The Turkish reaction to our “best efforts” formula for future defense assistance has been frigid. We were told after Ambassador’s talk with Sahinbas (Ankara 2811) that the present Turkish approach could not be turned around by anyone but the Prime Minister and doubts were expressed that even he could do it.4 It appears that the Turkish military are not willing to accept what we can offer now: a year-by-year consideration of Turkish military requirements in a context in which they believe our judgment is largely influenced by extraneous political issues.

6. The Turkish 5-year “modernization” plan, which we initially priced at between $10 and $15 billion, has been subject to detailed review and JUSMMAT estimates it to be in the $3 to $4 billion range (apparently including O&M costs). From Turkish standpoint, this plan is fairly moderate (omitting such high-cost items as F16’s, for example) and justifiable if Turkey is to continue to make a creditable contribution to NATO defense. The Turks argue that they are not asking for money, as in the past, but are seeking specific items of military equipment made necessary by their NATO role. The Turks will certainly hold out for some portion of equipment transfers at reduced cost.

7. A further difficulty bearing on our negotiations is the Turkish perception of recent events in this region. Turkey sees the magnitude of [Page 412] U.S. efforts elsewhere. They point to our delivery on an urgent basis from U.S. stocks—which we seem to be able to spare—$400 million of equipment to Yemen. They read about the Secretary of Defense travelling to the Middle East talking about large infusions of military assistance. Earlier this week, the papers carried reports of McGiffert’s visit to Cairo and the $1.5 billion additional assistance package for Egypt. They see military funds being poured into Israel.

8. The Turks see themselves, in contrast, as a NATO member, located directly on the Soviet border, their armed forces disastrously malequipped and facing block [bleak?] obsolescence, under levy of additional U.S. military and intelligence requirements which will increase their attractiveness as a target for Soviet political and military pressure and destabilization efforts, as well as their isolation in this region as the only country harbouring U.S. military installations. While the decision to seek a $50 million grant program has had a positive impact on the spirits of pro-NATO elements, the general reaction in military circles is that our overall response is minimal and ad hoc as measured by their needs.

9. It is possible that the net sum of these perceptions will be that the game is not worth the candle. Perhaps those who say that Turkey has no alternative to its defense ties with the West may be right. On the other hand, they may also be wrong. There are significant groups here who feel Turkey’s best interests would be served if the country opted out of NATO. Also, there are other Turkish policy options, far less drastic, which would simply remove U.S. forces but maintain NATO membership (the Norwegian model is much in Ecevit’s mind—as is the French). Many view the acceptance of U.S. military and economic aid as giving us license to push them in directions contrary to their national interests on Cyprus, Greek reintegration, etc. We may find that we are placing more weight on an essentially ambivalent Turkish political situation than it can bear, and that we will tip it in an unfavorable direction.

10. If Warren Christopher comes here, I think he should make the defense agreement—its framework, not its details—a major topic for candid exploration. This should be preceded by a review at the highest level before we conclusively reject the Turkish approach in the defense negotiations.

11. It may also be time to give some serious consideration to even higher level visits. In defense terms, a full and frank discussion with the Turkish military establishment of its problems and plans, in our view, warrants a personal visit by Harold Brown and a top-level officer. (Perhaps it would be feasible to develop a 5-year modernization program which we could promise our best efforts to support, both bilaterally and within NATO—always subject to congressional action—and [Page 413] use this bridge to secure a definitive resolution to the Greek reintegration program.)

12. The Turks currently see their relationship with us as without clear direction. They are confused and uneasy. Its proponents had hoped that a 5-year defense agreement would give a new stability to the relationship. The best we have been able to say is that we want a one-year renewable option. Perhaps we could make a small move in the Turkish direction as a next step, by including a revision of Article 3 of the foundation agreement (Ankara 0966), (which the Department has approved in State 45098)5 to read as follows: Qte Pursuant to Article 3 of the North Atlantic Treaty and in recognition that cooperative efforts of both governments as well as the assistance of other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is needed to assist Turkey to fulfill its responsibilities as a member of the Alliance, and with a view toward strengthening the mutual security cooperation between the two governments, representatives of the United States and Turkish armed forces will develop and keep current an equipment requirements list, arranged in order of priority, representing a 5-year Turkish armed forces modernization program. The Government of the United States shall exercise its best efforts consistent with United States laws, to provide the Government of the Republic of Turkey defense equipment, services and training, or the financing thereof, in accordance with the priorities established in this list. Unqte

13. Action requested: Review of our current instructions for defense negotiations and approval of revised Article 3.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790170–0657. Secret; Immediate; Exdis.
  2. Not found.
  3. The Embassy’s suggestion was supported by high-level officials in the Department of Defense. In an April 30 memorandum to Vance and Brzezinski, Brown noted that the review should ascertain how “forthcoming” the United States could be with regard to security assistance to Turkey over the next five years. Brown did not think that a more conceptual review of the overall defense relationship with Turkey was necessary because there was no question in the administration that “a healthy defense relationship with Turkey is genuinely critical to our security needs.” The memorandum is in the Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–82–0205, Box 22, Turkey 1979.
  4. The Embassy reported Spiers’ meeting with Şahinbaş, leader of the Turkish negotiating delegation, in telegram 2811 from Ankara, April 10. Spiers informed Şahinbaş that the amount of aid Turkey sought from the United States was “beyond our means.” Şahinbaş responded that news of U.S. reluctance to enter into a five-year defense support agreement was “badly received” by the Turkish military. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790164–1127)
  5. Neither found.