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134. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Turkey1

94317. For Ambassador from Acting Secretary. Subject: Presidential Letter to Prime Minister Ecevit and Talking Points. Ref: (A) Ankara 2879, (B) State 085689.2

1. The following letter from President Carter should be presented to Prime Minister Ecevit at the earliest possible time.

2. Dear Mr. Prime Minister: I am writing to you on a matter of major importance not only for the United States, but for the peace and security of the world. I hope shortly to conclude the SALT Two treaty with the Soviet Union. Knowing your deep commitment to nuclear arms control and your understanding of the central role which SALT plays in our common effort to improve East-West relations, I want to raise with you personally an essential contribution Turkey can make to the Treaty’s success.

I know you recognize the crucial importance of verification with respect to the whole SALT process and the new Treaty in particular. To help ensure that we do not miss an historic opportunity to move the world in the direction we both desire, I am requesting your cooperation in efforts to establish a verification system consonant with the Treaty and central to its realization.

We are taking several steps to improve our verification systems over the longer term—particularly with satellites. To cover the interim period we must take other measures. In this connection, we propose to install monitoring equipment on high-altitude aircraft which could collect enough signals from Soviet ICBMs during flight-testing so as to provide for the verification of SALT constraints on these missiles.

To do so, the aircraft would have to fly at high altitudes over Turkish airspace. These aircraft would not overfly the Soviet Union, and would not be based in Turkey. At certain times of the year when there is a significant chance of a Soviet test on any given day, daily flights might be required to ensure that most of the ICBM flight-tests [Page 415]are monitored. The aircraft could be ready within perhaps 6–9 months. We would of course work closely with you in planning and implementing all phases of this program.

I can assure you that what I am proposing is fully consistent with the provisions of the SALT Treaty. The use of national technical means of verification is explicitly provided for in the Treaty, as is a ban on interference with these means. Further, there is recognition of the propriety of collecting telemetered ICBM signals whenever this telemetry is used for verification. The flights I am proposing are also consistent with the Soviet practice of collecting information about flight-testing of US ICBMs. While I fully appreciate Turkey’s historical sensitivities about overflights of adjacent nations by intelligence collection aircraft based in Turkey, I believe you will agree with me that what I am now proposing is fundamentally different from the activities of the past.

In view of your own strong support for the Treaty and the clear legitimacy of the program itself, I hope that after studying my proposal you will agree that we can proceed to institute this limited overflight system at the earliest possible time.

Should you have any questions about my proposal, please ask Ambassador Spiers and we shall provide a full and prompt response. I look forward to hearing from you at an early time so that together we can proceed to ensure the verifiability of a new SALT Two treaty. Sincerely, Jimmy Carter. End.3 No original text to follow.

[Omitted here are talking points for Spiers.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Cables File, Box 116, 4/14–30/79. Secret; Sensitive; Immediate; Nodis.
  2. Telegram 2879 from Ankara, April 12, and telegram 85689 to Ankara, April 6, are in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840167–1715 and P840131–2102. The former telegram relayed Elekdağ’s message that Turkey needed more information before considering the U.S. overflight request. The latter telegram relayed the Embassy’s suggestion that a letter to Ecevit detailing the U.S. overflight proposal was the best step forward.
  3. In telegram 85689 to Ankara, April 6 (see footnote 2 above), the Department instructed Spiers to emphasize again the great importance Carter attached to Turkey’s cooperation in the U.S. verification and compliance efforts to maintain the SALT II treaty.