135. Letter From Turkish Prime Minister Ecevit to President Carter1

Dear Mr. President,

Thank you for your letter of April 14 which I have studied with the great care that it merits.2

I am indeed aware of the vital role that SALT plays and can further play in ensuring better East-West relations and in paving the way for a more secure world. Allow me to congratulate you, Mr. President, for your perseverance in making SALT II possible and I wish you success in its conclusion.3

My government would be willing to try and secure Turkey’s contribution to the effective implementation of SALT II. It was due to our awareness of the importance of verification that we did not hesitate to expedite the resumption of activity in the installations in Turkey, soon after the lifting of the embargo, without waiting for the signing of new defence and economic co-operation agreement with the United States of America.

We were faced with considerable reaction from the Soviet Union, however, as they tended to interpret our decision as incompatible with good neighbourly relations.

In anticipation of such a reaction, I had suggested to Secretary of State Mr. Cyrus Vance, during our discussions in Ankara in January 1978, just after assuming office, that it would greatly increase our possibilities of contributing to detente and to nuclear arms control if the functions of the installations in Turkey were to be taken up between the United States of America and the Soviet Union in SALT discussions.4

I am sure you would appreciate, Mr. President, that Turkey, being situated in a most sensitive part of the world and faced with immense [Page 417] problems, would not wish to risk her own security and endanger her own relations with the Soviet Union and other neighbouring countries, while trying to contribute to improved East-West relations and to world peace.

It would, therefore, greatly ease our position if Turkey’s role in the efforts for the successful implementation of SALT II were to be acceptable to both parties in the agreement, or the contributions that could be expected from certain third countries were to be clearly defined.

Yet, even after the information we have received from Ambassador Spiers, we are left somewhat in the dark as regards the arrangements on which you might have agreed with the Soviet Union on verification, particularly in respect to the possible role of third countries.

It is very important for us to be clear on this point before being committed to new forms of contribution, especially to allowing overflights for intelligence purposes, in view of the sensitivity not only of the neighbouring countries, but also of our own public opinion.

Although we have been assured through your Ambassador that the United States does not need “Soviet approval of or acquiescence in” its verification activities, I am sure you would agree that it would not be equally justifiable or safe for a country in Turkey’s position to forego seeking such acquiescence.

The modernization of the already existing installations in Turkey for improved verification can be considered separately. Since this may be interpreted and explained within the framework of our existing co-operation. But any new arrangement should be initiated in a way that would not create new problems either for Turkey or for our region and for the East-West relations in general.

In view of these considerations, I agree, as has been suggested by the U.S. Ambassador in Ankara, that the matter be studied in greater detail and alternative possibilities of Turkey’s extended co-operation be reviewed between our officials, and during the expected visit to Turkey of Deputy Secretary of State Mr. Warren Christopher.

I assure you, Mr. President, that we would do all we can to try and find the means of further extending our co-operation for world peace provided that Turkey’s position or regional detente is not thereby endangered.

With highest regards, I remain, Mr. President.

Sincerely yours,5

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Country Chron File, Box 51, Turkey: 1–4/79. Secret; Nodis. In an April 23 covering memorandum to Brzezinski, Henze summarized the letter as follows: “What [Ecevit] says, in essence, is that Turkey is agreeable to them [overflights] if we and the Soviets together agree that they are okay and, presumably, if we guarantee Turkey against any retribution from the Soviets for cooperating.” Henze also noted that the situation could effectively subordinate Turkish sovereignty, and he wondered if there was a precedent for this with regard to NATO, and, moreover, if acceding to Carter’s request for overflights was politically tenable in Turkey. (Ibid.)
  2. See Document 134.
  3. The SALT II Treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union was not signed until June 18 in Vienna.
  4. See Document 107.
  5. Printed from an unsigned copy.