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

6939. Subj: (S) Turkey and SALT II Verification. Ref: Ankara 6254.2

1. (S-entire text).

2. Summary: Prime Minister told Ambassador Sept. 19 that US proposals for Turkish role in SALT II verification had been discussed in [Page 437] National Security Countil and that it had decided to maintain original GOT position, i.e., Turkey wished to contribute to the implementation of SALT II, but could not do so in the face of Soviet objections or misunderstandings about the Turkish role in what was essentially a two-power accord. Ecevit stated that WB–57 alternative was more troublesome for GOT than original US proposal, but he reaffirmed GOT willingness, in spite of high political risks, to proceed as previously agreed with DepSec Christopher, if “understanding” that systems like U–2’s were encompassed in national technical means, existed between treaty parties.3 Ecevit said, however, that Soviets had clearly indicated their opposition to idea of U–2 flights to a recent Turkish Parliamentary delegation in Moscow. Ambassador replied that this was not our reading of the Soviet attitude, which we saw as an unwillingness to either openly support or reject the idea, but which did not rule out passive acquiescence in it. End summary.

3. Ambassador was called to see the Prime Minister Sept. 19 to receive Turkish reply to latest US proposals for SALT verification. FonMin Okcun was also present. The Prime Minister explained that an official reply to the proposals (reftel) had had to await discussion by the National Security Council. This had been essentially the same as his own, i.e., that the GOT would maintain its original position. It wished to contribute to the implementation of SALT II, but the GOT role in the verification process should not be in the face of Soviet opposition or misunderstanding, particularly since SALT II was basically a two-power accord.

4. Ecevit said that the NSC had found the US alternative proposal for WB–57 flights more troublesome than the original proposal for U–2 overflights. The alternative formula did not make Turkish participation any easier since the aircraft would be based in-country and a Turkish crew member would be on board. This would mean even greater Turkish involvement in an accord to which the GOT was not a party. The NSC could not advise the GOT to submit such a proposal to the Parliament.

5. The Prime Minister said that he hoped this would not harm our relations, which have been improving thanks to the efforts of both sides. This was not in any way a step backward from the GOT’s previous position. It was rather a reaffirmation of the GOT’s willingness to proceed as originally discussed and agreed with DepSec Christopher, [Page 438] in spite of the high political risks involved. Ecevit added, however, that last week a Turkish Parliamentary delegation in Moscow on other matters had talked with Soviet officials, in particular with Chairman of the Council of the Union Shitikov. Shitikov had indicated “rigid Soviet opposition” to the U–2 overflights. Ecevit commented that the Soviets had brought up the matter themselves and their opposition to the Turkish role was clear.

6. The Ambassador indicated that our judgment was that while the Soviets could not openly agree to such a proposal they were unlikely to create difficulties over the matter. Prime Minister stated that the Turkish impression was precisely the opposite, but that if the Soviets did change their attitude the GOT was ready to proceed as previously discussed. The Ambassador noted that previous discussions with the Soviets on national technical means (NTM) had led us to conclude that while the Soviets had expressed some sensitivity to third country involvement and made clear that they did not want language sanctioning such practices in any agreement, they nevertheless did not consider such systems as unlawful.

7. The Prime Minister noted that as a matter of policy the GOT did not discuss this issue with the Soviets, but they had received other indications of Soviet displeasure. Ecevit recalled that Brezhnev had recently spoken of Soviet-Turkish relations in a somewhat cooler tone than in the past and he felt that perhaps this might also be the Soviet’s way of sending a message on the overflight issue. He also wondered if the recent media reports which linked the Soviet combat brigade in Cuba to US forces in Turkey might not be indicative of another form of subtle Soviet pressure. FonMin added that this attitude had also been evident in his recent discussions with the Soviet Ambassador. Okcun asked that the US consider further the “political feasibility” of its proposals and their impact on Turkey.

8. Ambassador replied that the issue was both a political and substantive one in the US. It had been carefully considered and the issue of assured and dependable verification procedures could affect congressional approval of SALT. The alternative to the present proposal was [2 lines not declassified] and that might not be a politically viable alternative for the U.S. administration. Prime Minister observed that the modernization or improvement of existing in-country facilities would be a much more palatable alternative for Turkey. Ambassador replied that while we desired and were discussing such modernization, particularly at [less than 1 line not declassified], it was unfortunately not the answer to the SALT II verification problem since it could not pick up the required [less than 1 line not declassified].

9. Ambassador noted that one of our difficulties seemed to be differing evaluations of the Soviet attitude. He said that he would report [Page 439] the Prime Minister’s remarks in full and await further instructions on where we go from here.

11. Comment: I fear we are back to square one, and that the GOT—under present political circumstances—will not accept the onus of agreeing to monitoring flights while the Soviets are expressing opposition and might exploit this against them. If there is an understanding (preferably explicit, but possibly implicit) on both sides that “NTM” includes such systems as U–2’s, Ecevit will cooperate. If there is not, they have convinced themselves agreeing will create major political difficulties internally and bilaterally with USSR. As the above indicates, we are not likely to get the Turks on board unless we can provide further evidence that the Soviets will not react in a hostile manner detrimental to Turkish interests. This in turn depends on our ability to persuade the Soviets that agreement on this issue is crucial to obtaining congressional approval for SALT II. This brings me back to one of our original suggestions, i.e., the possibility of a congressional reservation relating third country verification efforts to the definition of national technical means. If, in spite of the administration’s best efforts, it appears that other reservations will be attached to the Treaty, the inclusion of one along the above lines would be most beneficial here. I also believe it would be useful for Secretary to review this matter with Foreign Minister Okcun when they meet at UNGA.4

  1. Source: National Security Council, Carter Intelligence Files, Box 27, Turkey, 3 Apr 1979–19 Sep 1979. Secret; Cherokee; Immediate; Nodis. Printed from a copy that indicates the original was received in the White House Situation Room. Henze forwarded the telegram to Brzezinski with a September 19 memorandum that commented on the U–2 issue: “The Turkish answer confronts us with the same issue we faced originally—if the Soviets really want SALT II and want to help us get it ratified by agreeing to adequate verification arrangements—then why do they work to intimidate the Turks so as to prevent them from cooperating with us? This is evidence of severe bad faith. If we go on ignoring this, we become parties to a deception—and hostage to the Soviets’ own manipulation of one of our major allies.” (Ibid.)
  2. Telegram 6254 from Ankara, August 23, is in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840156–1621. The telegram reported that Spiers renewed the U.S. request for U–2 overflight permission over Turkey, to which Ecevit replied that Turkey needed more time to consider the matter.
  3. See Documents 138 and 139. The WB–57 aircraft holds one pilot and one passenger and flies at lower altitudes within a smaller range than the U–2. The United States had previously used the WB–57 for atmospheric research. The proposal to replace the U–2 with the WB–57 was based on the presumption that the latter aircraft would be more acceptable to the Turkish military.
  4. The meetings took place on October 4 and 5, and the Department described them in telegram 265783 to Ankara, October 11. The SALT issue did not come up during the talks. The telegram is in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790465–0307.