145. Telegram From the Embassy in Turkey to the Department of State, the Department of Defense, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff1

8510. Military addressees handle as Specat Exclusive. Personal for Deputy Secretary Christopher, Under Secretary Komer, Generals Jones, Rogers and Allen, Admiral Shear and Ambassadors Bennet and McCloskey. Subject: Turkish Security: My Conversation With General Evren and the Need for New Departures.

1. (S) Entire text.

2. Summary: Dinner with TGS Chief Evren a few days ago surfaced Turkish anxieties about her strategic position that we need HSB address or run the risk of further weakening in our own position. Some action suggestions are enumerated in para 9. End summary.

3. Introduction: The upheaval in Iran documents the reasons for the growing fears of Turkey’s security planners. Up to only a year ago Turkey’s eastern flank was occupied by an imperial power devoted to reinforcing its defenses and able to keep the Kurds in tow and Iraq, armed by the Soviet Union, at bay. Now there is chaos in Iran, the Kurds resurgent and Iraq without an effective counter weight. More significantly perhaps, up to only a year ago Turkey was the strategic half-way house to vital US and European interests in the Persian Gulf. Today, Turkey is the easternmost reach of Western influence and power. Our defensive links to the Gulf via Iran have been cut and the Turks see themselves as geographically interposed between the Soviet Union and the oil it will need to overcome projected deficits in the 1980’s. In my judgment, the Turks have reason to be nervous.

4. A conversation with General Evren: In a private dinner I had with General Evren on November 19—General Saltik and two other senior members of the Turkish General Staff (TGS) also were present, as were General Thompson, General Knudson and my MSA Counselor—the chief [point] of the TGS’s message was clear: in the absence of a clearer US commitment to Turkish security and a greater US willingness to address Turkey’s defense requirements, Turkey would have no option but to adjust itself to the world which surrounds it. Evren did not threaten. He has no illusions about the paucity of Turkey’s options. He understands his country’s plight and knows that first priority must [Page 442] be given to its economic woes. He fully appreciates the amount and generosity of our economic aid and he will not ask his political masters to divert to defense money needed to repair the economy. Furthermore, he knows that his country is politically isolated from its Balkan and Arab neighbors and the wider third world. He did not ask for MAP, nor did he make a bid for more FMS credits. He acknowledged his dependence upon outside military assistance. At the same time, he did not want the TGS to add to Turkey’s economic troubles by piling up increasingly costly FMS debts.

5. Evren wanted a signal, greater proof that we would stand by Turkey. He asked that we translate what limited military aid we could provide into hardware, by making deliveries from stocks. He also urged that we reduce Turkey’s FMS burden so that almost half of what we give in new money is not offset by debt service requirements. He saw the installations agreement as an aspect of a broader problem: the need to restore a healthy and viable US-Turkish security relationship, which would be symbolized by the signing of a multi-year defense agreement. He summed up his points by saying that before embarking unreservedly once again on the American route to security, his country would have to be reassured that “the weather would remain fair along the entire course of the journey”.

6. The response I was able to make—that until its economy becomes stronger Turkey must depend for its security on an unambiguous commitment to NATO—seemed inadequate. NATO guarantees in this part of the world are credible only to the extent our actions make them so. Having said this, no one is more aware than I that Turkey makes being generous difficult. I made this point to Evren by contrasting Turkey’s manner with that of Sadat; of Turkey’s holding back versus Sadat’s constant search for mutually supportive initiatives. I urged Evren and his colleagues to “bet on the come”, that their tie to the United States was their only real option and that they should act accordingly. But my confidence that we would respond to positive gestures had to be caveated. When Evren asked about a long-term guarantee of military aid I could offer only prospects for an improved climate and express my belief that the probabilities of good weather would be enhanced by positive Turkish actions.

7. It seems to me that the trend of events in this strategic corner of the world requires a fresh display of US determination. We have done much for Turkey already—stimulating a $961 million multilateral economic aid program and the doubling of direct US aid in one year—but realistically more is needed and we should be ready to do more to avert further deterioration or to respond to a more Sadat-like Turkish stance.

8. I share Evren’s perception of the defense agreement, that it is more important as a symbol of our reestablished relationship than as a [Page 443] cover for the installations agreement. As I have stated in the past, I see little threat to the continued operations of our facilities. My apprehension has been and remains that unless we are more responsive in the security area our relations with the TGS and with the other elements of Turkey’s security establishment will deteriorate with all this implies in terms of US interest. In this context signature of a long-term defense agreement may have to await our willingness to reinforce our NATO commitment to Turkish security with more tangible assurances that Turkey will have access to US defense equipment and on the best possible terms including a high but not exclusive priority to such excess defense articles as may become available. We also may have to underscore our current “best effort” pledge of continuing security assistance with an Inouye–Marcos type congressional guarantee.2 I recognize that neither branch of our government has been prepared to pledge its word in these ways in view of congressional problems or lack of progress on Cyprus, etc. but events in Iran and Pakistan urge that we reassess our stance.

9. I recognize that the question of enhanced guarantees cannot be dealt with in a week, but during my consultations in Washington I would like to explore some specific suggestions as to what we might do:

—The Turks hope that I will return with the FY 81 aid figures and repayment terms.

—They are also hoping for at least a partial response to their request for FMS debt relief.

—They are closely watching the prospects for our delivering in the next year or so some high visibility items of defense equipment drawn from their equipment list. My staff has some ideas on what items would be most responsive—

Air Force: attrition aircraft including about 15 F4’s, some F100’s, 10–20 T37’s and at a later date some more T–38’s;

Navy: favorable resolution of the leases on the two gearing destroyers; and

Army: accelerated delivery of modernization kits for a small number of M–48A5’s.

10. Washington doubtless will have its own ideas on what equipment it may be possible to deliver from stocks. But the point is that [Page 444] something concrete and specific is needed—and quickly—if we want to deal with this crucial country’s growing fear for its security.3

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–81–0711, Box 19, Cartridge Frame 1–210. Secret; Niact Immediate; Specat; Exdis. Sent to USCINCEUR Vaihingen, USDOCOSouth Naples, USNMR SHAPE, USNATO, and Athens.
  2. Reference is to a military base agreement struck between the United States and the Philippines in January 1979. The negotiations included an October 1978 visit by Senator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), who convinced Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos that the terms of the aid package offered by the Carter administration were unlikely to be improved by Congress. (Bernard Wideman, “U.S. Philippines Near Pact on Military Bases,” The Washington Post, December 8, 1978, p. A24)
  3. In a November 26 memorandum to Vance, Brzezinski noted that Carter read this telegram and commented, “Turkey needs to reciprocate. They have been consistently negative.” Henze wrote to Brzezinski the following day, calling Carter’s reaction “depressing” and “betray[ing] shallow understanding of the realities of our relationship toward an indispensable ally as well as a petulance that will serve us poorly in our efforts to improve relations with Turkey in the months ahead.” Henze further estimated that the new Demirel government “offers the best prospect in more than five dismal years for a solid improvement in U.S. relations,” and counseled that Brzezinski should personally open a dialogue with Demirel, as the new Prime Minister considered the Department of State too weak to engender improved relations. Both memoranda are in the Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Horn/Special, Box 4, 11/79.