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

147784. For Ambassador from Nimetz and Vest. Subject: (S) Possible Military Intervention in Turkish Political Process. Ref: A) Ankara 3964 B) Ankara 4068.2

1. (S-entire text)

2. Dept has impression that the concept of a “military solution” may be gaining support from Turks who have lost hope in their system and see no other remedy for the problems which beset it. Indeed, the current scene in Turkey seems pregnant with portent: the manifest inability of the system to cap the spiral of violence, a deadlocked Parliament, a minority government with eroding support, incessant bickering among party leaders, the slowness of the economic turnaround, repeated but ineffectual warnings by TGS leaders, the role of the mili[Page 455]tary in the Turkish constitutional tradition, and the recent 20th anniversary of the 1960 coup which overthrew Menderes. A “military solution” could take the form of a coup a la 1960 or extra-legal steps a la 1971 that would make the TGS the dominant political force in Turkey.3

3. We are less concerned by the form that such a step might take than by the prospect that it could be gaining respectability and support. USG officials have repeatedly and emphatically stated that, given adequate external resources, the Turkish Republic can overcome its massive problems. We remain convinced that this is so. Indeed, our public statements, congressional testimony, and private demarches have supported aid to Turkey inter alia as an investment in stabilizing the democratic system of an embattled ally and friend. We know that your Mission has been making, and will continue to make, the same points, e.g., para 8, ref A.

4. Nevertheless, in view of the growing public currency of the notion of a “military solution,” it is necessary to review whether there are other appropriate and available means to reinforce our posture on this subject. It is possible that our message, through repetition and the passage of time, has lost its audience and that Turks no longer take it as seriously as they once did. If this is so, our problem is how to deal with a “military solution” phenomenon which may be reality or illusion. On one hand, we do not want to acquiesce in a brewing and real threat to Turkish democracy. On the other hand, we do not want to react to rumor-mongering. Unfortunately, the two are not always possible to differentiate. Our main concern, therefore, is to continue to make sure that Turkish leaders, civilian and repeat and military, clearly understand that the USG:

—totally opposes the concept of extra-legal military action, however defined or justified;

—believes that any such action would have a catastrophic impact on Turkey’s bilateral relationship with its allies by gravely undermining their—and our—ability to respond to Turkish needs for economic and military support; and

—does not believe that present circumstances, admittedly difficult and trying, warrant even abstract consideration of this step.

5. We remain confident that Turkey will ultimately find the answers it needs within its democratic processes. The USG and other [Page 456] countries are making available massive resources to help the GOT reach that goal, and we intend to stay this course. We expect our Turkish friends to do the same.

6. Subject to your views, we believe that we should once again convey this message to selected target audiences in Turkey, in addition to your Mission’s ongoing dialogue with GOT officials and political figures. Several means occur to us.

—Chief JUSMMAT could address this subject in the context of an early general discussion with a high TGS member, perhaps General Saltik;

—at the Department’s daily press briefing, the spokesman could commend Turkey’s tenacious efforts to resolve problems in a way consistent with its deeply rooted commitment to democratic principles; and

—similar themes could be woven into high-level press conferences, bilateral meetings, toasts, arrival and departure statements during the Secretary’s attendance at the June 24–26 NATO spring Ministerial in Ankara.

7. These ideas raise delicate questions of nuance and timing. We would appreciate your views and specific comments as soon as possible.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P870146–0473. Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Noforn. Drafted by James A. Williams (EUR/SE); cleared by Dillery, Ewing, and Jane Taylor (S/S). Sent for information Immediate to the White House.
  2. Telegram 3964 from Ankara, May 30, and telegram 4068 from Ankara, June 3, are in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800265–0688 and D800271–0566 respectively.
  3. Unlike the 1960 coup, the coup of March 12, 1971, did not involve actual assumption of rule by the military, but a coup “by communiqué” when military generals ordered Prime Minister Demirel to resign or face removal. Demirel promptly resigned. Eight days after the communiqué, Nihat Erim, formerly of the Republican People’s Party, presided over a government described in news reports as an “above-party togetherness” coalition deemed acceptable to the military.