20. Memorandum From Secretary of State Vance to President Carter1


  • Greek-Turkish Military Assistance

Congressional hearings have been scheduled during the first week of April at which the Administration will be expected to present its program on Greek and Turkish military assistance, and in particular its approach to the Turkish embargo and the four-year, $1 billion Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA). The embargo (Section 620(x) of the Foreign Assistance Act) was imposed by the Congress as a result of the 1974 Turkish military operations in Cyprus. We have endorsed the DCA in principle, but have not requested Congressional action; there has been an implicit linkage—never publicly articulated—that our decision on the DCA was related to positive Turkish movement on a Cyprus settlement. However, we have also stressed the importance of our bilateral relationship with Turkey and its major role in NATO.

There is a general consensus in State, shared I believe by other departments and agencies, that if we fail to restore the Turkish relationship this year, these relations will deteriorate rapidly and may lead to unfortunate actions by the Ecevit government with respect to our bases and military presence in Turkey, Turkey’s commitment to NATO, and Turkey’s general Western orientation. On the other side, the Greeks and Cypriots would have a strong negative reaction, as would important U.S. constituencies, if we moved to a full restoration of the Turkish relationship at a time when substantial progress on Cyprus has not yet occurred. (Prime Minister Ecevit has given public and private assurances that the Turkish Cypriots will present meaningful proposals to Waldheim shortly, but we have no assurance as to the timing or the contents of these proposals.)

Three possible courses of action which we have considered are the following:

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I. Full DCA Package for Turkey.

Request the Congress to repeal the embargo (Section 620(x)) and approve the DCA. At the same time, we would express our continued commitment to work for a just Cyprus solution.


—This approach would clearly please the Turks and, if successful, would ensure their continued Western orientation.

—It will face up fully to the issue of our Turkish relationship and allow us to fight the battle on the Hill in terms of basic United States interests in the region and not on the substance of the Cyprus problem.

—It would lead to the re-opening of our intelligence bases in Turkey and the strengthening of Turkish military forces dedicated to NATO purposes.

—It may in the long run promote a Cyprus settlement because, assuming the Turkish authorities present reasonable opening proposals, the lifting of the embargo and passage of the DCA would make the Cypriots more willing to negotiate realistically.


—This package would provoke a major fight on the Hill, led by Brademas and Sarbanes, the outcome of which is not wholly clear especially if the Turks are not helpful with timely and positive Cyprus proposals.

—It introduces the troublesome factor of a four-year base agreement which many Members of Congress will oppose regardless of the country involved.

—It imposes on the Administration a major battle in Congress at a time when we are trying to reduce the number of open and difficult issues on the Hill.

—It will strain our relations with Greece and Cyprus and perhaps make some U.S.-Greek and Greek-NATO issues more difficult politically for Caramanlis.

II. Modified Package for Turkey.

This approach involves a new package we have developed which can be defended as balanced, fair and responsive to the current situation in the Eastern Mediterranean. It has not been discussed with the Turks or with Brademas and Sarbanes. It may reduce opposition on the Hill, and it may have some appeal to Ecevit although clearly far less than a decision to push the DCA.

1. Maintain the Turkish military assistance level in FY ’79 at $175 million in FMS credits, but ask for no grant military aid.

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2. Recommend the immediate lifting of the embargo (Section 620(x)). This removes the ceiling on FMS cash purchases, permits third country transfers, and facilitates military planning with the Turks.

3. Announce (jointly, if possible, with the Turkish Government) that the 1976 DCA will be promptly re-negotiated. The Turks will want to increase the dollar amount in the DCA; we will seek to reduce the four-year commitment; we will both be able to make other changes, and deal with the major base issues. Members of Congress will be informed that it is unlikely that a re-negotiated DCA would be submitted to them this year.

4. Increase Greek military assistance to $140 million FMS credits, the same as last year, and put off any signing of the Greek DCA. We would tell the Greeks that we also wish to re-negotiate their DCA.

5. In light of Turkey’s serious economic difficulties, amend present FY ’79 FAA proposal to include a security supporting assistance loan for Turkey of $50 million, subject to an agreement between Turkey and the IMF on a stabilization program.

6. If Congress wishes, acquiesce to a requirement for a Presidential determination that Turkish credit purchases are NATO related and continuation of regular Presidential reports to the Congress on progress towards a Cyprus solution.


—Lifting of the embargo deals with the major irritant in US-Turkish relations. Both sides could benefit by the decision to re-negotiate the DCA.

—The package addresses Turkey’s economic needs—something which the DCA itself does not do.

—It is the kind of package which can be defended on its own merits in the Congress, since it is something we have put together ourselves based on our evaluation of the current circumstances.

—The package avoids a four-year, $1 billion commitment to Turkey, a commitment many on the Hill oppose because of its precedent-setting character.

—Since Ecevit did not negotiate the DCA and has occasionally criticized it, our willingness to re-negotiate the document could be useful to Ecevit domestically.


—Since it proposes “lifting the embargo,” Brademas, Sarbanes, et al., and the US-Greek community are virtually certain to fight this package hard.

—In the continuing absence of a DCA, the Turks may decide not to open our intelligence bases.

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—The Turkish military and the NATO alliance will not be fully satisfied because the flow of funds to upgrade the Turkish military establishment would be delayed.

—This approach may require another Congressional fight next year if a new DCA is presented, although progress in Cyprus in the meantime may reduce this possibility.

—Greek and Cypriot reaction to this package would be adverse, although not as strongly negative as would be the case if we pushed the DCA.

III. No Movement on a Turkish Program.

Under this alternative, we would support our request for $175 million in FMS credits as an exception to the embargo. We would state that movement on the DCA is not appropriate at this time.


—This would avoid a major fight in Congress with the Greek supporters. (However, it should be noted that supporters of the Turkish relationship have indicated that they may try to push the DCA independently of whether the Administration gives its support.)

—Such an approach would be greeted with relief in Greece and Cyprus.


—The reaction in Turkey is sure to be decisive and prompt. Ecevit has hinted that he will boycott the Washington NATO summit meeting in late May at which he is to serve as President of the North Atlantic Council. The Turks may take some action with respect to US personnel at the remaining bases in Turkey and call into question the continuing presence of our nuclear weapons there. They have indicated that they would re-assess their over-all security arrangements which risks a loosening of Turkey’s ties with NATO and with the West generally and a subsequent movement toward a more neutralist approach.

—Media and Congressional reaction in the event Turkey reduced its links with NATO and the West could provoke unpleasant hearings critical of our Eastern Mediterranean policy approach.

—Under these circumstances, overall US security interest in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East would be adversely affected.

—Maintaining the embargo is unlikely to help solve Cyprus: On the contrary, it might provoke the Turks to withdraw their proposals and refuse to negotiate with the Cypriots; the Turks could even take out their frustration by adopting a less compromising attitude toward Greece.

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—The situation in the Eastern Mediterranean is more likely to get worse rather than better, and we will have to face the same issue again next year in a substantially more difficult atmosphere.


Harold, Zbig, and I concur in recommending that we adopt Option II.

Once a decision is taken, I recommend that we invite Sarbanes and his colleagues to the White House and explain what we intend to do. You will recall that we told them we would keep them informed. After talking to them, I recommend that we send a message to Ecevit in Ankara setting forth our package, which we will explain as designed to lift the embargo, meet Turkey’s pressing economic needs, and allow re-negotiation of the DCA. We would also inform the leaders of both Houses, the Greeks and the Cypriots of our proposal prior to presentation.2

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 75, Turkey: 1–7/78. Secret. Carter wrote “Fritz [Mondale]—See me. J” at the top of the first page. No record of a follow-up meeting between Mondale and Carter was found. In a handwritten note to Carter, Brzezinski informed him that Brzezinski, Vance, and Brown had agreed upon the “sensitive memo” before him and that all of the options were politically “costly.” Brzezinski also recommended that Carter talk with Mondale prior to making a decision. (Ibid.)
  2. Carter checked his approval of Option II and initialed “J.C.” Brzezinski returned a copy of this memorandum to Vance on March 22 and reported that the President approved Option II and planned to meet with Congressional leaders shortly. (Ibid.) The President met with the Congressmen on March 24. No record of the meeting was found. On July 25 the Senate voted 57–42 to lift the arms embargo against Turkey. On August 1, the House voted 208–205 to lift the arms embargo. See Document 121.