24. Intelligence Memorandum Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1
GREECE, TURKEY, AND THE WEST IN THE POST-EMBARGO PERIOD
The US decision to lift the arms embargo against Turkey has disappointed the Greeks and pleased the Turks, but the embargo’s removal will neither irreparably damage the West’s relations with Greece nor produce a complete rapprochement with Turkey. And while it might in the long run help produce progress on the Aegean and Cyprus disputes, it is not by itself likely to lead to any dramatic breakthrough. The pace of negotiations in those disputes will be determined more by the protagonists’ weighing of political, strategic, and emotional factors against the advantages of compromise.
Despite the embargo’s removal, in fact, the West will continue to experience more strains in its relations with Turkey than with Greece. The Turks have greater economic needs than the Greeks, and the West may be unable or unwilling to fulfill them. Western interests on the issues of Greek reintegration in NATO and Greek entry in the EC are parallel to those of Athens and run at cross purposes with those of Ankara. Moreover, for reasons deriving from ideology, domestic politics, financial stringency, and its perception of Turkey’s strategic importance, the Ecevit government is more willing to drive a hard bargain on the question of defense cooperation with the West and to ex[Page 101]plore the possibility of closer relations with the Soviets. Western relations with Greece would worsen markedly only if Athens concluded that the West was hesitant in supporting Greece’s NATO and EC bids or indifferent in the face of Turkish military pressure on Greece.
The US decision to lift the arms embargo against Turkey removed an issue of great symbolic importance to both Greeks and Turks. For the Greeks, the embargo had been a measure of crucial US support against their stronger Turkish adversary. For the Turks, it had been yet another manifestation of the West’s view of them as second class members of the Western community. But removal of the embargo does not get to the core of the problem. As long as Greek-Turkish differences persist, their conflicting demands and expectations will cause problems in their relations with both NATO and the EC. Indeed, the West’s relations with Turkey may become more strained than those with Greece.
Rapproachement With Turkey Incomplete
Prior to the decision to lift the embargo, the Turks hinted that if Turkey’s defense and economic needs were not met by its allies, or if the allies tilted toward the Greeks, Turkish foreign policy might shift away from the West and closer toward the Communist and Third World states. Turkish Prime Minister Ecevit went part way in implementing this “new look” in Turkish foreign policy by courting the Soviet Union and making his “own contribution to detente.”
The West’s positive response last spring to Turkey’s grave economic crisis, together with the imminent lifting of the arms embargo, has loosened but not eliminated the Turks’ need and desire to reduce their ties to the West. Some elements of strain are likely to persist as Ecevit gropes to solve Turkey’s many domestic and foreign policy problems in a way that fits his own ideological framework, domestic political constraints, and a challenging international environment.
All indications are, for example, that Turkey will continue to have formidable defense and economic needs that the West may be unable or unwilling to underwrite, particularly if the Turks remain unwilling to live within their means. Ecevit, moreover, seems inclined to pursue his opening to Moscow, which has already resulted in the possibility of substantial economic benefits he may not wish to jeopardize. The government might also be tempted to look for foreign scapegoats in the West for the country’s economic plight and its domestic political violence. Tackling those problems may leave it little domestic political capital to deal with the quarrels with the Greeks that caused the rift with Turkey’s allies in the first place.
Greeks Cut Losses and Look to Future
For their part, the Greeks lobbied for the embargo and withdrew in 1974 from the military side of NATO, but they made it clear that they [Page 102] did not intend to leave the Western orbit. Prime Minister Karamanlis’ line was not that he would loosen Greece’s ties to the West if he did not get adequate support, but that the absence of such support would produce a leftist government that would loosen those ties. As proof of his intentions, Karamanlis could point to the continued unimpeded operation of US bases, Greece’s bid for EC membership, and his effort to return Greece to full participation in NATO—all in the face of the growing power of the leftist opposition headed by Andreas Papandreou.
The decision to lift the embargo has fostered disappointment with the Carter administration among Greeks, together with a sense of resignation arising out of the belief that geopolitical considerations made the “choice” of Turkey over Greece inevitable. The Greeks have taken some comfort from the qualifiers imposed by the US Congress, as well as from administration assurances that the military balance in the region would be maintained and that the US remains opposed to the use of force to settle differences.2 Nevertheless, doubts about the US administration’s commitment linger.
Overall, the inclination of the Karamanlis government seems to be to hope for the best with respect to Turkish behavior and US assurances, and to proceed with its effort to secure EC membership and reintegration into NATO. Within the Alliance, Greece expects its allies to facilitate its return in the face of Turkish obstructionism. On Cyprus and the Aegean, the Greeks say that it is now incumbent upon the US and the West Europeans to fulfill their assurances that the Turks would be more flexible once the embargo was lifted. The Karamanlis government, however, has associated itself so closely with the West that it has more of a vested political interest in playing down differences. In this respect, it differs from its Turkish counterpart, which has made a domestic political virtue of standing up to the West and courting the Soviets.
Relations With the US
That Turkey’s relations with the West—and particularly the US—may now be more difficult than those of Greece was underscored recently when Ecevit felt compelled in both private and public statements to link the reactivation of US bases in Turkey to the provision of additional US assistance. A message to that effect was conveyed to the US by visiting senior Turkish officials and in a pointed speech by Ecevit that reiterated two themes: that Turkey’s relations with the West must be broadened to include greater economic as well as defense cooperation, and that such defense cooperation must not impair the atmosphere of trust and detente developing between Turkey and the Soviet [Page 103] Union. The trigger for these comments was the reluctance of the US, the International Monetary Fund, and private lending institutions to give further help to the Turks until Ankara takes additional austerity measures and fully implements those already agreed upon.
The Greeks by contrast, have made no effort to retaliate for the lifting of the embargo, for example, by restricting operations at US bases. No such move seems likely, for they can less easily afford to irritate the US. Moreover, because the Greek economy has generally been prosperous and because Greece has an excellent international credit rating, Greek relations with the US and Western Europe will be devoid of the ill feelings and tensions stemming from Turkey’s debtor status. So long as the present ratio of US military assistance to Greece and Turkey is maintained and the military friction with Turkey that would make the Greeks more demanding is absent, Greek relations with the US are apt to remain on an even keel. Indeed, the Karamanlis government has shown some receptivity to improving and expanding those relations and has welcomed prospective visits by senior US officials toward that end.
Relations With NATO
Ecevit’s linkage between defense and economic cooperation also applies to NATO. He has pointed to Article 2 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which calls upon the Alliance to work for the welfare and stability of member states. In the absence of more assistance from their allies, the Turks have already refused to commit themselves to the Alliance’s long term defense program agreed to at the NATO summit in Washington last May. Ecevit also seems intent on pursuing his idea of Turkish coproduction of NATO arms. He sees this as providing substantial economic and military benefits for Turkey, but the allies see it as difficult and possibly impractical given Turkey’s present low level of industrial and technological development.
Friction between the Greeks and NATO is not at an end, of course. But ever since the Greek decision earlier this year to seek full reintegration, it is the Turks who seem more troublesome in the NATO context because of their resistance to proposals worked out between the Greeks and the NATO military structure. The Turks objected to proposed interim arrangements whereby, with minor modifications, the Greeks would resume their status quo ante command responsibility in the Aegean as well as control of Aegean airspace which they had before 1974. The Turks refuse to accept the argument that such arrangements would not prejudice the solution of the bilateral dispute over the Aegean.
Relations With the EC
In the area of relations with the European Community too, much of the strain in Greek- EC relations is diminishing while that between [Page 104] Turkey and the EC seems likely to increase. Most of the friction between the Community and Greece was related to the degree of Community commitment to Greek membership and to the timing of the accession process. Those issues have been resolved to the satisfaction of both sides, with all members committed to Greek entry by 1981. To be sure, some friction still exists on the terms of Greek entry; this is likely to increase when crucial issues such as agriculture, free movement of workers, and the length of the transition period are dealt with. But the unstated Greek desire for membership at almost any price and the Community’s sympathy for Karamanlis make it unlikely these negotiations would go off the rails.
The Turks, on the other hand, have become increasingly disappointed with the poor returns from their associate member status. They initially were hoping for preferential access to a major export market, large credits, and a permanent source of employment for Turkish workers. In fact, a negative trade balance has developed, worker migration has been curbed, and in Turkish eyes, EC financial assistance has been inadequate. The Turks, moreover, resent the Community’s Mediterranean policy and its agreements with third countries that have watered down the meaning of Turkey’s associate status. They have also been upset by the warm response to Greece’s application, which in their view has raised the spectre of Turkish isolation from Western Europe and a pro-Greek tilt by the Community in the Aegean and Cyprus disputes.
The Ecevit government reacted to these concerns by declaring early in its term that it would seek a revision of Turkey’s associate status—already revised once before in Turkey’s favor in 1970—and that a touchstone of EC impartiality vis-a-vis Greece and Turkey would be its willingness to include Turkey in its political consultative process once the Greeks gained admission. Indeed, the Turks subsequently emphasized the consultative aspect, and the Community responded by offering to include Turkey in political discussions through a three man committee of present, past, and future Council presidents. The Turks have rejected this procedure as inadequate, however. They now want to focus on economic negotiations. The Community’s likely parsimony on economic assistance, suggests that Community relations with the Turks will become more troublesome.
Cyprus and the Aegean
The potential for friction is somewhat greater with the Turks than with the Greeks with respect to the Cyprus and Aegean disputes. There is little doubt that the decision to lift the embargo has removed one important cause of Turkish immobilism, since no Turkish government has wanted to be seen buckling to such overt pressure. But the embargo has also served as an excuse as well as a cause for Turkey’s reluctance to [Page 105] show greater flexibility. The Turks will still be inclined to drive a hard bargain with the Greeks for strategic and emotional reasons, and also because the government is pushed in this direction by domestic political considerations. And they will remain suspicious and resistant in the face of any external involvement in their quarrels with the Greeks.
The decision to rescind the embargo is apt to make the Greeks more flexible in the longer term, but in the shorter term their policy is likely to be passive and reactive. Both the Greeks and the Greek Cypriots assert that their respective opening proposals on the Aegean and Cyprus have gone a long way toward meeting Turkish demands and that it is now up to the US and the West Europeans to press Turkey to reciprocate. In the meantime, the Greeks will be content to focus their attention on the EC and NATO negotiations while making sure that the Greek Cypriots do not backtrack on the proposals they have already tabled.
The Soviet Option
Although the relations of both countries with Moscow have been improving, the Greeks have less reason and desire to enhance their Soviet ties. The Ecevit government, on the other hand, seems inclined to continue using the Soviet card both as an end in itself and as a means of securing badly needed military and economic assistance from its allies.
In Greece, disenchantment with the West has not fostered any sentiment among Greek leaders or in most of the electorate to court Moscow; this remains true even after the decision to rescind the embargo. The staunch anti-communism of the Greek political, military, and economic elite and Moscow’s wooing of the Turks accounts for this, as does the absence of any great need for Soviet economic assistance. Although there will be a thaw when Greek Foreign Minister Rallis goes to Moscow next week to sign some minor cultural and consular agreements, and although Karamanlis himself may visit Moscow before too long, the relationship is not likely to change substantially.
In Turkey, by contrast, Ecevit seems to be continuing his effort to secure public and military acceptance of detente with the Soviet Union, which he considers desirable both to increase Turkey’s maneuverability and security, and to guarantee delivery of the substantial economic assistance promised him during his Moscow visit last June. This apparently included a three-fold increase in trade between the two countries and substantial quantities of oil. Whether Ecevit intends to pursue detente with Moscow to the point of reducing the US or NATO presence in Turkey, as [less than 1 line not declassified] and his own statements have implied, will become clearer when negotiations on the reactivation of US bases begin this fall.[Page 106]
Overall, then, US and West European relations with Greece and Turkey are likely to remain troubled so long as the bilateral differences between the two countries are unresolved and each tries to mobilize Western support against the other and in behalf of broader national goals. The embargo in this respect was merely one element of a complicated equation. Its lifting is likely to produce neither Turkish intransigence and adventurousness, as opponents of its rescinding had feared, nor significant Turkish flexibility, as some on the other side had hoped. Instead, both Greeks and Turks are likely to continue jockeying for advantage, and progress in resolving their disputes is apt to be slow as they weigh strategic, emotional, and domestic political considerations against the desirability of compromise and improving the cohesiveness of the Western defense and economic systems.
Lifting of the embargo is not likely by itself to cause irreparable damage to relations with the Greeks or a complete rapprochement with Turkey. Greece has too many historical, cultural, economic and security bonds with the West for that to happen, and the Karamanlis government has no other viable option in any event. Greece’s relations with the US and Western Europe would worsen markedly only if the latter began to show some hesitancy about supporting Greek membership in the European Community and reintegration into NATO, or in the event of a Turkish resort to military pressure to which the West responded with indifference.
The Turks also have a strong commitment to the West. But the combination of the greater economic needs, their strategic importance, and Ecevit’s desire to leave his imprint on Turkish foreign policy is likely to continue to produce substantially more friction between Turkey and the West, the more so at this juncture when Turkey feels the West is not being adequately sensitive to Turkey’s economic woes and is pursuing policies toward the Greeks in the EC and NATO that are incompatible with Turkish interests. The result is that Turkey will continue to follow a foreign policy that will be somewhat similar to the French and Romanian models in NATO and the Warsaw Pact respectively, grounding itself within the Western camp but pursuing independent policies both within that camp and toward other states, including the Soviet Union.
- Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Directorate of Intelligence, Job 80T00634A, Box 13, unlabeled folder. Secret; [handling restriction not declassified]. A note on the first page reads: “This memorandum was prepared by the Office of Regional and Political Analysis. ‘Questions and comments may be addressed to [name not declassified].” It was distributed widely to officials in the National Security Council, the Department of State, and the Defense Intelligence Agency. The distribution page is attached but not printed.↩
- See Document 121.↩