TURKEY’S GEOSTRATEGIC SIGNIFICANCE
During the last fifty years strategic considerations have been the most salient factor in determining U.S. relations with Turkey. Countries like Greece or Israel can negotiate with Washington also at a U.S. domestic politics level, on the backs of their ethnic communities in the United States. Unlike them, Turkey bargains with Washington mainly on the basis of its geopolitical significance for U.S. security policy.
In the post-war period, Turkey’s geostrategic role in the context of American security interests has not remained unchanged. Following the declaration of the Truman Doctrine (1947) and up to 1951, the Pentagon and the State Department viewed Turkey’s strategic importance within the context of the Middle East, particularly the oil-producing region. Turkey was considered a military barrier against Soviet expansion in the Persian Gulf. In the event of a war with the Soviet Union, the role of the Turkish armed forces would be to delay the advance of the Red Army towards Suez.
Turkey’s entry into NATO (1952), signaled a significant change in the Pentagon’s assessment of Turkey’s strategic role. Though U.S. war plans continued to take into account its importance for the defense of the Middle East, Turkey was militarily integrated into Western European defense planning. In the event of a war with the Soviet Union, the role of the Turkish armed forces (in cooperation with Greek forces), would essentially be to exert pressure on the southern flank of the Eastern Bloc.1
The revolution in Iran (1979), which ended Washington’s strategic alliance with Tehran, renewed Turkey’s significance in the Middle Eastern strategic context. Turkey was upgraded to an important U.S. ally, not with a view to Western European defense but as a replacement for Iran, the lost military ally in the Gulf. The end of the Cold War brought to an end Turkey’s role as a western outpost vis-à-vis the Soviet Union. However, as U.S. security policy was moving from globalism to regionalism, protection of American security interests in various regions of the world was still dependent on key allies.2 Turkey’s participation in the Gulf War (1991) reaffirmed and further strengthened its role as a frontline state for American security interests in the Middle East.3
In the post-Cold War era, the Middle East continued to occupy a central position in Washington’s security thinking. In 1995, the Pentagon set three criteria to determine when an external danger threatened U.S. vital interests: a) if it endangered the survival of the United States or its main allies, b) if it endangered critical economic interests of the United States, c) if it raised the danger of a future nuclear threat. The Pentagon’s conclusion was that these criteria could clearly be found in the Middle East.4 The conclusion was based, first, on the assumption that U.S. dependence on Gulf oil would continue in the twenty-first century; second, on the continuing U.S. interest in defending the security of Israel and of its Arab allies (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait) under the Clinton administration;5 and, finally, on the fact that Iran, Iraq and Libya, though lacking a nuclear arsenal, had an interest in building one.6
During the Clinton administration, the objectives of American security policy in the Middle East could be summarized as follows: (1) to arrest proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and to promote regional political stability and economic development, (2) to contain the strategic threat to American interests in the Gulf posed by Iraq and Iran, (3) to secure the unimpeded flow of oil from the Gulf to international markets at reasonable prices, (4) to achieve an Arab-Israeli peace agreement, (5) to weaken extreme political and religious forces, (6) to achieve coordination of action against terrorism. These would require a combination of American military presence in the region and U.S. security cooperation and facilities-access agreements with friendly regional states.
With the above objectives in mind, American strategic planners viewed Turkey as a front-line ally in the region, due to its geographic location and willingness to cooperate with the United States. Ten years after the end of the Gulf War, during which Turkish President Turgut Özal decided that Turkey should assist the allied effort, the Turkish air base in Incirlik is still used by American and British air forces to impose the no-fly zone over northern Iraq. Furthermore, Turkish governments also allowed the use of the base for American air operations (though often reluctantly) in U.S.-Iraq confrontations. Washington viewed a militarily strong Turkey as important for the success of its policy of containment of the Iraqi and Iranian threat. Certainly the dual-containment policy that the United States adopted after 1993 has been modified and amplified since 1997, when Washington showed interest in improving relations with Tehran. However, until this has been achieved, the containment of the ability of Iraq and Iran to cause instability in the region continues to constitute an important security priority for the United States.7 Turkey’s importance for the U.S. policy of deterrence in the region has been reinforced since the mid-1990s as a result of Turkish-Israeli security cooperation, which brought closer Washington’s two most important allies in the Middle East. Moreover, through its ties with Israel, Turkey emerged as a valuable contributor to Israel’s integration in the region.8 Also, one should not forget that Washington considers the Turkish elite to be an outpost of Western values in a predominantly Islamic neighborhood.
In the immediate aftermath of the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Turkey was also believed able to become a facilitator of American interests in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Those interests could be summarized as follows: (1) promotion of stability and democratization; (2) development of market economies; (3) control of nuclear weapons; (4) promotion of U.S. energy interests. Washington essentially wanted the new states to achieve economic and political stability so as to resist the development of radical movements that might threaten global security. Thus, the United States sought to strengthen bilateral relations with the states in the region and limit Russia’s and Iran’s political influence. Turkey was seen as able to counterbalance the influence of Moscow and Tehran.
Contrary to the hopes of the Turkish political and economic establishment, Turkey could not live up to the opportunity to emerge as a critical factor for the promotion of U.S. policy in the region.9 In the end, the United States developed directly and without Turkey’s mediation political and economic relations with the new republics. Furthermore, the Clinton administration, at least in the mid-1990s, chose to cooperate with Russia. Nevertheless, Washington did not stop considering Turkey useful in the context of American foreign policy in the area, particularly as the future of U.S.-Russia relations was still a question mark. To Washington, Turkey represented an additional stability factor in the area. It counterbalanced Iran’s Islamic influence and offered a guarantee concerning American energy interests, and emerged as a strong candidate for the transit of Caspian oil through its territory to the Western market.
In the early 1990s, Turgut Özal declared that Turkey’s geopolitical position made it a significant autonomous player not only in the Middle East and Central Asia but also in the Balkans.10 By the end of the 1990s, Turkey’s Balkan policy, insofar as there was one, did not have much to show. Nonetheless, Turkey seemed to have a role to play as a facilitator of Western interests in southeastern Europe. To American strategic planners, Turkey could be a springboard for NATO security management in the region. (During NATO’s operation in Kosovo, Turkey provided it with air bases for operations against Yugoslavia).11
Washington’s view of Turkey’s strategic importance during the Clinton administration was summarized by the State Department’s 1999 Congressional Presentation for Foreign Operations:
Turkey is vitally important to U.S. interests. Its position athwart the Bosphorus – at the strategic nexus of Europe, the Middle East, the Caucasus and the Caspian – makes it an essential player on a wide range of issues vital to U.S. security, political and economic interests. In a region of generally weak economies and shaky democratic traditions, political instability, terrorism and ethnic strife, Turkey is a democratic secular nation that draws its political models from Western Europe and the United States. Turkey has co-operated intensively with the U.S. as a NATO ally and is also vigorously seeking to deepen its political and economic ties with Europe.12
Or, as former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker put it, geostrategically Turkey was “extraordinarily” important not only for American interests but for the whole free world.13
U.S. POLICY TOWARD TURKEY Strengthening an Ally
In the 1990s, Washington’s relations with Ankara were essentially determined by Turkey’s strategic importance for American interests in the Middle East. The Bush I and Clinton administrations believed that Turkey’s role as a front-line ally in the Middle East required strengthening its military capabilities as well as adjusting them to the new security environment. This has been the basic tenet of the American-Turkish military relationship since the Gulf War. In reality, the starting point of this relationship goes back to 1980, when the United States and Turkey signed a Defense and Economic Cooperation Agreement (DECA), following the fall of the shah in Iran.14 This agreement embodied the importance that Washington attached to Turkey’s strategic role in the Middle East. Since 1993, it has been renewed every year. According to DECA, the United States undertook to promote the long-term upgrading and modernization of the Turkish armed forces. At the same time it promised to help the Turkish government to stabilize the Turkish economy.
Turkey, for its part, granted to the United States access to airfields as well as communication and intelligence facilities. In the 1990s, the most important U.S. military packages to Turkey were the direct or indirect result of DECA. For instance, the modernization program of the Turkish airforce with the acquisition of F-16s,15 or the agreement for the joint production of F-16s with General Dynamics (later to be succeeded by Lockheed Martin).16 Turkey’s cooperation in the war against Iraq reinforced in Washington’s eyes the need to support the modernization of the Turkish armed forces, mainly the air force. In 1991, President Bush visited Turkey (the first visit of an American president since Eisenhower’s in 1959) to say thanks for its contribution in the war. He promised to seek an increase in the amount of American military aid to Turkey. In fact, he stated that he would exert pressure on Congress to authorize the financing – by 50 percent – of the production of 160 F-16s in Turkey at an estimated cost of $5 million, which the Turkish government proposed.17 It is worth mentioning that Turkey was selling F-16s to Egypt (the first time F-16s produced outside the United States were sold to a third country).
Furthermore, in 1991, the Bush government took the initiative of establishing a Turkish Defense Fund in Washington with the participation of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and the United States. These states pledged $3.5 billion over five years to express their gratitude to Turkey for its contribution in the war against Iraq.18 That part of the production of the F-16s that could not be financed – due to lack of funds – by the American government was going to be covered by the Turkish Defense Fund. In other words, in view of major reductions in American military-aid programs following the end of the Cold War, the American government sought to share with other states the cost of financing the military procurement and modernization of its military ally in the Middle East. Given that Turkey was a major importer of American weapons, the creation of the fund also meant that American’s wealthy Arab allies would join in supporting the U.S. defense-industry exports. Clearly, American strategic interests in Turkey were intertwined with military sales interests, as in the 1990s arms exports became “considerably more important as a source of weapons procurement for U.S. arms manufactures.”19 In the late 1990s the State Department estimated that 80 percent of the weaponry of the Turkish armed forces was of U.S. origin.20 During the first six years of the Clinton administration, the value of U.S. arms deliveries to Turkey amounted to $4.9 billion.21
The special U.S.-Turkey military ties were often manifested in the 1990s. For instance, in the wake of the Gulf War, the American Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) for the first time ignored its 50-year policy of not financing explicit military sales and approved, with the authorization of Congress, a $1.3-billion loan to finance 85 percent of the deal between Turkey and Sikorski Aircraft for the sale and joint production of Black Hawk helicopters.22 The special American-Turkish military relationship was reflected not only in the unprecedented Ex-Im decision but also in the actual delivery of Black Hawks to Turkey. Black Hawk transport helicopters, like Cobra attack helicopters, which Turkey also purchased from the United States, were successfully used in the war against Iraq and would be useful in any future military operation in the region. However, according to independent human-rights groups, Black Hawks and Cobras were reportedly also used by the Turkish army and gendarmerie against the Kurds in southeastern Turkey in violation of the laws on war and human rights.23 The Clinton administration, though mindful of human-rights concerns, most of the time chose to downplay the evidence due to Turkey’s importance for American strategic interests (as well as pressure from American arms manufacturers).24
Turkey’s position as a key ally for the implementation of deterrence in the Middle East has been enhanced by its strategic cooperation with Israel since the mid-1990s. The participation of the U.S. Navy in the Turkey-Israel joint naval exercises (in 1998 and 1999), demonstrated that Washington intended to achieve a level of interoperability and coordination between U.S., Turkish and Israeli forces that would allow joint operations in the region, if the need arose.25
Turkey’s position as a key ally was reflected not only in bilateral military ties but also in Washington’s political support. Since the mid-1990s the Clinton government used its influence to persuade the European Union (EU) member states to institutionally tie Turkey closer to their community. Philip H. Gordon, director for European affairs at the National Security Council until December 1999, calls American pressure “a persistent thorn in Europeans’ side until removed in Helsinki,” when Turkey was finally accepted in December 1999 as a candidate member of the EU.26 Washington’s policy of promoting Turkey’s institutional linkage with the EU stemmed from its desire to firmly anchor Turkey on the western world. American policy makers largely believed that Turkey’s European orientation needed to be boosted to withstand competition by potent social and economic Islamic forces. In their minds, the growth of Islam in Turkey would, on the one hand, undermine Turkey’s alliance with the United States and the West. On the other, it would strengthen political Islam in the eastern Mediterranean. Furthermore, Washington thought that EU funds could help Turkey with its infrastructural development and thus accelerate its integration into the Western world.
The Clinton administration also emerged as the main supporter of Ankara’s proposals for Caspian oil to be transported to the international market via Turkey. This support reflected, besides the pressure of the American-Jewish lobby, the view of the White House that Turkey constituted a reliable partner upon which the significant U.S. energy interests in the region could securely depend. It also reflected the administration’s interest in a strong Turkish economy (Turkey’s transit fees for the oil-pipeline would be quite significant). Washington’s interest in Turkey’s economic development and stability was a by-product of the American interest in its military strength. Given the drastic reduction in U.S. military aid to Turkey in the 1990s, Washington wanted Turkey to continue to be able to finance its expensive defense programs.27 Economic development was also important to domestic stability. The close link between military strength and healthy economic figures was nothing new in the minds of American strategic planners (the Marshall Plan is the most famous example). The interdependence of the two was often expressed by American government officials during the period of the U.S. arms embargo on Turkey (1975-78) following the Turkish invasion of Cyprus.28 DECA formally linked the two elements. It was in line with this kind of thinking that in early 1995 $1 billion was transferred by the New York Reserve Bank to Turkey. This sum came from the newly established Turkish Defense Fund. The formal explanation for this money transfer was the need to finance the production of the F-16.
Essentially, however, the decision had been made by the Clinton administration in spring 1994 with the aim of supporting Turkey’s currency reserves. These had been seriously depleted early that year while Turkey was in the midst of a financial crisis characterized by a dramatic weakening of the Turkish lira and a dramatic fall in the stock exchange.29
One should not draw the conclusion that Washington’s wish in the 1990s to see a militarily strong Turkey was totally free of reservations. At least some U.S. officials worried that Turkey might adopt regional foreign-policy and security initiatives at odds with U.S. interests,30 given the removal of constraints on regional actors following the Cold War and Turkey’s relative military strength vis-à-vis some of its neighbors.
It would also be wrong to conclude that military considerations were the only ones that determined the interest of U.S. elites in close relations with Turkey. Turkey has emerged as a potentially important market for the United States in fields other than armaments. In 1996, the U.S. Department of Commerce designated Turkey as one of the ten big emerging markets for the United States. Since then, bilateral trade has increased by 50 percent, reaching over $6 billion in 1998. The United States is Turkey’s second-largest single trade partner after Germany, mainly due to the increased use of American raw materials by Turkish industry. Furthermore, since 1992 and particularly during periods of bad harvests, the Turkish market increasingly turned to the United States for agricultural commodities.31
Since the mid-1990s the infringement of human rights in Turkey has been a live issue in American-Turkish relations. Since 1994, the U.S. political institutions – mainly the Congress, where human-rights and ethnic groups like the Armenian and Greek lobbies are represented – often pegged U.S. military aid to Turkey to its progress in democratization and respect for human rights. As a result, the authorization of annual military assistance to Turkey became problematic particularly during the 1994-97 period. For instance, in 1994 Congress decided to withhold sales of military equipment for Black Hawk helicopters (on the basis that they were used in operations against the Kurds) until Turkey showed progress concerning respect for human rights and Cyprus.32 The negative stance of part of the Congress on Turkey was expressed in extreme terms in 1995 by then Senator Alfonse D’Amato (R-NY) in the aftermath of an extensive Turkish military operation in northern Iraq. (This, according to Ankara, aimed to eradicate the bases of the Kurdish PKK guerrillas in the area). D’Amato proposed that American aid to Turkey for the next fiscal year be frozen unless Turkey stopped military operations against the Kurds, recognized their rights and withdrew its forces from northern Cyprus.33
The position of Congress and non-governmental pressure groups affected U.S. relations with Turkey in two ways. On the one hand, it caused problems in the implementation of the executive’s policy of strengthening Turkey militarily, endorsed by the Clinton administration. On the other, it made the Clinton government employ pressure on Ankara (much to the chagrin of the Turks) regarding the issues that Congress was more concerned about, such as human rights and the Kurdish problem. For instance, in 1994 the Pentagon itself did not approve of the sale of the Black Hawks to Turkey.34 In 1995, the initial reaction of the White House vis-à-vis Turkey’s military operations in northern Iraq was to state its understanding regarding Ankara’s need to effectively deal with the PKK. However, soon afterwards, due to a large extent to the strong reaction of Congress, the American government revised its stance. The day following the White House statement, the State Department spokesman said that the United States did not approve of the operations.35 In 1996, the American government, under pressure from a coalition of human-rights and arms-control groups, withdrew a deal involving Cobra helicopters, due to concerns regarding their potential use against the Kurdish people.36
Pressure from Congress and human-rights groups was not the only factor obliging the U.S. government to exercise moderate (and inconsistent) pressure on Ankara. The Clinton administration certainly feared that unless Turkey undertook some reforms regarding the question of human rights and the Kurds, the authorization of military aid through the established channels might grow increasingly difficult. Also, the administration wished the authorization of U.S. weapons exports to Turkey to continue without any major hitches, even when military aid was phased out. Furthermore, in State Department circles it was also clear that social stability and economic development, both essential in the context of Turkey’s strategic role, were undermined by Ankara’s inflexible policy towards the Kurdish issue. Besides, the same circles saw that Turkey’s progress concerning these issues was a prerequisite for strengthening Turkey’s institutional ties with the EU. The policy of moderate pressure was also the result of a more idealistic approach to foreign-policy issues that arose in Washington in the 1990s.
Following the end of the Cold War, during which American governments often supported oppressive regimes as long as they constituted strategic allies, the Clinton administration adopted a more aggressive stance toward democratization and respect for human rights in developing countries.37
ANKARA’S PROBLEMS WITH WASHINGTON
In the immediate aftermath of the Cold War, Ankara became alarmed over the future of Turkey’s close security relations with the United States. For over 40 years Turkey’s strategic relationship with the Americans and its membership in NATO had provided the country with a security umbrella, significant military assistance and a much-desired, strong institutional and functional link with the Western world. Turkey did not wish to see any of these diminish, let alone disappear. From a security point of view, the demise of the Soviet Union relieved much of the pressure on Turkey’s northern border. However, in the early 1990s the fluid political and security environment in the former Soviet republics appeared to allow no room for security complacency. On the other hand, its Middle Eastern neighborhood was characterized by arms proliferation, including the acquisition of ballistic missiles by Syria, Iran and Iraq, with which Turkey had problematic relations. Turkey was militarily strong in a conventional sense, but it possessed no anti-ballistic capabilities.
Security was not the only concern. In 1989, the European Community shattered Turkey’s aspirations for membership. As the EC was moving in the direction of political integration among its members, Turkey felt that its distance from Europe would only increase. Therefore, the Kemalist elites that traditionally have identified modernization with westernization could not welcome any weakening of Turkey’s relations with its main Western friend and ally, the United States. Turgut Özal, the Turkish president at the time, made clear the importance he attached to the maintenance of the close strategic relationship with the United States, when he decided that Turkey would participate in the war against Iraq. This was at odds with the traditional cautious Turkish policy of no interference in inter-Arab affairs.38 Turkey’s contribution to the war revitalized its strategic importance for American interests in the Middle East and guaranteed the continuation of American-Turkish military ties. Nonetheless, Ankara felt that its post-Cold War military cooperation with the United States was not satisfactory, either quantitatively or qualitatively, given Turkey’s role as a key American ally in the Middle East.39 Ankara could not forget that during the war against Iraq it became clear that NATO’s support was not guaranteed in the event of Iraqi aggression against Turkey. At the time, NATO failed to immediately respond to Turkey’s request to deploy an allied force for its protection from Iraqi military retaliation. Even when it did respond, it deployed 40 aircraft that were not modern fighters. In addition, the deployment had been strongly criticized by Germany, which did not wish NATO to become militarily involved in the Middle East.40
Ankara’s dissatisfaction with the bilateral security relationship was enhanced due to cuts in American military assistance programs and the gradual phasing out of most of them as a result of a post-Cold War defense policy review and Washington’s assessment that Turkey’s economic performance justified their termination. Other channels of military aid that Washington came up with, such as the Turkish Defense Fund, represented temporary devices that could not satisfy Ankara. The shrinking of American military assistance meant that Turkey’s weapons-procurement program (at an estimated cost of $150 billion over 25 years), alongside the growth of its defense industry, ran the risk of being undermined. Turkey, with an annual inflation rate of over 70 percent, found it difficult to finance its procurement program without external help. Furthermore, from an early stage, Turkey’s defense industry has been dependent on the U.S. market for technical expertise.
Steady growth of the defense industry was important to the military and political establishment of the country for a variety of reasons. After the U.S. military embargo on Turkey, Ankara concluded that the country had to become militarily self-sufficient in order to protect its security and national interests. Besides, following the Gulf War, the majority of Turkish leaders believed that Turkey could (and should) avail itself of the opportunities presented by the post-Cold War international security environment to pursue a more assertive foreign and security policy in the region.41 To this end, the importance of a strong indigenous defense industry was self-evident. And Turkish elites aspired for Turkey to become a regional center for state-of-the-art electronic technology to which the growth and sophistication of its defense industry would become a contributing factor.42 Private economic interests also played a major role, as the Turkish brass have investments in Turkey’s defense industries.
Congressional objections to the authorization of certain military exports fanned Ankara’s displeasure and mistrust of Washington. There were many reasons for Turkey’s strong reaction. Ankara felt that there was an operational cost for the delay in the delivery of the Cobra and Black Hawk helicopters, in the military campaign against the Kurds. Besides, the congressional action raised doubts regarding the reliability of the United States concerning the future upgrading of Turkish defense systems and the growth of Turkey’s defense industry. (Recall that 80 percent of Turkey’s weaponry is of American origin.) Also, the criticism by Congress and the Clinton administration (both publicly and behind closed doors), of Turkey’s poor human-rights record, particularly of the way it handled its Kurdish problem, angered power centers in Ankara. The Turkish government adopted the line that the Kurdish issue was a problem of terrorism, and therefore it expected its allies’ full understanding. In the words of a respected retired Turkish general:
While Turkey expects its allies to give the support that it deserves from them in its fight against the PKK terror, it receives an unwarranted embargo on associated weapons sales. And while Turkey adamantly defends its unitary state structure, it becomes frustrated when its allies would like to see the Kurds be treated not as regular citizens but as minorities.43
Washington’s reluctance to consider Ankara as an equal partner in relation to Middle East policy issues touching upon Turkey’s interests also offended and infuriated Turkish governments. Undoubtedly, the Clinton administration often failed to closely consult with the Turks regarding the political future of the Kurds in northern Iraq or the regime in Bagdad. In early 1998, during one of the crises with Iraq, while the American secretaries of state and defense visited most Middle Eastern states in search of support for a possible offensive against Iraq, only low-ranking American State Department officials visited Ankara. Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz did not conceal the indignation of his government for not having been properly consulted. As he stated, the prevailing impression in Ankara was that Washington took Turkey for granted.44 In October 1998, the peace accord between the rival Kurdish factions in northern Iraq, (which revived an autonomous Kurdish administration) was brokered by Washington without proper consultation with Ankara, although the Americans understood and found reasonable Turkey’s deep interest in developments in northern Iraq.45 Ankara’s interpretation of Washington’s action was that Turkey’s interests counted little with its key ally. The Turks were also reminded that their interests did not always coincide with those of the United States.
Northern Iraq was a main case in point. In the wake of the Gulf War, the creation of a safe haven by the United States and subsequent American efforts to promote political unity among the local Kurdish factions and the establishment of a Kurdish political entity was not what Ankara wanted to see. The Turks feared that secessionist tendencies among the Kurds in Turkey would be reinforced and that the PKK would find shelter in northern Iraq. Moreover, developments there led to the internationalization of the Kurdish issue, contrary to Turkey’s wish to keep it marginal by defining it as a local problem. Ankara’s persistent suspicion has been that Washington has plans for the creation of an independent Kurdistan in Iraq’s territory, despite American reassurances to the contrary. In Turkish eyes, the existence of such an entity would seriously jeopardize Turkey’s territorial integrity.46 In the very late 1990s, Ankara expressed satisfaction that closer consultation over Iraq with Washington was being achieved.47 In fact, in 1999 it was announced that the United States and Turkey would establish a policy-consultancy mechanism (at the level of deputy secretary of state) to exchange views concerning Middle Eastern problems.48 Nonetheless, Turkish leaders have not stopped wondering whether the United States could be trusted not to betray Turkey’s interests.
A difference of approach between Ankara and Washington has also existed in relation to Iran. Turkey, which in the 1990s was very active in exploring all possible avenues of regional economic cooperation, declined to participate in the U.S. embargo against Iran. In 1995, it signed an agreement with Iran for the export of gas to Turkey despite Washington’s strong opposition.49 It is worth noticing that though the agreement was signed by Necmettin Erbakan, Turkey’s pro-Islamist prime minister, it was Prime Minister Tansu Çiller, Washington’s darling, who had signed the initial agreement more than a year earlier.
The Cyprus question and Turkey’s relations with Greece were additional thorns in Ankara’s relations with the Clinton administration. Washington’s pressure on Ankara (as well as on Athens) to adopt a policy of concessions understandably was not welcomed by many in Turkish official circles.
Despite all these differences, for most of the 1990s, the consensus among Turkish foreign-policy makers has been that the alliance with the United States constituted the centerpiece in Ankara’s foreign policy. However, Turkey ought to redefine the basics of its relationship with the United States according to: (1) the post-Cold War U.S. foreign and security policy changes, (2) Turkey’s importance as a pivotal strategic player for American interests,50 (3) the post-Cold War regional security environment.
In Ankara’s eyes, the old framework of Turkey’s strategic relationship with the United States needed to be upgraded to an alliance beyond NATO to guarantee Turkey’s security in the Middle East. Since the early 1990s, Turkey has sought to renegotiate DECA with the basic aim of achieving such a security agreement with the United States.51 According to the Turkish press, Ankara’s aims in relation to a new DECA have been as follows: an American guarantee for Turkey’s security vis-à-vis Iraq and Iran; a promise of U.S. political support in relation to the secessionist attempts of the Kurds; increased amounts of state-of-the-art military equipment; incorporation in DECA of the bilateral agreement on the use of Turkish territory for implementation of the no-fly zone in northern Iraq.52
In the 1990s, Ankara showed readiness to offer to the United States diplomatic services in the Caucasus and operational support regarding Iraq and the Balkans during NATO’s involvement in Kosovo. Nonetheless, it also made clear that it expected the alliance to be genuinely reciprocal and the bilateral partnership equal. In essence, Ankara pursued a quid pro quo with Washington on northern Iraq. It allowed American and British air forces to use the Incirlik base for the enforcement of the no-fly zone and (begrudgingly) for operations against Iraq during crises with Saddam Hussein. In return, however, Ankara secured Washington’s consent regarding Turkish military operations in northern Iraq and the creation of a semi-permanent military zone there, since 1997,53 as well as (apparently) recognition that it could not be excluded from decision-making regarding the area. Sometimes the Turkish government interrupted the U.S. flying schedule over Iraq to protest the Americans’ refusal to sell Turkey certain weapons.54 In October 2000, after the U.S. House Committee on International Relations passed a resolution endorsing the commemoration of the Armenian genocide, Turkish Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit stated that Turkey, as a protest, might impose sanctions on the United States, even to include blocking U.S. use of the Incirlik Airbase.55 (In the end, the bill did not pass. Clinton personally urged Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert not to pass the bill, on the basis of strategic considerations.56)
On the other hand, Ankara has been pushing forward autonomous regional policies in the Middle East in the service of narrow national interests. Turkey’s policy towards Iran has been one example. Ankara’s threat of military action against Syria in October 1988, unless the PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan was expelled from Damascus, which took Washington by surprise, was another.57 This autonomous trend reflected and at the same time asserted Turkey’s regional strength. In sum, since the mid-1990s, the objectives of Turkish leadership have essentially been to upgrade the strategic partnership with the United States to a level suitable to the security situation around Turkey’s borders,58 to change the relationship with the United States from one of dependency to one of interdependency, “to play a growing role in a NATO that looks to cooperate with the Black Sea, Mediterranean, and the Central Asian countries,”59 (while at the same time being included in the emerging EU defense system). The above have been interrelated with Ankara’s aim “to establish Turkey as a major regional power to ensure that in every international crisis it is always treated as such by the powerful countries of the West.”60
In the 1990s, the security environment around Turkey’s borders, particularly in the Middle East, called for the continuation of military cooperation and a close strategic relationship between Turkey and the United States. Nonetheless, the relationship was neither ideal nor linear. On the one hand, this was the result of the emergence of the United States as the only super-power after the end of the Cold War. The liberation of American defense policy from the fear of expansion of Soviet influence had a quantitative (declining defense budgets and foreign security-assistance cuts, military cost sharing with allies), as well as a qualitative effect (more readiness to criticize allies like Turkey). On the other, the bilateral relationship suffered due to the failure of the Turkish leadership to show much progress concerning such thorny issues as democratization, respect for human rights and the Kurdish question. Awareness of these problems outside Turkey grew due to the information revolution. So did pressure for these issues to be included on the American foreign-policy agenda, as non-governmental organizations like human-rights groups became stronger and more able to influence the U.S. political process.
From the perspective of the past 53 years, it is clear that Turkish-American relations have never been devoid of problems.61 It is reasonable to expect that difficulties will continue, given that some interests of the two countries differ. However, problems between states are entirely natural, particularly in an environment which does not call for rallying forces as in the case of war or international political polarization. What one needs to ask is whether the lack of a total overlapping of interests is likely to weaken, turn sour or even lead to a break in their bilateral relations. Since the mid-1990s, some Turkish analysts have maintained that tension between Turkey and the United States was bound to rise: Washington would increase pressure on Turkey to advance with its democratization, to find a political solution to the Kurdish problem and to show more flexibility regarding Cyprus, while Ankara would respond negatively to that pressure.62 As a result, according to one view, the American government will be less willing to politically, militarily and economically support Turkey in Congress as long as Ankara does not promote the necessary reforms.63 In the words of another analyst: “The United States, as a global leader committed to democratic principles, will find it increasingly difficult not to address these issues publicly. Resolution of the Kurdish issue will heavily impact the future of the U.S.-Turkish relationship.”64
The view that U.S. foreign and security policy towards Turkey will increasingly depend on the resolution of the Kurdish problem and Turkey’s democratization does not sound convincing. In the 1990s, Washington’s policy towards Turkey demonstrated that though human-rights problems were a live issue in U.S. relations with Turkey, they were not a determining factor.65 The Clinton government neither took concrete measures nor strongly criticized the Turkish state for the way it handled the Kurdish problem.66 For instance, in 1993, Ankara followed a systematic policy of destroying 3,000 Kurdish villages and forcibly evacuated their Kurdish inhabitants to deny the PKK a support base. As a result, between half a million and two million Kurds ended up in the outskirts of cities like Adana and Ankara, while the Turkish state made no effort to provide them with economic and social support.67 Whenever the Clinton administration took a step in the direction of reproaching the Turkish state, it was under the pressure of Congress or human-rights groups. Nevertheless, one should also note that the amounts of military aid withheld by Congress during the Clinton administration constituted only a small part of the total sum allocated to Turkey and authorized by the same Congress. In 1997, the Clinton government reviewed its decision not to sell Black Hawk helicopters to Turkey, under pressure from the manufacturing companies.68 Despite the State Department’s assurances that the final sales license would not be approved unless Turkey showed significant progress on human rights, their delivery was approved by Congress in 2000. Yet independent reports from human-rights groups and international organizations observed that the Turkish state continued its practices of serious violations of human rights and had undertaken no solid initiative to ensure the cultural rights of the Kurdish people after the arrest of Öcalan in 1999.69
Support for democracy and liberalism all over the world was a salient element in the foreign policy of the Clinton administration. Nonetheless, it constituted only one element. The United States, besides being interested in the promotion of democracy worldwide, also has to take care of national security interests along with trade interests. The objective of promoting global democracy can be only a relative priority for any American administration or Congress. This is particularly the case when it comes to political regimes that may not be paragons of democratic and liberal practices but are Washington’s important regional military partners and major U.S. weapons buyers. Undoubtedly, Turkey constitutes a classic example. Characteristically, in 1995, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John Shalikashvili, asked Congress not to slash aid to Turkey because of human-rights abuses: “Turkey occupies the new front line in the post-Cold War era” and “has had a tradition of supporting Western interests.”70 The new U.S. administration, like its predecessor, in responding to human-rights groups and lobbies will pressure the Turks to show some progress concerning these contentious issues. Yet as long as Turkey continues to occupy a high position in the minds of American strategic planners, balance-of-power traditionalists and weapons makers’ interests will ensure that the emphasis will not be on a human-rights agenda.
Ankara, for its part, will continue to value strong security links with the United States as long as its Western-oriented political and bureaucratic elite remain in power, its military continue to have the upper hand in shaping security and foreign policy (both seem sure in the immediate future), and Turkey’s self-defined national interests are not seriously undermined by U.S. policies. Nonetheless, Ankara will drive a hard bargain to trade off its support for U.S. security initiatives – outside the traditional security parameters of NATO – with an enhanced, institutionalized and, ideally, not ad hoc role within U.S./NATO strategic planning. Essentially, it will continue to attempt to recast the bilateral relationship on the basis of increased interdependency. Such interaction may prove challenging and often highly frustrating for both Washington and Ankara, but it is unlikely that it will cause serious breaches, as both sides share a fundamental interest in cooperation.
Although bilateral relations may fall short of Ankara’s expectations, Turkey gains a lot from a close working relationship with the United States. Ankara acknowledges that in the 1990s the United States proved to be Turkey’s best friend. Washington showed more readiness than European countries to recognize the PKK as a terrorist organization. It supported Ankara’s energy policies in relation to Central Asia. It was more careful than the EU not to upset Ankara concerning Cyprus. It lobbied quite intensively to convince the EU to grant Turkey a candidate-member status, something that finally took place in December 1999. Despite this turning point in Turkey’s relations with the EU, Ankara does not underestimate the difficulties of becoming a full EU member. Thus its close relationship with the United States continues to be the most important functional link with the West. Also, Washington was found to be Turkey’s valuable ally within the context of the current European Security and Defense Policy debate. The United States has insisted that the Europeans, when organizing their defense, should not discriminate against NATO allies who are not members of the European Union. This is a point that applied in particular to Turkey (but also to Norway, Iceland, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic). Given the uncertain security environment around Turkey’s borders, its alliance and close security relationship with the United States is of key value. Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has emerged as the only superpower with strategic global interests, and, therefore, strategic allies whom it intends to support, despite cuts in military appropriations.71
Nor can Turkey find more “understanding” concerning the Kurdish issue among its other traditional arms suppliers. Germany, the second largest arms exporter to Turkey, often froze the delivery of weapons and held back military credit because of Ankara’s policy towards the Kurds. It is true that since the mid-1990s, Israel – which is not bound in its military exports by moral inhibitions, unlike Turkey’s Western arms suppliers – has also been added as an important arms provider. Nevertheless, Israel cannot replace the United States, as it cannot offer Turkey similar financial or political trade-offs for arms exports. Israel can rather provide Turkey with an important complementary arms market and be an alternative weapons supplier in the event that Turkey is faced with mini-embargoes in the West. Indeed, in 2000, U.S. weapons-manufacturing firms competing with Israeli companies still received the lion’s share of Turkish military contracts. Since 1995, Turkey, by assuming an aggressive policy of diversification of military purchases, wished to increase the independence of its weapons-procurement program from the policies of Congress, and also to make the point in Washington that military sales benefited both sides. Clearly it did not want to loosen traditional military ties with its major ally, the defense industry of which also happens to be at the cutting edge of modern technology.
In the future, the course of American-Turkish relations will be influenced by (1) the evolution of American defense policy in general and security strategy towards the Middle East, the Caucasus and the Balkans in particular; (2) the extent to which Ankara’s autonomous regional policies may seriously clash with American interests or wishes; (3) the economic and political stability of Turkey. It seems that in the near future American security strategy in the Middle East and the Caucasus will not be drastically changed by the Republican administration.72 Therefore, U.S. interest in security cooperation with Turkey in these areas will continue. Indeed, that was clearly the message President George W. Bush conveyed in a phone call to the Turkish prime minister in February 2001, which was meant as a sign of support following Turkey’s major financial crisis.73 Against this general framework, the nature of the bilateral relationship will very much depend on how the United States will conceive the essence of its defense policy and cooperation with its allies. During the Clinton period, U.S. defense policy was based on the notion of cooperative security. This meant that American security would be served by expanding existing alliances and developing new regional partnerships while the United States reduced its defense costs and did not add to its strategic commitments.74 While the United States sought to enhance its defense capabilities through increased cooperation with its allies, it undermined its leadership as a result of two things: its desire to spend less on defense while its allies spent more, and the inherent contradiction between cooperative security and the existence of a leader.75 (American leadership was, of course, already challenged by U.S. allies as a result of the removal of unifying Cold War security concerns).
If the same trend in Washington’s defense thinking persists under the new administration (indications point in this direction), Ankara’s case for an interdependent relationship will be strengthened and its tendency toward autonomous policies in the service of narrow national interests will be reinforced. The United States, for its part, will be ready to accommodate such policies for the sake of its security relationship with Turkey, so long as they do not seriously undermine American interests.
It is unlikely that Turkey’s autonomous policies will clash with fundamental American interests. The existence of an independent streak in Turkish policy is not news in the context of Turkish-American relations.76 As the secretary of state’s report on American foreign policy for 1969-70 remarked in relation to Turkey: “NATO membership and acceptance of the Alliance’s tasks and goals of mutual security are central to Turkish foreign policy. At the same time, Turkey’s desire to be as free as possible of dependence upon any major power or group of powers has set the parameters within which our bilateral relations have developed over the past two years.”77 Naturally Ankara’s inclination toward autonomous action has been reinforced as a result of U.S. post-Cold War defense policy and the changed international security environment. As John Roper points out, “national interests are subordinated to common alliance interests when there is a clear external threat; once that disappears, national or possibly regional interests may resume a central place.”78 Nonetheless, Turkish foreign-policy makers so far have sought (and most likely will continue to seek) a sustainable balance between close cooperation with Washington and the satisfaction of national interests for as long these are not seriously compromised by American policies. Against a weak and inconsistent American leadership, Turkey will still act within the broad confines of U.S. policies, but its tendency to play hardball in the promotion of its national interests will be reinforced (particularly if its role within U.S. strategy is enhanced).
One issue that appears to have, in the medium-long run, the potential to seriously affect the bilateral relationship is the question over the Turks’ ability to respond successfully to the crisis facing their economic and political system. The country has had a longstanding record of hyperinflation alongside fiscal and financial profligacy. A number of economic stabilization programs since the 1980s provided only short-to-medium-term answers to the country’s ailing economic system, and today “Turkey has reached the limits of debt manageability.”79 In February 2001, Turkey found itself on the brink of financial collapse, faced with its worst economic crisis in two decades. The IMF economic restructuring program that had been in place since January 2000 came to a halt;80 as a result, the Turkish Central Bank was forced to free-float its currency, thus triggering a nearly 50-percent devaluation. One day after the devaluation, President Bush relayed his support to the Turkish premier.81 (Some time later the IMF added another $8 billion to the $11 billion already committed within the context of the restructuring program, giving Turkey “a last chance.”82 )
Clearly, in this time of crisis the United States stands by its ally. Nonetheless, the country’s persistent economic ills – in combination with a badly fractioning and profoundly corrupt political system – have raised, perhaps for the first time, concerns about the ability of the Turkish establishment to ensure an economic, political and social order that will guarantee Turkey’s long-term stability and its value as a U.S. ally.83 Were such concerns to persist, it is reasonable to argue that Washington’s frustration with Ankara might increase, setting the bilateral relationship on a bumpy ride.
1 For an analysis of Turkey’s strategic role for U.S. interests in the 1947-52 period, see Ekavi Athanassopoulou, Turkey: Anglo-American Security Interests, 1945-1952: The First Enlargement of NATO (London: Frank Cass, 1999).
2 For an interesting early collection of essays on the subject, see From Globalism to Regionalism: New Perspectives on U.S. Foreign and Defense Policies, ed. Patrick M. Cronin (Washington DC: National Defense University Press, 1993).
3 Alan Makovski, “U.S. Policy Toward Turkey; Progress and Problems,” in Turkey’s Transformation and American Policy, ed. Morton Abramowitz (New York: The Century Foundation Press, 2000), p. 223, claims that during the first two years of the Clinton administration, “Turkey was viewed as a declining asset,” and, “it was in the mid-1990s that the ramified U.S.-Turkish strategic relationship of today began to evolve.” Our conclusion based on interviews with U.S. officials is that the Clinton administration saw from the beginning Turkey’s renewed importance for U.S. interests in the Middle East, following its participation in the Gulf War. Nonetheless, it is accurate to say that it was in the mid-1990s – when the administration seemed to find a focus in its defense policy and also as a result of Turkey’s emerging close ties with Israel – that U.S. policy towards Turkey was given a more concrete shape. Makovski points out to the role of individuals like Richard Holbrooke (assistant secretary of state for European affairs until 1996) and Marc Grossman (appointed ambassador to Turkey in 1994) who “energised U.S. foreign policy on Turkey’s behalf,” ibid, p. 224.
4 United States Security Strategy for the Middle East (Washington DC: Department of Defense, Office of International Security Affairs, May 1995), p. 5.
5 A National Security Strategy for a New Century (Washington DC: White House, October 1998), p. 51.
6 On the nuclear arms potential of these states, see Shai Feldman, Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control in the Middle East (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997), pp. 47-53, 56, 63-65.
7 Geoffrey Kemp, America and Iran: Road Maps and Realism (Washington DC: The Nixon Center, 1998), pp. 9-17.
8 Author’s interviews with U.S. State Department officials.
9 John Murray Brown, “Euphoria has Evaporated,” Financial Times, Survey: Turkey, May 7, 1993; there were a lot of reasons that prevented Turkey from emerging as a critical center of a new Eurasia, the most important being its own weak domestic position. On the subject, see, among others, Stephen J. Blank, “The Eastern Question Revived: Turkey and Russia Contend for Eurasia,” in Central Asia Meets the Middle East, ed. D. Menashti (London: Frank Cass, 1998).
10 Günaydin, September 21, 1991.
11 Briefing, May 17, 1999; Cumhurriyet, May 25, 1999.
12 Congressional Presentation for Foreign Operations for FY 1999 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of State, 1999), p. 339.
13 Policy forum with James Baker, transcribed in Middle East Insight, Vol. XVIII, No. 4, 1998.
14 Peter L. Thomson, “United States-Turkey Military Relations: Treaties and Implications,” The International Journal of Kurdish Studies, Vol. 9, Nos. 1-2, 1996. For the treaty’s text, see Treaties and Other International Agreements, Vol. 32, Part 3, 1979-1980 (Washington: GPO, 1980).
15 Initially the agreement provided that the Turkish air force would be given the older F-4 type aircraft but in 1983 it was agreed to be given the more advanced F-16. (The first F-16s that were sent to Turkey were previously earmarked for Iran.)
16 Washington agreed to that in 1983, before the return of a civilian government in Turkey.
17 Middle East Economic Digest (MEED), August 2, 1991.
18 Reuters, October 3, 1994.
19 William D. Hartung, “False Expectations: Can Arms Exports Make Up for Cuts in Pentagon Procurement?,” in The Changing Dynamics of U.S. Defense Spending, ed. Leon V. Sigal (Wesport, CO: Praeger, 1999), p. 184.
20 Congressional Presentation for Foreign Operations for FY 1999, p. 340.
21 Deliveries through the Direct Commercial Sales (DCS) and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) Programs. T. Gabelnick, W.D. Hartung, and J. Washburn, Arming Repression: U.S. Arms Sales to Turkey During the Clinton Administration, (New York: A Joint Report of the World Policy Institute and the Federation of American Scientists, 1999), Tbl. 1, p. 8.
22 Ex-Im News, October 1, 1990, p. 1
23 Weapons Transfers and Violations of the Laws of War in Turkey (New York: Human Rights Watch Arm, 1995), pp. 49-51.
24 Ibid, pp. 146-54.
25 Initially Washington did not hail the development of security and industrial defense cooperation between Turkey and Israel with a uniform or clear-cut policy. The arms manufacturers’ lobby was against it; many State Department officials believed that it would undermine the peace process between Israel and the Arabs. The Pentagon, however, welcomed the Turkish-Israeli military cooperation. Eventually, critics were outnumbered by those who saw it as a positive regional security development.
26 Philip H. Gordon, “Post-Helsinki: Turkey, Greece, and the European Union,” The Strategic Regional Report, Western Policy Center, Vol. 5, Issue 2, 2000, p. 1.
27 The U.S. Military Assistance program was discontinued in 1989. The Foreign Military Financing and Economic Support Fund programs (the other two main programs of military assistance to Turkey) came to an end as of FY 1999, due to cuts on American overseas military aid and an assessment that Turkish economic performance did not justify them anymore. Furthermore, between 1993 and 1998 most of military aid (which also fulfilled the role of a U.S. weapons export subsidy) was in the form of loans at a market interest rate.
28 Defense/Space Daily, September 28, 1979, pp. 129-30; Atlantic News, May 7, 1980, p. 3.
29 MEED, April 29, 1994, p. 3; MEED, February 3, 1995, p. 23.
30 Alan Makovsky draws attention to this concern within the U.S. administration, “The New Activism in Turkish Foreign Policy,” SAIS Review, Vol. 19, No. 1, 1999, p. 109. According to another analyst, for the West, “Turkey’s potential emergence as a regional hegemon is a mixed blessing. Washington has long been Ankara’s most reliable international ally, but American policymakers are ill prepared to manage Turkey’s growing assertiveness in foreign policy and security affairs,” Michael Robert Hickok, “Hegemon Rising: The Gap Between Turkish Strategy and Military Modernization,” Parameters, U.S. Army War College Quarterly,ummer 2000, p. 1 (internet edition).
31 To this end Turkey has secured loans from Ex-Im. MEED, December 24, 1993, p. 41; Middle East International (MEl), February 13, 1998, p. 7; MEI, October 16, 1998, p. 3.
32 MEED, June 10, 1994, p. 32.
33 MEED, March 31, 1995, p. 24.
34 Foreign Broadcast Information Service, Western Europe Series [ FBIS-WES], September 9, 1994, p. 54.
35 MEED, April 7, 1995, p. 19.
36 Gabelnick, Arming Repression, pp. 4-5.
37 Robert E. Hunter, “Starting at Zero: U.S. Foreign Policy for the 1990s,” p. 13, and Robert L. Rothstein, “Democracy, Conflict, and Development in the Third World,” Passism, in U.S. Foreign Policy After the Cold War, ed. Brad Roberts (Cambrigde, MA: MIT Press, 1992).
38 Özal’s decision was opposed or resisted by Turkey’s other political leaders (even from inside his own party) and the Turkish high brass. The discussion as to whether Turkey’s gains from its war participation outweighed the costs is still a subject of debate in Turkey. Nonetheless, the consensus among Turkish political and military leaders has been that the Turkish participation secured Turkey’s strategic importance in the eyes of the United States.
39 The overall perception among the Turkish political and military elites is that “the United States needs us.”
40 Jane’s Defence Weekly, Vol. 15, No. 2, January 12, 1991, p. 43; The Guardian, January 25, 1991.
41 The first analyst to succintly point out Ankara’s activism in regional affairs following the Gulf War was Kenneth Mackenzie, “Turkey’s Circumspect Activism,” The World Today, February 1993. After him many students of Turkish politics have elaborated on this theme. See, among others, Makovski, New Activism. Malik Mufti, “Daring and Caution in Turkish Foreign Policy,” Middle East Journal, Vol. 52, No. 1, 1998, p. 48, argues that there is a struggle among Turkish foreign-policy makers between advocates of boldness and advocates of caution, “and that the military and civilian bureaucracies tend to fall in the latter camp.” However, as Hickok, “Hegemon Rising,” p. 4, remarks, “the push toward a more activist policy has come largely from the military.”
42 “Making a Mark on a Mixed Market,” Special Report, Janes Defence Weekly, November 13, 1993, p. 26.
43 Sadi Ergüvenç, “Turkey’s Security Perceptions,” Perceptions, Vol. 3, No. 2, 1998, p. 40.
44 MEI, February 13, 1998.
45 MEI, February 13, 1998, p. 7; MEI, October 16, 1998, p. 3.
46 On Ankara’s suscpicions, see, among others, Kemal Kirisci, “Turkey and the United States,” in U.S. Allies in a Changing World, eds. Barry Rubin and Thomas A. Kennedy (London: Frank Cass, 2001), pp. 128-9.
47 Interview with a senior Turkish diplomat who wished not to be identified.
48 Anadolu Ajansi, April 13, 1999.
49 MEED, August 23, 1996, p. 29. As a result of the agreement Iran would become the second largest after Russia exporter of natural gas to Turkey.
50 Turkey was first described as a “pivotal state” for U.S. strategic interests by Robert S. Chase, Emily B. Hill, Paul Kennedy, “Pivotal States and U.S. Strategy,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 75, No. 1, 1996. Ankara has endorsed this image for Turkey; see, for instance, Neziri Çakar, “A Strategic Overview of Turkey,” Perceptions, Vol. 3, No. 2, 1998, p. 6.
51 Mahmut Bali Aykan, “Turkish Perspectives on Turkish-U.S. Relations Concerning Persian Gulf Security in the Post-Cold War Era: 1989-1995,” Middle East Journal, Vol. 50, No. 3, 1996, pp. 346-7.
52 FBIS-WES, March 18, 1993, p. 58; Milliyet, January 11, 1995.
53 Briefing, April 16, 1997. Ankara’s declared purpose of the military operations into northern Iraq was to uproot PKK bases and prevent its militants from crossing into Turkish territory.
54 Thomas E. Ricks, “Questions about a Forgotten War,” International Herald Tribune, October 26, 2000.
55 Milliyet, October 5, 2000.
56 Star, October 12, 2000.
57 For a broad analysis of the factors that contributed to Ankara’s assertive regional policy, see Makovski, “New Activism.”
58 In the words of Çakar: “Geopolitical and geo-strategic changes on the periphery of Turkey could cause the enhanced partnership between Turkey and the U.S. to be upgraded to the strategic partnership level,” Çakar, “A Strategic Overview of Turkey,” p. 14.59 Ali L. Karaosmanoglu, “NATO Enlargement and the South: A Turkish Perspective,” Security Dialogue, Vol. 30, No. 2, 1999.
60 Mackenzie, “Turkey’s Circumspect Activism,” p. 23. In fact, Turkish leadership was never happy to be treated by the United States as a secondary partner. Their basic viewpoint has always been that the Americans needed Turkey as much as it needed them.
61 As Henri J. Barkey, “Turkish-American Relations in the Post-war Era,” ORIENT, Vol. 33, No. 3, 1992,
p.447 points out “Turkey’s general relations with the West have been more contentious and uneasy than usually assumed.”
62 Comments to the author by a Middle East politics expert in the Middle East Technical University, Ankara, who wished not to be identified. See also Aykan, “Turkish Perspectives,” pp. 357-8.
64 Gengiz Çandar, “Some Turkish Perspectives on the United States and American Policy Toward Turkey,” in
Turkey’s Transformation, Abramowitz, p. 150.
65 “Turkey: Human Rights Developments in 1999,” September 28, 1999, Human Rights Watch (internet edition).
66 John Tirman, “Improving Turkey’s ‘bad neighbourhood’; Pressing for Rights and Democracy,” World Policy Journal, Vol. 15, No.1, 1998, Passim (internet edition).
67 For estimates of the numbers involved, see Turkey Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1998
(Washington DC: Department of State, 1998), pp. 3, 12.
68 MEED, February 28, 1997, p. 33; MEED, January 9, 1998, p. 31.
69 2000 Human Rights Watch Report on Turkey (internet edition). The report also lists international organizations’ conclusions on conditions of human rights in Turkey. The U.S. government promised to insist that systems were put in place to ensure end-use monitoring of the helicopters.
70 Quoted in Weapons Transfers and Violations, p. 146.
71 Despite the cuts in military aid, anticipated weapons sales to Turkey for the year 2000 have been significantly increased relative to previous years. Furthermore, the United States intends to maintain and modernize American weapons that Turkey already has in its arsenal, Congressional Representation for Foreign Operations, FY 1999, p. 340. According to a study, Washington may be able to finance new sales via existing loans and grants that have not yet been fully exploited, or find other creative means of financing new deals, Gabelnick, Arming Repression, p. 13.
72 Ralph Dannheisser, “Platforms: How the Parties Define Their Policy Positions,” in “Foreign Policy and the 2000 Presidential Election,” U.S. Foreign Policy Agenda, Vol. 5, No. 2, 2000, pp. 28-30. Sebastian Mallaby, “The Irrelevant Election,” Foreign Policy, Fall 2000, pp. 75-8. As far as the Balkans are concerned, the Republicans have been advocating U.S. military disengagement from peacekeeping duties in Bosnia and Kosovo. However, they have been unclear on the substance of their broader security strategy for this region. 73 According to the Turkish press, Bush said: “You are a very important country. You have got very strong friends here in our country. My foreign policy team and national security team are keenly aware of the importance of Turkey [to] the notion of keeping the peace, and we look forward to working with you.” Zaman, February 23, 2001.
74 The strategy of multilateralism had already begun under the Bush administration following the end of the Cold War. The Clinton administration further developed this thinking and introduced the concept of cooperative security. Global Engagement: Cooperation and Security in the 21st Century, ed. Janne E. Nolan (Washingron, DC: The Brookings Institution, 1994).
75 Linda P. Brady, “Working with Allies: Clinton Defense Policy and the Management of Multilateralism,” in
Clinton and Post-Cold War Defense, ed. Stephen J. Cimbala (Westport: Praeger, 1996).
76 Even during the Cold War there were many instances when Ankara defied the U.S. lead. In 1958 when the coup in Iraq against Nuri Said took place only strong American pressure and promises of more aid dissuaded the Turkish premier, Adnan Menderes, from going ahead with a planned military intervention in Iraq. In early 1960 in search of much needed financial support Menderes, in principle, agreed with Khrushchev to visit Moscow. His planned visit did not take place as his government was overthrown by a military coup in May 1960. Nonetheless, in the 1960s Ankara sought some rapprochement with the Soviet Union against the 1960s East-West détente and Turkey’s disappointment over Washington’s reluctance to support the Turkish position over Cyprus, Walter Laqueur, The Struggle for the Middle East: The Soviet Union in the Mediterranean, 1958-1968 (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1969), p. 15-28. In 1974 Turkey launched a war in Cyprus despite strong opposition by the West. In 1980, Ankara declined its support for American measures against Iran during the hostages crisis, James W. Spain, American Diplomacy in Turkey (New York: Praeger, 1984), pp. 57-62. In 1989 Ankara did not allow American officers to examine a Soviet MiG-29 air-fighter, when its pilot defected to Turkey, Barkey, “Turkish-American Relations,” p. 462.
77 United States Foreign Policy, 1969-1970: A Report of the Secretary of State (Washington DC: Department of State Publication, 1971), p. 88.
78 John Roper, “Shaping Strategy Without the Threat,” in America’s Role in a Changing World, Adelphi Paper 257 (London: Brassey’s, for the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Winter 1990/1991), Part II, p. 76.
79 Martin Wolf, “A Last Last Chance for Turkey,” Financial Times, May 23, 2001.
80 However, following the crisis the Turkish government declared its unwaning commitment to the IMF program.
81 See above, p. 15.
82 The IMF decision reflected Turkey’s geostrategic importance along with American and European financial interests as the Turkish exposure of Western banks amounted to around $40 billion, The Economist, May 19, 2001.
83 Point made by U.S. State Department officials to the author.