Turkey, a long-standing U.S. ally and staunch member of NATO, has played a pivotal, if at times delicate, role in the defense of Europe and the Middle East. Its value as a Western ally has hinged on its geographic reach: it spans two continents and two theaters of Cold War conflict with the Soviet Union.

In the first years after World War II, as the only Islamic country with a secular democratic government, Turkey was viewed as a bulwark against Soviet designs in the Middle East. Along with Iran, it provided a massive land barrier to Moscow's ambitions in the oil-rich Persian Gulf. Later, as the threat of Soviet expansionism seemed to fix on Europe, and U.S. policy shifted from containment in the Middle East (under the Truman Doctrine) to containment in Europe (under the Marshall Plan and NATO), Turkey's main strategic role was increasingly seen in a European context: as potentially bottling up the Soviet navy in the Black Sea, tying up Warsaw Pact forces along NATO's southern flank, and serving as a staging ground for a counterthrust against the Soviet Union.

Underpinning Turkey's early role in the NATO alliance was the principle of reciprocity: Turkey would play an important part in the defense of the West, and make its facilities available, while the West would provide Turkey with a deterrent against Soviet attack, as well as military and economic assistance. Today Turkey's relations with its allies continue to be informed by the notion of reciprocity and are colored by shifting security concerns. The only difference from recent years is that, with the Soviet threat sharply diminished and Ankara having assumed an important role in the allied coalition against Iraq, Turkey's strategic significance is once again being assessed chiefly in its Middle Eastern context.


Turkey's Western-oriented leader, President Turgut Özal, has taken up the challenge of Ankara's role in the post-Cold War world, perhaps sooner than most observers would have guessed. In the process, he has precipitated a vigorous debate within Turkey over his role as president and the extent of his authority. Özal moved with alacrity to commit the country as a staging ground for U.S. and coalition air forces against Iraq. It was a politically calculated move that went beyond immediate national security concerns. Indeed, Turkey has never been willing to commit itself wholeheartedly to a Western military endeavor without some form of quid pro quo. In the current context, Özal is hoping for a substantial return on his country's investment in the war effort, from both the United States and Europe.

The expected payoff from Washington is increased military aid and a revision of the seven-to-ten ratio in U.S. aid to Greece and Turkey. The informal ratio, while never adopted by the executive branch, has served in recent years as a reference point for congressional approval of military assistance to those countries. Also expected is greater access to U.S. markets for Turkish foodstuffs and textiles. From Europe-and here Ankara is expecting Washington's support-Özal clearly expects military and economic assistance and wants a softening of resistance from the European Community to its application for membership in the 12-nation economic bloc. Indeed, before the gulf crisis erupted, no foreign policy issue had been more important to Özal than securing EC membership.

The determined effort by Ankara to bolster the allied coalition's interests in the gulf involved substantial risk. In the first instance, it involved exposing the country to attack. In the past the real question in the event of a NATO-Warsaw Pact confrontation was not the willingness of Turks to defend themselves, but the extent to which Turkey would have subjected itself to counterattack by supporting offensive actions against communist forces in eastern Europe. A similar scenario obtained, albeit from the south, where vast numbers of Iraqi forces-equipped with long-range missiles-were deployed following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August.

Another major risk stems from within. The Özal government's commitment to the anti-Iraq coalition was not well received inside Turkey. The decision, and the manner in which it was reached, triggered the resignation of the chief of the Turkish general staff on December 3. The Turkish media railed against the country's involvement in the war; as would be expected, opposition parties clamored both for an end to what they perceived as the nation's overenthusiastic role in support of the allied coalition and a halt to what they characterize as Özal's "one-man rule." Terrorism, which plagued the country in the 1970s, is once again on the rise. At least eight incidents were reported after the outbreak of the war, including the fatal shootings of the senior security adviser to Prime Minister Yildirim Akbulut and of a U.S. civilian attached to a NATO base inside the country.

For a nation struggling to gain legitimacy in the eyes of the West, while maintaining a poor human rights record and suffering from a substandard economy, the assumption of a strategic role in the gulf is a tightrope walk to security and prosperity. Özal, perhaps recognizing that U.S.-Turkish ties have tended to falter during periods of U.S.-Soviet détente, seized the opportunity to commit Turkey to the coalition's cause against a new and real threat. Recognizing that his country is at a crossroads, Özal has made the first in a series of tough choices that will confront Turkey in the years ahead. For now, his limited popularity at home is being put to a serious test.


Iraq's invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990, introduced a new regional dimension to the balance of power in the Middle East and constituted the most serious threat to vital U.S. and Western oil interests in the Persian Gulf since the Iranian Revolution. The crisis underscored once again the geopolitical value to the United States of the U.S.-Turkish alliance and corroborated estimates both within the Turkish government and the U.S. Department of Defense of Turkey's continuing importance.

Turkey's contribution to the anti-Iraq coalition included: effective closure of the Iraqi pipeline to the Mediterranean (through which Iraq exported 54 percent of its oil, or approximately 1.5 million barrels of oil a day); extension until December 1991 of the Defense and Economic Cooperation Agreement, which gives the United States access to military bases in Turkey; deployment of over 100,000 troops along the Iraqi border, which forced Iraq to deploy substantial troops to the north and raised the prospect of at least a two-front war; and use of NATO airbases within striking range of military targets in northern and central Iraq.

But such a commitment obviously did not come without substantial costs. Turkish financial losses from the war are difficult to calculate, but include lost trade with Iraq and Kuwait, lost tourism revenues, lost fees from transit trade, suspension on repayment of Iraqi debts, lost fees for transit of Iraqi oil through the Turkish pipeline, suspended construction contracts, lost remittances from Turkish workers in Iraq and Kuwait, and increased oil prices. To compensate for these losses and to reward Turkey's quick response to the crisis, President Bush, along with the EC, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, has sought to put together a multibillion-dollar assistance package to the so-called frontline states.

In return for Ankara's military assistance, U.S. officials have explored the possibility of supplying the Turks with extensive military equipment as a quid pro quo. The Southern Region Amendment assistance program, which has allowed for transfer of slightly outmoded American weapons, has helped contribute to a substantial U.S. arms package. The American aid, in conjunction with a German arms package, includes: 600 M-60 tanks, 400 Leopard tanks, 700 armored personnel carriers, 40 Phantom fighters, as well as a complement of Cobra helicopters, missile destroyers and Roland surface-to-air missiles. Such a comprehensive package of advanced arms, however, will not arrive overnight. As a stopgap measure intended to serve as a symbolic deterrent, NATO deployed 42 somewhat outdated combat jets from Germany, Italy and Belgium at Turkey's request. Batteries of U.S. Patriot missiles were also sent to Turkey on an emergency basis. No Iraqi Scud missile attacks against Turkey were reported.

On the economic aid front, President Bush also has pledged to review Turkey's textile quotas with a view toward increasing its access to the U.S. textile and apparel market. According to a Turkish government spokesman, textile quotas (Turkey currently has approximately one percent of the U.S. textile market) will be raised by as much as 50 percent. Other assistance packages, however, have been slow to materialize. Turkey lost over $2 billion in revenue over the first three months of the crisis, and, as estimates of its losses in succeeding months rose to $9 billion, the ruling Motherland Party was severely criticized by leaders of the rival Social Democratic Populist Party and the True Path Party for having given too much for too little.

In their judgment, the threat to Turkey was not adequately compensated by the benefits, even if they were substantial. In addition to an estimated $8 billion in arms from the United States and Germany, Turkey is scheduled to receive a total of $2.2 billion in oil, grants and loans from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Japan, France and the EC. Kuwait's newly restored government has said it is reviewing possible construction contracts with Turkish companies for the rebuilding of the emirate's devastated infrastructure. Moreover, the annual U.S. security assistance package was raised from $553.4 million ($500 million of which was an outright grant) to $635.4 million, and the high proportion of grant assistance to Turkey (as distinguished from concessional loans to Greece) essentially cancelled any semblance of the seven-to-ten ratio.

While acknowledging the value of striking a balance in assistance to Greece and Turkey, the Bush administration has never believed that the mechanistic application of the seven-to-ten ratio was the way to achieve it. The Reagan administration took the same view. The military balance, Washington argued, is determined by factors far more complex than levels of assistance. The Gulf War and President Özal's determined support for the allied coalition's effort seemed to bolster their argument, even if Özal's support for U.S. policies has troubled his own domestic critics.


Before the Cold War began to wind down, Turkey played a number of critical strategic roles for NATO. Turkey helped to deter a Soviet attack on NATO's central front because its forces could threaten Warsaw Pact forces in the Balkans and the Transcaucasus. If deterrence failed, this potential threat from Turkey would have impeded Soviet capacity to reinforce the central front. Installations in Turkey made it possible to detect, intercept and limit the projection of Soviet airpower into the eastern Mediterranean. At sea, Turkish control of the Bosporus blocked the projection of Soviet naval power into the Aegean. The importance of the waterway is emphasized by the fact that in recent years the Soviets have made over 18,000 ship transits a year through the straits, through which pass 60 percent of their exports and 50 percent of their imports. As for contingencies outside the European theater, Turkey's land mass and its bases deterred Soviet ambitions in the Persian Gulf. In their absence, Soviet support for and accessibility to such countries as Syria and Iraq would have been much more pervasive and potentially threatening to U.S. interests in the region and would have created serious problems for Israel.

Finally, as NATO's only Muslim country, Turkey also provided a cultural bridge between Europe and the Middle East. If the United States eventually reestablishes ties with Iran, those ties will have been facilitated by the relationship it shares with intermediaries, such as Turkey. In recent months, for example, Turkey has revived the idea of building strong economic ties with both Iran and Pakistan.

Turkey's relationship with NATO, of course, is not one-sided, and many Turks recognize the necessity of having a strong NATO deterrent force on their soil. It was repeatedly brought home to them by Soviet actions in Czechoslovakia in 1948, Hungary and Poland in 1956, Czechoslovakia again in 1968 and, most recently, in Afghanistan in 1979. In spite of these reminders, however, and in part because of a legacy of distrust engendered by differences over contentious issues such as Cyprus, the status of the Aegean, the Armenian question and alleged human rights abuses, the Turks have occasionally recognized the desirability of exploring alternative means for assuring their security. They have been willing to examine a more neutral stance between East and West. But three major developments-the decline of the Soviet Union, the emergence of a resurgent EC and the advent of a long-term threat posed by Iraq-have led President Özal to check what, in different circumstances, might have been a drift toward neutrality or nonalignment.

Aggression by its southern neighbor and trading partner, on the other hand, raised a sensitive issue for Turkey: the use of its territory and (potentially) its armed forces in a Western military engagement outside NATO's boundaries. In the past, Turkey has appeared increasingly reluctant to allow the United States use of its territory as a staging ground in non-NATO contingencies. During the war in Lebanon in 1958, for example, the United States had used Turkish bases to support its intervention. Following the Cyprus crisis of 1964, however, when the United States called into question its obligations under NATO to protect Turkey from a Soviet attack, the Turks became more guarded about the use of Turkish facilities for non-NATO scenarios. During the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, the United States was allowed to use communication stations in Turkey, but was not allowed to use Turkish bases for refueling or supply activities. In the course of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, the United States was not allowed to use Turkish bases for direct combat or logistical support, although it was allowed to use communication stations in Turkey during the resupply effort. The United States was also permitted to use Turkish bases for the evacuation of American citizens during the Jordanian civil war in 1970 and the Iranian Revolution in 1979.

Such reluctance to engage in non-NATO contingencies reverberated in many official Turkish quarters after Saddam's troops rolled into Kuwait. In addition to criticisms of Özal's "one-man rule," other detractors asserted that to commit to a U.S.-led war against Saddam would give the United States the capacity to permanently damage Turkey's economic and diplomatic relations with Iraq. Over the last ten years, Iraq has accounted for as much as 18 percent of total Turkish imports and 13 percent of total Turkish exports. As Özal's critics have noted, Iraq will remain a neighbor with a large-and needy-economy.

But within Özal's inner circle, there were indications of a readiness to take a tough stand against any potential aggression from the south. The groundwork had been laid at a meeting of Turkish emissaries in Vienna in December 1989, well before the gulf crisis. Mesut Yilmaz, then foreign minister, met with 17 Turkish ambassadors to examine the effects on Turkey of developments in eastern Europe and the implications of better relations between East and West.

At that meeting, the broad outline of a future foreign policy for Turkey was devised. Turkey, the ministers concurred, would definitely remain in NATO. It would, however, establish closer ties with the Soviet Union and the other Warsaw Pact countries. Turkey recognized that, to be accepted as a member of the EC, it would have to take greater steps toward democracy and improve its human rights record. While vigilance would still have to be maintained against the Soviet threat, the major threat to Turkey now came from the southeast: Iraq and Syria. This shift would be reflected in Turkey's new defense strategy.

The ministers noted that while Turkey's strategic importance was lessened by East-West détente, it was not eliminated. Its geographical location would dictate its continuing strategic importance to the alliance. And, no less important, even if Turkey were not granted full membership in the EC, it would not be totally excluded.


Beyond regional security concerns, threats to Turkey were perceived in economic terms and were associated with the consequences of being excluded from the EC, which will dominate a unified market of more than 300 million Europeans in the 1990s. The Turkish government's interest was declared in 1987 when it applied for admission to the EC. On December 18, 1989, the EC Commission told the Turks that their application could not be considered before 1993 at the earliest. The commission argued that enlarging the Community would weaken its capacity to pursue internal and external policies required for the success of the Single European Act of 1986, which calls for the establishment of a wholly integrated internal market by the end of 1992.

Specific concerns addressed were Turkey's size and population-it had "a greater area and would eventually have a bigger population than any Community member state"-and the fact that Turkey had a substantially lower level of development than the European average. Purchasing power in Turkey was one-third that of the EC average, while the country suffered from high inflation rates and high unemployment. More than 50 percent of the labor force in Turkey was employed in agriculture, and the Community was concerned about the access of Turkish labor to the EC labor market at a time when unemployment was a problem in the 12 associated economies.

The commission recommended a number of measures that would enable both Turkey and the EC to move toward increased interdependence and integration. While the Turks were disappointed, the postponement was not unexpected. The government, putting on its best face, emphasized the report's reaffirmation of Turkey's qualification to become a full member and its call for a customs union between Turkey and the EC by 1995. Subsequently, however, Turks were angered by Austria's apparent jump in standing to be the next member and disillusioned by the EC's favorable reception of Cyprus' application for membership.

Turkish commentators worried that developments might lead to the Europeans' rearranging themselves in a fortress Europe that excluded Turkey, as in the early postwar era. If there is no commitment to Turkey's entry down the road, many would take it as the denial of a right that Turkey has earned and a rejection of Turkey's commitment to Europe. Membership in the EC, on the other hand, would guarantee the continued westernization of Turkey and cement its identity in Europe. Anything less would be hypocritical and discriminatory of the country's attempt to seek its rightful place in the European community of nations.

While the Turks are hopeful about the possibility of joining the EC, and Özal continues to put the best face on the difficulties they encounter, many Europeans privately express enormous doubts about Turkey's achieving membership in the near future. They suggest that Turkey focus on intermediate steps, such as a customs union, an industrial cooperation agreement or an aid program. These steps would give Ankara time to prepare the country for membership. Others suggest the desirability of examining alternative arrangements.

Speculation in the Turkish press about alternative relationships with the EC has included discussion of a European free-trade area with a European core, a northern federation (including Norway), and a southern federation (comprising Mediterranean countries such as Turkey, Israel and Malta). In the aftermath of the changes in eastern Europe in 1989, Turks speculated that their country could play a role in an expanded EC, which would include a Benelux east (Austria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia) and Turkey (which enjoys substantial trade with eastern Europe). They have also contemplated, in the event that they are excluded from the EC, a free-trade agreement with the United States, a Black Sea cooperative system, and a Balkan cooperative zone.

Precedents for economic integration schemes in the Middle East include the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Arab Cooperation Council, and the Arab Maghreb Council. The Turkish government, however, looks to Europe and fears the consequences of rejection-particularly if the real reason stems from cultural and religious prejudice against Turkey's Muslim heritage. They have sensed such prejudice in the West's relatively weak reaction to the treatment of Turks in Soviet Azerbaijan or in Bulgaria, as opposed to its support for Christians in the restive Soviet Socialist republics of Armenia and Lithuania. President Özal has warned that rejection would push Turkey away from Europe and encourage the spread of religious fundamentalism throughout the region. Islamic fundamentalists have never captured more than ten percent of the vote in Turkey in recent years, but their cause in Turkey clearly would be fueled by such rejection.


In the context of their perceived rejection by Europe, the Turks have looked to their bilateral relationships. The United States, because of its interests in the Middle East, has continued to cooperate with Turkey. But, as in the early postwar period, there have been differences within the U.S. foreign-policy establishment. If the end of the Cold War led the Department of State to see the U.S.-Turkish relationship as increasingly free of its defense focus, the Department of Defense, responding to the logic of Turkey's potential role in the Persian Gulf, continued to recognize Turkey's important strategic role in the region. The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait reinforced the Pentagon's view. As noted, however, the bilateral relationship will not be without its troubles.

The Soviet Union, which has expressed its appreciation for Turkey's realistic and balanced attitude toward problems in Soviet Azerbaijan, is interested in upgrading relations with Turkey as much as possible, as it did in the late 1970s. Trade volume between Turkey and the Soviet Union has tripled in the last three years. In 1989 it reached $1.3 billion. In October 1990 Turkey and the Soviet Union agreed to increase the volume of trade to $4 billion. Estimates of the volume of trade by the end of the decade range as high as $12 billion. The Soviets will supply the Turks with 4.1 billion cubic meters of natural gas in 1990, expand exports to six billion cubic meters by 1992 and expect to run pipelines through the Caucasus by 1994. The amount of consumer goods Turkey will exchange for gas is substantial-70 percent of the cost will be paid back by Turkish exports of goods and services. The Soviets have a large market and could become the greatest importers of Turkish goods.

These trends, however, do not mean a peace dividend for the Turks, whose defense budget for 1990 called for more than doubling the previous year's budget to $3.4 billion-and this was before Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. In November 1989 then National Defense Minister Safa Giray expressed the opinion that, in an era of uncertainty, easing Turkey's defense efforts could lead to instability. Why should Turkey have such a large defense budget? His answer, echoed by those who have looked at Turkey's obsolete equipment, was the need for modernization. The need for a large peacetime army had become increasingly obvious: internal insecurity in the southeast (where the Kurdish separatist movement was gaining momentum) and a more general regional threat, subsequently epitomized by Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. The defense budget for 1991 has been raised to $4.8 billion, or 12.5 percent of the national budget.

Prior to the gulf crisis, the Turks' main security concern was an emerging Islamic terrorist threat within the country and increased confrontations with the separatist Kurdish movement. In the last six years, Kurdish rebels in southeastern Turkey have conducted a bloody guerrilla war that, according to Ankara, has claimed the lives of 1,432 soldiers and civilians, as well as 866 members of the Marxist Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK). More than 300 PKK members were killed in the last year alone. The PKK reestablished itself in Iraq following the end of the Iran-Iraq War, and in conjunction with bases in Syria and Iran, has supported an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 rebels in Turkey, whose population of 57 million includes approximately ten million Kurds.

The official Turkish position has been to deny the legitimacy of a separate Kurdish identity because the political implications of doing so could threaten Turkey's claim to and control over southeastern Turkey. While Turkey has treated its Kurds better than Iran or Iraq have treated theirs, and gave temporary asylum to approximately 100,000 Kurds during the Iran-Iraq War, it has not treated them well. The biggest problem, according to domestic critics, is that the government has delegated the issue to the military. Measures taken by the military to control the separatist movement include the forced removal of 30,000 Kurds who apparently refused to set up local militias in 1989. That action drew harsh criticism from abroad. In May 1990 the European Parliament (with only 71 of 518 members present) voted for a resolution condemning terrorism in Turkey and called on the government to recognize the political, cultural and social rights of the Kurds. Following Turkey's November 1990 signing of the Paris Charter, a document which gives significant weight to minority rights, the Özal government has begun to explore such changes and has recommended lifting a ban on the use of the Kurdish language.

Turkish concern over the Kurdish problem led Ankara in 1986 to notify the United States and Iran that if Iraq were defeated by Tehran and the state were to disintegrate, it would demand the return of Mosul and the great northern oil basin of Kirkuk-a claim that dates back to Turkey's loss of the region in 1926. In the current context of a possible disintegration of Iraq, Turkish concern over the Kurdish nationality problem has again surfaced. The difficulty of incorporating even more Kurds into the Republic of Turkey would, of course, pose serious problems. It would in some ways be similar to the problem of Israel occupying even more Arab territory and coping with an additional Arab population. If Turkey has to improve its human rights record and become more democratic to win acceptance by the EC, the incorporation of more Kurds would hardly facilitate that goal. Amnesty International's annual reports repeatedly allege systematic torture and human rights violations in Turkey-violations that, many Turks feel, can be explained in part by memories of the chaos that led up to the September 1980 generals' coup and the difficulties of dealing with internal threats to security. Incorporation of Mosul would only add to such reports, reinforcing Western perceptions of a poor human rights record and precluding Turkey's admission to the EC. For these and other reasons, Turkey-along with Iran and Syria-would prefer to see Iraq keep its own borders. The territorial integrity of regional states has been one of Turkey's longstanding policies.

On the other hand, if the local Kurdish insurrection in northeastern Iraq were to become widespread, consolidate its gains and evolve into a separate Kurdish rump state, Ankara would see such a development as unacceptable. If confronted with the prospect of a nationalist, irredentist Kurdish state, many Turks would prefer to have those Kurds maintain their Kurdish identity but be under joint Iraqi and Turkish control, or under the guarantorship of Turkey, Syria and Iran. These preferences explain why, if changes are to be made in the map of the Middle East, Turkey will expect to have a seat at the table when such decisions are made.

If Turkish officials worry that the Kurdish insurgency will spread to cities throughout the southeast, they already are confronting a growing terrorist threat to secularism and democracy in some of their major cities. Some analysts have attributed the rise of terrorism by Islamic radicals to the promotion of Islam in the 1980s, when it was regarded as a means of undercutting the ideologies of the left. Others have focused on Turkey's continuing high inflation and unemployment and, most recently, on radical support for Saddam. Whatever the cause of Islamic terrorism, 21 prominent secularists have been assassinated in Ankara, Bursa and Istanbul in 1990 alone, and Lieutenant General Teoman Koman, undersecretary of Turkey's National Intelligence Organization, has asserted that the terrorists receive considerable support from neighboring countries.


The threat posed by Saddam Hussein and internal challenges from Kurdish nationalists and Islamic fundamentalists are not the only problems the Turks worry about. In recent years they have had troubles with a number of neighbors: with Bulgaria over the Turkish ethnic minority there; with Greece over Cyprus and a range of Aegean issues, not to mention treatment of the Turkish minority in Thrace; with Syria over its support for the Damascus-based Kurdish Workers' Party and Armenian terrorist groups; and with Iran over its support for Islamic causes and the export of the revolution. Prior to the war, the Turks had experienced serious differences with Iraq over control of the Kurdish minority there, as well as over control of the rate of water flow in the Euphrates, which Turkey has begun to control with its massive $21 billion Southeastern Anatolian Project.

A country that has a serious internal insurgency, that is surrounded by potentially hostile countries and that has ambivalent allies must ultimately rely on itself. Turkey shares borders with countries that support religious and ethnic terrorist activities, that have missiles with ranges in excess of 1,000 kilometers and that do not participate in negotiations on disarmament and arms control.

For this reason, President Özal was mindful of the larger context within which Saddam Hussein's actions were to be seen. He emphasized that his stand was one of principle-it concerned the norms of international behavior and the fundamental tenets of the U.N. Charter. Özal was also mindful, however, of the very serious threat Saddam posed, and of the necessity of taking risks to effect Turkey's interests. In response to opposition critics, he stated: "I am not a gambler. I am an engineer. I know mathematics and logic, and therefore I don't think I will lose."

The risks posed by Özal's calculated policies were underscored by Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, who accused Turkey of aggression against Iraq and warned of unspecified "consequences" that would flow from Ankara's act of "submission" to the United States. Although no Scud missiles were fired at Turkey, reports that the missiles may have been deployed within range of southeastern Turkey sparked the evacuation of some three million Turks in the area, according to U.N. officials in Geneva. Mitigating these risks was the fact that Turkey received a NATO guarantee that it will be protected if attacked by Saddam's forces.

While granting NATO allies use of Turkish installations for operations against Iraq, Özal said he would not attack Iraq unless Turkey was attacked. He correctly calculated that Saddam, preoccupied with the ground war in the south, would not risk a second front. A Scud attack would have been sufficient to elicit a retaliatory strike, but probably would not have brought Turkey into the ground war. Throughout the war, Özal downplayed the harm that could be caused by such an attack.

To be sure, a more cautious role in the allied coalition would not have earned Turkey the same measure of respect from its allies, and it would not have given the Turks so many real and potential benefits: economic assistance from a substantial number of coalition forces; military assistance and support for the modernization of Turkish forces from its NATO allies; recognition of Turkey as a leader and potential source of stability in the region, one deserving of a seat at whatever peace conferences take place in the postwar era; and the gratitude of its allies-the most clear expression of which would be admission to the EC.


While the Turks recognize the necessity of self-reliance, they clearly will not leave NATO, even as its military role is subordinated to a more political one. To do so without a countervailing force against regional enemies-whether the Soviets or the Iraqis-would be fatuous. The Bosporus has been and continues to be one of the Soviet Union's lifelines. To leave NATO would eliminate a critical deterrent, threaten to eliminate the substantial assistance that the Turks receive and give the Greeks an unnecessary advantage in their differences with the Turks. It would also lessen the likelihood that Turkey will ever become a full member of the EC.

Within the framework of NATO, however, particularly if it is rejected by the EC, Turkey will pursue its own course. Turks are sensitive to the fact that NATO is now considering a postcrisis regional defense arrangement in the Persian Gulf and that, as Manfred Wörner, the general secretary of NATO, has acknowledged, Turkey's participation would be essential to such a structure. Like Iran and Afghanistan, Turkey is cognizant of its vulnerability to both East and West, sensitive to the capricious character of its relations with them and aware of the necessity of walking a delicate line between power blocs and cultures. Surrounded by countries that are undergoing massive upheavals, and which are often antagonistic toward each other, the Turks increasingly realize that cautious diplomacy leaves them out in the cold, while an activist diplomacy-consistent with their self-image as an emerging regional power-requires tough choices about their friends and enemies. This holds true whether in the Black Sea, Caspian Sea or the Persian Gulf. Such choices always involve risks because one's allies tend to determine one's enemies. Nonetheless such risks must sometimes be taken, as was the case in the Gulf War.

Iran has rejected alignment with the great powers, and Afghanistan, once it reconstitutes itself, will also do so. Özal has asserted that Turkey has an important economic and political role to play in the Middle East, not the least of which involves the so-called Middle East Peace-Water Project that would include countries from the eastern Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf.

The issue, here, is not Turkey's relationship with the Middle East, but whether that relationship will be established in concert with its European allies or without them. This is a reality that Europeans should ponder as they attempt to safeguard vital interests in the Persian Gulf with a security framework anchored in part in Turkey.

Turkey has earned the right to join the EC. The strategic reasons for its accession to NATO, moreover, still hold, although they have undergone a substantial reorientation. Just as Turkey's postwar geopolitical importance depended on its being seen in a European as well as a Middle Eastern context, so its importance in the aftermath of the Cold War-and the Persian Gulf War-will depend on its being seen in a Middle Eastern as well as a European context. But that vision will also depend on Turkey's being accepted as a full-fledged member of Europe. If it is, Kemal Atatürk's legacy as a westernizer will be safeguarded and Turkey will be an important model to those Muslim nations in the Middle East that contemplate what it means to be a secular, democratic republic.

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  • Bruce R. Kuniholm is Director of Duke University's Institute of Policy Sciences and Public Affairs and Chairman of Duke's Department of Public Policy Studies.
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