No nation that has maintained close relations with the United States for the last generation is so little understood by well-informed Americans as is Turkey. Even West Europeans, from their closer vantage point, are rarely better informed. In part, this lack of understanding may be due simply to limited contact. There is in the United States no sizable Turkish-American community, hence no ready Turkish constituency in American public opinion. In Western Europe, Turks are present in large numbers-but as guest workers living with their families, apart and unassimilated in the more crowded parts of the cities, and eager to save enough of their wages for the ultimate return home to Turkey.

Perhaps, too, it requires a larger effort of the imagination than most of us are accustomed to making to grasp the seeming contradictions of a country that is part in Europe, part in Asia, bordering on the Soviet Union in the north and the Arab countries in the south; a developing nation that is a dedicated and vociferous democracy; a Muslim population in a secular state; not to mention a country with a Central Asian language written in the Roman alphabet.

Moreover, the Turks themselves are proud, sometimes too proud to explain themselves to others, or to undertake the frank and detailed exposition of their case that committees of the U.S. Congress or visiting missions of the International Monetary Fund may seek as a basis for their actions. And Turkish pride has deep roots.


Unlike most countries in the early phases of industrialization, Turkey has no history of having been a foreign colony. Its governmental tradition dates back to the infancy of the Ottoman state in the thirteenth century, and includes three or four centuries during which Ottoman Turks dominated most of southeastern Europe as well as most of the Muslim Middle East. In the contemporary era, Turkey's political independence was reasserted after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, as Kemal Atatürk founded the modern Turkish Republic. And although Atatürk's Turkey undertook an ambitious program to westernize its culture, its foreign policy retained an element of deliberate isolation. Indeed, a somewhat self-conscious and assertive nationalism remained one of Turkey's most notable cultural imports from the West. Today Turkey is truly a nation-state: of its present population, 99 percent are Muslims, and 90 percent speak Turkish as their native tongue; conversely, over 90 percent of all Turkish speakers are citizens of the Turkish Republic.

Yet Turkey's very location is international, and suggests multiple connections rather than splendid isolation. The close links with Europe that have developed in the last generation through participation in the European Recovery Program, membership in the Council of Europe and formal association with the European Economic Community were a logical outgrowth of the cultural westernization of Atatürk's generation. In the 1940s and 1950s, close ties with the United States and membership in NATO were welcomed as a counterweight to the Soviet threat from the north; more recently, as some strains developed in the relationship with the United States, there has been a limited rapprochement with the Soviets. Turkey has also special and obvious ties with the Islamic countries, including its Arab neighbors, and a sense of affinity with the developing, and predominantly neutralist, Third World. With its Greek neighbor to the west, relations have alternated between close friendship and overt hostility; for some years now, Turkey and Greece have been embroiled in bitter disputes over the future of Cyprus and over territorial rights in the Aegean Sea.

Internally as well, Turkey's situation is complex and in some respects paradoxical. Since Atatürk's day, secularism has been deeply embedded both in the constitution and laws of the country and in the political consciousness of its elite. One natural result of the introduction of political democracy in the 1940s was the emergence of Islamic fundamentalism as a minor but persistent theme. The decision to become a democracy has not been seriously questioned since it was made in the 1940s. Yet in the last two decades there have been two distinct episodes of military intervention in politics, and today the excesses of terrorism, as well as prolonged parliamentary deadlocks threaten to make the country at times all but ungovernable.

Finally, the economic welfare of Turkish citizens has improved dramatically in the last quarter century, with per-capita income rising from around $300 to its present level of over $1,000, and with growth rates as high as nine or ten percent annually in the early 1970s. Yet this economic growth turned out to be extraordinarily vulnerable to the global oil crisis of 1973-74 and the consequent recession of 1975; and, for the future, it is heavily mortgaged by a still rapid rate of population growth. As a result, Turkey has found itself in a severe balance-of-payments crisis, its economy has been reduced to desperate straits, and an emergency rescue effort has had to be mounted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

So, today, mention of Turkey raises many difficult questions. Are its Western alignments and close ties to the United States about to be weakened to the point of near-neutrality in favor of expanded ties with the Soviet Union, the Arab world, or perhaps some possible future alignment of Islamic nations? Can the Cyprus question be resolved so as to bring Greece as well as Turkey fully back into the NATO fold? What prospects are there for putting the economy once again on a sound basis? And is there hope of reestablishing responsible and effective government-or is Turkey likely to be mired down in group conflict and terrorism, to become, perhaps, "another Iran"?

These questions obviously interlock, and cannot be answered without some attention to the recent historical background. And, for Americans, the best place to start such a historical summary is the story of how Washington and Ankara first came to establish such close political ties.


U.S.-Turkish relations started off auspiciously after World War II. There was a strong residue of Turkish goodwill toward the United States, based in part on the long record of American philanthropic and educational activity in the country. By the 1930s, Robert College in Istanbul had become one of the most prestigious centers in Turkey for training its growing commercial and technical elite. American championship of national self-determination after World War I was in welcome contrast to the imperialist ambitions of European powers, and as Turkey faced the prospect of foreign occupation and partition in 1919 there was even some sentiment in favor of establishing an American mandate over the country.

In the specific situation of the late 1940s, there was an almost perfect coincidence of U.S. and Turkish interests in the face of communist activity and Soviet expansionism. In Greece, communist guerrillas were fighting to get control of the government. In Iran, the Soviets were delaying their military evacuation after World War II, and instead encouraging the formation of two local "People's Republics" hard on the Turkish border. And this pincer-like movement from Greece and Iran was combined with direct Soviet pressure-for retrocession of the eastern Turkish region of Kars (which had been Russian territory from 1878 to 1920) and for "joint defense" of the Bosporus and Dardanelles (which would have meant Soviet naval bases on the strategic Turkish straits). Having maintained her neutrality and territorial integrity against great odds while surrounded by belligerents in World War II, Turkey unflinchingly rejected all such Soviet demands-while hoping for Western backing in any ensuing contest.

In Washington, communist activity in Greece and Iran and Turkey were seen as an extension of Soviet expansionism in Eastern Europe, and as a direct challenge to Allied efforts to establish a peaceful global order through the United Nations. When Great Britain, in 1947, declared itself unable to carry the burden of military and economic assistance to Greece and Turkey, Washington was ready to fill the gap. The President's message to Congress became known as the Truman Doctrine-the first clear statement of the policy of containment of Soviet expansionism.

The policy in its first application was a success. The communist threat in Greece was averted, Soviet moves in Iran were thwarted, and Moscow renounced its demands on Turkey. Indeed, the Soviet-Turkish frontier remains the only area where Moscow's power has never expanded beyond the 1921 borders of the Soviet Union. Turkish gratitude was expressed, among other ways, in the prompt and generous response to the call for troops in the U.S.-sponsored U.N. "police action" in Korea. As Professor Fuad Köprülü, then Turkey's Foreign Minister, explained at the time: "If I do not give help today, how can I dare ask the United Nations for help when I am in need of it tomorrow?" This commitment to mutual security was carried forward in 1952 with U.S. sponsorship of the admission of Greece and Turkey as full members of the Atlantic Alliance. In Korea, Turkish soldiers had distinguished themselves for valor in close combat and for resistance to "brainwashing" when taken prisoner. Within NATO, Turkey contributed the most numerous and most poorly paid land forces. As a U.S. general testified before Congress in 1952: "I know dollar for dollar you are getting more in Turkey than you are any place else in the world."

Yet this early coincidence of U.S. and Turkish interests soon blurred out of focus. The very success of the containment policy in its first chosen arena allowed both partners to turn their attention to other matters-Turkish leaders mostly to domestic problems in a developing democracy, U.S. diplomats and military planners to other confrontations with communist power as far away as Berlin or Vietnam, or as close to home as Cuba.

The extension of the containment policy to the Middle East in the 1950s, moreover, was beset with basic difficulties that had not been present earlier. At the time of the Truman Doctrine, British power was still solidly entrenched in many parts of the Middle East, from Suez to Cyprus to the Persian Gulf and Aden. American policy thus was buttressing the outer defenses of a region still under Western hegemony. But by the time Secretary of State John Foster Dulles tried to link the anti-communist cordons sanitaires of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (1949) and the South East Asia Treaty Organization (1954) with a Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) based on the Baghdad Pact (1955), the situation had fundamentally changed. The British were in full retreat throughout the Middle East and were leaving behind an array of newly independent states, all of them weak and most of them at odds with their neighbors. The resulting checkerboard alignment in the Middle East and North Africa created many opportunities for an intrusive power such as Russia aiming at the destabilization of existing political relationships. Conversely, it created innumerable problems for an outside power such as the United States which, without itself assuming any imperial commitments, was trying to promote peace, stability and a common regional defense.

Dulles' "Northern Tier" concept of Middle Eastern defense implied a pivotal role for Turkey as a member of both NATO and CENTO. Yet by the time CENTO was formed (with Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and Great Britain as members, after Iraq had opted out), the Soviets already had established close relations with Egypt, and were about to do so with Iraq. (Indeed, the effort to include Iraq in the Northern Tier scheme only hastened the abrupt transition in that country from a pro-Western to a pro-Soviet regime.) CENTO thus went little beyond a set of separate and parallel U.S. agreements on military aid with each of its Middle Eastern members. Perhaps Washington's failure to join CENTO as more than an associate member reflected some second thoughts about the purposefulness of the arrangement.

As the strategic constellation in the Middle East imperceptibly shifted, so too did the nature of U.S.-Turkish relations. The close bilateral relationship, which had been accepted as an obvious imperative on both sides in the face of the Russian threat of the late 1940s, came gradually in the 1950s to be viewed as a convenient means to other ends. For financially hard-pressed governments in Ankara, the U.S. foreign and military aid programs became a cornucopia of subsidies. For Washington, the Turkish government became a ready source of diplomatic assistance with complex tasks-as when pacts of friendship and mutual military assistance among Turkey, Greece and Yugoslavia (1953, 1955) created an indirect diplomatic connection with Yugoslavia's President Tito into which the United States did not care to enter directly; or when Turkish approaches to Pakistan and Iraq (1954-55) satisfied Dulles' requirement that the initiative for a common defense of the Northern Tier must come from within the region itself. Instrumental, manipulative relations such as these work tolerably well while the interests of both sides remain compatible. They are subject to sudden strains and recriminations when interests unexpectedly diverge-as when Washington in 1962 considered trading Russian missiles in Cuba for U.S. missiles in Turkey without consulting Ankara; or when Turkish intervention in Cyprus (threatened in 1964 and carried out in 1974) upset U.S. assumptions about Greece and Turkey as the solid southern flank of NATO.


In the mid-1940s, as Turkey and the United States were establishing their close strategic alliance, Turkey also embarked on a fundamental transformation in its domestic politics from authoritarianism to democracy. The two changes of foreign and domestic course were not unrelated: a fuller commitment to democracy-the government of President Ismet Inönü hoped-would encourage firmer support from the victorious Western democracies against any aggressive designs the Soviets might have.1 It was too early, in mid-1945, for anyone to anticipate what close relations the United States would soon develop with assorted dictatorships such as those of Perón, Rhee, Franco, Diem, Thieu and the Shah.

But there were also sufficient domestic reasons for making the transition from a one-party leadership regime to free competitive elections in a multiparty system. The Turkish War of Independence (1919-22), in which Kemal Atatürk laid the foundations for today's Turkish Republic, had been fought in the name of popular sovereignty, and there had been two previous experiments with legalized opposition. In World War II, Turkey had preserved its neutrality at the cost of prolonged maximum mobilization and a disruption of trade-and hence shortages, inflation, widespread hardship and incipient unrest both among urban workers and rural peasants. Inönü's decision to allow the formation of opposition parties was meant, most immediately, as a safety valve for such internal pressures. And after some initial hesitation in Inönü's own party, the decision was reaffirmed after 1947 with commitments to full freedom of expression and scrupulous honesty in elections that proved effective enough to secure a landslide victory for the opposition in 1950.

The new system of liberal and competitive politics soon acquired a strong momentum of its own. Whatever foreign policy dividends Turkish leaders had expected from the transition to democracy, its actual effects over the years have been subtle and varied. Democracy has hastened the revolution of rising expectations, and hence stimulated Turkish demand for imports, foreign aid and loans. Democracy has also spread to the rural and urban masses what used to be the privileged possession of a small educated elite-the Western values of progress, pragmatism and freedom of individual expression; hence it has served as a potent stimulus to economic growth. As foreign policy issues such as Cyprus or the terms of military cooperation with the United States have been taken up in the press, in parliament or in election campaigns, the effect of democratic debate in Turkey has been what it would be in most countries: to reinforce attitudes of nationalism and self-assertion.

For the first decade at least, the deepening of democratic attitudes within Turkey and the strengthening of ties with the United States proceeded apace. Cooperation with the United States was one point that was not in dispute between the rival parties. U.S. military aid and Turkish participation in the Marshall Plan had begun during the administration of Inönü's Republican People's Party (RPP) in the 1940s. Under the Democratic Party (DP) administration of Premier Adnan Menderes (1950-60), Turkey sent troops to Korea and joined NATO and the Baghdad Pact, became a recipient of American military, economic and technical assistance on a large scale, and underwent a remarkable period of agricultural and rural development. Indeed, so close did day-to-day relations between the Menderes government and the United States become in the later 1950s, that there was a noticeable cooling in relations when Menderes' Democratic Party was overthrown by military coup in May 1960.

That coup was due entirely to domestic causes. Menderes' Democrats had been elected and reelected by enthusiastic rural majorities but had increasingly antagonized their urban following of workers, intellectuals and the press. A temporary economic recession in the late 1950s caused some acute hardship and much dissatisfaction, to which Menderes responded by progressively curtailing the opposition's freedom of expression. Newspapers were harassed or bought off with government advertising. Opposition parties were suspended or their assets confiscated on various legal technicalities. By 1959 the government engaged bands of toughs to break up opposition meetings-and found itself unable to maintain order without calling on the active intervention of the military. The armed forces, reluctant to serve as Menderes' tool of political repression, at length responded by overthrowing him in the bloodless coup of 1960.

A minority of the ruling military junta, under Colonel Alpaslan Türkes, favored installing an authoritarian military regime under some sort of corporatist form of government. But the majority under General Cemal Gürsel saw its task as bringing to trial the leaders of the previous regime, initiating the drafting of a new constitution with better democratic safeguards, and returning power to civilian hands. The return to civilian government in the fall of 1961 enjoyed wide popularity, even though the execution of ex-Premier Menderes and two of his closest political associates caused much lingering resentment. The party which emerged as the successor to Menderes' Democrats pointedly called itself the Justice Party.

The withdrawal of the military from the political stage, moreover, was only gradual. To date, all the presidents of the Second Turkish Republic have been former high military commanders, and several times during the early 1960s the Justice and Republican People's Parties were forced into incongruous coalitions by warnings from the armed forces about the likely consequences of "instability" or "irresponsibility."

In March 1971, the military went beyond this background role and, in what became known as the "coup by communiqué," forced the resignation of the Justice Party cabinet under Süleyman Demirel, which had proven itself unable to cope with a wave of urban terrorism-or, as the generals' communiqué put it-"driven our country into anarchy, fratricidal strife, and social and economic unrest." Unless a "strong and credible government" was formed, the generals warned, "the armed forces are determined to take over the administration of the State."

A proclamation of martial law for the major provinces reduced the level of urban violence, but arbitrary arrests of liberal intellectuals and restrictions on the press antagonized wide circles. The three cabinets of civil servants and backbenchers that ruled Turkey from 1971 to 1973 were approved unofficially by the armed forces commanders and, after much dickering, by rather sullen parliamentary majorities. Despite-or just because of-these multiple approvals, none of them proved either "strong" or "credible." In 1972, moreover, Bülent Ecevit deposed the 78-year-old Ismet Inönü in a bitter contest for the leadership of the Republican People's Party-and Ecevit's program of democratic socialism and his uncompromising stand against military intervention turned out to be crucial elements in his victory. In April 1973, the military and parliament agreed on a bipartisan caretaker government to guarantee the freedom and fairness of the elections scheduled for the fall. From that election, Ecevit's rejuvenated RPP emerged as the strongest single party, increasing its voting strength by nearly half. In retrospect, the two-year episode of "coup by communiqué" is conceded by all concerned to have been a failure-an experiment even less desirable, if anything, than that of temporary direct rule by the military in 1960-61.

The return of parliamentary government in 1973 provided almost the first opportunity for full application of the constitution of 1961. Drafted in response to the erosion of democratic freedoms in the 1950s, it provides an elaborate set of checks, balances and guarantees. The parliament consists of a National Assembly, elected for four years unless it dissolves itself earlier, and a Senate, indirectly elected for staggered six-year terms. The judiciary is independent of the executive, and is making increasing use of its powers to review the constitutionality of laws and the legality of government measures. There are elaborate guarantees of the freedom of the press, speech, assembly and association-and any visitor to Turkey in the mid-1970s could testify to the spirited use made of those freedoms by a sensationalist press.

There are four main political tendencies which have been contending for power since 1973. The largest is the Republican People's Party of Bülent Ecevit, supported by trade unions, small farmers and urban intellectuals on the basis of a program that it describes as one of democratic socialism, with some emphasis on economic planning and elements of the welfare state. The runner-up is Süleyman Demirel's Justice Party, supported mainly by business groups and by large commercial farmers; its emphasis is on laissez-faire in theory and concrete benefits to various economic groups in practice. The besetting weakness of the constitution of the Second Republic is an electoral system of proportional representation, which has allowed neither of the major parties to muster a majority in parliament, and which thus has given a wholly disproportionate influence to minor parliamentary groups or-worse-deadlocked the parliamentary process and paralyzed the government altogether.

On the right of the major parties is the National Salvation Party (NSP), which tries to keep alive the religious issue, but skillfully combines its Sunni-Muslim symbolism with an emphasis on economic development and intransigence on the Cyprus question; its popular vote declined from 12 percent in 1973 to nine percent in 1977. On the extreme right is the Nationalist Action Party (NAP) of Colonel Alpaslan Türkes, who began as an advocate of Pan-Turkism (the political unification of Turkey with Turkic-speaking populations in Iran, the Soviet Union and China), led the authoritarian minority in the 1960 junta, and today emphasizes discipline, sacrifice, personal leadership and uncompromising hostility to communism. The NAP's vote rose from three percent in 1973 to six percent in 1977; it is also supported by uniformed paramilitary cadres.

On the far left, there are the Turkish Labor Party, a Marxist-Leninist group oriented toward Moscow, other communist groups oriented toward Peking and Tirana (there is a small Albanian minority in Turkey), and a variety of secret terrorist groups, at least one apparently connected with the Palestine Liberation Organization. None of these has been strong enough in the 1970s to be voted into parliament, and most of them are explicitly antiparliamentary. They enjoy some degree of sympathy in parts of the press. Together with the right-wing Nationalist Action Party, the left-wing militant groups are responsible for most of the shootings that have become an almost daily feature of Turkish life, for the strife among students that has closed university doors for months at a time, and for the growing politicization of the high schools.

In parliament, extraordinary amounts of time are spent patching together coalitions that might secure majority support. The 1973 bipartisan caretaker cabinet stayed in office for three months after the elections it had been charged to administer. In 1974-75, a nonpartisan government of civil servants remained in office for three and a half months after losing its bid for parliamentary confidence 17 to 372. After the 1977 election, Ecevit's RPP, having secured 41 percent of the popular vote, tried for one month to form a government, but fell short of a majority by 12 Assembly votes.

Of the seven governments in office since 1973, only four thus far have met the requirement of majority endorsement in the Assembly. Two of these were coalitions of Demirel's Justice Party with the Salvationists and Nationalist Action on the right. One of them remained in office for over two years (1975-77) by avoiding major decisions while the economic situation steadily deteriorated; it was not uncommon to hear a policy pronouncement by Premier Demirel flatly contradicted the next day by Deputy Premier Erbakan of the NSP. The other avoided parliamentary defeat for six months (July-December 1977) mostly by preventing a parliamentary quorum.

The remaining two were formed by Bülent Ecevit and his RPP. One was a coalition with Erbakan's Salvationists (January-September 1974), which Ecevit dissolved after the Cyprus intervention of the summer of 1974 in the vain hope of forcing an election that might give a majority to his party alone. The second is Ecevit's government that took office in January 1978, with the crucial support of a dozen recent defectors from Demirel's Justice Party-nine of whom had to be given ministerial posts in Ecevit's greatly enlarged cabinet. It fell to this cabinet under Ecevit to conduct the delicate negotiations about refinancing Turkey's towering foreign-exchange debt and reestablishing military cooperation with the United States. It remains in office at the time of this writing, with precarious parliamentary support.


The biggest cloud over U.S.-Turkish relations in recent years has been the Cyprus question, which in turn is largely a legacy of the way Great Britain effected its imperial withdrawal from the Middle East in the 1950s. The question would never have arisen in the form it took in the 1960s and 1970s if the island had not been a British crown colony in the 1920s. As such, it was exempt from the provisions on Greek and Turkish population exchange agreed upon in the Lausanne Treaty of 1923 which settled the Greek-Turkish war of 1919-22 (known to Turks as their War of Independence) and removed most outstanding issues between the two countries.

In the event, the Cyprus question built up gradually following Britain's retreat from Palestine in 1948 and Suez in 1954, and it was brought to a head by the Greek-Cypriot guerrilla movement of General George Grivas, which aimed at enosis, or union with Greece. Conscious of the precarious position of the island's 18 percent Turkish minority, the Ankara government at first emphasized that it had no complaint about British rule. Yet when, regardless of these protestations, Britain invited Turkey as well as Greece to confer about Cyprus, Turkey took an increasingly nationalistic line. Alleged Greek atrocities against Cypriot Turks became a staple of the Istanbul mass-circulation daily Hürriyet, and "Partition or Death" became the slogan of a "Cyprus Is Turkish" association unofficially supported and lavishly financed by the Menderes government.

In the end, British, Greek and Turkish representatives worked out a scheme under which Cyprus was declared independent without partition in 1960. The constitution carefully balanced representation for the Greek and the Turkish communities, with mutual veto powers on major issues. A Treaty of Guarantee authorized Great Britain, Greece and Turkey to station troops on the island and to intervene jointly or separately, by military force if necessary, if the constitutional status quo was violated.

Alas, the delicate arrangement that had been devised over the course of years broke down in a matter of months-unimplemented. The flag contrived for Cyprus as a "new nation" was perhaps symbolic of the difficulties. Blue, red or green were out as the colors of Greece, Turkey and Islam; crescents, stars, crosses or stripes were excluded for similar reasons. At last the resourceful designers came up with a map of Cyprus in yellow on white; yet since the Greek and Turkish flags were accorded equal status, few residents of Cyprus ever made use of the pale contrivance. Only the flamboyant personality of His Beatitude Archbishop Makarios, whom his Greek-Cypriot compatriots elected President of the Republic, gave some plausibility to Cyprus as an independent nation. Finding the prospect of enosis incompatible with his personal ambition, he developed instead a potent appeal to Third World and anticolonialist sentiment in the U.N. General Assembly.

Makarios and his Greek Cypriot followers having set aside the unworkable 1960 constitution, Turkey was ready by 1964 to use its right of intervention under the Treaty of Guarantee, and informed Washington to that effect. But a blunt letter from President Johnson to Premier Inönü warned against using American-made equipment in any such expedition; if Turkish action on Cyprus provoked Soviet counteraction, Washington would have to consider carefully whether the common defense obligation under NATO applied.

This amounted to threatening one's ally with the common enemy, and Ankara called off the invasion at the last moment. In Washington, Johnson's letter of June 5, 1964, remained a secret among five or six officials; in Ankara, Inönü was obliged to share it with his cabinet-and when the text leaked to the Turkish press it did severe damage to U.S.-Turkish relations.

On July 15, 1974, the Greek military forces on Cyprus, on orders from the Athens junta, backed a right-wing extremist coup under Nikos Sampson that would have forced enosis and done away with any semblance of constitutional government even among Cypriot Greeks. Archbishop Makarios himself barely escaped with his life through a back door of the presidential palace. This time the Ankara government, composed of the Republican-Salvationist coalition under Ecevit, invoked its right of intervention without awaiting any reaction from Washington. From July 20 to 22, Turkish forces occupied the northern, mainly Turkish-inhabited portion of the island. The result was the collapse of the Sampson coup and, a few days later, of the right-wing junta in Athens which had instigated Sampson's desperate scheme; after seven years, Greece once again had a democratic government. But the cautious Turkish military had fallen short of their operational assignment, and from August 14 to 17 resumed operations to occupy a total of 40 percent of the island's territory.

For the past five years there have been two de facto governments on Cyprus, one the Turkish Cypriot government headed by Rauf Denktas and the other the Greek Cypriot government of Spiros Kyprianou, who succeeded Makarios. Although Turkish forces continue their occupation, calm has returned to the island, and as a result of the continuing war in nearby Lebanon, there even has been an exodus of some business firms from Beirut to Nicosia. The Turkish government officially proposes a bizonal federation. Yet in practice there has been little serious negotiation either between the Denktas and Kyprianou governments on Cyprus or between Ankara and Athens. In Turkey, the National Salvation Party, which held the balance of parliamentary power in much of the 1973-77 period, and the Nationalist Action Party have taken an uncompromising stand.

The issue between Greece and Turkey is complicated by a second dispute over territorial rights in the Aegean Sea, where prospecting for offshore oil began in the early 1970s. This dispute centers around which country has rights to the continental shelf in an area where the continental shore is all part of Turkey, but an almost continuous string of islands only six to 40 miles off that shore is an integral part of Greece.

In February 1975, the U.S. Congress responded to Turkey's use of American weapons in the Cyprus action of 1974, and to continued Turkish occupation of parts of the island, by imposing an embargo on U.S. arms deliveries to Turkey under existing military aid agreements. The Turkish government, in turn, responded by suspending military operations at the score or so of bases and intelligence facilities maintained under the 1969 U.S.-Turkish agreement on defense cooperation. Turkey, however, fully maintained its membership in NATO, and this has meant regular Turkish participation in NATO's military exercises and continued operation in Turkey of American military units (including nuclear weapons) assigned to NATO's "quick-response alert" forces.

Both the Ford and Carter Administrations repeatedly tried to have the embargo lifted, but ran into strong resistance from Greek-American sentiment, ably represented in Congress by such eminent figures as Senator Paul S. Sarbanes and Representative John Brademas, the Democratic whip in the House. Finally, in September 1978, the embargo was lifted, the vote in the House being as close as 208 to 205. The Ankara government of Bülent Ecevit responded by decreeing the reopening of U.S. military installations for one year, pending the negotiation of a new defense cooperation agreement.


Soon, however, the Cyprus and embargo issues were overshadowed by Turkey's acute payments crisis, which in turn was the consequence of economic developments of the previous decades.

Turkey's rapid economic growth began with the agricultural revolution of the 1950s-itself a consequence of the interplay between democratic politics in Turkey and economic and technical assistance from the United States. Irrigation, application of chemical fertilizers, introduction of farm machinery and conversion from pasture to cereals produced a spectacular rise in yields. Secondary roads, grain-storage facilities and government support prices stimulated marketing, and, for a few years, Turkey even became one of the world's major wheat exporters. Schools and mosques were built in the larger villages, cement factories and sugar refineries near the rural towns. Educational progress was equally remarkable, and has continued at such a pace that between 1965 and 1975 the literacy rate increased from 48 to 62 percent.

By the mid-1960s, moreover, Turkish workers began to migrate to Germany and other West European countries in growing numbers, to take over some of the less skilled jobs in industry and some of the simpler chores in the public services; by 1974, the number of Turkish workers in Europe had grown to 800,000. High European wage rates combined with the frugal habits of the Turkish workers to ensure a growing stream of financial remittances to the home country. Turkey's receipts from this source rose from $300 million in 1970 to $1.5 billion in 1974. In 1974 and 1975, these private remittances brought in as much foreign exchange as did all of Turkey's merchandise exports.

The late 1960s and early 1970s thus were periods of unprecedented prosperity and economic growth for Turkey. The gross national product rose at annual rates of seven, eight or even ten percent. There was a massive shift away from agricultural employment, and from rural to urban residence. The market for consumer goods expanded rapidly. The value of imports more than doubled from 1970 to 1973 (in current dollars), and nearly doubled again from 1973 to 1974; still Turkey's international reserves nearly tripled between 1971 and 1973.

But in retrospect this prosperity turned out to be extremely precarious. The global recession of 1972-75, aggravated by the oil crisis of 1973-74, put a limit on European demand for foreign workers. Additional privileges conferred on Turkish guest workers abroad, whether under pressure from trade unions or from the Turkish government-such as the right to bring along their families or to compete with German workers for reemployment-reduced the workers' savings ratio, and hence their remittances. More recently, the declining value of the lira acted as a further deterrent to remittances.

Improvements in public health and rural living standards had led to a record birth rate, and although that rate declined from 4.5 percent in the late 1950s to 3.7 percent in the late 1970s, a corresponding decline in the death rate kept the proportion of net population increase steady at 2.5 percent to 2.7 percent annually. This means that the Turkish population, which grew from 21 million in 1950 to 40 million in 1975, may be expected to double again by the early years of the next century. This population pressure is reflected in very high rates of unemployment: 12 percent in 1974, 14 percent in 1977, and estimated at about 20 percent in mid-1979. It also means that a large proportion of the annual economic growth must simply go into feeding a larger population. Although Turkey's per capita income has tripled in the last three decades, at $1,000 it is still only two-thirds that of Portugal and less than half that of Greece.

Turkish agriculture in 1977 contributed only 21 percent to the GNP, down from 46 percent three decades earlier; but it still employs as much as 58 percent of the active population. The shift, moreover, has been not so much into industry as into services-a miscellaneous category including bank presidents, street vendors, lawyers, construction workers and bootblacks-which employ 28 percent of the population but generate 58 percent of the GNP.

The demand for Turkish workers abroad and for Turkish agricultural and mineral exports began to decline sharply in the recession of 1972-75, at the very time when consumption standards had adjusted to the comfortable level of the late 1960s and early 1970s, and when the prices of petroleum and other imports began to rise dramatically. In 1970, merchandise exports had paid for two-thirds of the import bill, with remittances covering the remainder; by 1976 exports paid for only 40 percent and remittances for 20 percent of the mounting import bill. For some years, the gap was covered by lavish borrowing, at high interest, in the Eurocurrency market; and for still more years, the accumulated international reserves of the past were drawn down to service the mounting debt. But by mid-1977 the Turkish Central Bank had difficulty meeting monthly payments on commercial transactions, and all foreign borrowing ceased. By 1979, Turkey found it hard to meet payments for its monthly petroleum imports, and coffee, filter cigarettes and similar goods had become black market items.

In May 1978, the International Monetary Fund offered Turkey a $450 million loan, but release of the second installment was being held up over disagreements as to when or by how much the Turkish lira should be devalued. In January 1979, President Carter and West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt agreed on the need for governmental aid to Turkey and by May the OECD could announce a major aid package, with contributions from the United States, West Germany and 12 other countries. Here, too, there were difficult negotiations, including disagreements between the Carter Administration and Congress about the size of the American contribution and how much of it should be in the form of aid or of a loan. Naturally, Turkey in its extremity welcomed help from any quarter, including an offer of a $250-million loan from Libya in 1979, and a trade agreement with the Soviet Union, renewed in June 1978.


It would be foolhardy to attempt to forecast in detail future developments in any situation as laden with tensions as Turkey's internal politics. Yet one possibility that can be ruled out with some confidence is that of Turkey becoming "another Iran," for the two countries, adjacent on the map, are far apart in their political and social structures.

A revolution of the Iranian type is one likely sequel to a heavy-handed, repressive regime that has come close to eliminating all political alternatives: a collapse from internal causes (e.g., Iran in 1978-79 or Portugal in 1974) or from defeat in war (Russia in 1917, China in 1949). By contrast, Turkey has no Czar or Salazar, no Shah or SAVAK secret police: its recent political ills are not those of repression, but of excess of expression. And, of course, Turkey has been spared Iran's mixed blessing of billions and billions of dollars in sudden oil revenues.

With Russia so close, one of the most worrisome aspects of the Iranian revolution has been the centrifugal tendency already apparent in Azerbaijan, Persian Kurdistan, and the Arab-speaking oil region of Khuzistan. The Persian-speaking majority in Iran scarcely exceeds 60 percent, and the ethnic minorities in all the outlying regions have long traditions of separatism. In contrast, Turkey's only two linguistic minorities-the Kurds (seven percent) and Arabs (1.2 percent)-are gradually being assimilated by the intense internal migration that is so characteristic of present-day Turkey. Those who remain behind in their southeastern or southern regions are of some weight in local, and hence national, politics: several prominent party politicians are known to be of Kurdish origin. Although there has been some sporadic Kurdish unrest, it has not in the last half century taken the form of organized separatism as in Iran, or of prolonged civil war as in Iraq.

Another fundamental contrast is that Iran is a Shi'i and Turkey a Sunni country, and since the Sunni-Shi'i split goes back to the earliest days of Islam it is far more pervasive than any division between say, Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox, and Protestants, among Christians. Turkish political groups that are committed to (or perhaps flirt with) Islamic fundamentalism, such as the National Salvation Party, thus are emphatically Sunni in orientation and would feel profoundly repelled by any regime of Shi'ite ayatollahs. The elaborate hierarchy that made the Shi'ite clergy the best organized opposition to the Shah is absent among Sunnis. Shi'ism, moreover, became identified over the centuries with Iranian nationalism in its tenacious self-assertion against Arab and Mongol conquest, and more recently Western imperialism.

By contrast, Turkish nationalism is of far more recent origin and took the form of a militant secularism. Even the demagogically skillful National Salvation Party, as we saw, never received more than 12 percent of the vote. There is in Turkey a group of Alevi Muslims (a religious tendency related to Shi'ism) estimated at perhaps five percent of the population, but the Alevis lack any comprehensive religious organization, and in Turkey they have mostly been strong supporters of the Republican People's Party, in whose commitment to Atatürk's secularism they see the best guarantee against Sunni discrimination.

For better or worse, all Turkish political tendencies, ambitions, frustrations and animosities are out in the open and not, as in the Shah's Iran, suppressed. And one of the genuine virtues of democratic openness is that it provides some guarantee against political surprises or abrupt change.

Barring, therefore, any dramatic upheaval as in Iran, the likeliest prospect for Turkey is the continuation of one or another political pattern of its recent past. For instance, a military intervention of the 1960 or 1971 type, though unlikely, cannot be ruled out. More probably, there will be intermittent periods of martial law to cope with the deadly violence that right-wing and left-wing extremists have directed against each other; or with local flare-ups in response to unemployment, such as the recent rioting in Kahramanmaras. A Republican-Justice Party coalition, such as the military imposed in the early 1960s and like those sometimes advocated today in Istanbul business circles, is impossible while Ecevit and Demirel remain in the lead, and implausible without them; at any rate, such a combination of opposites is as likely to result in political paralysis as in decisive, broadly based action.

Prime Minister Ecevit's performance after January 1978, caused some disillusionment among his supporters, who accused him of passivity and indecision. Yet neither his slender parliamentary majority nor the parlous condition in which he found the nation's economy permitted quick, dramatic solutions. And hairbreadth majorities and complex maneuvers are likely to remain part of the Turkish parliamentary and government process-unless the country's lawmakers in some future interval of calm reflection manage to replace the current system of proportional representation with something more like the British-American single-member plurality system with its known tendency toward solid parliamentary majorities. Meanwhile-and ironically-the continuing negotiations for the rescheduling of Turkey's foreign debt may provide some modicum of expectation for political continuity. For what ambitious and adroit politician would not prefer his predecessor to have made the painful decisions on devaluation and austerity?

In view of the magnitude of the problems confronting Turkey, the solid if undramatic progress of the last year and a half should not be underestimated. In the face of clear need, as in December 1978, Ecevit's government did show itself capable of overcoming its distaste for martial law. And following the decision taken by President Carter and Chancellor Helmut Schmidt on Guadeloupe in January 1979, 12 other OECD members joined in pledging varying sums for Turkey's financial rescue by May. The austerity measures and devaluation imposed are not on the scale demanded by the IMF; yet there is every expectation that the painful and laborious process of rescheduling Turkey's debt will be accomplished. Once the level of devaluation has been finally agreed upon and implemented, one may expect an automatic increase in workers' remittances, which in turn should ease the foreign payments and import situations. That, in turn, may become the prelude to greater employment and reduced inflation, that is, to gradual, all-round recovery.

Next to the foreign debt, the most immediate problem on Turkey's diplomatic agenda is likely to be a new defense cooperation agreement with the United States. Fortunately, the lifting last year of the congressional arms embargo has cleared the way for this-while earlier the U.S. military found itself in the paradoxical position of having interrupted the existing pattern of cooperation, yet hoping that Turkey would agree to new forms of such cooperation, such as overflight rights for some show of American air strength in the Iranian crisis, or U-2 overflights to monitor future Soviet compliance with SALT.

In future U.S.-Turkish negotiations it would be well to distinguish clearly between American contingency planning for possible crises involving oil and the Middle East on the one hand, and NATO's common defense against the Soviet Union on the other. It would be unreasonable to try to use Turkey as an American springboard for unspecified Middle Eastern actions, and no conceivable Turkish government could be expected to give its U.S. ally carte blanche in this regard.

On the other hand, governments both of the Justice and the Republican People's Parties have supported Turkey's continued role within NATO. There is no reason to suppose that the internal political tensions within Turkey or its recent agreements with the Soviet Union will weaken Turkish commitments to NATO-any more than terrorism in Italy or Spain, de facto Communist participation in Italy's government, or West Germany's Ostpolitik have weakened the basic commitments of those allies. It cannot be emphasized enough that, despite the strong Turkish public reaction to the U.S. arms embargo, Turkey did not follow Greece's example then or France's earlier example in withdrawing from the military aspects of NATO.

Whatever the details of future U.S.-Turkish defense cooperation within and beyond NATO, it would be unproductive to link these matters to the Cyprus question-which ought to be tackled concurrently and in its own right. In any future negotiations about Cyprus, it is perhaps too much to expect anyone but Turks to remember the crucial contribution which Turkish intervention in 1974 made to the restoration of democracy in Greece, and thus indirectly to Greece's pending admission as the tenth member of the European Community; or that Turkey's action at the time was based on its right of intervention under the Cyprus Treaty of Guarantee.

With a view to the future, it is more important to recall that the unitary constitution of 1960, with mutual veto powers for the Greek and Turkish representatives in a Cypriot parliament, was never implemented and was, indeed, inherently unworkable. A workable arrangement, at a minimum, would have to recognize what remained the central reality through four centuries of Ottoman and eight decades of British rule-the coexistence on Cyprus of two separate communities. A bizonal federation such as the one envisaged by Turkey would leave each community to administer its own affairs without interference or legal veto from the other, while allowing the two separate entities to work out their common economic and political concerns, and their future federal institutions, by mutual consent.

The major practical question would seem to be one of an agreed reduction of the Turkish zone from its present de facto size of 40 percent of the island to something corresponding to the Turkish proportion of population and pre-1974 land holdings. It is well to note that the Ankara government has never rejected such a reduction, nor indeed a withdrawal of Turkish troops-but it would expect to effect both as a result, not as a precondition, of negotiations about the island's political future.

In future U.S.-Turkish relations, perhaps the spirit of negotiations will be even more important than any concrete details. It would be unprofitable for Turkey to assert publicly, as one of its former prime ministers and governors of the Central Bank did privately: "You must pay our bills because you need us." To link the future use of intelligence facilities in Turkey directly to questions of military and financial aid would reduce Turkey's status from that of an ally to that of a mercenary, and would be as unhelpful as it has been for Americans to try to link negotiations over U.S.-Turkish defense cooperation to progress in negotiations over Cyprus.

Turkey's liveliest cultural links have long been with Europe rather than with the Middle East, and they are being reinforced today by Turkish guest workers returning from Western Europe and by businessmen eager to promote closer association between Turkey and the European Community. Turkey has been a member of the Atlantic Alliance for 27 years, and the Russian threat, however dormant, has not diminished in its potential. Turkey's society and politics are profoundly committed to democratic elections, freedom of expression and political equality. Although the possibility of full membership in the European Community remains a distant prospect for the 1990s, it provides a further guarantee against authoritarian upheavals-for the Community in its dealings with Spain, Portugal and Greece has left no doubt that none but democracies need apply.

The diplomatic agenda between Washington and Ankara today is more intense and varied than it has been for a quarter century, creating opportunities both for much friction and for a large amount of give and take. With sympathetic understanding from both sides, it can also become the basis of a new and sounder relationship in the future.

1 During a lengthy interview in Ankara in 1954, I asked ex-President Inönü what part, if any, foreign policy considerations had played in his decision to announce the transition to democracy in 1945. He became quite irritable and reminded me in reproachful tones that I myself had detailed for him the precedents in the history of the Turkish Republic that had pointed to that outcome. With a contemptuous gesture he dismissed "all that slander that has been spread about me, as if I had been swimming with the stream." After a pause, he visibly relaxed, and with a sly smile added: "And suppose I had been swimming with the stream; that, too, is a virtue."



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  • Dankwart A. Rustow is Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is honorary past president of the Turkish Studies Association of North America. He is co-author of OPEC: Success and Prospects.
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