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Greek American Organizations' Policy Statement on the Need for Critical Review of U.S. Policy Toward Turkey
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: ANGELIKI VASSILIOU
March 3, 2004—No.13 (202) 785-8430

GREEK AMERICAN ORGANIZATIONS' POLICY STATEMENT ON THE NEED FOR CRITICAL REVIEW OF U.S. POLICY TOWARD TURKEY

WASHINGTON, DC—The American Hellenic Institute founder, Gene Rossides, announced today that the major Greek American membership organizations approved the policy statement on the "Critical Review of U.S. Policy Toward Turkey" prepared by the American Hellenic Institute. These are: the Order of AHEPA, the Hellenic American National Council, the Cyprus Federation of America, the Panepirotic Federation of America, the Pan-Macedonian Association of America and the Evrytanian Association of America, the American Hellenic Council of California and the American Hellenic Institute. The approved statement on the "Critical Review of U.S. Policy Toward Turkey", which is part of the 2004 Greek American Policy Statements follows:

Critical Review of U.S. Policy Toward Turkey

Dramatically changed circumstances since the end of the Cold War and Turkey’s refusal on March 1, 2003 to help the U.S. in the war on Iraq when it counted most, warrant a wholesale review of the U.S.’s policy toward Turkey. During the latter part of the Cold War, Turkey actively aided the Soviet military to the serious detriment of the U.S. A critical review of U.S.-Turkey relations should include:

a. a candid re-assessment of Turkey’s strategic value to the U.S. and reliability as a regional ally in view of Turkey's failure to help in the Iraq War; its attempt "to extort" more money from the U.S.; its demand for a veto over U.S. policy on the Iraqi Kurds; and its demand for access to Iraqi oil;

b. the availability of military facilities elsewhere in the region;

c. an end to the appeasement of Turkey for its aggression in Cyprus and its violations of human rights in Turkey and Cyprus; and

d. identification and implementation of the best means (economic sanctions, cessation of arms sales or transfers, withdrawal of textile quotas and other economic benefits, conditions on any aid to Turkey, etc.) for promoting U.S. interests in the region.

Among U.S. policymakers, decades of Cold War reliance on Turkish military and political cooperation (together with an effective Turkish public relations initiative) gave rise to the largely unchallenged perception that Turkey was an indispensable military and political ally vis-a-vis the Soviet Union. Accordingly, when colliding Greek and Turkish interests required U.S. intervention, the U.S. usually accommodated Turkey, while publicly denying any policy "tilt" in Turkey’s favor. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Islamic fundamentalism took the place of Soviet communism as the region’s major geopolitical threat, reinforcing among U.S. policymakers the perceived value of a cooperative Turkey. More recently, global terrorism directed at the U.S. has continued the perception that Turkey’s goodwill must be preserved.

The views of Turkey's alleged importance have been propagated to the detriment of U.S. interests by a handful of U.S. officials, think tank advocates and Turkey's paid U.S. foreign agents registered with the Department of Justice. Leading the pack are Defense Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Defense Under Secretary for Policy, Douglas Feith, Defense Advisory Board member Richard Perle, State Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Marc Grossman, former U.S Ambassador to Turkey, Mort Abramowitz, and U.S. registered foreign agents for Turkey, former Congressmen Bob Livingston ( R- LA) and Stephen Solarz (D-NY) who are paid $1.8 million annually by Turkey. Mr. Feith is a former paid agent of Turkey who headed International Advisors Inc. (IAI) from 1989-1994 and received $60,000 annually. IAI was registered with the U.S. Department of Justice as a foreign agent for Turkey. Mr. Perle is a former paid consultant for Turkey in his capacity as a paid consultant to IAI at $48,000 annually.

In the Iraq crisis, Turkey made exorbitant financial demands in exchange for permitting U.S. troops to enter northern Iraq from Turkish territory. Turkey’s subsequent refusal of permission in order to obtain more billions of dollars, a veto over U.S. policy on Iraqi Kurds and access to Iraqi oil, severely alienated U.S. policymakers but not those mentioned above.

The U.S.’s successful prosecution of the war against Iraq without access from Turkey proved Turkey’s marginality as a strategic military resource in the region. Over the years, other actions have raised considerable doubt over Turkey's reliability as a strategic ally. Today, the U.S. has access to alternative military facilities in the region including countries in the Middle East, Central Asia, Afghanistan and even possibly in Iraq itself.

Turkey's collaboration with the Soviet military during the Cold War

How many readers are aware that Turkey actively aided the Soviet military during the Cold War! Turkeys vote on March 1, 2003 is not the first time Turkey has double-crossed the US. Let us look at the record. As long ago as 1974, strategic analyst Edward Luttwak wrote:

"No longer presenting a direct threat to the integrity of Turkish territory, and no longer demanding formal recession of the Straits navigation regime, the Soviet Union has nevertheless successfully exercised armed suasion over Turkey, even while maintaining a fairly benevolent stance, which includes significant aid flows…Eager to normalize relations with their formidable neighbors, the Turks have chosen to conciliate the Russians… It is only in respect to strategic transit that Turkey is of primary importance to the Soviet Union and this is where the concessions have been made.

Examples of such deflection, where the Russians are conciliated at the expense of Western rather than specifically Turkish interests, include the overland traffic agreement (unimpeded Russian transit to Iraq and Syria by the road) the generous interpretation of the Montreux Convention, which regulates ship movements in the Straits, and above all, the overflight permissions to Russian civilian and military aircraft across Turkish air space." E. Luttwak, The Political Uses of Sea Power, pp. 60-61, (1974).

The examples of Turkish disloyalty as a NATO ally over the past 50 years are numerous:

  • During the 1973 Middle East War, predating the Turkish invasion of Cyprus by one year, Turkey refused the U.S. military overflight rights to re-supply Israel and granted the USSR overland military convoy rights to re-supply Syria and Iraq, and military overflight permission to re-supply Egypt. See Luttwak citation, supra.

  • In the 1977-1978 conflict in Ethiopia, Turkey granted the Soviets military overflight rights to supply the pro-Soviet Ethiopian communists under Col. Mengistu, who eventually prevailed. See Meyer, Facing Reality p.p. 276-80 (1980).

  • Over NATO objections, Turkey allowed three Soviet aircraft carriers, the Kiev on July 18, 1976, the Minsk on Feb 25, 1979 and the Novorosiisk on May 16, 1983, passage rights through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles Straits into the Mediterranean in violation of the Montreux Convention. The Soviet ships posed a formidable threat to the U.S. Sixth Fleet.

  • Turkey further damaged NATO by vetoing NATO's efforts to put military bases on various Greek islands in the Aegean for defensive purposes against the Soviet military.

The military’s notorious dominance over the Turkish government, traditionally tolerated by U.S. policymakers for perceived strategic reasons, is increasingly being recognized as an impediment to Turkey’s successful democratization, its EU aspirations, and the reform of its economy. The transformation of Turkey into a politically stable, fully democratic, and economically sound nation is in the interests not only of the people of Turkey, but also of Turkey’s neighbors (especially Greece and Cyprus) and of the U.S. It is by no means certain, however, that Turkey will complete this desirable process quickly, or at all.

Expressing considerable doubt, France’s former ambassador to Turkey, Eric Rouleau, concludes that one of the great challenges facing Turkish reformers is "to convince the Turkish military to relinquish its hold on the jugular of the modern Turkish state." (Eric Rouleau, "Turkey’s Dream of Democracy," Foreign Affairs, Nov./Dec. 2000, page 102.) He refers to Turkey’s National Security Council, established by Article 118 of the Turkish constitution, as "a kind of shadow government through which the [military] can impose their will on parliament and the government" (page 105). He describes "Mercantile Militarism" under which the Turkish military draws up its own budget, controls substantial industries through OYAK, "a vast conglomerate comprising some 30 enterprises," and an arms production company, TSKGV, which also "comprises some 30 companies and generates tens of thousands of jobs. More than 80 percent of its revenues go into a reserve fund estimated to reach tens of billions of dollars" (pages 109-110). OYAK and TSKGV, he reports, are very profitable and for a good reason – they are exempt from duties and taxes (page 109).

Turkey- a major drug trafficking nation

Other examples of actions by Turkey that are harmful to U.S. interests could be listed. One of the most serious is Turkey's breaching its understanding with the U.S. by lifting the ban on opium cultivation in 1974 and profiting by the use of its territory for major drug trafficking to the present time.

For all these reasons, AHI believes that a critical review of U.S.-Turkey relations is long overdue by the Executive Branch and Congress. We urge the Bush Administration to conduct this review so that it can engage Turkey more effectively on the Cyprus and human rights issues and on Turkey’s indefensible Aegean Sea territorial claims.

For the full text of our policy statements click here.

For additional information, please contact Angeliki Vassiliou at (202) 785-8430 or at angeliki@ahiworld.org. For general information on AHI, see our Web site at www.ahiworld.org.