Turkey, dissatisfied with US ties, seeks revised defense pact
Turkey is showing signs of frustation and uneasiness over the way relations with the United States are going. This feeling is reflected in recent public statements by Turkish officials and in a government decision to seek a revision of a bilateral defense agreement.
Official sources say that later this month Turkey will ask to renegotiate the 1980 Defense and Economic Cooperation Agreement, which expires Dec. 18. The agreement gives the US the right to use several military, intelligence-gathering, and communications bases in Turkey to monitor Soviet nuclear and missile tests, and other military operations.
The Turks seem determined to use the agreement as a trump card to obtain from the US all the advantages they feel they deserve as a loyal ally serving Western interests in this strategic part of the world.
Prime Minister Turgut Ozal, after his visit to Washington last April was optimistic about the future of the US-Turkish relations. But last month he expressed disapointment over the US Congress's decision to reduce military aid to Turkey to $714 million from the $789 million requested by the Reagan administration for the next fiscal year. This reduction and the move to restore a 7 to 10 ratio in the amount of aid to Greece and Turkey, as well as the failure by the Reagan administration to lift restrictio ns on Turkish exports of textile and steel products, has annoyed the Turks.
``It is a great mistake to put Turkey and Greece on the same scale,'' in terms of military importance, Ozal said. ``The implementation of such a ratio . . . . not only detrimental to our relations, but also contrary to the US interests,'' he continued.
The Pentagon backs up Turkish estimates that at least $1.2 billion a year will be needed for the next 10 years to modernize and strengthen that nations' armed forces. The only way to obtain that amount of aid on a regular basis, the Turks feel, is to have a formal guarantee or commitment that the aid will continue to flow without cuts or conditions.
Turkish diplomats and military experts are now trying to figure out how Turkey should seek such guarantees. There is talk that Turkey may seek a five-year treaty, which would ensure the total aid without Congress approving assistance on a year-by-year basis.
Officials declined to comment on what Turkey's specific demands and strategy will be when negotiations begin. They stress that the aim of the talks will not be to cancel or abandon the agreement, but to make it more fair and effective. The feeling here is that the US has got all it wanted from the agreement (in terms of base facilities), while Turkey fell short of its expectations (particularly on aid).
``We do not want to be treated as a second-class partner,'' says an analyst. ``Probably [the situation] will change for the better if we show that it cannot go on like this and that we have a trump that we can use.''
The main trump is Turkey's request for a revision of the agreement, which is likely to lead to stiff bargaining.
The US position, according to American diplomats here, favors an automatic extension of the agreement. But if the Turks want a revision and negotiations, Washington will agree. However, this will involve some risks and problems, they say. It may not even be possible to obtain a better deal from Congress, which could damage relations more seriously.
But in view of their disappointment and frustations, the Turks seem to be prepared to take that risk.