Turkish Perspectives on Turkish-US Relations concerning Persian Gulf Security in the Post-Cold War Era: 1989-1995

By Aykan, Mahmut Bali | The Middle East Journal, Summer 1996 | Go to article overview

Turkish Perspectives on Turkish-US Relations concerning Persian Gulf Security in the Post-Cold War Era: 1989-1995


Aykan, Mahmut Bali, The Middle East Journal


This study analyzes the impact of the global and regional developments in the post-Cold War era on Turkish-US relations concerning Persian Gulf security from a Turkish perspective. It suggests that despite continuities in Turkey's perspective of the state of its alliance with the United States in the new era, the alliance between the two countries is moving in new directions filled with unprecedented challenges.

This article analyzes Turkish-US relations concerning Persian Gulf security in the post-Cold War era, from Turkey's perspective. These relations were affected by the unprecedented global and regional developments that marked the transition from the Cold War to the post-Cold War era in world politics. Throughout this transition period (1989-1995), Turkey and the United States viewed the threats to their interests in a similar way. However, they adopted very different approaches to confront the specific challenges to those interests.

THE CHANGING NATURE OF TURKISH-US RELATIONS: THE DEFENSE AND ECONOMIC COOPERATION AGREEMENT (DECA) OF MARCH 1980

The disappearance of the Soviet threat and the consequences of the Gulf crisis of 1990-91 had a considerable impact on Turkey's perception of the essential nature of its overall relations with the United States. The Turkish assessment of the current status of the DECA of March 1980 clearly illustrates this. Despite its name, the DECA1 was primarily a defense agreement between Turkey and the United States in response to two crises that occurred in 1979, namely, the revolution in Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. These crises were perceived by Turkey and the United States as a threat to the stability of the Persian Gulf region and to the flow of oil to the rest of the world.

In the DECA, the United States pledged to provide defense equipment, services and military training to Turkey, and help its government stabilize the economy. For its part, the Turkish government authorized the US government "to participate in joint defense measures at specified Turkish armed installations." The agreement stipulated that installations would not be used for any purpose other than NATO missions. It appears, however, that the DECA did not preclude the two signatories from signing bilateral treaties with each other, separate from the DECA, that allowed the Turkish bases to be used for non-NATO purposes as well.2

By the time the DECA expired, in December 1985, the Turkish government had become dissatisfied with the quality and quantity of US military and economic aid.3 The US government appeared to acknowledge the legitimacy of Turkey's grievances, and promised to try to redress the 7:10 ratio of US aid to Greece and Turkey, and to reduce Turkey's debt, incurred as a result of US credits related to foreign military sales programs.4

It appears that Turkey's consent to the renewal of the DECA, in 1988, resulted from necessity rather than choice. Despite its changed political and economic circumstances, i.e., the decline of the Soviet threat, and the substantial improvement of its economic situation as compared to 1980, Turkey still needed economic and military assistance from the United States. In 1992, the DECA was renewed only for another year. In March 1993, however, Turkey asked to renegotiate the DECA, and the negotiations have continued ever since. In the meantime, it is automatically renewed every year.

In 1992, when the DECA came up for renewal for another five years, the situation in the region had changed considerably. The Soviet Union no longer existed, the Iranian regime had consolidated its power and become a major challenge to regional stability, and Iraq had become the principal trouble-maker by invading Kuwait in August 1990. The United States, as part of its post-1989 policy of reducing its defense expenditures, and undertaking cutbacks in its military presence all over the world, had unilaterally announced, in early 1990, that it would withdraw its military personnel and remove nuclear weapons from the Erhac and Eskisehir airforce bases in Turkey.

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