American Hellenic Institute


Facebook Image
Op-Ed on “Turkey—Friend or Foe”
April 26, 2006—No. 33 (202) 785-8430

Op-Ed on “Turkey—Friend or Foe”

Washington, DC—The following Op-Ed by AHI President Gene Rossides appeared in the April 22, 2006 issue of The National Herald, page 13.

Turkey—Friend or Foe?

By Gene Rossides

The surfacing last year in Turkey of virulent anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism raises the question of what should U.S. relations with Turkey be in the interests of the U.S.?

To answer this question we need to answer the following first

  • Is Turkey a reliable ally?
  • What is Turkey’s strategic, political and economic value to the U.S.?
  • Is Turkey a friend or a foe of the U.S. (or somewhere in-between)?

I submit that Turkey is not a friend of the U.S.; that Turkey’s interests basically are not compatible with U.S. interests; that Turkey is of minimal strategic value to the U.S. and that Turkey is clearly and fundamentally an unreliable ally.

Let’s look at the record.

Is Turkey a reliable ally?

The evidence is overwhelming that Turkey is an unreliable ally whose actions damaged the U.S. during the Cold War decades and more recently in the 21st century.

I have written previously regarding Turkey’s traitorous conduct during the Cold War when Turkey actively aided the Soviet military to the serious detriment of the U.S. Let me repeat three examples.

  1. During the 1973 Mid-East War, Turkey refused the U.S. military overflight rights to resupply Israel and granted the U.S.S.R. overland military convoy rights to resupply Syria and Iraq, and military overflight permission to resupply Egypt. A member of the Turkish Foreign Policy Institute in Ankara wrote:

    During the Arab-Israeli war of 1973, Moscow’s overflights of Turkish airspace were tolerated. On the other hand, during the same Middle East conflict, Turkey refused to allow the United States refueling and reconnaissance facilities during the American airlift to Israel. (Karaosmanoglu, “Turkey’s Security and the Middle East,” 52 Foreign Affairs 157, 163, Fall 1983.)
  2. In the 1977-78 conflict in Ethiopia, Turkey granted the Soviets military overflight rights to support the pro-Soviet minority of Ethiopian communist insurgents, led by Colonel Mengistu, who eventually prevailed and established a Marxist dictatorship directly dependent upon the Soviet Union. Giant Soviet Antonov-22 transport aircraft ferried Cuban troops, Soviet weapons and other assorted needs to Ethiopia through Turkish airspace. By late December 1977, 17,000 Cuban troops were in Ethiopia. The Cuban troops were immediately moved to the fighting front against Somali and anti-communist Ethiopian forces. They effectively turned the tide in favor of the communists. (C. Meyer, Facing Reality From World Federalism to the CIA 276-80, 1980.
  3. Over NATO objections, Turkey allowed three Soviet aircraft carriers, the Kiev on July 18, 1976, the Minsk on February 25, 1979 and theNovorosiisk on May 16, 1983, passage rights through the Bosphorous and Dardanelles Straits into the Mediterranean in violation of the Montreux Convention of 1936. The Soviet ships posed a formidable threat to the U.S. Sixth Fleet.

Most readers I assume are aware of Turkey’s unreliability as an ally on March 1, 2003, when the Turkish Parliament voted not to allow U.S. troops to use bases in Turkey to open a northern front against Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship.

That negative vote was maneuvered by the Erdogan government and the Turkish military and was aimed at extracting another $6 billion over the $26 billion irresponsibly offered to Turkey by then Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz for use of bases in Turkey.

A U.S. administration official involved in the negotiations called Turkey’s negotiating tactics “extortion in the name of alliance.”

What is Turkey’s strategic, political and economic value to the U.S.?

The U.S. defeat of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship in 2003 without Turkey’s help demonstrated conclusively that Turkey is of minimal strategic value to the U.S. in the region.

The Turks did not allow the U.S. to use Incirlik airforce base in southeastern Turkey in the Iraq war. It is not needed by the U.S. today and should be shut down and U.S. taxpayer money saved. Its primary use was to patrol the Iraqi Kurd no-fly zone against Saddam Hussein’s government.

In the early years of the Cold War, the U.S. placed nuclear warheads on Turkish soil. In 1962, during the Cuban missile crisis with the Soviet Union, President John F. Kennedy secretly removed the U.S. nuclear missiles from Turkey as part of the deal in which the Soviet Union removed its nuclear missiles from Cuba.

From the time of the removal of U.S. missiles from Turkey in 1962 to the end of the Cold War in 1990, Turkey was of minimal strategic value to the U.S. And as stated above, Turkey actually aided the Soviet military to the detriment of U.S. interests.

After the end of the Cold War, Turkey’s proponents in the State and Defense Departments and its paid U.S. foreign agents, came up with the argument that Turkey, a 99.9 percent Muslim country, is a democracy and can be a model for other Muslim nations in the Middle East and a bridge between the East and West, particularly in Central Asia. That allegation was false then and is false today. And Turkey’s alleged value to the U.S. in Central Asia was a complete failure. That argument did prolong military and economic aid to Turkey for several years at U.S. taxpayer expense.

The U.S. has minor trade and commercial relations with Turkey. Whatever they are now or in the future they should not interfere with U.S. support of the rule of law and democratic values in our relations with Turkey.

Freedom House in its annual report does not list Turkey as a democracy! It is listed as a partial democracy. It lacks freedom of speech; it lacks religious freedom and is openly against Eastern Orthodox Christians and Jews; it regularly conducts ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity and genocide against its 20 percent Kurdish minority; and its human rights violations against its citizens in general is extensive.

Turkey’s military is not under civilian rule and Turkey is an aggressor in Cyprus and continues to illegally occupy 37.7 of Cyprus, now in its 32nd year.

Turkey continues to blockade Armenia over U.S. objections. And Turkey refuses to acknowledge its genocide against the Armenians in 1915-1916 and the massacres against the Armenians in 1894-1896.

Turkey is hardly a model for Muslim nations or anyone.

Is Turkey a friend or a foe of the U.S. (or somewhere in-between)?

Based on the record of the past several decades, there is no substantial evidence to justify calling Turkey a friend of the U.S. Turkey’s interests and aims are in most cases not in accord with or compatible with those of the U.S.

While I believe the evidence makes it clear that Turkey is not a friend of the U.S., I do not believe the evidence is adequate to call Turkey an outright foe of the U.S. Turkey’s actions have done substantial damage to the U.S. over the past 50 years from its support of the Soviet military; its invasion of Cyprus and continuing occupation of 37.3 percent of Cyprus; its blockade of Armenia; its crimes against its 20 percent Kurdish minority; its actions against the Iraqi Kurds; its substantial drug trafficking and its “No” vote of March 1, 2003.

These actions and others by Turkey bring Turkey close to the line of being a foe but not over that line yet.

However, Turkey’s conduct and history are such that the U.S. in its relations with Turkey should treat Turkey at arms length and should apply forceful pressure to achieve U.S. aims.

Words are definitely not enough in dealing with Turkey to achieve U.S. goals. For example, the U.S. seeks a Cyprus settlement based on a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation in a state with a single sovereignty and international personality, incorporating norms of a constitutional democracy embracing key American principles, the EU acquis communautaire, UN resolutions on Cyprus and the pertinent decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and the other European Courts.

If the U.S. acted forcefully with Turkey using the full range of diplomatic weapons, including economic sanctions, the withdrawal of trade benefits, and pressure from international financial institutions, the Cyprus problem could be solved in short order.

I reject the British argument that the Cyprus question is a difficult problem to solve. It is a problem of aggression and occupation. The British started the problem during their colonial rule by pitting an 18 percent minority against an 80 percent majority for Britain’s selfish interests. The two communities have proven they can live and work together peacefully.

The U.S. could go a long ways to solving the problem by publicly calling for the demilitarization of the island, the removal of the Turkish barbed wire fence separating the communities and the return of Turkey’s 120,000 illegal Turkish settlers/colonists to Turkey and stating that if Turkey does not cooperate the full range of diplomatic actions will be utilized.

In taking such action the U.S. should move multilaterally with other nations through the UN Security Council.

Similar action should be taken against Turkey regarding full political and human rights for the 20 percent Kurdish minority and for full religious freedom for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the return of church properties taken by the Turkish government and the reopening of the Halki Patriarchal School of Theology.

Talking to Turkey has not and will not resolve these problems. State Department officials misled the Greek American community for years by saying they will speak to the Turkish government on our issues knowing that their comments would have no impact on Turkey.

Turkey will only respond to forceful action. Turkey paid the several hundred thousand dollars court judgment in the Loizidou case after several years only when the Council of Europe threatened expulsion on a specific date if the judgment was not paid.

Write to President Bush and Secretary Rice and urge them to apply forceful pressure on Turkey to solve the above problems in which Turkey is the cause:

President George W. Bush
The White House 
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW 
Washington, DC 20500 
Tel. 202-456-1111 (Comments)
202-456-1414 (Main Switchboard) 
Fax: 202-456-2461 

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
The State Department 
2201 C Street, NW 
Washington, DC 20520 
Phone: 202-647-4000 (Main Switchboard) 
Fax: 202-647-2283


For additional information, please contact Georgia Economou at (202) 785-8430 or For general information regarding the activities of AHI, please view our Web site at