Turks deny wave of violence at home undercuts credibility as NATO ally
Istanbul — Western concerns over Turkey's reliability as an ally, due to the growing campaign of political violence in this country, are unjustified, according to political and military analysts here.
Alarm has been expressed recently that Turkey, now plunged into a near civi-war situation, may not be able to fulfil its NATO commitments properly and stand effectively against a communist threat. Some Western newspapers have even questioned the credibility of the Turkish armed forces, some of which now are being used to maintain law and order in the country.
The expression of such fears in the West seems to have surprised and upset Turkish officials. "Our armed forces are strong enough and determined to fulfill all their NATO commitments," said Foreign Minister Hayrettin Erkmen. "There is no question of failing to carry out our engagements and defense policy."
According to Mr. Erkmen and other government officials, the military units assigned to the martial law commands in various parts of Turkey are "national contingents." The forces assigned to the nation's defense are on duty as before and the defense plans remain unchanged, it is asserted.
The bulk of the Turkish armed forces, which with its strength of 700,000 men ranks second only to the United States within NATO, are committed to the North Atlantic command. Only units that are not allocated to NATO are currently being employed for national purposes.
These units, including well-trained commandos as well as the gendarmerie (militia) forces, now are used in the fight against leftist and rightist terrorists in 20 of Turkey's 67 provinces that are under martial law.
The use of the Turkish Army in the fight against political violence, which claims 15 to 20 lives daily, is a source of concern among military leaders. They do not want the military to be dragged into internal troubles or domestic politics.
The widespread view among Turkish politicians, including opposition leaders, is that the West has no reason to worry about Turkey's credibility as a NATO partner.
"For more than two decades, Turkey has proved to be a reliable and loyal ally of the West. Our internal problems have no impact on this basic attitude," said a government official, who expressed "surprise and regret" over what he termed the fuss made in the West on this matter.
Western diplomats with experience in Turkish affairs also admit that there is no ground at present for suspecting that the Turks will fail to carry out their NATO commitments because of the internal upheaval.
But what they do seem to worry about is the possibility of an Army takeover as a last resort, which could seriously undermine the West's ties with Turkey. The United States Congress and other Western parliaments might react strongly against a military regime in Turkey and be reluctant to grant military and economic aid to Turkey, these diplomats claim.
Some analysts believe that Turkey's internal problems may have a negative effect on its ties with the West in other ways, too, such as a lack of authority (and therefore firm) decisions) by the government in Ankara. Turkey has been ruled by weak governments in the last decade, and the present administration is actually a minority government.
"In addition to political violence, the political instability and the critical state of the economy, are sources of deep concern about the future of Turkey as an ally," said a Western expert.