Deadline day for America's 'eyes' in Turkey
Today is deadline day for achieving a long- spending defense agreement between the United States and turkey. It was because of "progress" toward such an agreement that Turkey last fall extended its provisional authorization of US defense facilities in Turkey from Oct. 9 until today, Jan. 9. These are not combat facilities, but they include monitoring stations crucial for observing Soviet missile tests and collecting other intelligence information needed by the US with or without a SALT II treaty to be verified. A State Department representative is in Ankara trying to wind things up on time. Though negotiations began far in advance of the hostage-taking in Iran and the Soviet adventuring in Afghanistan, these events underscore the importance of fortifying a stable US-Turkish relationship on the borders of the Soviet Union and the farthest frontiers of NATO.
Moscow is not strategically unmindful of Turkey, one of its prime recipients of aid -- including a 1978 commitment of $1.2 billion for industrial purposes, for example. Now US military and economic aid is on the upswing, following the period in which Congress clamped down in response to Turkey's invasion of Cyprus. President Carter did not get the grant of $50 million in military aid for Turkey that the requested, but the sum survived in the form of credits on easy terms.
The Cyprus issue remains to be resolved. At least talks between Greek and Turkish Cypriots have resumed. Meanwhile, the US -- and the West -- cannot afford to ignore Turkish needs that could undermine its stability and thus its viability as a bastion of peace and security in an increasingly troubled region.
Some have looked at the political violence and turmoil in Turkey and called it the next Iran. But the situations are quite different. Turkey does not have authoritarian rule under a shah. It has a democracy fostering orderly change of government even in the midst of left-right clashes. Recent by-elections brought out 75 percent of the voters. If only America could say the same.
The Turkish Government remains staunchly anti-communist, despite Moscow's largess. But it is experiencing the kind of economic turbulence, including about 100 percent inflation, on which radical politics feeds. The government needs support in its program for restoring the economic growth that flourished for 15 years until recently, for meeting consumer shortages and social needs.
What the US-Turkish negotiations have been seeking is an agreement not only for defense support and cooperation but for industrial cooperation. It would ensure a firm and ongoing relationship. If it is not fully achieved by today's deadline, no one supposes relations will suddenly be cut off -- or the US defense facilities in Turkey suddenly shut down. Negotiations will simply have to proceed. But we can't help hoping that, as this sees print, so will an agreement in Ankara be announced