Sighs of relief and exasperation in the Aegean
Istanbul — Turkey is breathing a sigh of relief. Greece is breathing fire. During talks in Ankara April 23 and 24, Assistant Secretary of State Richard R. Burt assured Turkish leaders that the Reagan administration will fight for congressional approval to give Turkey additional military aid. He emphasized the White House is strongly opposed to the concept that US assistance to Greece and Turkey, longtime uneasy neighbors, should be divvied up in a 7:10 ratio. He also said the Turkish armed forces needed urgent modernization.
This caused relief in Ankara - but provoked angry reaction in Athens. Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou canceled his appointment with Mr. Burt April 26 and warned that negotiations on the future of the US bases in Greece would not continue without (1) an agreement on when the US bases in Greece would be removed and, (2) a US commitment to preserve the balance of forces - i.e., the 7 :10 ratio - in the region.
Burt canceled his trip to Athens, and Washington issued a statement repeating its opposition to the ratio. This led to anti-American demonstrations in Athens.
It is clearly not in the interest of the United States to alienate Greece or Turkey. Because of their proximity to the Soviet Union, they are of great strategic importance to the US.
But privately, Turkish officials did not hide their satisfaction over heightened tensions between Greece and the US.
''It's time American public opinion should understand what the Greek Socialist leader in Athens and the Greek lobby in Washington are up to,'' a Turkish diplomat said. ''If, in spite of this blackmail, the US keeps the 7:10 ratio and therefore reduces the amount of aid to Turkey, Washington will thus reward the West's spoiled child - Greece - and reprimand a loyal ally - Turkey.''
The Reagan administration has requested that Congress appropriate $755 million in military assistance to Turkey for the 1984 fiscal year. The amount proposed for Greece was originally $280 million. But many Turks still are suspicious of Washington's attitude. Some think the US will eventually bow to Congress, thus giving in to Greek pressures.
Early in April the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East decided to enforce again the 7:10 ratio and to increase aid to Greece to $500 million, while reducing Turkey's portion to $715 million.
This caused bitter reaction in Turkey, and Prime Minister Bulent Ulusu warned that if the final decision of Congress were along these lines, Ankara might reconsider its defense commitments within NATO and relations between the US and Turkey might suffer.
The Turkish press suddenly took a strong anti-American attitude, bringing back the unhappy memories of the 1974-78 period of Turkish-American tension caused by the US arms embargo imposed on Turkey following the Turkish invasion of Cyprus.
Turkish analysts also stressed the ''unrealistic, illogical, and unjust'' practice of the 7:10 ratio, noting that Turkey maintains an Army three times as large as that of Greece. And they point out the Turkish forces, which have seriously suffered from the US embargo, need urgent modernization and therefore larger support if the alliance wants Turkey to fulfill its NATO commitments.
Soon after the decision by the House Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East, the House Foreign Affairs Committee rejected an administration proposal for an additional $65 million in military aid to Turkey to supplement the $400 million military assistance of fiscal year 1983.
Last week the Senate Foreign Relations Committee not only decided to maintain the 7:10 ratio, but also demanded the reduction of Turkey's grant portion in the aid program from the proposed $230 million to $110 million.
''That seems to be the mood in Congress. And once such a decision is taken, the administration can just pay lip service to (Turkey) and effectively follow the policy advocated by Greece,'' an analyst said.
The average Turk seems convinced this will happen in the end and is already suspicious about Washington's policy.