It costs the United States about $5,000 to equip one Turkish soldier for the defense of NATO. To send an American to do the same job would cost $100,000 a year, according to unofficial Pentagon calculations. Pentagon officials say the statistic illustrates the utility of US foreign military aid. Without it, the US would face great pressure to put American troops in strategic areas -- at high cost. With it, the US enables friends and alliance partners around the world to share responsibility for maintaining global peace.
Pentagon officials say the advantages of ``burden-sharing'' -- and the indispensable role of US military assistance -- are epitomized in the case of Turkey.
Situated on NATO's southern flank, Turkey provides a natural barrier to Soviet and Warsaw Pact expansion into the eastern Mediterranean. Turkey is also adjacent to likely routes of Soviet advance toward the Persian Gulf. By providing military aid, officials say, the US helps check the outward reach of Soviet power. At the same time, such aid has helped make Turkey a source of stability in the turbulent Mideast, Pentagon officials say.
This year's $878 million in foreign aid helps Turkey in three ways. Part goes to modernize Turkey's Army by improving air defenses and upgrading weapons systems, for example. Part goes to purchase new military equipment. Other US military aid helps fund training for Turkish troops.
Although there's no formal quid pro quo, the US, for its part, gets access to important facilities -- such as airfields and intelligence ``listening posts'' -- on Turkish bases. The US also has visiting rights at Turkish ports for ships of the US Sixth Fleet, which is based in the Mediterranean.
Whether supporting alliances, securing key base rights in strategic areas like the Mediterranean, or providing for special needs like upholding the Camp David peace process in the Mideast, military aid has become essential to the protection of US interests around the globe, State Department and Pentagon officials say.
Right now, the US has ground-based combat forces directly deployed in only two places -- Western Europe and South Korea. Elsewhere, military aid enables the US to rely more on capabilities of friends and alliance partners. They say few programs provide as much return for the dollar.
US military aid offers residual benefits as well, experts say. One is the political solidarity that comes from aiding an ally. Another is the opportunity provided by military training to expose officers of allied armed forces to American values and American military techniques. Yet another is the economic benefit that accrues from the purchase of US-produced goods and services under US aid contracts.