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Turkey's Participation in NATO

Turkey's decision to seek Western assistance after being confronted by Soviet territorial demands at the conclusion of World War II and its subsequent participation in NATO's collective defense system have been the principal factors influencing the country's modern military evolution. In 1950 Turkey demonstrated its gratitude for the military aid received from the United States when it sent a brigade of 4,500 troops to serve under the UN command in Korea. The brigade became known for its valor on the battlefield after suffering proportionately the highest casualty rates of any UN element engaged in the fighting.

Turkey's admission to NATO, effective in February 1952, was preceded by extensive study and debate of the strategy of extending the alliance's southern flank to include the eastern Mediterranean. Changes were needed in the wording of the treaty to expand its territorial reach to include Turkey. The admission of Turkey gave NATO a much longer land frontier with the Warsaw Pact (see Glossary), as well as a treaty interest in Turkey's Black Sea coast and the straits through which the Soviet Union had access to the Mediterranean. At the same time, Turkey brought to the alliance its second largest body of military manpower after that of the United States, in addition to access to sites for forward deployment and intelligence gathering.

Under the provisions of the alliance, most of the Turkish armed forces are committed to NATO command in the event of hostilities. Turkish land, sea, and air units then come under the Commander in Chief Allied Forces Southern Europe (AFSOUTH), with headquarters in Naples. The largest of NATO's four military regions, AFSOUTH encompasses Italy, Greece, Turkey, the Black Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea (including the Adriatic Sea, the Aegean Sea, the Ionian Sea, and the Tyrrhenian Sea). AFSOUTH develops joint contingency plans and conducts training exercises of assigned units.

One of the five principal subordinate commands under AFSOUTH, the Allied Land Forces Southeastern Europe (LANDSOUTHEAST) is headquartered at Izmir under a Turkish lieutenant general, with a United States general officer as deputy. About 90 percent of Turkish land forces are committed to this command. The two other commands with Turkish forces assigned to them are Allied Air Forces Southern Europe (AIRSOUTH), under a United States general officer, and Allied Naval Forces Southern Europe (NAVSOUTH), under command of an Italian vice admiral. Both commands have headquarters in the Naples area. Still under dispute is the matter of establishing LANDSOUTHCENT in Larissa, Greece. Initially, Turkey agreed and Greece objected, but in early 1995 Turkey objected unless a Turkish general were to command the center.

Important air, naval, and intelligence-gathering facilities are made available on Turkish soil to United States combat aircraft and to units of the United States Sixth Fleet committed to NATO (see Military Cooperation with the United States, this ch.). A detachment of NATO's Airborne Early Warning Force was installed at the Konya Air Base in southwestern Turkey in 1983, using NATO-owned Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft to provide low-level radar coverage and regional air and sea surveillance.

In the mid-1990s, Turkey allocated a mechanized infantry division consisting of one mechanized brigade and one armored brigade, as well as one combat engineering company, to the Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Force formed as part of NATO's restructuring. One commando brigade was earmarked for the southern multinational division, along with brigades from Italy and Greece. These forces remain under national command at their home bases until released to NATO.

Despite rapid changes in the European security environment that have replaced the NATO-Warsaw Pact confrontation with a less definable set of missions for the alliance, Turkey remains a strong partisan of the NATO linkage. Turkish participation gives the country a voice in major strategic decisions by Western democracies and a framework for multilateral cooperation in matters critical to its own security. Nevertheless, with NATO strategy based on the management of multidimensional threats rather than deterrence of the now-defunct Soviet Union, and with the admission of former members of the Warsaw Pact into a partnership relation with NATO, the importance of Turkey to European security has become less obvious. From a Turkish perspective, the protection of Turkey's eastern borders demands a continued high level of NATO involvement. In the shifting European security order, however, Turkey's geostrategic position could become a liability, potentially exposing the alliance to military action in an area where its commitments are ill defined.

Armed Forces

Composed of elements of regular cadre and conscripts, the armed forces in 1994 had an active-duty strength estimated by The Military Balance, 1994-1995 at 503,800 officers and enlisted personnel. Of this total, some 93,600 were regulars in career assignments; the remaining 410,200 were draftees. The staffing level already had been reduced by 6 percent from that in 1990 as a consequence of forces reorganization.

Article 117 of the constitution stipulates that the president of the republic is the commander in chief of the armed forces. Responsibility for ensuring security and military preparedness is delegated to the prime minister and the Council of Ministers (the cabinet), who are appointed by the president but are subject to a legislative vote of confidence. Article 118 of the constitution prescribes that the National Security Council (NSC--see Glossary) shall submit its views to the Council of Ministers on pending decisions and shall coordinate the formulation, establishment, and implementation of the state's national security policy. A joint body of the chief civilian and military officials concerned with national defense and internal security, the NSC meets twice monthly. Its meetings are chaired by the president or, in his or her absence, by the prime minister (see fig. 14).

In the view of one Turkish observer, the NSC has not been particularly successful as a forum for the armed forces and the government to debate and agree on security policies. At the meetings, the military speaks with a single voice, having worked out differences beforehand. Such unanimity is not conducive to an open dialogue, yet the military is disappointed when it fails to elicit concrete responses from the civilian leadership. Civilians sometimes have found the military insensitive to the government's problems in dealing with the bureaucracy, parliament, and the public when facing difficult decisions.

The constitution designates the chief of the General Staff as the commander of the armed forces. In wartime that officer also exercises the duties of commander in chief on behalf of the president. The chief of the General Staff is appointed by the president upon nomination by the Council of Ministers and is responsible to the prime minister in the exercise of his duties. In early 1995, the chief of the General Staff was General Ismail Hakki Karadayi, who was appointed in August 1994. The extensive authority of the Turkish chief of the General Staff contrasts strikingly with that of his counterparts in most NATO countries. He holds one of the highest positions in the government after the prime minister and is chosen strictly on the basis of seniority. As of 1994, the chief of the General Staff had always been an army officer, although an air force or naval officer might also be selected.

By law the chief of the General Staff determines the principles and policies of major programs concerned with operations, training, intelligence, and logistics. His views must be sought with respect to the military implications of proposed international treaties. He has the final say in the allocation of the military budget among programs and service branches.

The General Staff, a prestigious body that implements the decisions and guidance of the chief of the General Staff, in effect constitutes a joint headquarters with authority over the commanders of the service branches. It thus differs materially from the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, who act as the immediate military staff of the secretary of defense, subject to the latter's authority and direction, and whose chair functions as presiding officer and spokesperson for the service commanders. The Turkish General Staff headquarters is administered by the deputy chief of the General Staff, who is responsible for preparing directives representing orders emanating from the General Staff, and for assuring their proper implementation.

The General Staff organization follows the same pattern as the United States system in most respects. Its departments are J-1 (personnel, including appointments and promotions), J-2 (internal and foreign intelligence), J-3 (operations, training, organization, war planning, and exercises), J-4 (logistics), J-5 (strategic-military policies, threat planning, targeting, budget allocations, and military agreements), J-6 (communications and electronics), and J-7 (studies of military history and strategy). The Turkish representative to NATO and the Turkish military representative to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) are both attached to the office of the deputy chief of the General Staff.

A separate body, the Supreme Military Council, consists of eighteen members, including the prime minister as chair, the chief of the General Staff as vice chair, the minister of national defense, the three service commanders, and other commanders of four-star rank. All promotions and other appointments to higher military positions are decided in this council, as are many internal policy matters affecting the military services. In practice, the chief of the General Staff initiates the appointments of service chiefs after consulting the civilian leadership and promotions to general rank after consulting the respective service chiefs.

The Ministry of National Defense executes defense policies and programs determined by the chief of the General Staff with respect to conscription, procurement of weapons and equipment, logistical needs, and other services such as health care, construction, infrastructure, and finances and auditing. The ministry compiles, coordinates, and steers the annual budget request through the National Assembly. The ministry is responsible for negotiating with other countries for military assistance and arms supplies but is not involved in discussions concerning the allocation of foreign aid among the service branches. The Ministry of National Defense reflects lesser civilian influence than its United States counterpart; many ministry staff officers are military officers, and the undersecretary of national defense is a general on active duty.

Data as of January 1995

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