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Turkey: The United States
Country Study > Chapter 4 > Government and Politics > Foreign Relations > The United States


In early 1995, Turkey's most important international relationship was with the United States. Turkey's association with the United States began in 1947 when the United States Congress designated Turkey, under the provisions of the Truman Doctrine, as the recipient of special economic and military assistance intended to help it resist threats from the Soviet Union regarded as Soviet clients.

The general tendency for relationships between nations to experience strain in the wake of domestic and international political changes has proved to be the rule for Turkey and the United States. The most difficult period in their relationship followed Turkey's invasion of northern Cyprus in 1974. In response to the military intervention, the United States halted arms supplies to Turkey. Ankara retaliated by suspending United States military operations at all Turkish installations that were not clearly connected with NATO missions. The Cyprus issue affected United States-Turkish relations for several years. Even after the United States Congress lifted the arms embargo in 1978, two years passed before bilateral defense cooperation and military assistance were restored to their 1974 level.

During the 1980s, relations between Turkey and the United States gradually recovered the closeness of earlier years. Although Ankara resented continued attempts by the United States Congress to restrict military assistance to Turkey because of Cyprus and to introduce congressional resolutions condemning the 1915-16 massacre of Armenians, the Özal government generally perceived the administrations of President Ronald Reagan and President George H.W. Bush as sympathetic to Turkish interests. For example, Washington demonstrated its support of Özal's market-oriented economic policies and efforts to open the Turkish economy to international trade by pushing for acceptance of an International Monetary Fund (IMF -- see Glossary) program to provide economic assistance to Turkey. Furthermore, the United States, unlike European countries, did not persistently and publicly criticize Turkey over allegations of human rights violations. Also, the United States did not pressure Özal on the Kurdish problem, another issue that seemed to preoccupy the Europeans. By 1989 the United States had recovered a generally positive image among the Turkish political elite.

The end of the Cold War forced Turkish leaders to reassess their country's international position. The disappearance of the Soviet threat and the perception of being excluded from Europe have created a sense of vulnerability with respect to Turkey's position in the fast-changing global political environment. Özal believed Turkey's future security depended on the continuation of a strong relationship with the United States. For that reason, he supported the United States position during the Persian Gulf War, although Turkey's economic ties to Iraq were extensive and their disruption hurt the country. After the war, he continued to support major United States initiatives in the region, including the creation of a no-fly zone over northern Iraq, the Arab-Israeli peace process, and expanded ties with the Central Asian members of the CIS. Özal's pro-United States policy was not accepted by all Turks. United States use of Turkish military installations during the bombing of Iraq in 1991 led to antiwar demonstrations in several cities, and sporadic attacks on United States facilities continued in 1992 and 1993. Nevertheless, among Turkey's political elite a consensus had emerged by January 1995 that Turkey's security depended on remaining a strategic ally of the United States. For that reason, both the Demirel and Çiller governments undertook efforts to cultivate relations with the administrations of presidents George H.W. Bush and William J. Clinton.George S. Harris analyzes Turkey's governmental framework, political dynamics, and foreign policy from both historical and contemporary perspectives in Turkey: Coping with Crisis . Frank Tachau describes the tension among authoritarianism, democracy, and economic development in Turkey: The Politics of Authority, Democracy, and Development . Insight into the breakdown of Turkish democracy and the framing of a new constitution is provided in Clement H. Dodd's The Crisis of Turkish Democracy and in Lucille W. Pevsner's Turkey's Political Crisis .

Religion and religious movements in contemporary Turkey are examined in Religion and Social Change in Modern Turkey, by Serif A. Mardin, and in a volume edited by Richard Tapper, Islam in Modern Turkey: Religion, Politics, and Literature in a Secular State . Information on patterns of political participation through specialized associations can be obtained from Robert Bianchi's detailed study, Interest Groups and Political Development in Turkey . David Barchard examines aspects of Turkey's foreign policy in Turkey and the West . The complicated relationship between Turkey and Greece and it simplications for the United States are examined in Theodore A. Couloumbis's The United States, Greece, and Turkey and Monteagle Stearns's Entangled Allies: United States Policy Toward Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus . (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)

Data as of January 1995

Last Updated: January 1995

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Turkey was first published in 1995. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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