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Turkey: Defense Spending
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Armed Forces > Defense Spending


The high cost of maintaining a credible military establishment in an age of rapidly changing technology has required heavy expenditures by the Ministry of National Defense in relation to other demands on the government's revenue. As a result, the Turkish government has allocated funds to defense in disproportion to widely acknowledged needs for social and economic development. In the decade between 1981 and 1991, defense was the largest category in the national budget, averaging in most years close to 20 percent of total government expenditures and 4 to 5 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP -- see Glossary). The next largest budget category -- education -- commanded little more than half of the resources earmarked for defense.

Until the mid-1970s, the military budget covered only the domestic cost of maintaining the large armed forces establishment; most equipment costs and much of the expense of training military specialists were borne by the United States. A sharp increase in defense spending by Turkey itself was necessitated by the 1974 intervention in Cyprus. The immediate cost of the Cyprus operation, estimated at between US$350 million and US$700 million, was overshadowed by the burden of compensating for the embargo on military assistance imposed by the United States until 1978.

The Defense Industry Support Fund, which is separate from the regular defense budget, finances a US$15 billion military modernization program with earmarked taxes and assessments. The modernization fund is supplemented by a so-called Gulf Fund of grants from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States to compensate Turkey for the cost of maintaining the embargo against Iraq and the lost income from the closing of the Kirkuk-Yumurtalik oil pipeline. By 1993 the Gulf Fund had accumulated more than US$4.8 billion.

According to NATO estimates, personnel expenditures constituted almost exactly 50 percent of total defense expenditures in 1993. Equipment expenditures made up 25 percent of the total, infrastructure expenditures 3.2 percent, and other operating expenses the remaining 21.6 percent. The share of the budget going to personnel was lower than in most NATO countries, although higher than in the United States (38.6 percent in 1993). Low-paid conscripts who make up the bulk of the armed forces accounted for only 11 percent of overall personnel costs.

Equipment purchases absorbed 9.2 percent of defense outlays from 1980 to 1984 and 18.2 percent from 1985 to 1989. Such expenditures rose to 25.6 percent in 1993 because Turkey was obliged to assume an increasing share of the cost of new armaments, munitions, and supplies.

United States and German aid has been indispensable to Turkey's efforts to introduce advanced weapons systems. United States assistance has enabled Turkey to continue its modernization program in spite of the weakness of the Turkish lira (for value of the lira -- see Glossary). The aid reached a high level during the Persian Gulf crisis, but tapered off with the end of the Cold War, its basis shifting from grants to concessionary loans.

The Military Balance, 1994-1995 has estimated the Turkish defense budget at US$4.1 billion in 1992, US$4.5 billion in 1993, and US$4.6 billion in 1994. Based on the NATO definition of military spending, the 1992 budget was US$6.1 billion, the 1993 budget US$7.1 billion, and the 1994 budget US$7.3 billion. Separate data published by the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) depict moderate real growth in Turkey's actual defense spending during most of the 1980s, from US$3.19 billion in 1981 to US$4.13 billion in 1989 (both expressed in constant 1991 dollars). Expenditures rose sharply to US$5.2 billion in 1990 and US$5.7 billion in 1991, largely as a result of the Persian Gulf War. The shrinkage of the armed forces was expected eventually to produce economies, but the initial effect was an increase in the defense budget to acquire and support more advanced weapons.

The country's economic sacrifice in building a strong defense establishment has been greater than that of its more affluent NATO partners. In 1991 Turkey's military expenditures were 5.4 percent of gross national product (GNP -- see Glossary); this was roughly the same proportion as a decade earlier, although defense spending had dropped to as low as 3.9 percent of GNP in 1988. Military spending constituted 20.3 percent of total central government expenditures in 1990 and 17.9 percent in 1991 by ACDA's calculations. The budget of the Ministry of National Defense, which excludes some defense-related costs, was 10.4 percent of the entire budget in 1993 and was scheduled to fall to 9.4 percent in 1994. Within NATO only the United States expended a larger percentage of government outlays on defense, and only Greece spent as high a share of GNP on defense. However, Turkey's defense expenditures per capita, amounting to US$97 annually, were the lowest among NATO countries.

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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