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The United States’ Foreign Policy towards Turkey 1958-1960


In the years between 1958 and 1960, the United States and Turkey made progress in their diplomatic ties. Turkey, because of its stability in the Middle East and its military traditions not to interfere with political affairs of other nations, served as the link between the western world and the Middle East. The West felt that its alliance was important, based on the assumption that this would not create any possible political conspiracy. However, this resulted in hostility from other Arab nations who viewed Turkey as a western agent in the region. The foreign policies by the United States towards Turkey were favorable during this period because of this relationship.

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Turkey’s expectation of the US was not only for political and military support but also, financial aid. US’ foreign policies applied not only to Turkey but also, other nations. During this period, there was the Truman Doctrine and Eisenhower Doctrine that were important in developing further its ties with Turkey and the Arab world.

Diplomatic history between Turkey and United States

United States’ diplomatic ties with Turkey dates when Turkey was referred to as the Ottoman Empire, which dissolved after the World War one. The Ottoman Empire emerged as a modern state called Turkey. The relationship between Turkey and the United States was reestablished in 1947 after breaking ties during the war earlier. This drift emerged because of the need to concentrate their efforts towards restructuring of countries after the Second World War and the beginning of the cold war (Kissinger, 47). Turkey expected not only political and economic support but also military support from US to fight against threats from the Soviet Union. According to Burrows (34), their mutual interest in reducing the Soviet growth acted to strengthen the relationship of the two countries for decades. The United States’ military forces were hosted in the Incrirlik Air Force in Turkey, whose operations were critical during the cold war.

Factors strengthening the relationship between Turkey and United states

There were both external and internal factors contributing to strengthen the relationship between United States and Turkey. Therefore, there was need for not only political and economic benefit, but also military support. Internal factors included the need to restructure after the Second World War. Yaşar-Sarıbay (129) notes that, the introduction of multiparty system in 1946, led by Adnan Menderes whose party Demokrat Parti believed in a Pro American foreign policy. US support in making Turkey a liberal country among Middle East countries that lacked civil society’s strengthening their relationship.

External Factors were the threat from Soviet to attack Pro-American countries in the Middle East. In addition to Turkey joining NATO, a Western a bloc, led by US there was also the third World which declared in the Bandung Conference of 1955 to receive support from the Non-Aligned countries (Kissinger, 47). The Middle East was divided between pro-American and Soviet union supporters.


Despite its military and political positive progress the Turkish economy was experiencing inflation. This slow economic growth led to its decision to seek for financial assistance from international communities. According to Sik and TMC Asser Institute (57), Bayan expected the US to overlook their past differences on political, economic and military differences arguing that both parties were at fault. Instead, to focus on building their relationship the secretary gave assurance to the Turkey President of his commitment in giving his personal attention to the matter.

In maintaining a friendly relationship, the US secretary advice on the technical expertise on economic empowerment to the Turkish government was vague but satisfactory. His emphasis on a home-grown economic solution in addressing foreign aid dependence was important. According to USA International Business Publications, US sought to advance its foreign policy in protecting and providing for American business abroad, chose create better relations with the Asian world (USA International Business Publications).

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Although, Turkey’s expectation of more funding was not met by the US, it responded by providing useful insights on improving its failing economy. The rise in inflation, international debt Turkey owed and a shortage in export and import in goods worsened the situation (Schulzinger, 253). As foreign affairs US’ juridistrictional goal is to safeguard American business abroad, US advice to the Turkish government was to utilize the available raw materials to boost its production capacity.

US willingness to give 100million dollars in aid to Turkey was on condition. This was that in consultation with other European countries, they would fill the same financial gap of 100 million dollars. This is according to the discussions held between the Turkish finance minister, Mr. Polatkan and the US secretary at the time. This was to advance its policy to assist its allies refuting claims by Russia, that US policy was different from improving the living standards of other partner nations (Burrows, 44). This was in the hope that Turkey would regulate its economic affairs by addressing their exchange rates, the utilization of available raw materials as permanent domestic measures to resolving economic difficulties.

According to Kemal Karpat, this approach showed positive growth. By 1960, the sugar production had risen from approximately 137,000 ton a decade earlier to 643,000. With the support of West countries especially, United States, Turkey’s cement production rose from 390,000 ton to 1,750,000 ton. In the same period, the production of electricity went up from 100 to 375 whereas iron manufacturing increased from 100 to 475; the steel production reached 2230 and the copper production grew from 103 to 235. In 1958, the agricultural sector had increased the number of tractors used in the fields from 3100 to 43,800 with production increase of 480 kilogram in 1950 to 800 kilogram. Using the US approach, Turkish Ministry of Education built up to 20770 Primary Schools from a low of 1250 in 1950(226).

Expectations of Turkey from the US on the Soviet Union

During the reign of Menderes, Turkey mirrored a Pro-American strategy on its local and overseas policies, the expansion of democracy and the fiscal augmentation.

In the period between 1950 and 1960, Turkey continued to support United States’ allies in the Middle East countries: Israel and Jordan against countries like Syria and Egypt that were perceived to be Soviet allies. Throughout the Cold War, Turkey was risking a nuclear war as it was the bulwark of communism and NATO (Sik and TMC Asser Institute, 87). As the United States Air Force had a base in Turkey, they received over two billion dollars within 1950 and 1960’sas military aid.

However, Menderes’s perception about economic program and development to prosper, Turkey started to be overshadowed by his need for re-election. The military coup in 1960 to overthrow Mendes government had been facilitated by irresponsible political elements. The priority was for the continuation of a good and effective foreign policy.

Turkish Foreign Minister at the time Mr. F. Rustu, took part in the meeting of non-alliance states, which was held in Bandung. Though Mr. Rustu safeguarded the policies of the agreements, his opinions were rejected. Hence, the Turkish-Greek relation was apprehensive in 1955 because of the Cyprus concern. It prompted the pact to terminate its engagements. However, the pact continued to exist officially until 1960.

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Turkey was made part of the Baghdad Pact. However, in 1959, Turkey was forced to cede it’s commitment with the pact after coup in Iraq. The Baghdad pact was then renamed “CENTO”, with its capital moving to Ankara. America’s role in CENTO was that of an observer. Critics blamed the coup on the conflict between Turkey and America, during this process Turkey started to seek the economic support and close ties with the Soviet Union as Menderes planed a visit to the Soviet (Fotios, 141).

Burrows explained in1960, in regard to the past, that Turkey’s approach and its preference on foreign policy was in order to protect human rights not only of its citizens but the Middle East and its allies from the west. As a result, its resaon for joining NATO was to protect its independence, its territory and democratic principles and established CENTO (Baghdad Pact).

In 1960, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev and the US President held discussions on the military activity on Cuba. In return to Khrushchev’s withdrawal to any further missile shipment to Cuba, John Kennedy agreed secretly to Khrushchev demand to remove its military equipment from Turkey.

Burrows (3), Turkey became a charter member of the United Nations just before the World War two ended. In1947, due to the pressure by the Soviet Union to have military bases in Turkey and the challenges that the war had exerted on Greece, it prompted the America to declare the Truman Doctrine. It was an assurance of security for both Greece and Turkey; this led to massive economic and military support from the United States.

Turkey’s expectation on allied countries like the US to support its strong believe on the division of Cyprus, as the only solution against Greece’s petition in the UN assembly for renewed negotiations. The strong reaction by the Turks towards the support in voting for partition of Cyprus from Lebanon and Iraq clearly shows its disappointment on the choice of US not to vote on any side.

The merger of Syria and Egypt in 1958, to form the United Arab Republic and the overthrow of pro-American King Feisal II in Iraq by the military forces, led US closer to Turkey. Due to its strategic geographical location in the Middle East, its role in this region remained significant. Harris (71) notes that the secret joint invasion in Lebanon by the U.S and Turkey is shelved as a result of Soviet Union threats.

Lack of experience in the region and Turkey’s foreign policy’s avoidance on the region’s affairs during the Republic’s initial years, became a justification by successive government to hesitant in participating in regional affairs. Turkey’s acceptance to join the Middle Eastern Defense Organization and later the Baghdad Pact was in favor of its expectations from the western world, and especially the United States into whose sphere of influence it had entered.

Turkey’s expectation of US on the Syrian issue and the Region

Syrian experienced a crisis that led to its domestic instability as Soviet rebels supporting the rebels. Fearing the emergence of a pro-Soviet government in Syria, Turkey deployed troops to the Syrian border which also had Syrian troops worsening the crisis.

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Turkey’s Premier Menderes, in talks with the US Secretary made it clear that America’s public statement on the pros and cons of the Syria-Egypt relationship would contribute to a resolution to the conflict (Harris, 46). Instead, the secretary responded that the flexibility of other states should be in response to the free will of the countries involved. On meeting the Turkish President Bayarn, similar sentiments were exposed that a country like Saudi Arabia was only cautious in expressing its opinion freely in favor of the Baghdad Pact because of the dangerous elements around them. This was according to King Saud, who Bayar had been in communication with over a period of time.

In 1957, NATO, led by the US, attempted to regroup Greeks and Turks living in Cyprus but it was unsuccessful. It was not until 1959 when Turkey changed its policy from partition to supporting a unified independent Republic. As a result of the Zurich Agreement, the two warring parties reached a consensus to obtain the rights and form a unified, independent state, established on the island. After the Zurich Agreement of 11 February 1959, Turkey changed its policy from division to supporting the new, independent republic.

Müftüler-Bac (92) notes that, Turkey relationship with the United States was strengthened majorly because of Syria’s strong Pro Soviet position. The threat from communist on Turkey’s because of its attitude towards Syria encouraged US to enforce its foreign policy to aid against the aggression from another state ( Müftüler-Bac, 87).

There was security arrangement of NATO and Baghdad Pact on to provide defense in Turkey in the result of a communist attack hoping for more Arab nations to join the Baghdad Pact.

US and other Middle East countries

In 1958 Iraq Revolution, Abdul Kasim who had strong ties to the USSR overthrows King Faisal. Turkey, because of its good relationship with Iraq, remains neutral and didn’t react to the revolution. Ryan and Kiely (304) note that, Iraq and Turkey in support of Friendship and Good Neighborhood and the effort to maintain their relationship, both Iraq’s King and the President of the Turkish Republic signed a peace agreement in 1946. This formed a central role in the formation of its foreign policies, especially in recognizing their importance in maintaining peace and security in the Middle East.

However, both Turkey and Iraq were fighting against Kurdish uprisings. This revolution acts as the major fact to dissolving of the Baghdad Pact, a Pro-American institution. According to Leffler (204), it was until this point the western world and especially the US had not intervened. The realization of the Soviet aggression in the Middle East led to its proactive response. In accordance to the Eisenhower Doctrine, the US response to the Lebanon Crisis in fear of a regime change. Turkey’s provision of the Incrirlik Air Base to the US played its role in the Lebanon conflict. This continued support for the US by Turkey, led to increased hostility from the Islamic nations viewing Turkey as a western agent in Middle East region.

As Landau (3) writes, the consequence of acute shortage in the allocations of funds and manpower led to the inactivation of US military base in Turkey in 1958. This development and reluctance by the US air force headquarters to support civilian organizations and American troops in Turkey weakened their relationship further.

According to Hamit (66) the US gave $400 million in military and economic aid to Turkey and Greece to battle Communist insurgents in Greece in the 1950’s and prevents both countries from falling under the Soviet sphere of influence.

Adnan Menderes formed the government as the Prime Minister between1950 and 1960 (Hamit, 56). During his tenure among other factors besides the Menderes concentration on re-election, Turkish economy experienced stagnation. As cited in the International Business Publications by 1958, there was the need to strengthen its economy, resulting to shortage of import and export in goods (The International Business Publications). Considering that inflation was on the rise.

US on Military Aid in Turkey

According to Barrett (107), in 1957 US congress approved the Eisenhower Doctrine; this was as a result of because the United States feared Soviet influence in the Middle East toward communism. This policy allowed the US to provide military aid to any Middle East country under threat from another. After the Iraq revolution in 1958, that saw Hashemite monarchy overthrown, leading to a joint effort by the US chief of staff in drafting the operation referred to as CANNON-BONE by both US and Turkish invasion of Iraq. The US was forced to withdraw due to Soviet’s threats (United States Department of State).

In 1960, the possibility of violence led the Menderes government to suspend any political activity and introduced the martial law. In retaliation, citizens demonstrated against this imposed laws. Later in the same year, a military coup succeeded in ousting the then government with minimal violence. US, in regard to its policy, remained passive in the political restructuring of Turkey as former government officials, President Bayar and Menderes are found guilty of heinous crimes and convicted.

The military coup in Turkey in1960 and US-Turkey Relationship after 1960

The military become a temporary citizen watchdog, to ensure citizens took responsibility. This was done by overthrowing the Mender’s government which had ruled for a decade between1950 and1960 (United States Department of State). Although, US had been a crucial Turkey’s ally in the previous years during the cold war, its view on the coup was that political irresponsibility would not be rewarded. Liang-Fenton (2004) notes that military temporary rule became accepted and in exchange pro- western military forces got placed in power. This instability and the reduction of both military and financial aid to Turkey contributed to the relationships between the two countries toward the 1960’s.

US response on the election of a new government was that it was a milestone toward democracy. As a result, it would be embraced by all Turkey friends and hence, recognized the new regime.


During the late 1950’s Turkey was considered Pro-Western in the Middle East creating hostility from other Arab nations. Turkey followed western policies and especially, those of NATO and Baghdad during regional crisis. In Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, as Turkey fought against Kurdish uprising and Pro Soviet regime change in the region. Turkey on the other hand, expected support from the west and especially United States. The US intervened in consistency with the Truman and Eisenhower doctrines. It is only after the coup to oust Mender’s government in 1960 that the relationship with the west started to decline. The presiding regime was reluctant in enforcing Pro American policies. Instead, in search of financial and political assistance, Turkey adopted a jurisdictional goal towards safeguarding its position in the region.

Works Cited

Barrett, Carol Roby. The Greater Middle East and the Cold War: US Foreign Policy under Eisenhower and Kennedy. London, I.B.Tauris Pub, 2007. Web.

Burrows, Bernard. The British Ambassador to Ankara during the Period of 1958-1962 London, School of Oriental and African Studies, 1998. Web.

Fotios, Moustakis. The Greek-Turkish Relationship and NATO. New York, Routledge, Publishers, 2003. Web.

Hamit, Ersoy.Turkey Involvement in Western Defense Initiatives in the Middle East in the 1950s, Durham, Unpublished PhD Thesis, 1995. Web.

Harris, George. Troubled Alliance, Turkish-American Problems in Historical Perspective, 1945-1970. Web.

Kemal, Karpat. Turkey’s Foreign Policy in Transition 1950-1974. Boston. Brill Archive, 1975. Web.

Kissinger, Henry. Diplomacy: Theodore Roosevelt or Woodrow Wilson From university to Equilibrium: Richelieu, William of Orange, and Pitt The concert of Europe: Great Britain, Austria, and Russia Two Revolutionaries: Napoleon III and Bismarck Realpolitik turns on itself A political doomsday Machine: European. Simon & Schuster, 1994. Web.

Landau, M Jacob. Radical Politics in Modern Turkey, Boston, Brill Archive, 1974. Web.

Leffler, Melvyn. The Specter of Communism. London, Hill and Wang Publisher, 1994. Web.

Liang-Fenton, Debra. Implementing US Human Rights Policy. Washington, US Institute of Peace Press, 2004. Web.

Müftüler-Bac, Meltem. Turkey’s Relations with a Changing Europe. Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1997. Web.

Schulzinger, Robert. U.S. Diplomacy Since 1900, London, Oxford University Press, 2007. Web.

Ryan, David and Kiely Patrick. America and Iraq: Policy-Making, Intervention and Regional Politics Contemporary Security Studies. New York. Taylor & Francis Pub, 2009. Web.

Sik, Ko Swan and TMC Asser Institute. Nationality and international law in Asian perspective. Leiden, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1990. Web.

United States Department of State. Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958-1960. Eastern Europe; Finland; Greece; Turkey (1958-1960).Web.

USA International Business Publications. Turkey Foreign Policy and Government Guide World Strategic and Business Information Library. New York, USA International Business Publication, 2007. Web.

Yaşar-Sarıbay, Ali. The Democratic Party, 1946-1960 in Political Parties and Democracy in Turkey. London, I. B. Tauris Pub, 1991. Web.

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