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Journal of Modern Greek Studies 18.1 (2000) 214-217
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Turkey: Anglo-American Security Interests 1945-1952: The First Enlargement of NATO
Ekavi Athanassopoulou, Turkey: Anglo-American Security Interests 1945-1952: The First Enlargement of NATO. London: Frank Cass, 1999. Pp xiii + 268. $52.50.
Of all the extraordinary consequences of the Cold War, none is more remarkable than the metamorphosis of Turkey on the international stage, from pariah to a valued member of the Atlantic alliance. In 1945, Turkey stood isolated and [End Page 214] vulnerable, having alienated the victorious allies by her wartime neutrality (despite treaty obligations to Britain) and by her trade with Nazi Germany. Her feelers to Berlin, when the defeat of the Soviet Union appeared likely, in the hopes of carving out a Turko-Mongol state in the Caucasus, strengthened Moscow's resolve to punish the Turks after the war and to remove them once and for all from their position as guardians of the Straits. On this crucial point, as long as Roosevelt was alive, Stalin appeared to have the support of the United States. Yet two years later the British and the Americans were treating Turkey as a key element in their emerging strategy to block the further expansion of Soviet power and as a valued defender of their vital interests in the Levant and the Arab lands. This despite the fact that Soviet hostility toward Turkey as well as tensions in the region generally had already subsided, Ankara's influence over Arab nationalist leaders was virtually nonexistent, and Turkey's armed forces remained woefully unprepared to protect their homeland against a Soviet invasion.
To be sure, this transformation was not entirely Turkey's own doing. The sudden decline of British and French power in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East had created a void that Stalin as well as the region's nationalists might be tempted to exploit. This unstable situation offered Turkey rare opportunities for self-promotion as the region's anchor, an opportunity which Ankara's seasoned diplomats were quick to grab. At the same time, in its desperate efforts to salvage what it could of its prewar predominance in that part of the world, the London government offered Turkey attractively-packaged diplomatic enticements and promises of support. Specifically, Britain wanted Turkey to become the centerpiece of a regional alliance that would be linked to the American-led Atlantic defense system but would remain effectively under British control. (This plan for a "Middle East Command" was actively discussed in the late 1940s but was finally abandoned when Egypt rejected it and Turkey joined NATO instead.)
Ironically, the principal beneficiaries of Britain's postwar weakness were not the Russians. In their bid for Turkey's favor, the British soon lost out to the Americans, who could give the Turks what their impoverished cousins could not: generous economic and military assistance and, more importantly, entry into the nascent Western defense community. In fact, more than anything else, Turkey's ruling elites were determined to have their country accepted as a full-fledged member of the Western world. In the end, over the objections of Britain and other members of NATO, the United States granted Kemal's heirs their wish, thus forging a strategic partnership between Washington and Ankara that remains very much alive today.
But as Ekavi Athanassopoulou amply illustrates in this important volume, credit for elevating Turkey to its new and influential position belongs largely to the Turks themselves. Combining bold, unswerving, and adroit diplomacy with masterful exploitation of the spectre of communism as well of the persistent rivalries dividing the Americans, British, and French, Ankara's decision-makers earned for themselves the reputation of an indispensable bulwark of the West against Stalin's empire and other real or perceived threats.
To achieve this goal, Turkish officials engaged in high-risk diplomacy: they periodically threatened to remain neutral in the event of an East-West [End Page 215] military conflict or even to appease Moscow if London and Washington did not...