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American-Turkish Council
Remarks by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Washington, D.C., Monday, March 18, 2002

Thank you, Bob [Stevens, president of Lockheed Martin] for that very kind introduction. It's a great pleasure to see so many friends of the U.S.-Turkish relationship here today, old friends and new ones. It's a special pleasure to see [Chairman of the American Turkish Council] Brent Scowcroft here. I think you introduced me here last year.

Secretary Rumsfeld has said of my third tour in the Pentagon that we're going to keep bringing me back until we get it right. I hope that's not the philosophy also of the American Turkish Council. [Laughter.] I hope I got it right before. [Laughter.] Let's say you're going to keep bringing me back as long as I get it right, how's that? [Laughter.]

General Turgut, congratulations on this important award, and very well earned award. Just last week I was honored to give a talk about another man named Turgut, Turgut Ozal, who also did so much to strengthen the relationship between Turkey and the United States. General, allow me to add my thanks and appreciation to those that you have received for your part in drawing our nations closer to our military ties and for your leadership in fashioning Turkey's future role in Afghanistan, which I know you're deeply involved in.

Since I've been thinking quite a bit about that other Turgut lately, some of his reflections may find their way into this talk today. [Turkish] Ambassador Logoglu, you were present last week for my lengthy discussion about Prime Minister and President Ozal. I comment your fortitude in returning today. [Laughter.]

I trust you'll forgive me if I repeat myself a few times, but Turkey is a great friend and ally to the United States, something I believe we can't repeat often enough. There is a proverb that repetition is the mother of learning and it is very important to learn the importance of this relationship. In fact, it is the message that Vice President Cheney will be bringing with him during his visit to Turkey this week.

So, General Scowcroft, ladies and gentlemen, to our Turkish friends here and abroad let me first say: Sayin arkadashlar merhaba. [Applause.] For those of you who don't understand Turkish, and for those of you who do understand Turkish but don't understand my Turkish—[laughter]—that means "hello friends," and we are indeed all friends here, friends of a great relationship.

In the Defense Department these days, we are focusing a great deal on the transformation of our armed forces. Indeed, we're doing it on the job, you might say, as we fight a major war overseas.

For another example of transformation, one that involves the transformation of an entire country, we can look to Turkey and its history in the 20th Century. Under Ataturk, Turkey began a truly amazing transformation from the end of a failing empire to a newly-defined and energized, independent country. It is a journey that led to the Turkey of today, a nation that is modern, secular and democratic.

Turgut Ozal continued this process in important ways. One of the most important is that he embraced the possibilities and benefits offered by a free economy. He understood the enormity of the challenges in moving Turkey in this direction. Some 10 years ago, in what could certainly qualify as great understatement, Ozal said, during a visit here in Washington, "Turkey knows a thing or two about economic transformation."

And if there would be a challenge or two in completely changing Turkey's economic system, Ozal approached those challenges with a "glass half-full" attitude. For our Turkish friends, that's an allusion to the optimist who sees the glass half-full and the pessimist who sees the glass half-empty. I think in Turkey's case, the glass has been filling steadily over the last century and it is to all of our benefits.

When Ozal was arguing for a free economy, one skeptic told him, it could never work in Turkey because, as the man said, "We have no people with real entrepreneurial skills." Ozal is said to have replied, "On the contrary, certainly we do. We call them black marketeers." [Laughter.]

Ozal understood that in an over-regulated economy entrepreneurial energy would inevitably turn into the channels of the black market. People quite naturally would find common sense means to do business, perhaps technically outside the system, but ways that would seem completely appropriate to other less-regulated countries.

Indeed, to many of us who observe the Turkish economy, it is a marvel and a tribute to Turkish ingenuity that it has managed to do as well as it has in spite of the over-regulation. Think what it can do when those regulations are reformed.

Despite the doubters, Ozal helped to harness the great resources and inventiveness of Turkey's people. True to his vision, all manner of technology can be found across Turkey today, from internet cafes in some of its most remote villages to companies outside Istanbul that produce software for firms in Silicon Valley. And there is all manner of trade also, much of it represented here in this room. Turkish manufacturers are joint partners with American, European and Japanese firms in producing a wide array of products, including many that we in the Defense Department have a lot of interest in. But it's not just defense goods. It's everything from luxury automobiles to F-16s.

In this morning's opening session, Pete Aldridge our Under Secretary for Acquisition, and Dr. [Ali] Ercan [Turkish undersecretary of defense for
defense industry] announced a promising development for our countries. Turkey will again join the Joint Strike Fighter program as a Level III partner. Our partnership to develop the Joint Strike Fighter will ultimately strengthen our countries’ military capabilities and help strengthen the NATO alliance. We are pursuing other contracts that continue to progress and, if we achieve that agreement, they will also help Turkey upgrade its military capabilities.

Of course, Turkey's economy has hit some major obstacles in the last year. It is not, in my view, because reform went too far, but rather because reform was incomplete. We here appreciate very much the difficulties facing Turkey's economy today and we appreciate the courage with which Turkey is meeting those challenges. From this crisis, Turkey has the opportunity to emerge stronger than before when necessary reforms are implemented. These are reforms that must come, not only in economic policy but in the fundamental institutions that are critical for the Turkish economy to fully enter the 21st Century.

Not long ago, I was told a story that typifies the tenacity that Turks apply when they face their greatest challenges. It goes back to our common experience in an earlier war, that one in Korea. Two Turkish tanks were caught in heavy fire. The track of one of the tanks got hit, immobilizing it. Not long after that, a direct hit destroyed the gun of the second tank.

Confronted with this desperate situation, the tank commander came up with an ingenious solution. Using a chain, he hooked the two tanks together so that the tank with the working track could pull the tank with the working gun. And they were in business once again.

Applying similar creativity and tenacity, Turkey can recover from its economic crisis. With the support of the IMF, the leadership of Prime Minister Ecevit and the economic understanding of Minister Kermal Dervis, Turkey has put together a reform plan that has stabilized the economic situation and has begun to correct some of the economy's long-standing weaknesses. Despite some short-term difficulties, Turkey has continued to stay the course and should be encouraged by signs that the economy may have begun to turn the corner toward growth.

When Prime Minister Ecevit met with President Bush this January, among the important measures that resulted were intensification of business contacts between our countries and the formation of the Economic Partnership Commission. When Under Secretary of State Alan Larson attended the first meeting of that commission in Ankara a few weeks ago, he brought to Turkey the message that the United States sees our relationship with Turkey as one of economic partners. We want to help Turkey's recovery and economic growth. We want to help Turkey become competitive in the global economy.

As an example of our commitment, President Bush has largely excluded Turkey's steel imports from higher duties. Continued reforms to ensure effectiveness and transparency concerning foreign investments are necessary to make Turkey attractive to outside investors. There is no question, though, Turkey's continued economic success can serve as a model for other countries seeking to raise standards of living through private-sector-led growth.

Economic reform in Turkey is a process, something the late President Ozal certainly understood. I'm told he often used to tell this story about the nature of that process in Turkey. Once a police official came to see Ozal about some border problems. The official said to him, "Many of our shepherds have made arrangements to take their flocks across the border to fatten them up because it is cheaper. Then they're smuggling them back into Turkey in violation of our customs laws."

Ozal replied, "You regard that as violation of customs. I see it as trade. We should be encouraging such enterprise, not making it a criminal act. There's a simple solution," he quickly added. "Change the law."

So, they changed the law and it became legal to import sheet with a license. A few months later that same official came back to Ozal and said, "Now we have a new problem. A lot of shepherds are applying for import licenses." [Laughter.] Ozal said, "What's the problem with that?" The official answered, "We can't give them licenses. Most of them used to be smugglers." [Laughter.]

So even for Ozal, reforms came one step at a time, but they were steps he was willing to take, risks he was willing to take, and it is a process that must continue.

Turkey is no stranger to risks. It has always been so from the days of an ancient empire to the birth of the modern nation. The courage that infuses Turks through history infused Mustafa Kemal and his fellow Turks at Gallipoli. It guided the way in which Turks came together out of war to build a new country in peace, one dedicated to a new beginning, one that produced a leader, Ataturk, tempered by battles such as Gallipoli and the Sakarya River. That latter battle went on for some 22 days and it is said that even the women of Turkey did their part. Wives and daughters of the soldiers, it is said, worked like oxen and camels since the Army had none.

When war was over, Ataturk worked to form a nation that would be enriched by both East and West, one based on his vision of "peace at home and peace in the world." Yet this is a Turkey that would not ignore what it has seen as its responsibility to the world at large.

In Korea, American troops saw first-hand the legendary courage of the Turks, and Turkey stood with the West as one of our staunchest allies on the front lines during the "long twilight struggle" that was the Cold War.

I have been told of one instance in which Turkish troops were stationed on the Soviet border facing two Soviet divisions. The Turks numbered 80—that’s 80, 8-0, 80 men—facing two divisions. When their commander was asked what his mission was, he stated quite simply, "My mission is to defeat the enemy or hold out against them until we are destroyed."

It was during the Cold War, while an American official visited a sensitive military site in Turkey that a fierce blizzard came in and brought down the perimeter fence. Nothing could be done during the blizzard to repair the fence. It's also safe to say that nothing could have been done by way of attack during that blizzard either. But the orders that the installation commander had received were to maintain a perimeter fence and the only way he could do so was by using the men under his command. So he dispatched a human fence to remain outside in 15-minute shifts—anything longer and they would have been frozen. And the Turks did this until the storm was over.

Confronted 10 years ago with the storm of Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in the summer of 1990, the Turks were again ready to take bold and courageous measures. Ozal supported his friend President Bush—41 as we like to call him—and moved quickly to join with the West. He bravely closed the border with Iraq, which cost Turkey valuable trade, and deployed close to 150,000 troops on the Iraqi border.

Turkey gave the United States permission to operate from air bases in Turkey, which was critical to the outcome of that conflict, and it is something we have done once again recently in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and humanitarian relief for Afghanistan.

Today operation Northern Watch continues out of Incirlik Air Base. Last year the U.S., Turkey and the U.K. flew 6,000 sorties from Incirlik. These operations are certainly not without risk. There have been numerous times when our aviators have been fired upon.

Turkish troops have supported operations in Somalia, in Bosnia, in Kosovo, and in Macedonia. Today there are close to 2,000 Turkish troops supporting KFOR in Kosovo and SFOR in Bosnia. They demonstrate Turkey’s enduring and important role as a member of the NATO alliance in helping to stabilize Central and Eastern Europe.

When international terrorism struck the United States last September, Turkey immediately offered its unconditional support, including the deployment of Turkish ground forces in Afghanistan. Turkey has been a generous partner in Operation Enduring Freedom.

Turkey is represented at CENTCOM by a delegation led by Brigadier General Guler. Turkey has provided basing and blanket overflight rights. Turkish bases have served as key transit points for medical evacuations, and they have been hubs for humanitarian assistance airlift missions. Turkey has allowed the use of its national transportation and logistics infrastructure and its military manpower and equipment beyond its borders. Turkish crews are receiving training so they can use Turkish KC-135s to refuel U.S. cargo aircraft.

And right now Turkish forces are supporting the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul. One Turkish infantry company with a logistics support platoon, explosives ordnance demolition team, and a signal detachment have been deployed. And a Turkish training team is helping to prepare the Afghanistan National Guard Battalion that will be the beginning of an Afghan National Defense Force.

Along with this significant contribution, Turkey is considering taking on even more responsibility as the leader of the ISAF in its next phase, a phase which will be key to ensuring the successful transition from the interim authority to a more stable, longer-term authority in Afghanistan. General Turgut, we appreciate your leadership in these key efforts and those of your colleagues.

Ataturk once said, "The only way to stay happy while we live is to work not for ourselves but for those to come." Perhaps one of the greatest reasons for Turkey's openness to new ideas and being a part of the solution to the world's ills is Turkey's character.

Ambassador Logoglu expressed Turkey's unique character in remarks at the White House marking the passage of six months since September 11th. I'd like to close by reading from the Ambassador's remarks.

"Turkish society," he said, "is living testimony to the proposition that Islam, democracy and modernity are compatible. Our secular society is one where civilizations do not clash but where indeed they embrace. As we fight terrorism," he said, "we must, at the same time, strive for inclusion and participation, trying to win the hearts and minds of people everywhere for the values we together cherish." Ambassador, I join you fully in those sentiments.

In Ataturk's later years, he observed that nations indeed are bound more by sentiment than by treaties. And Turkey and the United States are indeed bound by arkadaslik—which means friendship, a word, I am told, that is among the most important words in the Turkish language. It is a friendship our countries have forged in war and strengthened in peace. It is a friendship of our countries' leaders who together have faced the challenges of our times.

This friendship of ours will continue to be a powerful force in the fight against terrorism, in the battle for hearts and minds, dedicated to peace at home and peace abroad and in the struggle to build a better world after this war on terrorism is won. Together, we will win these battles.

I want to thank the American-Turkish Council for your work in strengthening the bonds between our nations. Cok tesekkur ederim. Many thanks. [Applause.]