Carter administration officials ran into a series of challenges yesterday when they tool their case for lifting the Turkish arms embargo to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"Once again it's a subordination of principle through expediency," complained Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.) after stating that Turkey clearly violated its agreement with the United States by using American weapons to invade Cyprus in 1974.
Despite that violation, Pell said, the administration is asking Congress to forgive and forget and lift the embargo, which went into effect Feb. 5, 1975.
"You're now saying that Turkey has suffered enough," said Pell of President Carter's proposed change in policy. "How can we hold up the law" if the United States allows it to be broken?
"Our belief is that we have made our point in principle" through the embargo that countries "cannot with impunity" violate bilateral agreements with the United States and it is now time to take a different tack with Turkey, responded Warren Christopher, deputy secretary of state.
"You gentlemen are just moving at the wrong time," Sen. Jacob K. Javits (R-N.Y.) told Christopher and Defense Secretary Harold Brown. Those two administration officials were flanked at the witess table by Gen. David C. Jones, acting chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and Clark Clifford, a former defense secretary who went to Turkey for Carter as a special envoy.
To lift the embargo now, Javits said, risks inflaming public opinion in Greece to the point of paralyzing negotiations between Greece and Turkey, which suddently look promising. "I'm very concerned we are jumping from the frying pan into the fire," Javits said.
Christopher replied "I would hope" any adverse reaction in Greece to lifting the embargo would be "short term," adding that the deterioration of Turkish military forces for want of American weapons plus the need for bases in that country also must be considered.
"I believe we're in the fire now and I would like to get back into the frying pan," said Clifford in arguing that "the time is right now to change that policy" of limiting the flow of arms to Turkey.
"When we do change that policy, Turkey will respond," Clifford predicted."I cannot say when." But he said the central concern should be that "NATO is in danger today" because the alliance "is disintegrating on its southeastern flank."
Turkey anchors the southern flank of NATO and its army and air force are in desperate need of spare parts and new weaponry, Clifford said. The present policy of restricting arms to Turkey has proved "unproductive," he said.
Lifting the embargo, he said, would not only beef up NATO's southeastern flank but also make it "easier to settle the Cyprus problem and accelerate the withdrawal of Turkish troops" from that island.
Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio) said the Greeks "remain leery" of how American weapons would be used by Turkey. Glenn also faulted the administration's timing in requesing that the embargo be lifted, comparing it to the president "dumping" the Mideast arms package on countries there at a "crucial moment" of peace negotiations.
Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.) said that despite the partial lifting of the arms embargo to Turkey and other overtures by the United States, "at no point has there been a response" by Turkey.
Sarbanes predicted the Senate would reject the administration's request to lift the embargo.Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho), who chaired much of yesterday's hearing, said afterward that the Mideast arms package would occupy the committee most of this month, meaning it may be June before the embargo question could be voted on.