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Joseph Ralston

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

General Joseph Wood Ralston[1] (born November 4, 1943) is currently the United States Special Envoy for countering the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and holds senior positions in various defense related corporations. He was previously a career officer in the United States Air Force, and served as the fourth vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1996–2000) as well as Supreme Allied Commander for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Europe (2000–2003).


Military career

Lieutenant General Ralston in the cockpit of his airplane in Alaska.
Ralston is sworn in as Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by Secretary of Defense William Cohen.

Ralston served in the United States Air Force (USAF) from 1965 to 2003. He served in operational command at squadron, wing, numbered air force and major command, as well as various staff and management positions at every level of the USAF.[2]

Ralston became Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1996. He was favored to become Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1997. Following revelations of an extra-marital affair with a civilian employee of the Central Intelligence Agency in the 1980s, he remained vice chairman until May 2000 when he was appointed Supreme Allied Commander Europe for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Europe.[3] He retired in March 2003 and joined the Board of Trustees of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.[4]

Ralston with U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and French Minister of Defense Alain Richard at NATO headquarters in Brussels, December 2001.
Ralston with NATO secretary-general George Robertson and the outgoing SACEUR Wesley Clark at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, Mons, Belgium, in May 2000.
Ralston and Secretary of Defense William Cohen during the U.S.-Republic of Korea Security Consultative Meeting at the Pentagon, November 1999.
Ralston and Central Command Commander Tommy Franks at a conference at the State Department in January 2003.

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton writes in his memoirs My Life that Ralston was used to resolve a potentially sticky situation with Pakistan in which the U.S. would use Pakistani airspace to strike at the Al-Qaeda organization meeting in Afghanistan following the U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. There was U.S. concern that Pakistan's intelligence services would tip off the targets or even worse assume the missiles over Pakistan came from India, potentially triggering a nuclear conflict on the Indian subcontinent. As Clinton writes on page 799 of My Life, "we decided to send the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joe Ralston, to have dinner with the top Pakistani military commander at the time the attacks were scheduled. Ralston would tell him (the Pakistani general) what was happening a few minutes before our missiles invaded Pakistani airspace, too late to alert the Taliban or Al-Qaeda, but in time to avoid having them shot down or sparking a counterattack on India."

In September 2006, Ralston was assigned as Special Envoy for Countering the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) by U.S. president George W. Bush.[5] The PKK is a Kurdish armed militant group designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, Turkey and the European Union.

Ralston was one of at least three retired four-star generals asked by the Bush administration to oversee both wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ralston and the two other generals, however, all declined this position.[6]

Corporate career

Ralston is director of the Timken Company and the URS Corporation, is on the Board of Directors of Lockheed Martin and has been Vice Chairman of the Cohen Group, since March 2003.[7] He also sits on the advisory board of the American Turkish Council, an American-Turkish lobby group.


Accusation of moral double-standard

In 1997, Ralston was the top candidate to succeed John M. Shalikashvili as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1997 when it became public that Ralston had an extramarital affair with a married civilian CIA employee during the 1980s. Ralston said he and his wife were separated at the time while his wife said that the affair continued afterwards and led to their divorce.[8][3] Defense Secretary William Cohen declared that Ralston's relationship 13 years ago would not "automatically disqualify" him from becoming the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,[9] resulting in accusations of a double standard for high-ranking military officers while lower ranks were punished. A month earlier, the first female B-52 pilot, First Lieutenant Kelly Flinn, had been forced to resign from the Air Force with a general discharge after having been charged with adultery.[8][3] Ralston eventually withdrew his name from consideration.[10]

Alleged conflicts of interest

Ralston held various senior positions in defense and security-related corporations, simultaneously with his diplomatic role as "anti PKK coordinator". Critics said Ralston was using his influence as special envoy to secure large government weapons contracts for arms maker Lockheed Martin where he was on the board of directors.[11] Besides, he was also on the advisory board of the American Turkish Council (ATC).[11] The Boston Globe described him as "an arms merchant in diplomat's clothing."[12]

In October 2006, the Kurdish National Congress of North America issued a press release demanding "the immediate resignation" of General Joseph Ralston:[13]

Ralston's appointment came at a time when Turkey was finalizing the sale of 30 new Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft (approx. $3 billion) and as Turkey was due to make a decision on the $10 billion purchase of the new Lockheed Martin F-35 JSF aircraft. The sale for the F-16's was approved by the United States Congress in mid-October and Turkey's decision in favor of the F-35 JSF was announced on October 25, shortly after Ralston's recent stay in Ankara, ostensibly to counter the PKK.

Since the PKK insurgency began in 1983, 30,000 people have died and over 3,000 Kurdish villages have been destroyed, often by U.S. supplied planes.[14] Critics are concerned that hard line anti-PKK policies influenced by conflicting interests would compromise the prospects for longterm solution to the Kurdish–Turkish issue.[15]

On October 1, 2006, the PKK announced a unilateral cease-fire in south-east Turkey, a move that the Turkish government has rejected:[16]

The PKK had to stop fighting anyway because of the winter, but the PKK, backed by Iraqi Kurds, are acting as if this were a major political decision, not a move dictated by a practical necessity. Of course, we don't take it seriously.

Speaking before the Eurasian Strategic Research Center (ASAM) in Istanbul, Ralston mirrored the Turkish government's rhetoric :[17]

I want to be clear on this point: The US will not negotiate with the PKK. We will not ask Turkey to negotiate with the PKK. And I pledge to you that I will never meet with the PKK.


1961 Norwood Senior High School, Norwood, Ohio
1965 Bachelor of Arts degree in chemistry, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, where he was a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity[18]
1976 Master of Arts degree in personnel management, Central Michigan University
1976 Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas
1984 National War College, Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C.
1989 John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Military career summary


Flight information

Rating: Command pilot
Flight hours: More than 2,500
Aircraft flown: F-105D/F/G, F-4C/D/E, F-16A and F-15A/C

Awards and decorations

Command Pilot Badge
Defense Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster
Air Force Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters
Distinguished Flying Cross with three oak leaf clusters
Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters
Air Medal (20 awards in total)
Air Medal
Air Force Commendation Medal with four oak leaf clusters
Air Force Presidential Unit Citation
Joint Meritorious Unit Award with oak leaf cluster
Outstanding Unit Award
Organizational Excellence Award with oak leaf cluster
Combat Readiness Medal
National Defense Service Medal with two bronze service stars
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Vietnam Service Medal with three service stars
Air Force Overseas Short Tour Service Ribbon
Air Force Overseas Long Tour Service Ribbon with oak leaf cluster
Air Force Longevity Service Award with one silver and three bronze oak leaf clusters
Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon
Air Force Training Ribbon
Unknown foreign award
Légion d'honneur (Officier) (France)[19]
Knight Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit (Germany)
Royal Norwegian Order of Merit, Grand Cross
Military Order of the Cross of the Eagle, First Class (Estonia)[20]
Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation
NATO Non-Article 5 medal for the Balkans
Vietnam Campaign Medal

Effective dates of promotion

Insignia Rank Date
Second Lieutenant 24 July 1965
First Lieutenant 24 Jan 1967
Captain 24 Jul 1968
Major 01 Dec 1973
Lieutenant Colonel 01 Apr 1978
Colonel 01 Jun 1981
Brigadier General 01 Mar 1988
Major General 01 Aug 1990
Lieutenant General 13 Jul 1992
General 01 Jul 1995

Other Recognition


  1. ^ a b "Biographical and Financial Information Requested of Nominees". Hearings before the Committee on Armed Services, United States Senate. U.S. Government Printing Office. 2000. p. 483. ISBN 9780160610097. Retrieved 2021-03-28.
  2. ^ "The Chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff 1949–2012" (PDF). Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Retrieved November 7, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c Henneberger, Melinda; Becker, Elizabeth (August 4, 1999). "For a Scandal-Scarred General, the Gleam Appears to Be Back on the Brass". The New York Times. Retrieved November 7, 2021.
  4. ^ "Retired general joins CSIS". UPI. March 10, 2003. Retrieved November 7, 2021.
  5. ^ "Ralston, Joseph W". Archived from the original on 2008-01-09. Retrieved 2017-06-24.
  6. ^ Baker, Peter; Ricks, Thomas E. (April 11, 2007). "3 Generals Spurn the Position of War 'Czar'". Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-07-17.
  7. ^ "Biography — Joseph W. Ralston". Lockheed Martin. Archived from the original on 2020-03-27. Retrieved 2007-07-17.
  8. ^ a b "ADULTERATED STANDARDS". Time magazine. June 16, 1997. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved November 8, 2021.
  9. ^ "Online NewsHour: Ralston Quits as Joint Chiefs Candidate – June 9, 1997". Duke Law. Archived from the original on 2007-06-29. Retrieved 2007-07-17.
  10. ^ "Ralston withdraws name from consideration". CNN. June 9, 1997. Retrieved November 8, 2021.
  11. ^ a b Skutnabb-Kangas, Tove; Fernandes, Desmond (April 2008). "Kurds in Turkey and in (Iraqi) Kurdistan: a Comparison of Kurdish Educational Language Policy in Two Situations of Occupation". Genocide Studies and Prevention. 3: 62. doi:10.3138/gsp.3.1.43.
  12. ^ McKiernan, Kevin (November 1, 2006). "An undiplomatic conflict of interest". Boston Globe. Archived from the original on May 11, 2008. Retrieved November 8, 2021.
  13. ^ "Demanding the Immediate Resignation of General Ralston as Special" (PDF). Kurdish National Congress of North America. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-08-12. Retrieved 2007-07-17.
  14. ^ "Realism Triumphant — Arming the Usual Suspects in Turkey and India". Guerrilla News Network. Archived from the original on 2008-03-16. Retrieved 2007-07-17.
  15. ^ "Damage Control Firm Takes Quiet Interest as Former US General Is Charged with Turkish Profiteering". balkanalysis. Retrieved 2007-07-17.
  16. ^ "PKK and Iraqi Kurds are 'one and the same,' Turk military believes". Turkish Daily News. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2007-07-17.
  17. ^ "MYTHS ABOUT THE PKK AND THE UNITED STATES". US Consulate Istanbul. Archived from the original on August 13, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-17.
  18. ^ "Distinguished Alumni". Tau Kappa Epsilon. Retrieved November 11, 2023.
  19. ^ "Embassy of France in the US-Honoring American officers in the name of the President of the French Republic". Archived from the original on 2006-09-27. Retrieved 2007-03-28.
  20. ^ "Kotkaristi I klassi orden". Estonia Government. February 2006. Archived from the original on 2008-03-16. Retrieved 2008-02-25.
  21. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.
  22. ^ "2019 Summit Highlights Photo". 2019. General Joseph W. Ralston, USA, former Supreme Allied Commander Europe, presents the Golden Plate Award to Marillyn A. Hewson, the Chairman, President and CEO of Lockheed Martin, at the Banquet of the Golden Plate gala.
  23. ^ "Previous Distinguished Leadership Awards Honorees". Atlantic Council.


External links

Military offices
Preceded by Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Succeeded by
Preceded by Supreme Allied Commander Europe
Succeeded by
This page was last edited on 14 May 2024, at 14:58
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