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Joseph Ralston

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

General Joseph W. Ralston (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 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 Joseph Ralston Flying an F-15 Eagle.
Lieutenant General Joseph Ralston Flying an F-15 Eagle.

Ralston served in the United States Air Force 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 United States Air Force.

Ralston became Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1996. He was favorite to become Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1997, however following revelations of a secret affair he remained Vice Chairman until May 2000. He then became Supreme Allied Commander for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Europe until January 2003 when he retired.

Bill Clinton writes in his memoirs My Life that Ralston was used to resolve a potentially sticky situation with Pakistan in which the US would use Pakistani airspace to strike at the Al-Qaeda organization meeting in Afghanistan following the US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. There was US 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 sub-continent. 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 the President of the United States George W. Bush.[1] The PKK is a Kurdish separatist 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.[2]

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.[3] He also sits on the advisory board of the American Turkish Council, an American-Turkish lobby group.

SACEUR General Joseph Ralston with U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and French Minister of Defense Alain Richard during a meetings at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, December 2001.
SACEUR General Joseph Ralston with U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and French Minister of Defense Alain Richard during a meetings at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, December 2001.
Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Ralston and Secretary of Defense William Cohen during the U.S.-Republic of Korea Security Consultative Meeting at The Pentagon, November 1999.
Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Ralston and Secretary of Defense William Cohen during the U.S.-Republic of Korea Security Consultative Meeting at The Pentagon, November 1999.


In 1997, at the retirement of John M. Shalikashvili, the then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Ralston was the top candidate to succeed him to the highest position in the military. A scandal erupted when it became public that Ralston had an adulterous affair with a CIA employee during the 1980s. Ralston claimed this was while he and his wife Linda were separated.[4]

Defense Secretary William Cohen backed Ralston despite the controversy, declaring that Ralston's secret, adulterous relationship 13 years ago would not "automatically disqualify" him from becoming the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.[5] There were allegations of double standards, as 1st Lieutenant Kelly Flinn was forced out of the Air Force after being charged with adultery a month prior.

Ralston withdrew his name from consideration[6] and remained Vice Chairman until 2000, when he was appointed Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, in which function he served from 2000 to 2003, taking over from United States Army general Wesley Clark. In this capacity, he was the highest-ranking officer in NATO. He retired on March 1, 2003.

Alleged conflict of interest

European Command Commander General Joseph Ralston and Central Command Commander General Tommy Franks at a Conference in the State Department.
European Command Commander General Joseph Ralston and Central Command Commander General Tommy Franks at a Conference in the State Department.

Ralston holds various senior positions in defense and security-related corporations, simultaneously with his diplomatic role as "anti PKK coordinator". Critics allege Ralston is using his influence as special envoy to secure large governmental weapons contracts for the corporations he has directorship over. The Boston Globe described him as "an arms merchant in diplomat's clothing."[7]

On 26 October 2006, the Kurdish National Congress of North America issued a press release demanding "the immediate resignation" of General Joseph Ralston:[8]

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.[9] 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.[10]

On October 1, 2006, the PKK announced a unilateral cease-fire in south-east Turkey, a move that the Turkish government has rejected:[11]

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 :[12]

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
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


  • July 1965 – August 1966, student, pilot training, Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas
  • August 1966 – April 1967, student, F-105 combat crew training school, Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada
  • April 1967 – October 1969, F-105 combat crew member, 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron, later 12th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Japan
  • October 1969 – December 1969, student, F-105 Wild Weasel pilot training, Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada
  • January 1970 – October 1970, F-105 Wild Weasel pilot, 354th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand
  • October 1970 – December 1971, F-105 Wild Weasel instructor pilot, 66th Fighter Weapons Squadron, Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada
  • December 1971 – June 1973, Fighter Requirements Officer and Project Officer for F-15 and lightweight fighter programs, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Requirements, Headquarters Tactical Air Command, Langley Air Force Base, Virginia
  • June 1973 – June 1975, Assistant Operations Officer, 335th Tactical Fighter Squadron, then Chief, Standardization and Evaluation Division, 4th Tactical Fighter Wing, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina
  • June 1975 – June 1976, student, Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas
  • June 1976 – July 1979, Tactical Fighter Requirements Officer, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Research and Development, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.
  • July 1979 – July 1980, Operations Officer, later, Commander, 68th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Moody Air Force Base, Georgia
  • July 1980 – August 1983, Special Assistant, later, Executive Officer to the commander, Headquarters Tactical Air Command, Langley Air Force Base, Virginia
  • August 1983 – June 1984, student, National War College, Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C.
  • June 1984 – February 1986, Special Assistant for low observables technology, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Research, Development and Acquisition, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.
  • February 1986 – March 1987, Commander, 56th Tactical Training Wing, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida
  • March 1987 – June 1990, Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, later, Deputy Chief of Staff for Requirements, Headquarters Tactical Air Command, Langley Air Force Base, Virginia
  • June 1990 – December 1991, Director of Tactical Programs, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Washington, D.C.
  • December 1991 – July 1992, Director of Operational Requirements, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Operations, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.
  • July 1992 – July 1994, Commander, Alaskan Command, Alaskan North American Aerospace Defense Command Region, 11th Air Force and Joint Task Force Alaska, Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska
  • July 1994 – June 1995, Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Operations, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.
  • June 1995 – February 1996, Commander, Headquarters Air Combat Command, Langley Air Force Base, Virginia
  • March 1996 – April 2000, Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Washington, D.C.
  • May 2000 – January 2003, Commander, U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe, NATO, Mons, Belgium

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
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)[13]
Knight Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit (Germany)
Den kongelige norske fortjenstorden storkors stripe.svg
Royal Norwegian Order of Merit, Grand Cross
Military Order of the Cross of the Eagle, First Class (Estonia)[14]
Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation with Palm
NATO Non-Article 5 medal for the Balkans
Vietnam Campaign Medal

Effective dates of promotion

Insignia Rank Date
US-O1 insignia.svg
Second Lieutenant 24 July 1965
US-O2 insignia.svg
First Lieutenant 24 Jan 1967
US-O3 insignia.svg
Captain 24 Jul 1968
US-O4 insignia.svg
Major 01 Dec 1973
US-O5 insignia.svg
Lieutenant Colonel 01 Apr 1978
US-O6 insignia.svg
Colonel 01 Jun 1981
US-O7 insignia.svg
Brigadier General 01 Mar 1988
US-O8 insignia.svg
Major General 01 Aug 1990
US-O9 insignia.svg
Lieutenant General 13 Jul 1992
US-O10 insignia.svg
General 01 Jul 1995


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-01-09. Retrieved 2017-06-24.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ Baker, Peter; Ricks, Thomas E. (April 11, 2007). "3 Generals Spurn the Position of War 'Czar'". Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-07-17.
  3. ^ "Biography — Joseph W. Ralston". Lockheed Martin. Archived from the original on 2020-03-27. Retrieved 2007-07-17.
  4. ^ "ADULTERATED STANDARDS". Time magazine. June 16, 1997. Retrieved 2007-07-17.
  5. ^ "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.
  6. ^ Ralston withdraws name from consideration at CNN Interactive, June 9, 1997
  7. ^ McKiernan, Kevin (November 1, 2006). "An undiplomatic conflict of interest". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2007-07-17.
  8. ^ "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.
  9. ^ "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.
  10. ^ "Damage Control Firm Takes Quiet Interest as Former US General Is Charged with Turkish Profiteeringontrol-firm-takes-quiet-interest-as-former-us-general-is-charged-with-turkish-profiteering/". balkanalysis. Retrieved 2007-07-17.
  11. ^ "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.
  12. ^ "MYTHS ABOUT THE PKK AND THE UNITED STATES". US Consulate Istanbul. Archived from the original on August 13, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-17.
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-09-27. Retrieved 2007-03-28.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ "Kotkaristi I klassi orden". Estonia Government. February 2006. Archived from the original on 2008-03-16. Retrieved 2008-02-25.


External links

Military offices
Preceded by
William Owens
Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Succeeded by
Richard B. Myers
Preceded by
Wesley Clark
Supreme Allied Commander Europe
Succeeded by
James L. Jones
This page was last edited on 14 September 2020, at 14:32
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