Joseph W. Ralston
|Born||November 4, 1943|
|Service/||United States Air Force|
|Years of service||1965–2003|
|Commands held||Supreme Allied Commander Europe|
Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Air Combat Command
56th Tactical Training Wing
68th Tactical Fighter Squadron
|Awards||Defense Distinguished Service Medal (2)|
Air Force Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit (3)
Distinguished Flying Cross (4)
Meritorious Service Medal (3)
Air Medal (20)
|Other work||Board of Directors, URS Corporation|
General Joseph Wood 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 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).
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.
As of 2021, Ralston is the only Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to hold another major United States Military command after his term as Vice Chairman ended, rather than retiring or assuming the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff position.
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. 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.
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. He also sits on the advisory board of the American Turkish Council, an American-Turkish lobby group.
This article's Criticism or Controversy section may compromise the article's neutral point of view of the subject. (May 2013)
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.
Defense Secretary William Cohen backed Ralston despite the controversy, declaring that Ralston's relationship 13 years ago would not "automatically disqualify" him from becoming the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 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 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
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."
On 26 October 2006, the Kurdish National Congress of North America issued a press release demanding "the immediate resignation" of General Joseph Ralston:
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. 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.
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 :
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 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|
Effective dates of promotion
|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|
- In 1999, Ralston received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement.
- In 2003, Ralston received the Atlantic Council Leadership Award.
- "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.
- Perry, Mark (2017). The Pentagon's wars : the military's undeclared war against America's presidents (1st ed.). New York, NY. ISBN 978-0-465-07971-1. OCLC 972386823.
- Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Guide: A Guide for Senior Leaders. 2014. ISBN 978-1500713096.
- Lowrey, Nathan S. (2016). The Chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1949-2016. United States. Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, United States. Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Joint History Office (5th Revised ed.). Washington, DC. ISBN 9780160933219. OCLC 1029201047.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-01-09. Retrieved 2017-06-24.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Baker, Peter; Ricks, Thomas E. (April 11, 2007). "3 Generals Spurn the Position of War 'Czar'". Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-07-17.
- "Biography — Joseph W. Ralston". Lockheed Martin. Archived from the original on 2020-03-27. Retrieved 2007-07-17.
- "ADULTERATED STANDARDS". Time magazine. June 16, 1997. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-17.
- "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.
- Ralston withdraws name from consideration at CNN Interactive, June 9, 1997
- McKiernan, Kevin (November 1, 2006). "An undiplomatic conflict of interest". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2007-07-17.
- "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.
- "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.
- "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.
- "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.
- "MYTHS ABOUT THE PKK AND THE UNITED STATES". US Consulate Istanbul. Archived from the original on August 13, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-17.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-09-27. Retrieved 2007-03-28.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Kotkaristi I klassi orden". Estonia Government. February 2006. Archived from the original on 2008-03-16. Retrieved 2008-02-25.
- "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". www.achievement.org. American Academy of Achievement.
- "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.
- "Previous Distinguished Leadership Awards Honorees". Atlantic Council.
- This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Government document: "http://www.af.mil/information/bios/bio.asp?bioID=6840".