The Ambassador in Turkey (Skinner) to the Secretary of State

No. 270

Sir: In previous despatches I have pointed out the anxiety existing in Turkey consequent upon recent public declarations made by the Italian Premier, and I have also reported upon official decisions at Ankara to strengthen the army and navy by exceptional measures. Hints are thrown out, too, that the Turks desire to enjoy greater liberty with respect to the Dardanelles and to be permitted to create a system of land defenses inasmuch as mines cannot be laid in the narrow waters without preventing the passage of merchant vessels.

It was evidently with a desire to get a statement before the public that a “debate” was staged in the Grand National Assembly at the session of May 30, 1934, when Sirri Bey, during the discussion of the budget of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, addressing himself to the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs,Şükrü Kaya Bey, said:

“The political situation compels us to ask for a precise and clear declaration from the Government upon foreign policy. Our friendship with the Soviets is approved by all Turkish citizens; the maintenance of good relations with France is a principle among the Turks; the union with Greece is happily devised to correct the errors of history. My heart revolts at the thought of considering as foreigners, as respects international policy—such countries as Persia, Irak and Syria. Afghanistan is a brother (sic) who is dear to us, and at all times has participated in our sorrows and our joys.

“One point remains to be cleared up in the matter of exterior politics: The situation in the Mediterranean. Every time we think of this a sentiment of anxiety is born in our hearts. It is far from my thought that this portion of our land is exposed to any particular [Page 963] menace. The Turkish army, always ready to fight and die, has it under guard. This army which is under the command of the greatest Captain in history guarantees our security on that side. Nevertheless this confidence should not cause us to conclude that that portion of our territory might not be subject to an attack from outside. There is nothing to tell us that some day someone might not venture a trial at arms thereabouts. I know that as regards the Mediterranean a safety valve is absent. History teaches us in what fashion the annexations on the shores of the Mediterranean have been brought about since a century. In so saying I allude to Algeria, Tunis, the Seven Isles, Egypt, Morocco, and Tripoli. All these annexations were made for the sole purpose of guaranteeing a political equilibrium!

“The most recent event in the matter of occupations of this nature is that of the landing of the Italians at Corfu. The Greeks were certainly unable to deal with a Power incomparably superior. They addressed themselves to the League of Nations. I need not dwell at length on this subject; you know all of the details.

“I do not pretend to suspect that any particular portion of our country is threatened. Nevertheless, at a moment when political groups are forming among the states I wish to underline the necessity of sharpening our political arm which is one of our most efficacious means of defense.”

Following upon the above statements, which reflect the general suspicion respecting Italian ambitions, the acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, Şükrü Kaya Bey, replied:

“The foreign policy pursued by the Government is founded on peace and friendship. The treaties, the ententes, and the other documents of international acts we have concluded up to this time are a living witness of this. The characteristic of our policy vis-à-vis our neighbors consists in assuring friendship and common security. The Balkan Pact is the most recent example of this fact. The relations which I mention with other states, notably with Russia, are developing favorably. Turco-Soviet friendship is beyond attack, this friendship being the fruit of moments of difficulty and close mutual acquaintance. In the pursuit of its policy Turkey relies in the first place beyond anything else upon the force of character and patriotism of its people, and the strength of its army. Beyond this our Anatolia possesses two great allies who have always been our devoted friends. One is the Mediterranean and the other the Black Sea. Upon them we found two systems: One of these systems consists in signing with the riverain states documents intended to guarantee this security, and the other is to prepare in the interior our defense against any eventuality far or near.

“The general situation of Europe is undoubtedly very complicated on account of the problem of disarmament, the question of the Saar, and other matters. Turkey will never be a trouble-maker in a moment so confused. She will always work for peace. But if, in spite of this firm decision, and for reasons independent of her a fact should arise outside of the country, she will execute the obligations of friendship and neutrality which she has concluded with the Powers. It remains [Page 964] understood that Turkey intends particularly to look to the defense of her proper frontiers. This explains our budget for the current year. Friendships are of great importance, but the friendship the most important for the country is before all to be strong in the interior.

“Our policy is to insure in the interior a common ideal and to reinforce our power in such fashion that nobody will be able to look upon Turkey with a hostile eye. If, in spite of this, anyone should seek to attack Turkey, this attack will break itself against the hard and sharp rocks of our frontiers. (Loud applause). You may be sure that we shall concern ourselves with making of Turkey a soil which defies all covetousness, and we shall succeed.”

Thereupon Parliament proceeded to vote finally the budgets for the different Departments, which total 184,075,634 Turkish pounds, in which the following military items appear:

National defense 40,964,881
National defence—air 4,583,774
National defence—navy 3,808,818
Military manufactures 3,920,643
Topography 603,505
General police 4,107,499
Gendarmerie 8,679,379

If to this we add 44,836,736 Turkish pounds, appropriated for the public debt, it will be seen that there remains 72,570,399 pounds for all the ordinary expenses of the Government. The task of the Minister of Finance will be one of great difficulty.

Respectfully yours,

Robert P. Skinner