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

No. 644

Sir: The Department has noted, no doubt, my recent despatches in regard to the Turkish request for a modification of the Straits Convention. Turkish pride is involved in this matter and her Government regard this a favorable moment for pressing the demand. At the recent Balkan Conference15 held in Bucharest the members of the Entente agreed to support the Turkish view, and the Powers, having received Turkish assistance at Geneva are doubtless giving the subject earnest consideration.

It should not be overlooked that when the Straits Convention was being negotiated at Lausanne, it was Ismet Pasha16 himself, who recommended it, and that, too, against the wishes of Mr. Chitcherin, the Soviet representative. Mr. Chitcherin was extremely indignant at the attitude of his Turkish friends. But times have changed!

At Lausanne disarmament was in the air, and today, so Turkey says, she then thought disarmament really would take place. Today (I quote a Foreign Office official) Turkey cannot ignore that the world is arming. The Straits are Turkey’s most vulnerable point. My informant supplies the interesting fact that when recently Great Britain opposed the re-arming of the Straits, Dr. Aras replied that Turkey would willingly refrain from re-arming the Straits if the British would sign a treaty agreeing to protect them. That, in fact, was about what he said to me when we once talked about a treaty with the United States—putting it this way: “Yes, a treaty with the United States if you would agree to join us in protective measures.”17

With or without treaty revision, Turkey is already prepared to defend the Straits, and it is open to doubt whether, questions of pride and prestige apart, Turkey has much to gain from revision. Mobile land defenses exist, and, I am told, there are numerous craft in readiness, in Ismet Bay in the Marmara, to be towed where needed, and utilized to close the channel. Doubtless the Soviets are urging Turkey to obtain now what Mr. Chitcherin could not get in 1923.

Respectfully yours,

Robert P. Skinner
  1. Second regular meeting of the Permanent Council of the Balkan Entente, May 10–13, 1935.
  2. Turkish Foreign Minister, 1923.
  3. See despatch No. 411, October 29, 1934, from the Ambassador in Turkey, Foreign Relations, 1934, vol. ii, p. 984.