761.67/217: Telegram

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Steinhardt) to the Secretary of State

765. For the Secretary and the Under Secretary. My telegram No. 727, October 11, 3 p.m.40 After a meeting late yesterday in the Kremlin which lasted 2 hours the Turkish Foreign Minister41 decided to return to Ankara tonight without signing any agreement with the Soviet Union.

The following account of the course of the negotiations was given to me this afternoon by the Turkish Foreign Minister in the strictest confidence.

Turkey had not sought negotiations with the Soviet Union looking towards the conclusion of any agreement. The Turkish Government was entirely satisfied with the state of its relations with the Soviet Union and the general situation resulting from its tentative agreements with England and France,42 from the standpoint of the Balkan Entente,43 and the Montreux Conference of 1936.44 However, in view of the friendly relations existing with the Soviet Union he had [Page 485] accepted the Soviet invitation to proceed to Moscow to discuss questions of common interest. The original proposals advanced by Stalin at the first meeting which were along the lines reported in my 669, October 3, 6 p.m., 193945 had constituted in the eyes of the Turkish Government an acceptable basis for the negotiation of an agreement, as Stalin recognized the validity of the Turkish obligations to Great Britain and France and had been reassured in return that under no conditions did these obligations envisage Turkish hostilities against the Soviet Union. On the basis of this agreement in principle and after consultation with his Government in Ankara a draft agreement had been prepared which provided for a Soviet-Turkish pact of mutual assistance in the Black Sea area; and recognition that the Dardanelles should continue to be governed by the Montreux Convention of 1936. In subsequent meetings, however, the Soviet Government had raised other questions which departed from the basis of the original understanding.

The Soviet Government among other things had attempted to insert a clause in the proposed agreement to the effect that the agreement should in no way bring the Soviet Union into conflict with Germany46 and had likewise attempted to obtain a modification of certain articles of the Montreux Convention which would have the effect of closing the Dardanelles to the fleets of any non-Black Sea power under any conditions or failing such a provision in the agreement to exact private assurances from Turkey to the same effect. In the course of these discussions Molotov had attempted to ascertain the Turkish attitude in a number of hypothetical circumstances not directly related to the negotiations, some of which would have involved the impairment of Turkish commitments to England and France. The question of Rumania had also been subsequently raised by the Soviet Government with the object of obtaining assurances of Turkish neutrality not only in the event of the Soviet seizure of Bessarabia but also in the event of a Bulgarian attempt to acquire the Dobrudja.

The Turkish Foreign Minister and his Government consistently rejected the attempts of Molotov to modify in any important degree the basis of the agreement in principle. Numerous formulas were proposed by both sides in an endeavor to reconcile their differences and finally the Foreign Minister suggested that the Soviet Government submit a draft of its own. This draft proved to be entirely unsatisfactory to the Turkish Government in that it contained not only the clause precluding any Soviet-German conflict but also contained features which would have limited Turkish freedom of action in respect of the Dardanelles. Following the rejection of this draft [Page 486] the Soviet Government endeavored to obtain the return of the copy from the Foreign Minister, but was informed that it had already been sent to Ankara.

No progress was made at the meeting yesterday and the Foreign Minister thereupon decided to return to Ankara this evening and so informed Molotov. Molotov, obviously concerned lest his departure give the appearance of a breakdown, endeavored to persuade the Foreign Minister to remain 3 or 4 days longer, promising to work out a solution. The Foreign Minister refused and told Molotov that the Turkish Government had been and still was prepared to conclude a treaty along the original lines and that the negotiations could be carried on in Ankara through the customary diplomatic channels.

The Foreign Minister stated that his Government had consulted with the British and French Governments throughout the negotiations, in particular with respect to Rumania, and that Great Britain had taken the position that there would be no objection to Turkish neutrality in the event of Soviet aggression against Rumania provided the present status of the Dardanelles remained unchanged. The Foreign Minister stated that he had told Molotov that Turkey would not oppose Soviet action in respect of Bessarabia as Turkey construed its obligations under the Balkan Entente to refer only to the frontiers between the Balkan States but that should Bulgaria attempt to seize the Dobrudja, Turkey would come to Rumania’s assistance. He informed Molotov, however, that Turkey would not commit itself in advance as to its course of action with respect to the Dardanelles in the former contingency.

The Foreign Minister was frank in stating that Great Britain had sought to make use of the Turkish-Soviet negotiations in an attempt to drive a wedge between Germany and the Soviet Union. He emphasized that Soviet-Turkish relations would remain unimpaired whether or not a pact was signed and repeated that the Turkish Government was willing to conclude a mutual assistance pact with the Soviet Union, but not to the extent of disturbing its relations with England and France. I obtained the distinct impression that the Turks have had the better of the negotiations with the Soviet Government and that in consequence there is a possibility that the Soviet Government, because of the loss of prestige otherwise involved, may decide to drop the proposals objectionable to Turkey and may sign an agreement as originally envisaged. I am also of the opinion that the Soviet Government may now be somewhat more cautious in its approach to the Bessarabia question and endeavor to obtain that region by agreement with Rumania rather than by force, even though such agreement may entail concessions to Rumania.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Sükrü Saraçoglu.
  3. The British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, announced in the House of Commons on May 12, 1939, the Anglo-Turkish agreement on mutual assistance “in the event of an act of aggression leading to war in the Mediterranean area”; see United Kingdom, Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, 1938–39, 5th series, vol. 347, pp. 952–956. For the comparable Franco-Turkish declaration of mutual assistance of June 23, 1939, see New York Times, June 24, 1939, p. 4, or German White Book, Documents on the Events Preceding the Outbreak of the War (New York, German Library of Information, 1940), doc. No. 310, p. 332. The 15-year mutual assistance pact concluded between Great Britain, France, and Turkey was signed at Ankara on October 19, 1939; for text, see League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. cc, p. 167, or Department of State Bulletin, November 11, 1939, p. 544.
  4. Signed by Greece, Rumania, Turkey, and Yugoslavia on February 9, 1934, at Athens; for text, see League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. cliii, p. 153.
  5. For correspondence regarding the Conference held in Montreux June 22–July 20, 1936, relating to the Regime of the Straits, see Foreign Relations, 1936, vol. iii, pp. 503 ff.; for text of the convention signed on July 20, 1936, see League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. clxxiii, p. 213, or British Cmd. 5249, Turkey No. 1 (1936).
  6. Not printed.
  7. For the interest evinced by Germany in the negotiations between Turkey and the Soviet Union, see Nazi-Soviet Relations, 1989–1941, pp. 110 ff.