740.0011 European War 1939/8473: Telegram

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

34. (1) Upon my presenting to the Prime Minister the text of the message contained in your telegram No. 14, February 14, 7 p.m., he asked me to convey to the President in his own name and that of his Government his cordial appreciation of that communication. Fixing upon the concluding reference to nations threatened with aggression he said that that was the case of Turkey and that he welcomed the opportunity to make quite clear the position of the Turkish Government: from the very first it had wholeheartedly committed itself to the purposes and ideals with which both Great Britain and the United States are identified; it had not in any way changed from that viewpoint which it would support to the end even if compelled to fight; but that it naturally hoped that circumstances would permit its being spared actual participation in the war and must furthermore take account of its own limitations in case such participation were forced upon it and must consider in the light of actual developments what action on its part would best serve the common cause; the lack of adequate military equipment for the time being excluded the possibility of any but strictly defensive action; for such defense against possible attack it was keeping its forces at full strength and was spending (apart from the British and French credits) to an extent that caused actual privation to its people. He asked whether Turkey might look forward to receiving materials from the United States and I replied that in view of the terms of the message I thought that not impossible.

(2) He asked whether there prevailed in the United States any idea that the Turkish Government was wavering in its attitude. I said I did not believe there was any such feeling in official quarters but that there frankly was evidence that such an idea existed in some minds and that I understood an American broadcast had interpreted yesterday’s joint declaration with Bulgaria as indicating that Turkey would stand aloof regardless of what German action in Bulgaria might be. The Prime Minister at once controverted that interpretation explaining that the actual effect of the declaration was to bind Bulgaria to unconditional neutrality towards Turkey, whereas the latter’s obligations to Great Britain in any eventual contingencies were safeguarded. I asked whether obligations under the Balkan Entente were also contemplated and he answered in the negative and explained that the Entente was no longer of any immediate practical concern since the submergence of Rumania.

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(3) When I asked what would be Turkey’s attitude in the event of an untoward development of German activities in Bulgaria short of an immediate threat to the Turkish frontier he said that that must depend upon the circumstances that developed and that he could not in advance be any more categorical than to say that his Government would within the limits of its possibilities endeavor loyally to meet its obligations and responsibilities.

Repeated to Sofia.