The Ambassador in Turkey ( Steinhardt ) to the Secretary of State
[Received March 12—2:17 p.m.]
144. For the President, Secretary and Under Secretary. In conversation with President Inönü yesterday afternoon following presentation of my credentials at which the Foreign Minister was present the President expressed grave concern lest Soviet Union defeat Germany or so weaken Germany as to eventually permit what he described as Soviet imperialism to over-run Europe and Middle East. Although he did not mention the Straits by name it was obvious that he was concerned lest the Soviet be in a position to take possession of the Dardanelles. He expressed doubt Britain or the United States would be in a position to curb Soviet imperialism in the event of a German defeat.
He expressed dissatisfaction at failure of Britain and the United States to send more war material to Turkey. He remarked Turkey had been faithful to its alliance with Britain but for over 2 years many promises but little material had been received. He clearly indicated his keen disappointment at failure of American lend-lease material to reach Turkey in other than what he described as inconsequential amounts remarking that quantities sought were small.
I told him the subject had been discussed in Washington prior to my departure and I had every reason to believe at least a part of material requested by his Government was already enroute. To this he replied he hoped this would prove to be the case as Turkey could not be expected to successfully defend itself against a German attack unless the limited amount of material sought by his Government is delivered immediately. He then referred to a request made some time ago for what he described as a limited amount of machine tools with which to manufacture war material and expressed the hope that these tools would soon be forthcoming.
At one point in course of his remarks the President implied that there must be a reason for British failure to clear Turkish requisitions of American lend-lease material some of which he said had been held up for months by the British authorities at Washington after American authorities had informed Turkish Embassy that material was ready for shipment. In this connection he referred to the diversion by the British authorities in Egypt of trucks and other material sent from the United States.[Page 684]
Towards the close of our conversation the President expressed the opinion that a neutral Turkey allied to Britain constituted a powerful bulwark to the cause of the United Nations in the Near and Middle East and would ultimately prove to be a greater asset to the United Nations than a belligerent Turkey. He added that to assure the continuance of Turkey’s neutrality it was essential that Turkey should be strong and able to defend itself against attack rather than continue to be denied one or two shiploads of material periodically. He concluded this part of his remarks with the observation that Turkey had not as yet been attacked by Germany by reason of the fact that the Turkish Government had in the past made it unmistakably clear to the German Government that it would resist attack but that he did did not know how long this position would be effective unless Britain and the United States furnished at least a limited amount of war material with which to implement the Turkish intention to resist aggression.
I am convinced that he is thoroughly sincere, a man of broad vision, and that his sympathies and convictions are wholly with the cause of the United Nations. I gained a highly favorable impression of his character and qualifications as I am convinced of the sincerity of the views expressed by him and that his reason for complaining of the failure of adequate British and American war material to reach Turkey is his intention to use these supplies to resist a possible German attack. I urge that steps be taken at the earliest possible moment to forward the American lend-lease material which I understand has been awaiting shipment subject to authorities in Washington and that these authorities be requested to see to it that this material is delivered to Turkey and is not diverted en route.
I can not emphasize too strongly that the actual physical arrival in Turkey of even a few hundred tons of war material in the immediate future is likely to have an effect on the morale of the Turkish Government out of all proportion to the tonnage involved and that conversely a continuance of the delays and diversions of the past few months may have a decidedly adverse effect on the willingness of the Turkish Government to resist a German attack.
I feel fortified in making this recommendation by reason of my detailed study prior to my departure from [Washington] of material promised Turkey by Britain and France under the Orbay agreement of 1939,17a the requisitions filed by Turkish Government with our lend-lease administration since December 3, 1941, as against shipments thus [Page 685] far actually received in Turkey indicating Turkish requests have been extremely modest whereas deliveries have been relatively unimportant while British diversions have been serious and many requisitions approved by the lend-lease and our War Department have not been acted upon by the British in Washington for a period of months although they are aware the material has long since been ready for shipment.
- This refers to a list of military supplies to be furnished to Turkey drawn up in London in 1939, in agreement between British, French, and Turkish military experts, following the conclusion of the Treaty of Mutual Assistance between Great Britain, France, and Turkey at Ankara on October 19, 1939 (League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. cc, p. 167). Gen. Kazim Orbay, Chief of the Turkish General Staff, headed the Turkish Military Mission which was in London at this time.↩