740.0011 European War 1939/22683: Telegram

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

699. For the President, Secretary and Under Secretary. I had a lengthy talk with Saraçoğlu last night on the eve of his departure on vacation. He was frank and outspoken and I am convinced entirely sincere. He criticized the British for their failure to provide mechanized equipment for the Turkish Army during the past 2 years observing that not a single tank had been received and only a few planes. He remarked “even the Bulgarians have 2 or 3 motorized [Page 703] divisions”. He then observed that if as he assumed the explanation for Britain’s failure to provide modern equipment for the Turk Army had been the shortage that existed, much larger British mechanized forces would have been stationed in the Middle East. He indicated that the Turkish general staff had for many months been aware of Britain’s weakness in the Middle East both in men and material and had repeatedly expressed concern at this condition. He clearly implied that it had been the opinion of the Turk Government for some time past that Britain was over-insured in England and under-insured in the Middle East. He then remarked “but our English friends have paid little heed to our advice.”

After having completed his criticism Saraçoğlu stated categorically that Turkish foreign policy would undergo no change even if Egypt fell and that Turkey even though surrounded would not yield to any unreasonable demands by the Axis. He closed his remarks with the following statement: “If we are attacked we will fight with our inadequate equipment as defeat on the battlefield is preferable to the loss of our honor”.

Saraçoğlu then told me that the Turkish note to the Soviet Government giving assurance that Turkey considered the Turk-Soviet agreement of 194131 to be in full force and effect (see my 661, June 2532) had been delivered a few days ago and that it had [been] well received by the Soviet Government which had replied in an appreciative manner. He said that in consequence Turk-Soviet relations at present were satisfactory, particularly as the Soviet press had been mild in its criticism of the conviction of the two Soviet defendants in the bomb explosion trial.33

  1. Joint Soviet-Turkish declaration of March 24, 1941; see telegram No. 79, March 24, 1941, 6 p.m., from the Ambassador in Turkey, Foreign Relations, 1941, vol. iii, p. 836.
  2. Not printed.
  3. For correspondence on this subject, see pp. 823 ff.