811.20 Defense (M) Turkey/463: Telegram

The Chargé in the United Kingdom (Matthews) to the Secretary of State

2385. For Department, Board of Economic Warfare, and United States Commercial Corporation. Embassy’s 1570, March 4.

[Page 1124]
Assume you will see telegram from British Embassy Ankara to foreign Office dated March 20, repeated to Washington as No. 1858, giving substance of British Ambassador’s discussions with Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The Ankara telegram was considered by Preemption Committee at meeting March 30 together with information indicating that it is possible to purchase unofficially all commodities whether controlled by a birlik23 or not and that it is also possible by disruptive purchases to raise prices so as to handicap the Axis, though it may not be possible to obtain export licenses for goods so purchased.
The British feel that Turkish reaction to our approach was as favorable as could be expected and that, assuming the war continues to go in our favor, the Turks will find more and more excuses to interpose delays and obstructions in respect of German operations in Turkey. In the light of this, Committee felt that main conclusion to be drawn from Turkish reply to our diplomatic approach is that the success of any preemptive policy in Turkey must largely depend upon cooperation of Turkish Government. Therefore Committee, while considering it desirable to authorize the two Embassies in Turkey to embark upon unofficial purchases without restriction, felt that at the same time the Embassies should be satisfied that such a policy could be adopted and pursued without endangering the cooperation of the Turkish Government, who have far more effective power to hinder German purchases than we can command.
Considering the views advanced by the two Embassies in Turkey, Preemption Committee is prepared to recommend to you action on following lines:
The whole amount of money authorized for purchases under joint program should be placed at the disposal of the two Ambassadors for official or unofficial purchases of the commodities listed below at their discretion and with no price limit for individual commodities.
The discretion given to the Ambassadors should be limited to purchases where they are satisfied there is a reasonable chance of cutting into the amounts that would otherwise go to the enemy.
The Ambassadors should be guided in their purchases, subject of course to supply considerations, by the relative importance of enemy deficiencies as set out in the following categories: (I) copper, opium, mohair, skins, wool waste and wool rags, valex. (II) Silk waste, silk cocoons, cotton waste, rags and clippings, linseed. (Ill) Hemp, flax, vegetable oils and seeds, valonia, lambs casings for catgut.
The commodities listed above are those to which the enemy resources department attaches the greatest importance. Embassy [Page 1125] assumes that our Government may wish to add certain commodities to the list, particularly gallnuts, casings other than lambs casings, gum tragacanth, traganthon, asbestos. Embassy would appreciate receiving the views of the Department and Board of Economic Warfare as to any commodities that should be included and the category in which they should be placed.
As you know the British in Ankara have emphasized strongly in recent telegrams the success which has attended our disruptive purchases. However no information has been received here indicating whether such operations have actually prevented the enemy getting the quantities he desires, or whether he was merely forced to pay higher prices. It is of course recognized that the latter effect has considerable value, especially when German purchasing power is limited, but the British are inclined to believe that the Germans will counter by overpricing the goods they supply to Turkey, thus restoring the position. The friction caused by disruptive operations, besides delaying the enemy, accentuates the already serious inflationary trend in Turkey. If you feel that successful preemption requires disruptive as well as unofficial purchases, it is important that you brief Embassy fully as to results of our experience in such operations to date.
You will note that British are suggesting that vegetable oils and seeds should be included in third category of enemy deficiencies for purchase under joint program. This proposal answers the question raised in your airgram 507 of March 9.24
British feel that the change in the character and operation of the Turkish joint preemptive program is justified on the following grounds:
It is difficult to have a fixed program which will meet the demands of a very fluid and complex picture such as is presented by preemptive operations in Turkey.
It is very important for Ankara to be able to take immediate action without reference to Washington and London with the inevitable delays and consultations, a point which you have always stressed, and
The importance of doing nothing which would lessen whatever desire may exist on the part of the Turkish Government to cooperate with us and to obstruct the enemy’s operations. This can of course best be judged by the two Ambassadors on the ground.
  1. Turkish for union or cooperative.
  2. Not printed.