740.0011EW1939/32765: Telegram

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

104. For the President, the Secretary and the Under Secretary. In conversation with the Minister for Foreign Affairs yesterday, I again took occasion to emphasize our desire that Turkey take an active part in bringing the war to a speedy termination and reminded him that we were as much interested as Britain and Russia in Turkey’s active participation in the war. Numan replied that he knew this to be the case as he quite understood the close association and collaboration between the United States, Great Britain and Russia and their common desire to bring the war to a successful conclusion as soon as possible. He then remarked that as I was aware the Turkish Government had decided in principle to enter the war and that insofar as concerned the date of Turkey’s entry, this was entirely in the hands of the British, as the Turkish General Staff had informed the British Military Mission that 180,000 tons of war material exclusive of gasoline was essential for the defense of the country and that as soon as this material is delivered Turkey will enter the war. From this he said it followed that the date of Turkey’s entry could be expedited or delayed by the tempo of the deliveries of the requisite war material. In response to my observation that the reasonableness of the Turkish list of desired war material viewed in the light of the war material already delivered and the country’s limited transportation facilities thus became the measure of his Government’s intentions, Numan replied that the list was reasonable and constituted an irreducible minimum adding that he did not think it was too much to expect that the three great powers which desired a militarily vulnerable Turkey to enter the war should have been able to provide what he described as 18 ship loads of war material exclusive of gasoline between early December and the date to be fixed for Turkey’s entry into the war.

Numan then referred to the delivery of war material since the Cairo Conference which he said had been considerably less than the capacity of the country’s ports and transportation system and expressed his [Page 817] dissatisfaction with the plan of joint operations thus far proposed by the British which he said contemplated a purely defensive operation, adding that he could not understand how the Straits could be opened to Allied vessels carrying war material to Russia under any such plan as that proposed. He then remarked that there must be a political reason which he said he could not fathom for the British desire that Turkey remain on the defensive after entering the war and that there must be some relationship between this desire and apparent unwillingness of the British to deliver what he described as a “modest” quantity of war material.

At the close of our talk, after I had expressed concern at the lack of progress in the negotiations, Numan remarked in a more cheerful tone “Don’t worry, we will eventually reach an agreement”.