740.00112 European War 1939/10661: Telegram

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

748. My British colleague and I feel that the present is an opportune time to review Anglo-American policy vis-à-vis Turkey.

1. In respect of our future economic policy we are of the opinion that the time has come to discontinue dealing with individual commodities separately and to endeavor to arrive at a general or global agreement with the Turks involving, if possible, the discontinuance as of an agreed date of further shipments of all strategic materials to the Axis in return for an agreement on our part to furnish to the Turks those commodities which are essential to the maintenance of Turkey’s economy and which have been and are being obtained by Turkey from Axis sources. Such an agreement might take the form of an “agreement for mutual economic assistance” under which we would agree to purchase specified quantities of certain commodities and deliver specified quantities of certain commodities. I feel that the expression “war trade agreement” should be avoided as it has come to mean an agreement which neutrals have been compelled to accept in order to obtain products desired by them as distinguished from a voluntary cooperative agreement with an Ally. In view of the fact that the Turkish Government has taken action in the matter of chrome even beyond the request made by us regarding it, it is most desirable that we take prompt action to capitalize the spirit behind this gesture. This we can best accomplish by removing any doubt that may exist in the mind of the Turkish Government of our ability or willingness to take the place of Axis as purveyor of Turkey’s essential requirements. This is all the more important by reason of our past unsatisfactory record in respect of deliveries to Turkey.

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I have reason to believe from talks during past 3 days with influential Turks that if we respond immediately to gesture just made by making it clear we intend to take care of essential Turkish requirements provided Turks discontinue further shipments of strategic materials to the Axis, it may be possible to bring about a total cessation of such shipments in near future. I cannot emphasize too strongly there should be a minimum of delay in indicating to the Turks what our attitude in this matter now is. Foreign Minister pointed out to me in my last talk with him that a shift by Turkey from Germany to the United States and Britain in obtaining essential requirements will entail at best serious disturbance to the national security.

2. In view of the far-reaching significance of the step taken by the Turk Government in repudiating engagements to Germany and in view of fact that there is evidence that the Turk Government is now desirous of cooperating with the Allies, my British colleague and I believe it is desirable that we be informed as to whether Turkey’s active military participation in the war is envisaged or whether our objective hereafter is to be limited to obtaining Turkey’s full cooperation short of participation in the war. If our aim is to be the active participation of Turkey in the war consideration should at once be given to the preparations essential to that result. The view that Turkey’s entry into the war this summer is not envisaged should not be permitted to obscure the fact that Turkey’s active participation in the war at a later date would require that appropriate steps be initiated at this time. In this connection it should be borne in mind that the Turks regard a certain period of time—probably from 3 to 4 months—as essential to prepare their country for entry into the war. Thus the possibility that Turkey’s active participation in the war may be desired in the fall or even next spring should be examined at the present time in light of necessity for this period of preparation. It would be most unfortunate were a decision arrived at that Turkey’s entry into the war this summer is not desired and circumstances subsequently dictate the desirability of Turkey’s entry into the war in the fall without any steps having been taken during the intervening months to prepare the country for participation in the war. In effect this would be a repetition of what happened last winter.

In connection with the foregoing I have no hesitancy in recording my opinion that the Turk Government would be prepared to enter the war and participate actively therein if furnished the 180,000 tons of war material and the approximately 60,000 tons of gasoline previously requested and a plan of joint military operations were agreed upon. In other words Turkey’s active participation in the [apparent [Page 836] omission] with any decision to be made by the Turk Government which has already decided the issue in principle.

If, on the other hand, we are only interested in obtaining Turkey’s full cooperation short of war, I believe we could obtain Turkey’s full economic cooperation by apprising the Turks definitely that that is the maximum assistance desired of them and that we are prepared to meet the country’s essential economic requirements.