740.00112 European War 1939/10661: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Turkey (Steinhardt)28

397. This telegram is in reply to your 748, April 26, 9 a.m. and sets forth the Department’s preliminary views on the principles which should underlie our economic policy toward Turkey for the immediate future in the light of the complete stoppage by Turkey of chrome shipments to Germany.

Department agrees every effort should be made promptly to capitalize on spirit behind chrome embargo. The objective toward which our strategy henceforward should be directed is the total stoppage of all Turkish exports to enemy or enemy-occupied territory. Should this goal prove unattainable in its entirety the minimum objective would be the complete elimination of all exports of strategic materials to the Axis. With addition of opium and cotton, commodities on New Plan list, including all categories, represent minimum embargo list to be sought.
Department agrees in general that wisest tactics would be to negotiate on comprehensive basis rather than attempt to obtain Turkish agreement item by item. This would not preclude, however, dealing individually on items where speed was important. Department also fully appreciates necessity of increasing imports into Turkey from Allied sources in order to compensate for expected lost imports from Axis agreed to be of an essential character. We must be careful, however, to avoid arousing extravagant Turkish hopes. Three obvious limitations apply. First, the supply situation in the U.K. and U.S. remains critical in many key materials and products. Secondly, there is no imminent prospect of an easing in the tightness of shipping. Finally, the intake capacity of Turkey’s accessible ports and deficiencies of Turkish internal transport system impose limitations on rate of absorption even if all Turkey’s wants could be supplied and shipped. The Turks should be left in no doubt as to our desire or [Page 837] intended efforts to perform, but they should likewise be left in no doubt as to the surrounding difficulties.
Department agrees that it would be inappropriate to consider negotiating a War Trade Agreement comparable to those negotiated early in the war by the British with Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal and Ireland. This type of agreement had its greatest usefulness when we were relatively weak whereas today, as I stated in my recent speech,29 we are strong. Indeed Department questions wisdom of negotiating any formal agreement at this time. Instead Department suggests for your consideration and discussion with your British colleague the following procedure:
Prompt acceptance of Turkish proposal to establish special bureau to scan individually all proposed exports to Axis in relation to the projects offsetting import. This procedure we assume would involve appropriate streamlining of BACC30 machinery to ensure special service on resultant inquiries. In Washington and, assuming British agreement, in London as well, urgent efforts would be made to provide material in question. This arrangement would provide stopgap pending negotiation of comprehensive embargo on exports to the Axis in return for more comprehensive supply program.
Department believes no time should be lost in initiating discussions with the Turks on comprehensive basis. We are clear as to our objective. It should be pointed out to the Turks in this connection that we are appreciative of their action with respect to chrome, but that our views on the continuance of trade in strategic materials with the Axis have been made quite clear. Hence our willingness to discuss their needs rests on the assumption that they intend to go the whole way. It would then be up to the Turks to inform us of what they considered their essential requirements. Any such requests would have to be first screened by BACC as to essentiality and then tailored in Washington and London to supply and shipping availability. Simultaneously the Turks should also be asked to furnish for your scrutiny and comment an estimate of their intake capacity including possible use of Turks’ flag vessels for shuttle service between Suez ports and Turkish ports other than Mersin and Iskenderun. The nature of any ultimate supply commitment in the Department’s opinion should be informal in the sense that (1) commercial channels should be relied on, and (2) this Government would confine itself to pledge to use its best efforts in facilitating such exports and in sponsoring allocations where necessary.
As to purchases of Turkish products, the decision to continue preemptive buying so long as traffic in strategic materials continues between Turkey and the Axis is obviously FEA’s and MEW’s.31 Assuming an embargo is agreed to by the Turks or all physical communication with the Axis interrupted by military or other action, the Department at the present time sees no justification for making any other purchases of Turkish products than those which would be [Page 838] required for supply reasons or voluntarily negotiated by U.S. commercial importers. Your views on this point, however, are particularly desired.
As you are aware, Powell and Diamond32 are now en route to Turkey. They are FEA officials most familiar with Turkish supply problems. They can also furnish up-to-date background on supply situation and procedures here. In this general connection they should be highly helpful to you in conducting your negotiations. It seems to the Department that you might capitalize on their presence as evidence of our genuine desire to meet this supply problem promptly and realistically.
In answer to numbered paragraph 2 of your 748, Department will attempt to secure from military authorities more precise statement of their hopes and wishes with respect to Turkey’s possible entrance into the war.
This telegram is being repeated to London as the Department’s 3613 of May 5 for discussion by our Embassy with the British authorities concerned. We fully recognize that agreement with the British on broad policy lines is necessary before definitive discussions with the Turks. Your comments and views on this telegram are urgently requested.
It should be noted that an underlying assumption is that our basic bargaining position vis-à-vis the Turks is extremely strong. It would appear that, notwithstanding Numan’s speech of April 20, Turkey’s embargo of chrome to Germany was a realistic action. In making a “gift” which military developments might not much longer have left in her power to proffer, Turkey burned her bridges to Germany behind her. Once our economic warfare objectives are fully achieved there is little we need of Turkey in terms of procurement. On the other hand since Turkey will need our supplies, the British and we will be on the giving rather than the receiving end.
FEA concurs fully in this telegram.
  1. Repeated to London as telegram 3613, with instructions to discuss the proposal contained therein with appropriate British officials.
  2. Address by the Secretary of State over the network of the Columbia Broadcasting System, April 9, 1944, Department of State Bulletin, April 15, 1944, p. 335.
  3. The British-American Coordinating Committee in Turkey.
  4. Ministry of Economic Warfare.
  5. George Powell of the Foreign Economic Administration, Washington, was at this time on a special mission to examine and report on the policies and procedures governing Anglo-American supply operations in Turkey; William Diamond was his assistant.