867.24/10–1044: Telegram

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

1935. The Secretary General of the Foreign Office1 informed me today that he had completed his discussions concerning the proposed mutual aid agreement with the Prime Minister and various Parliamentary leaders. He said that as a result of these discussions the Turkish Government was prepared subject to the qualifications set forth below to sign the mutual aid agreement and expected no serious difficulty in having the same approved by Parliament.

As Turkey has not been engaged in military operations, the Turkish Government will not be able to claim that the Lend Lease war material received from the United States was “destroyed, lost or consumed” and in consequence should the President of the United [Page 909] States pursuant to article V of the proposed agreement demand the return of this material, the Turkish Government would be confronted with a serious situation, if at the time of the demand it was either threatened by or engaged in war with another power and its position would be made untenable by an obligation to return this material. On the other hand, the Turkish Government recognizes the propriety of article V and proposes an exchange of letters under the terms of which the Turkish Government will have the option in the event of a demand by the President of the United States under article V for the return of the materials to pay therefor in lieu of returning the material.
The Turkish Government desires an assurance which it is prepared to accept verbally from me if I am authorized by Washington to give the same that article VII does not obligate or commit the Turkish Government beyond discussions in a spirit of good will. It appears that several Parliamentary leaders have raised the question with the ForOf as to whether article VII might not be construed by the United States as a binding commitment or obligation by the Turkish Government to agree to any demands that may be made with respect to the matters referred to in article VII.
The Turkish Government desires an assurance which it is prepared to accept verbally from me if I am authorized by Washington to give the same, that the signing of the mutual aid agreement will not be availed of by Washington to automatically terminate Lend Lease to Turkey or as merely regularizing past transaction but that Lend Lease to Turkey will continue to such extent as the Government of the United States deems appropriate having regard to developing conditions.

Açikalin stated that as soon as the foregoing matters have been disposed of the Turkish authorities will be prepared to sign the agreement.

As I assume the Department desires my comments with respect to the three foregoing points, they are as follows:

I have little doubt that the request for an option to pay in full for the war material thus far received instead of returning the material should a demand for its return be made is prompted by the fear entertained by nearly every Turk of an armed clash with Bulgaria ‘or Russia at some time in the near future and that to avoid being under the necessity in such event of publicly repudiating its obligation to return the material, it would prefer to pay in full therefor.
While on the face of article VII there does not appear to be any obligation by the Turkish Government other than to discuss in a spirit of good will the matters therein referred to and no definite commitment to take specific action appears to be required, the Turks apparently fear that as between a great power and a small power a contrary interpretation may be given to this article.
I am inclined to the view that the Foreign Office is less motivated in seeking this assurance by the hope that Lend Lease material in any quantities will be much longer forthcoming than by the fear of criticism in Parliamentary circles that in signing the agreement the Government put an end to Lend Lease whereas by dragging out the negotiations a small trickle might continue to arrive. In view of this state of mind, it seems to me that the desired assurance could [Page 910] be given as I understand that there is some Lend Lease material still en route and it being unlikely that actual arrivals in Turkey will stop completely for some weeks or perhaps months.

In my opinion unless we seize the present opportunity of having the mutual aid agreement signed by the Turks, they will under one pretext or another drag the matter along indefinitely with the probability that it will become increasingly difficult to obtain their signature. Furthermore once Lend Lease deliveries cease to arrive in Turkey, I doubt the Turks will thereafter be willing to sign the agreement although they would probably be willing to sign some kind of receipt for the material received.

  1. Cevat Açikalin.