Truman Papers

No. 681
Revised Briefing Book Paper 1

top secret

Memorandum Regarding the Montreux Convention 2

The U. S. S. R. indicated at Yalta briefly, without stating its desiderata, that it was not satisfied with the existing Convention, [Page 1014] and it was agreed by the Big Three that the U. S. S. R. would make known its wishes at a later date to the American and British Governments for discussion at the prospective “Meeting of Foreign Ministers”.3 In a memorandum handed to the British Embassy June 234 the Department stated that: “this Government stands ready to discuss the question of the Straits at the forthcoming meeting of the Heads of Government when, presumably, the Soviet Government will present its desiderata in this connection”.

Thus this Government, which is not a signatory to the Montreux Convention (signed July 20, 1936 by Bulgaria, France, Great Britain, Greece, Japan, Rumania, Turkey, the U. S. S. R. and Yugoslavia) has been brought fully into this picture by Britain and the U. S. S. R. without consultation with Turkey, although the latter would undoubtedly be pleased to know that the United States is interested in the future of the Straits.

U. S. Interests

The chief United States interests in this problem are (a) to prevent the Dardanelles from becoming an area of international dispute and a potential threat to world peace and (b) to ensure the unrestricted use of the Dardanelles for peaceful commerce.

U. S. Attitude Towards Possible Changes in the Montreux Convention.

The Government of the United States believes that following the present war the Montreux Convention to some extent will be outmoded, and agrees that certain changes might be advisable. The United States would therefore not oppose a revision of the Convention along lines which would make it possible that:

In time of peace the Straits would be open to commercial vessels of all nations.
In time of peace the Straits would be open for ingress or egress of war vessels of Black Sea riparian powers.
In time of peace there should be certain restrictions upon the aggregate strength in the Black Sea at any one time of the war vessels of non-riparian Black Sea powers.
During a war in which one or more of the Black Sea riparian powers is involved, no war ships of any non-riparian power shall be admitted into the Black Sea without the consent of the riparian power or powers at war, unless they are moving under the direction of the United Nations Organization.
During time of war, regardless of whether one or more of the Black Sea powers is involved, the war vessels of the Black Sea riparian powers shall have free ingress and egress through the Straits in the absence of contrary directions of the United Nations Organization.
No power other than Turkey shall be granted the right to have a fortification on the Dardanelles or to maintain any bases in the Dardanelles without the free consent of Turkey.5
Regardless of the points above, if Turkey is at war or threatened with imminent danger of war the passage of warships shall be left entirely to the discretion of the Turkish Government unless the course taken by Turkey under this provision is interdicted by the United Nations Organization.
Foregoing points represent only a rough outline for a revised regime of the Straits which would be satisfactory to this Government. These points would require general refinement and expansion before they could be incorporated into a formal document. The preliminary advice of the War and Navy Departments should be obtained in connection with the drafting of such a document.

  1. In Truman’s copy of the Briefing Book this paper has been substituted for document No. 680.
  2. In another version of this revised Briefing Book paper (file No. 740.00119 Council/6–3045), also dated June 30, the parenthetical phrase “(For Use If This Question Arises)” has been added to this heading. This variant paper was in Dunn’s copy of the Briefing Book together with documents Nos. 680 and 681. Another copy of this variant text bears the following manuscript notations: “for Big 3 Meeting” and “as revised 4:00 PM 6–30”.
  3. See vol. ii, document No. 1416, section xiv .
  4. Document No. 688.
  5. In the version referred to in footnote 2, ante, paragraph 6, which is the final paragraph of the paper, reads as follows: “6. The American Government would have no objection to the establishment by the Soviet Union of fortifications on the Dardanelles, or to the maintenance by the Soviet Union of bases on the Dardanelles, provided these fortifications and bases are established with the free consent of Turkey.”