No. 683
Memorandum by the Acting Secretary of State

Memorandum of Conversation

Subject: Soviet-Turkish Relations

Participants: British Chargé d’Affaires [Minister], Mr. John Balfour;
Acting Secretary, Mr. Grew.

Mr. Balfour of the British Embassy called on me this afternoon and left with me the appended text of a telegram1 from the British Minister at Istanbul to the Foreign Office of June 13 and an aide-mémoire from the British Embassy to the Department of June 18 setting forth a conversation between Mr. Molotov and the Turkish Ambassador to Moscow2 in which the former stated that before proceeding to the negotiation of a new Soviet-Turkish Treaty3 it would [Page 1018] be best to solve outstanding questions between Turkey and Russia as follows:

Russo-Turkish treaty of 1921.4 Molotov stated that cessions of territory made by Russia to Turkey under this treaty were made under duress and required revision,
The cession of bases by Turkey to Russia in the Straits,
An agreement between Turkey and Russia as to the revision of Montreux Convention.

The Turkish Ambassador stated to Mr. Molotov in reply that his Government was not prepared to reopen the question of the Russo-Turkish Treaty of 1921 which they considered to have been freely negotiated nor could they even consider granting Russia bases in the Straits. As regards the Montreux Convention the Turkish Ambassador repeated that this was not a matter which could be discussed between the two Governments alone. The Turkish Government has approved its Ambassador’s attitude.

The British Government, especially in view of the Anglo-Turkish Treaty,5 proposes to support the Turkish position particularly as the position taken by Mr. Molotov appears to be in direct conflict with statements made by Marshal Stalin at Yalta.6 The British Government hopes that the United States Government will agree to a joint Anglo-American approach along the lines of its aide-mémoire and that this approach be made to the Soviet Government prior to the meeting of the Big Three at which it may well be necessary to discuss this whole question.

I said to Mr. Balfour that I would give immediate attention to the British Government’s proposal but that I could make no commitment until this whole subject had been given careful study here. In any case, I said I thought it would be preferable to withhold action until the end of the San Francisco Conference7 which it was now hoped might be brought to a close on or about June 23 and that if action were to be taken there would presumably be plenty of time between the close of the San Francisco Conference and the meeting of the Big Three. Mr. Balfour said he agreed with me and as he understood that the Big Three meeting would not take place before July 15 he [Page 1019] also thought that it would be well to delay action until after the San Francisco Conference had been concluded. He said he was further asked to say to me that even if we should not feel in a position to make a joint approach with the British Government, his Government hoped that we would at least support the British action with some step of our own.

J[oseph] C. G[rew]


His Majesty’s Representative at Istanbul in a telegram dated the 13th June reported that the Turkish Government, from conversations between their Ambassador in Moscow and M. Molotov, had recently received indications of the sweeping demands that the Soviet Government were likely to make on Turkey in regard to the conclusion of a new treaty between the two countries which would in particular affect the future status of the Dardanelles. A copy of this telegram is attached.8

In view of this information from Istanbul His Majesty’s Government think it desirable that representations to the Soviet Government should be on the following lines.

The Soviet Government should be plainly told that His Majesty’s Government and the United States Government are at a loss to understand M. Molotov’s action. Even if the revision of the Russo-Turkish Treaty of 1921 (paragraph 3a of attached telegram) is the primary concern of the Soviet and Turkish Governments alone and, although this is open to doubt, the question of the cession of bases by Turkey to Soviet Russia in the Straits (paragraph 36 of attached telegram) is possibly also a Soviet-Turkish matter, both points nevertheless also concern the powers responsible for the World Organisation. This is the case alike from the general standpoint of the principles enunciated by President Truman in connection with the settlement of the Venezia Giulia problem—namely that the fundamental principles of territorial settlement by orderly process must be upheld against force, intimidation or blackmail9—and, in particular, because of the explicit assurances given by Marshal Stalin at Yalta. Marshal Stalin then stated that he readily agreed that “appropriate assurances should be given to Turkey regarding the maintenance of her independence and integrity”, and that in particular she should be reassured as a preliminary to the revision of the Montreux Convention.10 The third point made by M. Molotov in his conversation with the [Page 1020] Turkish Ambassador in Moscow is in direct conflict with Marshal Stalin’s statement at Yalta. It is also surprising that M. Molotov should have proposed a Turkish-Soviet understanding about the Straits at a time when His Majesty’s Government and the United States Government are still awaiting the views of the Soviet Government which the latter promised to communicate at the Crimea Conference.11

If the Turkish Government have no objection to such an approach, His Majesty’s Government hope that the United States Government will agree that a joint Anglo-American approach on the above lines should be made to the Soviet Government in firm language and soon, that is, before the Big Three meeting at which it may well be necessary subsequently to discuss the whole question.

  1. The telegram referred to (not printed) contained a report from the British Ambassador in Turkey, Sir Maurice Drummond Peterson, then at Istanbul (see documents Nos. 684 and 685), concerning the Soviet-Turkish conversation described below. For the report on the same subject of the American Ambassador at Ankara, Edwin C. Wilson, see document No. 684.
  2. Selim Sarper.
  3. To replace the Treaty of Friendship and Neutrality concluded by the Soviet Union and Turkey at Paris, December 17, 1925, as revised and extended. Text of the treaty of 1925 in League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. clvii, p. 353 (where the treaty text is followed by the texts of related documents), and in Leonard Shapiro, ed., Soviet Treaty Series: A Collection of Bilateral Treaties, Agreements and Conventions, etc., Concluded Between the Soviet Union and Foreign Powers (Washington, 1950– ), vol. i, p. 313. This treaty was to expire in 1945, the Soviet Union having given the required notice on March 19, 1945, to prevent its automatic extension for another term. See British and Foreign State Papers, vol. cxlv, p. 1175.
  4. i. e., the Treaty of Kars, concluded October 13, 1921, between the Government of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, on the one hand, and the Governments of the Soviet Socialist Republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, on the other (with the participation of the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic) . Text in British and Foreign State Papers, vol. cxx, p. 906, and in Shapiro, ed., Soviet Treaty Series, vol. i, p. 136.
  5. i. e., the Treaty of Mutual Assistance concluded by the United Kingdom, France, and Turkey, signed at Ankara, October 19, 1939. Text in British and Foreign State Papers, vol. cli, p. 213.
  6. See Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Malta and Yalta, 1945, p. 328. Cf. document No. 705.
  7. i. e., the United Nations Conference on International Organization.
  8. Not printed.
  9. See Truman, Year of Decisions, p. 247.
  10. See Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Malta and Yalta, 1945, pp. 903904, 982.
  11. See Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Malta and Yalta, 1945, p. 982.