Memorandum by the Acting Secretary of State
Memorandum of Conversation
Subject: Soviet-Turkish Relations
|Participants:||Turkish Ambassador, Mr. Hüseyin Rağip Baydur;|
|Acting Secretary, Mr. Grew|
The Turkish Ambassador called on me this morning with his secretary, who acted as interpreter, and, after some preliminary talk concerning the success of the San Francisco Conference, the Ambassador said that the Turkish Foreign Minister1 wished him to express to me his great regret that, owing to the early sailing from Boston on a ship on which he had found accommodations, he had been unable to stop in Washington and this had been a great disappointment to him as he had looked forward to his visit here. I thanked the Ambassador for his message and said that I fully understood the reasons which had obliged his Foreign Minister to abandon his plans to stop in Washington.
The Ambassador then turned to the conversation which had taken place in Moscow some three weeks ago between Mr. Molotov and the Turkish Ambassador in which the former had stated the Soviet demand for (1) a rectification of the Turco-Soviet frontier, (2) a demand for bases on the Dardanelles, and (3) a bilateral modification of the Montreux Treaty. Subsequently Mr. Molotov had added that there might be also certain requirements from the Balkan states, which the Ambassador interpreted as some sort of a territorial demand from Bulgaria.
The Ambassador said that he had come to see me for the purpose of ascertaining the attitude of the American Government towards this situation.[Page 1045]
I said to the Ambassador that this Government is very definitely concerned with any threat to the peace which might fall within the purview of the United Nations organization. For the present we understood that the conversations had been a friendly exchange of views and that no concrete threats had been made. The Ambassador asked me whether, if the Soviet Government should demand that we cede to the Soviet Union the cities of Boston and San Francisco, we would not consider such a demand as a threat, and he also asked whether we felt that such a demand could be a matter for negotiation. I replied definitely in the negative but I asked the Ambassador whether the Soviet Government had specified the nature of the frontier rectification which it desired and whether the demands were yet of such a concrete nature as to be regarded as open threats. The Ambassador replied that Mr. Molotov had stated that the Treaty of 1921 had been negotiated at a time when Soviet Russia was weak and he had added, “Now we are strong.” The obvious implication was that Soviet Russia desired the return of the Vilayets of Kars and Ardahan.
The Ambassador then said he wished me to know—and he felt sure that in the light of my own friendship for and knowledge of the Turkish Republic I would know this myself—that Turkey would not cede one inch of territory and that if Soviet Russia should appropriate such Turkish territory Turkey would immediately fight. A situation would thus be created which was totally contrary to the spirit and letter of all that had been achieved at San Francisco.
The Ambassador then went on to say that the Turkish Government felt very strongly that strong representations by the United States in advance of possible trouble would have a powerful effect on the Soviet Government. He understood that I had told Lord Halifax that the American Government would support the proposed démarche of the British Government in Moscow but that later Ambassador Wilson at Ankara had informed the Turkish Foreign Office that the matter would be further studied and had implied that I had made no such statement.
I immediately told the Ambassador that Mr. Wilson was quite right; I had had no conversation on this subject with Lord Halifax, whom I had not seen officially since his return from San Francisco. (The Ambassador was clearly referring to my conversation with Mr. Balfour in which I had said that we would prefer to delay action on this matter until after the San Francisco Conference 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, however, said that his Government hoped that we would at least support the British action with some [Page 1046] step of our own.2 Mr. Balfour happened to call on me a few moments after my conversation with the Turkish Ambassador and definitely corroborated my understanding of what I had said to him. He said he had reported my position accurately to his Government and that no indication had been given of any commitment whatever on my part.)
I then said to the Ambassador that he must know very well himself that we have been following this situation with concern; that I hoped that the subject might be discussed at the coming meeting of heads of government and that, for that purpose, the President had been fully briefed on all the information in our possession. I personally believed that much more could be accomplished by a direct talk between the President and Marshal Stalin than could be accomplished by any formal representations made to Moscow. In any case, I thought that the matter could better be left without action on our part until we could learn whether it will have been discussed at the Berlin meeting, and the results. I said that this Government, as a friend both of Turkey and the Soviet Union, would naturally be glad to be of assistance in arriving at a peaceful solution of the problem. The Ambassador must understand that this was in no respect an offer of mediation but merely a statement of our general attitude in all such situations. The Ambassador said that he understood my position perfectly but he wished to repeat with all possible emphasis that Turkey would cede no territory and was prepared to fight if necessary.
My attitude in the conversation clearly indicated my sympathy with Turkey’s position but no commitment of any kind was made or implied.