The Deputy Director of the Office
of Near Eastern and African Affairs (Allen) to the Assistant Secretary of State
Subject: Joint Chiefs of Staff Paper2 on the Dardanelles.
The paper recommends in brief that the U. S. Delegation should try to “limit and postpone discussion of the Dardanelles”, and in any case should insist that final decision be delayed until it can be made a part of the general peace settlement. The paper points out the many instances in which Russia is gaining control over various areas while the other Allies follow the agreed policy of waiting for the peace settlement to present their claims. The Joint Chiefs think we should insist that Russia follow our practice in this instance.
If we are compelled to reach an agreement now on the Dardanelles, the Joint Chiefs think that, from the security point of view, the U. S. should:
- agree to revision of the Montreux Convention along the lines suggested by the State Department paper.3 (I attach a copy of our paper, as revised, for convenient reference).
- support the demilitarization of the Straits. Failing this, we “should oppose any proposals granting a nation, other than Turkey, bases or other rights for direct or indirect military control of the Straits”.
Comment: The Joint Chiefs agree with the first five points of the State Department paper (which deal with the revision of the Montreux Convention), but do not agree with our sixth point. You will recall that following your discussion with Loy Henderson, we revised our sixth point to say that we would not object to Russian bases on the Straits provided they were established with the free consent of Turkey.4 The Joint Chiefs feel that we should oppose either bases or direct or indirect control of the Straits by any power other than Turkey. This, as you know, is also the strong British view, and the view the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs has long held. I myself fully agree with the Joint Chiefs’ position.
As regards the Joint Chiefs’ suggestion of demilitarization, this would return the Straits’ status to that of the Lausanne Treaty of 1923,5 which Turkey never liked and which she was finally able to change in the Montreux Convention of 1936, when Turkey was given [Page 1426] the right to refortify the Straits. Neutralization would be in American strategic interests if the Turkish Government should some day come tinder the influence of a power hostile to the United States—in which case we would welcome the Straits being unfortified. However, as long as Turkey is friendly to us, Turkish fortifications along the Dardanelles are in our interests and are a very considerable protection to British interests in the Aegean and Mediterranean. Perhaps the Joint Chiefs feel that Turkey must inevitably come under hostile influence sooner or later. They consider that neutralization is the best for us in the long run and may be a compromise acceptable to Russia while avoiding Russian bases.
Turkey would undoubtedly resist neutralization bitterly and I do not see how it can be forced on her without violating the principles of the United Nations.
In brief, I concur fully in the Joint Chiefs’ paper with the possible exception of the suggestion that the Straits be neutralized. I think we should insist in this regard, as in regard to bases, that neutralization, if agreed upon, must be established with the free consent of Turkey.
- Printed from a carbon copy on which there are uncertified typed initials.↩
- Document No. 1363.↩
- Not attached. See vol. i, document No. 681.↩
- See vol. i, document No. 681, footnote 5.↩
- Substantive provisions in Howard, The Problem of the Turkish Straits, p. 21. For full text, see League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. xxviii, p. 115.↩