The Ambassador in Turkey ( Wilson ) to the Secretary of State
[Received March 18—5:12 p.m.]
341. Information re Soviet military dispositions in Rumania and Bulgaria received from member US group, ACC Rumania, who recently visited Istanbul, seems important. While Dept undoubtedly has this information, I summarize it as follows:
- For past 2 weeks, heavy troop movements southward by rail from Bessarabia to Dobruja, thence into Bulgaria. Heavy concentration troops in Dobruja and northeast Bulgaria. Among these are fresh troops from Russia with large portion armor.
- Railroad from Bessarabia to Ploesti widened to Russian gauge and sidings and loading platforms established at Ploesti for transferring shipments to standard gauge Rumanian cars.
- Large ammunition dumps located at many points, notably Craiova and Ploesti.
- A flight of about 202-engined [20 2-engined?] fighter planes, which passed near Constanza about 10 days ago, now located at Plovdiv, which is HQ for Russian air forces, Bulgaria.
- All 60 odd hospitals in Bucharest area instructed be fully equipped with medicines, bandages, etc., by 1st April and all convalescents evacuated that date.
Foregoing information coupled with reports of Soviet troop movements in Iran toward Turkish frontier would indicate that USSR may shortly be in position to strike at Turkey if and when this should appear advisable from viewpoint Soviet interests.
Soviet objective regarding Turkey as I have reported to Dept is to break present Turkish Government, install “friendly” government, resulting in closing Turkish gap in Soviet security belt from Baltic to Black Sea, giving USSR physical control of Straits and putting end to Western influence in Turkey. In short, domination of Turkey.
Present Soviet military dispositions raise question whether they have decided to use force to achieve this objective. I have held belief that USSR would use indirect methods of aggression against Turkey, such as employment Armenian and Kurdish “fronts” in Eastern Provinces, rather than take risks involved in open war. It has even seemed to me Soviets stand to gain by postponing action against Turkey, letting time work in their favor. They are now consolidating position in Iran which means Eastern prong of pincers has closed on Turkey. After Greek elections, British Socialist Government can hardly withstand pressure to withdraw troops from Greece, which will open door to civil war, intervention by Tito and Company, and creation of “friendly” government in Greece, thus closing Western prong of pincers and isolating Turkey from British help through Mediterranean. To embark on war against Turkey would mean that Soviet rulers have taken fundamental decision to break with policy of cooperation with Western democracies. This would be very grave decision fraught with heavy risks. Only signs of which I am aware that might indicate such decision has been taken are these troop movements36 (which of course we have seen before in past months) and recent curtailment activities foreign correspondents in Moscow.
However, this may be, it seems to me this latest military information at least makes it necessary to reconsider earlier views as to Soviet tactics against Turkey and not rule out possibility, however illogical it may seem, of use of force by Russia against Turkey any time after April 15, approximate date when roads will be dry enough for large movements.
Sent Dept as 341, repeated Moscow as 34.
- In telegram 345, March 19, 7 p.m., from Ankara, the Ambassador reported a conversation with Prime Minister Saraçoğlu, who did not believe the troop movements foreshadowed an open attack on Turkey by the Soviet Union and regarded them as continuation of a “war of nerves”. (761.67/3–1946)↩