The Ambassador in Turkey (Wilson) to the Secretary of State


My Dear Mr. Secretary: I acknowledge receipt on March 18 of your secret letter of February 27, 1946,37 enclosing a Foreign Policy and Information statement on Turkey and inviting my comments and recommendations.

[Here follows discussion of various items in the statement.]

There is one fundamental point in which I feel the wording of the statement does not express entirely my own views. In IIA, Page 7, [Page 821] present Soviet objectives towards Turkey are stated to be “(1) Revision of the régime of the Straits which would give the USSR a dominant position in regulating the passage of warships through the Straits,” et cetera. Under section III, Summary of Issues and Trends in Turkey, paragraph B, Page 8, it is stated that the question of the Straits is “probably the fundamental question in Russo-Turkish relations”. As I have tried to point out to the Department various times, the question of the Straits, so far as Russo-Turkish relations are concerned, and particularly so far as the Soviet conception of such relations is involved, is, in my opinion, a secondary matter, in fact, merely a façade behind which resides the real Soviet objective towards Turkey. The development of air power during the past war has greatly limited the value of the Straits from the strategic viewpoint. The Straits were in fact controlled during the war by air power based on the Greek Islands. The real Soviet objective towards Turkey is not a revision of the régime of the Straits, but actual domination of Turkey. In the vast security belt of the Soviet Union which extends from the Baltic to the Black Sea, composed of vassal states, Turkey constitutes the sole gap. Turkey maintains an independent foreign policy and in particular looks to the western democracies for guidance and assistance. This the Soviet Union is unwilling to tolerate. The Soviet objective, therefore, is to break down this present independent Turkish Government and to establish in its place a vassal or “friendly” régime in Turkey, which will complete the security chain of subservient countries on Russia’s western and southern frontiers and put an end completely to western influence in Turkey. The accomplishment of this objective would, incidentally, give actual physical control of the Straits to Russia, but this, as pointed out, is not the primary Soviet aim. If, in fact, the main Soviet objective towards Turkey were to obtain a favorable revision of the régime of the Straits, all that the Soviet Union would have to do would be to signify acceptance in principle of our proposal of November 2, 1945, for revision of the Montreux Convention. Our proposal, granting the Black Sea powers a privileged position at the Straits, contains in essence the desiderata for which Russia has struggled at the Straits since the time of Peter the Great. The fact that the Soviet Union has declined to follow the procedure agreed upon at Potsdam and to present its views to the Turkish Government concerning revision of the Montreux Convention, but has instead insisted upon “a positive guarantee” in the form of bases in the Straits, indicates clearly that revision of the international convention governing passage of the Straits is of little importance to the USSR. To force Turkey, however, to grant bases in the Straits would be tantamount to the disappearance of Turkey as an independent power and [Page 822] would place Turkey in the same position vis-à-vis the Soviet Union as Bulgaria, Rumania, Poland, et cetera, et cetera.

On Page 1 of the statement there appear the words, “Our support of Turkey …”, but nowhere is this phrase defined. Presumably, we intend to give Turkey all possible support in and through the UNO, which would appear to cover every contingency except one: armed attack by the Soviet Union. In the event of such an attack, the use of the Soviet veto might effectively block any “legal” intervention by the UNO. What do we do then? If we have an answer ready it is of course Top Secret and therefore not to be mentioned in this document; but without such an answer any statement of our Turkish policy is incomplete.38

Respectfully yours,

Edwin C. Wilson
  1. Not printed.
  2. On July 18 the Secretary informed Ambassador Wilson that his comments had been used in revising the statement on Turkey and asked for comment on the revision (711.00/3–2346).