740.00119 Council/8–1546: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Secretary of State, at Paris

top secret
us urgent   niact

4122. Secdel 676. For Secretary Byrnes only. State War Navy Depts at highest levels, after series of meetings, agreed upon a memorandum re Turkey and the Soviet Union. This memo was presented to President in person today by Secretaries of War and Navy and myself. Also present were top ranking officers of army and navy.

President approved policy recommended in the memo and stated he was prepared to pursue it “to the end”. President specifically asked for any comments which you may care to make.

It was agreed with President that draft reply to Turkish Govt’s inquiry as to our attitude toward Soviet proposals re the Straits should be prepared at once and sent to you for comment and to him for approval before despatch to Ankara.

Draft reply will follow in subsequent telegram. President planning leave Washington Aug 16—2:30 PM so any comment re memo should reach him before that hour.

Memo reads as follows:

“In our opinion, the primary objective of the Soviet Union is to obtain control of Turkey.

We believe that if the Soviet Union succeeds in introducing into Turkey armed forces with the ostensible purpose of enforcing the joint control of the Straits, the Soviet Union will use these forces in order to obtain control over Turkey.

If the Soviet Union succeeds in its objective obtaining control over Turkey it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to prevent the Soviet Union from obtaining control over Greece and over the whole Near and Middle East.

It is our experience that when the Soviet Union obtains predominance in an area, American and, in fact, all Western influences and contacts are gradually eliminated from that area. In our opinion, therefore, the establishment by the Soviet Union of bases in the Dardanelles [Page 841] or the introduction of Soviet armed forces into Turkey on some other pretext would, in the natural course of events, results in Greece and the whole Near and Middle East, including the Eastern Mediterranean, falling under Soviet control and in those areas being cut off from the Western world.

When we refer to the Near and Middle East, we have in mind the territory lying between the Mediterranean and India. When the Soviet Union has once obtained full mastery of this territory, which is strategically important from the point of view of resources, including oil, and from the point of view of communications, it will be in a much stronger position to obtain its objectives in India and China.

We, therefore, feel that it is in the vital interests of the United States that the Soviet Union should not by force or through threat of force succeed in its unilateral plans with regard to the Dardanelles and Turkey. If Turkey under pressure should agree to the Soviet proposals, any case which we might later present in opposition to the Soviet plan before the United Nations or to the world public would be materially weakened; but the Turkish Government insists that it has faith in the United Nations system and that it will resist by force Soviet efforts to secure bases in Turkish territory even if Turkey has to fight alone. While this may be the present Turkish position, we are frankly doubtful whether Turkey will continue to adhere to this determination without assurance of support from the United States.

It is unfortunate that the Soviet Union, ignoring the United Nations and Montreux concept of Straits control, has made a formal proposal to Turkey for bilateral agreement regarding the joint defense of the Straits because it is always extremely difficult to persuade the Soviet Union, once formally committed on a subject, to retreat. Experience has shown such a retreat cannot be brought about by skillful argument or the appeal to reason. The only thing which will deter the Russians will be the conviction that the United States is prepared, if necessary, to meet aggression with force of arms. There is a strong possibility that if the Soviet Union is given clearly and unequivocally to understand that the United States will firmly and with determination support Turkey in case Turkey is made the object of Soviet measures threatening the independence, sovereignty or territorial interests of Turkey the Soviet Union will pause and will not push the matter further at this time.

In our opinion therefore the time has come when we must decide that we shall resist with all means at our disposal any Soviet aggression and in particular, because the case of Turkey would be so clear, any Soviet aggression against Turkey. In carrying out this policy our words and acts will only carry conviction to the Soviet Union if they are formulated against the background of an inner conviction and determination on our part that we cannot permit Turkey to become the object of Soviet aggression. Threats or provocations should have no part in the implementation of this policy which will require in the first instance frank discussions with the principal nations involved and strong support of Turkey in the United Nations, should that become necessary.

[Page 842]

In our judgment the best hope of preserving peace is that the conviction should be carried to the U.S.S.R., Turkey and all other powers that in case the United Nations is unsuccessful in stopping Soviet aggression, the United States would not hesitate to join other nations in meeting armed aggression by the force of American arms.”61a

  1. The Secretary of State directed that a copy of telegram 4122 be sent to Ambassador Wilson because he felt it “highly important” for the Ambassador to have the telegram as background (letter of August 17 to Ambassador Wilson from H. Freeman Matthews, Political Adviser to Secretary Marshall at the Paris Peace Conference, Ankara Post Files, Lot 57–F72, 800 Political Affairs). Mr. Matthews’ communication noted also that “It seems to us obviously necessary that you should be fully informed of the seriousness with which the question of Turkey’s integrity is regarded in the highest quarters.”