Memorandum by the British Embassy in Greece to the American Embassy in Greece
On October 15th the Minister of Defense, Mr. Alexander, discussed with Mr. Byrnes, at the latter’s request, the strength of the Turkish and Greek forces and the state of their efficiency. Mr. Byrnes explained that the United States Government were anxious about their deficiencies as they thought these two countries might become outposts of some importance, and that both the United States Government and His Majesty’s Government should do what they could to help them to be at least in a sufficient state of readiness. The question was how best to do this. Mr. Byrnes felt that it would be best for the United States not to supply military equipment because of the danger of other powers being able to bring a charge of aggressive intentions on her part. He felt, however, that as His Majesty’s Government are in alliance with Greece and Turkey, it would be possible for them to supply the equipment without such criticism arising. On the other hand the United States Government were prepared to do everything they possibly could to help the two countries economically. There had been requests from Turkey for a credit in America, he thought, for the purchase of aeroplanes, but up to the present it had been the general policy of the United States not to supply military equipment to Middle East countries. Meanwhile the United States Government were looking round to see whether they could supply things of a more general character such as trucks, although they had not much left. There was also the question of applications from the two countries for credits from the International Bank, and Mr. Byrnes felt from the way the Greeks had presented their case so far that they wanted help and advice on these matters. He was consequently arranging for an Economic Mission to visit Greece consisting of three well qualified economists to look into the whole economic position and to see how far America could help. They were already arranging to give the Greeks credits for supply of ships, mostly of the smaller coastal type.
- Mr. Alexander then gave Mr. Byrnes a general picture of the state of Turkish forces, using information supplied by the Chiefs of Staff Committee. As regards the Navy, Mr. Alexander gave Mr. Byrnes a picture of the strength of both Greece and Turkey and said that in any action in which both were involved they would be of considerable assistance to each other provided the Turks could be brought into a greater state of efficiency and that political diversions in the Greek fleet could be ruled out.
- Mr. Byrnes appeared to consider that it might be possible for the United States to supply some additional aeroplanes to Turkey in excess [Page 914]of those being supplied by His Majesty’s Government, but said he hoped that the latter should be able to do something more in the way of training the Turkish Air Force.
- Towards the end of the discussion Mr. Byrnes said that he felt a little more reassured because obviously His Majesty’s Government had a good deal more knowledge of the military situation in Greece and Turkey than the United States authorities, and that he hoped they would agree that the best way of tackling the situation now would be for them to undertake the supply of military, naval and air force equipment that the two countries required, and that the United States should help with nonmilitary and general economic assistance.
- Mr. Byrnes said he hoped we should be able to leave the expanded Greek Army in a good state of training and enquired whether we could not consider leaving behind as much equipment as possible when we withdrew our forces.
- Mr. Alexander replied that His Majesty’s Government had already been helping Greece and Turkey in this matter to the best of their ability, and no doubt economic assistance to both countries would be very valuable, but he was sure that Mr. Byrnes would recognise that the United Kingdom had already shouldered a very large burden in the case of Greece and big expenditure in the case of Turkey. Naturally, their general position being as it is, they wished to reduce their expenditure in those directions as much as possible. Mr. Alexander undertook to communicate further information to the United States Government in regard to the assistance which might be given to Greece and Turkey in the military field after a further review of the problem by the Chiefs of Staff and the Defense Committee.
- The question of United States assistance for Greece and Turkey was subsequently discussed further with the Director of Near East Affairs at the State Department by His Majesty’s Embassy in Washington on October 30th. Mr. Henderson stated that he had just had a discussion with Mr. Byrnes on the subject, and confirmed that inasmuch as Turkey and Greece were of strategic importance to the United States, the United States Government was closely interested in Turkish and Greek affairs.
- Mr. Henderson expressed great interest in receiving the information which Mr. Alexander had undertaken to give regarding British Military assistance to these two countries. The understanding that His Majesty’s Government would be primarily responsible for this did not mean that the United States Government would not be glad to examine the possibility of helping in this field if His Majesty’s Government were unable to supply the essential requirements. He also said he hoped that our information would include an analysis of the present state of Turkish and Greek armed forces, particularly the latter. He had for example heard that there was considerable disaffection [Page 915]in the Greek Army. While it was obvious that the Greek Army could not prevent a full scale invasion from the North, it would be interesting to know to what extent it was capable of maintaining order on and of preventing infiltration over the frontier of Greece.
- As regards United States economic assistance, Turkey had received a 25 million dollars loan from the Export Import Bank, tied, as was required by the Bank’s Charter, to certain specific projects. Turkey had asked for a much larger sum than this, but it was not known by what means they could obtain further credits, except from the World Bank. Greece had received a similar 25,000,000 dollars loan from the Export Import Bank. In addition they had received a credit for the purchase of surplus property which has now been increased to 45,000,000 dollars. The Greek Minister of Marine was now in the United States, negotiating a separate transaction for purchase of up to 60,000,000 dollars worth of surplus United States merchant vessels. He was acting on behalf of private Greek ship-owners whose power of attorney he held. There would be an initial cash payment of 25%, payment of balance being guaranteed by the Greek Government. Mr. Henderson went on to confirm that an American Economic Mission would shortly visit Greece to examine the whole economic position and to suggest how she might best be assisted. The Mission, which plans to stay for a few months, would keep in close touch with the British Economic experts there. It was improbable that any further loans to Greece would be made until the Mission returned. Meanwhile the State Department were considering what would happen in the case of Greece when U.N.R.R.A. shipments come to an end. It was obvious that financial assistance would be required but it was not clear how the United States Government could provide this. One alternative was to obtain a grant-in-aid from Congress; another was to arrange for an interest-bearing loan.
- Finally, Mr. Henderson said that in general the State Department would welcome any suggestions that His Majesty’s Government might have in regard to economic assistance to Turkey and Greece, and that, as indicated above, if there were gaps in what the latter could supply, the United States Government would be glad to consider the possibility of providing this type of assistance as well.