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

top secret

Dear Ed: Since the return of the Secretary, there have been a number of conferences with regard to the policy which we should pursue concerning the delicate question of the providing of arms and military supplies to Turkey.

On the one hand, we are concerned lest Turkey should obtain the impression that our support of Turkish territorial integrity and independence is limited to words, in case Ave categorically turn down all Turkish requests for arms and military equipment. On the other hand, we also have concern lest, in case we supply arms and military equipment to Turkey, the impression be obtained in the United States and elsewhere that we are carrying on a provocative policy with regard to the Soviet Union and are fanning the embers of a possible Soviet-Turkish war.

The decision has finally been made that since Great Britain is by treaty an ally of Turkey and has in the past been supplying Turkey with arms and military equipment it would be preferable for Turkey to continue to obtain such supplies from Great Britain rather than from the United States. The Secretary discussed this matter with Mr. Bevin while in Paris and the Foreign Minister agreed that it might be wise at this juncture for Turkey to look to Great Britain rather than to the United States for arms and military equipment.

The Secretary, on his part, informed Mr. Bevin that we would try to aid Turkey in other ways; that in particular we would endeavor to assist in strengthening Turkey’s economic position.

We are hoping, therefore, that you will find it possible to discourage the Turks from asking us for arms and military equipment and to let them know that it would be preferable for them to address requests of this kind to the British Government. You might also pass the word along to the military and naval attaches of the Embassy so that they will adopt the same attitude when approached by the Turks on the subject.

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In case the Turks should ask the British for arms and military equipment which the latter are not able to furnish but which we are in a position to provide, we might be prepared to furnish such supplies to Great Britain for delivery to the Turks. It might even be possible, if this indirect method of furnishing arms and military equipment should not in certain instances be feasible, to consider furnishing certain supplies direct. We would prefer, however, not to do so.

We feel sure that in the various discussions which may arise in this connection with appropriate Turkish officials, you will be able to make it clear that our reluctance to furnish arms and military equipment direct is not due to any unwillingness on our part openly to support Turkey in its efforts to retain its independence and territorial integrity but rather to our feeling that in the world situation the wiser course would be for the Turks to look to the British.

It may be of interest to you in this connection to know that the Secretary is planning to discuss with Mr. Bevin in New York the recent Turkish request that we assist in the modernization of the Turkish warship Yavus47 and to inquire whether the British could not undertake this work instead of us. You may receive a telegram on this subject before this letter reaches you.

Any comments or suggestions which you may care to offer with regard to our decision in this important matter would be appreciated.

With kindest personal regards,

Dean Acheson
  1. In telegram 1157, November 1, 1946, 1 p.m., from Ankara, Ambassador Wilson had recommended that “as practical demonstration our support reasonable position Turks on Straits question, we accede this request.” (867.51/11–146)