Memorandum of Conversation, by the Director of the Office of Greek, Turkish, and Iranian Affairs (Rountree)

top secret

Participants: Celâl Bayar, President of the Turkish Republic
Fuat Köprülü, Minister of Foreign Affairs
George C. McGhee, Assistant Secretary of State
Ambassador George Wadsworth
William M. Rountree, Director of GTI1

After a preliminary exchange of courtesies, the President said that he had looked forward to Mr. McGhee’s visit to discuss matters of considerable [Page 467] importance to both countries. The President said that he had talked with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and had been briefed on Mr. McGhee’s previous conversations with the Minister and with the Prime Minister.2 The President had recently talked with Admiral Carney concerning the possibility of a United States security commitment to Turkey, and he hoped that Mr. McGhee was prepared to continue the conversation with the advantage of more current and precise information on the subject.

Mr. McGhee said that he was aware of the President’s talks with Admiral Carney3 but regretted that he was not in a position to give any definitive reply concerning the security arrangement, which has been a Turkish objective for a long time. Although he had previously explained the matter to the Foreign Minister, he would like to highlight some of the comments which he had made.

The United States, Mr. McGhee said, considers Turkey’s security to be of very great importance to our own security; the importance which we attach to Turkey’s independence has been demonstrated by our policies and programs during the course of the past several years. We have considered that a Soviet attack against Turkey would lead to a general conflict.

Turkey was the first foreign country to which the United States extended military assistance on any scale in the post war period, to build up its own defensive capabilities. Our military aid program in this country was a forerunner to military assistance to Western Europe and to other areas of the free world. Turkey has to date received more of such aid than any other country, and, proportionately, our greatest effort continues to be made here. Our Turkish military aid program has continually increased in size and scope, and we expect it to increase further in the future. The only present limiting factor in our helping Turkey build up the defensive capabilities that Turkey feels it needs is our ability, in light of our own requirements and our commitments elsewhere, to deliver the necessary military supplies and equipment.

We have been aware for some time that Turkey desires a more precise commitment in the event it becomes the victim of aggression, Mr. McGhee continued. The question arose when the North Atlantic Treaty was created, and again last year when Turkey indicated its wish to adhere to the Pact.4 Our association with the North Atlantic Treaty represented the first commitment of this type which the United States has entered into, and the decision was taken by the Congress only after most careful thought and deliberation.

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Continuing, Mr. McGhee said that until the North Atlantic Treaty Organization can be given real strength, the United States does not feel that it can undertake further formal commitments of this nature. We do not consider it wise to undertake obligations beyond our capabilities to fulfill; however, it has always been our hope that when we acquire sufficient strength, we could enter into some form of security arrangement with Turkey. The timing of our acquiring the necessary strength has been affected by events in Korea. Not only have large quantities of American matériel and manpower been diverted to Korea, but new developments in such places as Indo China and Western Europe have created new substantial requirements. Offset against this, however, is a greatly increased build-up in American military strength. Defense expenditures amounting annually to 13 billion dollars have been increased to 50 billion dollars and the months ahead should see a steady rise in the United States military capability.

Mr. McGhee said that the importance of Turkey to the defense of the free world has, if anything, been increased as the result of Korea and other international developments. Turkey has demonstrated support of the principle of collective security through its valuable contribution to the United Nations efforts in Korea, and the fighting qualities of the Turkish soldiers there have won for them the admiration of the whole free world.5 The importance of a strong Turkey has been highlighted by the revelation of the comparative weakness of the Middle East as a whole.

As a consequence the objective of linking our two countries into a security pact has become even more desirable in our minds, Mr. McGhee, said. While such a step would require Congressional approval, the United States would, when its strength permits it to undertake the commitment, raise the question with Turkey ourselves and discuss the most satisfactory form for the arrangement.

In this connection, Mr. McGhee said that the present basic objective of the North Atlantic Treaty—the land defense of Western Europe— is separate from the problem of land defense of Turkey, and it might therefore be more appropriate at the proper time to consider another arrangement such as an Eastern Mediterranean grouping, centered around Turkey as the strong point in the area. Mr. McGhee regretted that he could not comply with the President’s wishes and relate some final word on this point, to which Turkey attaches such great importance, but unfortunately this is not the type of decision that can be made to coincide with official visits.

In reply to the President’s question, Mr. McGhee said that he could not give an estimate of the time required for the United States to make its decision. Any conjecture might lead to undue hope and therefore [Page 469] disappointment. He was very glad, however, that his visit and that of Mr. Finletter6 would be extremely useful in getting the views of the Turkish Government, and would be helpful in consideration of the problem in Washington. Mr. McGhee reiterated in the strongest terms that our failure thus far to adopt the Turkish proposal regarding a pact in no way implied lack of vital interest in Turkish security.

The President expressed his appreciation for Mr. McGhee’s full explanation, and said that he likewise would endeavor fully and frankly to set forth his own views. He said that he would like to emphasize Turkey’s gratitude, and he knew the gratitude of the entire free world, for the forthright position of leadership and assistance which the United States had taken in the interest of humanity. The position of the United States in Korea has attached Turkey to the policies of the United States and the policy of guaranteeing a free world.

In his opinion, if the United States had not taken the decision to combat the aggression in Korea, the world would be confronted with even larger and more serious conflagrations lit by malicious incendiaries. Turkey would earnestly like to do everything possible to extinguish the fires, and already has done much. The President would like to see at least fifty percent of the burden in Korea assumed by countries other than the United States, but realizes that the burden now lies almost entirely upon America.

Turning to the question of Turkish forces, the President said that when the Democrat Party came to power and he learned of “General McBride’s report,”7 he was alarmed, as General McBride reflected considerable doubts concerning the potentialities of the Turkish Army. The President asked the General Staff the reasons for this situation, and the replies were “small and senseless.” The President said that, despite laws against revealing military secrets to non-Turks, he had instructed the General Staff to discuss security matters in detail with the United States authorities, and he has taken the legal responsibility for this order. He said that when the Turkish Army is well equipped the men are excellent fighters, and the Government with American assistance is seeing to it that they are well equipped.

The common goal of the free world can be helped by the Turkish Army, the President said. In this common cause, however, military aid is given by the United States, but collaboration is thus far empty in the political field.

In describing the relationship between the United States and Turkey in security matters, the President drew the analogy of a business concern in which some members make profits and some members invest [Page 470] capital but acquire no profit. The concern cannot succeed under these circumstances. Turkey, a partner has received military and economic assistance, but to regularize the legal aspects it has tried to join the Atlantic Pact and was turned down.

Although Turkey recognizes that by joining the Pact it would be giving its support to a number of weak countries, it was willing to make the sacrifice and the refusal of the offer hurt Turkey; the President himself was deeply affected. Turkish action in Korea should, the President thought, rectify the situation. His country is not satisfied with its present position in the partnership with the United States, as Turkey is unwilling not to do its part. It wants to give a guarantee, and it would like to receive a guarantee.

Turkey is a poor country, but for six hundred years it has fought and defended itself; it traditionally has made no commitments which it was unwilling to meet. The Turkish people are opposed in principle to receiving assistance without themselves returning something. The President said that if Turkish public opinion were tested on the question of whether Turkey should have a political guarantee with half of the present American military aid, or full military aid with no guarantee, the answer unquestionably would be that Turkey should receive as much military aid as possible but by all means should insist upon the guarantee.

The President said that international events are transpiring very fast, and quick decisions must be taken. The Turkish Government must insist upon this point, as it might soon be in the position of calling upon Turks to give up their lives, and they must know that their Government has done everything possible for Turkish security.

The President said that the General Staff has discussed with the American Military Mission the question of how many divisions, both infantry and motorized, should be maintained under present circumstances. The General Staff says that it could put under arms in short order twenty-five divisions. If this is done, these forces would be an important factor in the interests of the free world. The President concluded by saying that he would appreciate Mr. McGhee’s commenting upon these views.

Mr. McGhee, referring to the President’s analogy of the business enterprise, said that, as the capitalist in the company, the United States felt that Turkey already is repaying in full its obligation to us; we wish that all countries which we have assisted would prove to be such a good investment.

Referring to the President’s comments concerning the McBride report, Mr. McGhee said that he did not know of the report but he could assure the President that General McBride was an extremely good friend of Turkey and was convinced of the potentialities of the Turkish forces, and that he was sure anything the General said was [Page 471] intended to be constructive. The President said that he was sure of this point; also that the substance of General McBride’s report was objective and, in fact, had been very useful in prodding the Turks into action.

Continuing, Mr. McGhee said that the Turkish decision to send troops to Korea was, in his judgment, the wisest that could have been made and will turn out to be of very real benefit to Turkey. Not only has Turkey demonstrated its willingness to participate in collective security, but it also has demonstrated the tremendous fighting qualities of the Turkish troops. For its part, the United States is extremely proud of its association with Turkey in Korea, which is indicative of Turkish-American cooperation in broad world policies.

The application in Korea of the principle of collective security, and the United States action in that country, should be ample evidence that if Turkey is aggressed we will not stand idly by. We have made a great contribution to the principle of collective security and it is indeed good to hear of Turkey’s desire to contribute even more to that end.

Within the limitations of the availability of military equipment, Mr. McGhee said, we would like to assist in building up the strength of Turkish forces to any level which Turkey desires, and we are gratified that the Turkish Government already is considering the establishment of twenty-five divisions. We already have discussed in Washington the question of additional United States economic support which would permit the Turkish Government to increase its present forces by some forty thousand men, within the existing divisional organization. We fully understand the budgetary problems created by this increment, and our discussion here with Turkish officials will give impetus to consideration of how we might help.

Mr. McGhee said that he would convey to other appropriate officials in Washington the information concerning the possibility of increasing the Turkish forces to twenty-five divisions, and assumed that the matter also will be discussed at some future date by Ambassador Wadsworth and at the technical level. This is a subject, Mr. McGhee said, which interests us greatly, but it raised the important question of what additional military supplies and equipment will be needed, and how much can we supply.

Ambassador Wadsworth interposed to say that he would welcome highly the President’s authorization to have this question discussed carefully between JAMMAT and TGS. The President said that he would instruct the General Staff to discuss the details of the matter with American officials and said that he would himself participate as appropriate. He stated that he was well aware of the military supply problem with which the United States is confronted, and realized that the assistance rendered to Turkey must be within the limitations imposed [Page 472] by broad considerations. He wondered, however, whether the question of military aid should not go hand in hand with the question of a security guarantee.

Mr. McGhee said that our problem is not only one of making goods and advice available to other countries, but is the question of our own military forces and capabilities. With the build-up of our strength, our ability to give substance to commitments of the nature which the President desires will be increased. The question of United States friendship for Turkey, Mr. McGhee emphasized, is in no way involved, nor is the importance which we attach to Turkey’s security.

Mr. McGhee then promised that he would convey to the President of the United States the Turkish President’s deep concern over this problem, and said that he would do everything possible to accelerate consideration in Washington of a security commitment. For this the President said he would be grateful.

Turning now to a different subject, Mr. McGhee said that he would like to tell the President of his great admiration for the way in which the President had led the Democrat Party to victory in the recent elections, and for the Government’s restraint and moderation after assuming power. It is a source of confidence to us, Mr. McGhee said, to have this recent proof of the true nature of democracy in Turkey.

Thanking Mr. McGhee, the President replied that this was a new event in the life of Turkey but it did not represent a personal victory for the President. Any compliments are due to the people of Turkey, who have attained a high degree of political maturity. Turks for a hundred and fifty years have fought and shed blood over the problem of attainment of democracy, and the success evidenced by the recent election is the fruit of their efforts.

Mr. McGhee said the United States is proud to be a partner with Turkey in the “company” which the President had referred to, and that we view it as a partnership of equals; we do not make policy exclusively, for that must be done on a mutual basis. We would like to widen the basis of Turkish-American consultation on world issues, especially on issues in this general part of the world. He said that he was convinced that Turkey has a very important role to play in the world, particularly in the Middle East, and the United States is anxious to help her play that part.

The President said, concerning the importance of the role being played by the United States in world affairs, that while the Korean effort is officially a matter for the United Nations, the United States is carrying virtually the whole burden. Turkey is proud to be with the United States in Korea, and the President has been told that some countries in Europe are saying that Turkey made its decision to participate in Korea only in an effort to obtain a United States guarantee.

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The real point, the President said, is that Turkey wants to make its share of the sacrifices and to do its duty in the creation of a free and democratic world. The “company” in which Turkey and the United States are partners is a fine concern, and the President was sure that it will pay extremely good dividends.

Ambassador Wadsworth added, as we rose, that he was happy and proud to be working for so fine and so successful a “company”.

  1. McGhee and Rountree were in Turkey to attend the Conference of Middle Eastern Chiefs of Mission held at Istanbul February 14–21; for documentation, see vol. v, pp. 1 ff.
  2. McGhee, Rountree, and Wadsworth had held a meeting earlier in the day with Turkish Prime Minister Adnan Menderes to discuss Turkish security and military potential along the same lines followed in the conversation with President Bayar and Foreign Affairs Minister Köprülü. A copy of this conversation is in file 782.5.
  3. No record of these conversations has been found in Department of State files.
  4. For documentation on this subject, see Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. iii pp. 1 ff.
  5. For documentation on this subject, see volume vii .
  6. Secretary of the Air Force Thomas K. Finletter visited Turkey during the spring of 1951 to inspect various air facilities for possible use by U.S. forces.
  7. For documentation on this subject, Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. v, pp. 1224 ff.