The Secretary of State to the Secretary of Defense (Marshall)1

top secret

My Dear Mr. Secretary: The Department of State has had under continuing study the desirability and feasibility of the United States entering into reciprocal security arrangements with Turkey and Greece.2 You will recall that the last decision taken by the United States in this connection was at the time of the September meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Council in New York, which was to the effect that the two countries should not be invited to adhere to the North Atlantic Treaty, but should be invited to associate themselves with such appropriate phases of the military planning work of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as are concerned with the defense of the Mediterranean. This position was adopted by the North Atlantic Treaty Council and was communicated to the Governments of Turkey and Greece, which subsequently accepted the invitation.

The United States position was formulated after appropriate consultation with the Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.3 In concurring with the recommendations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Department of Defense in a letter dated September 11, 19504 recommended that:

The United States now support the granting of associate status to Turkey and Greece in order that their representatives may participate without delay in coordinated planning.
As soon as the defense of the member nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is reasonably assured, the United States consider raising the question of full membership of Turkey and Greece in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Serious consideration not be given at this time to granting Iran either consultative or associate member status in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

In its letter, the Department of Defense further stated that from the military point of view it would interpose no objection to the United States, United Kingdom and France joining to give informal assurance to Turkey that a Soviet attack against it would probably mean [Page 502]the beginning of global war and that the United States, United Kingdom and France would act accordingly.

The present arrangement has not been satisfactory to Turkey for a variety of reasons. The Turkish Government has several times in recent weeks reiterated at the highest levels its request for a full-fledged security arrangement with the United States either on a bilateral or some multilateral basis. The Turkish position was highlighted in recent conversations in Ankara which Assistant Secretary McGhee had with the Turkish President, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister. There are enclosed for your information copies of memoranda of these conversations,5 in which the Turkish authorities emphasized the real and effective contribution which Turkey can offer to the common cause. It is clear, however, that Turkey will insist that it have a full-fledged security arrangement with the United States if it is to maximize its contribution. While the Greek Government has not pressed the matter to the same degree as the Turkish Government, it remains the Department’s view that the extension of a security commitment to Turkey would, for political reasons, require that a similar arrangement be made for Greece.

On February 22, 1951 the Conference of Middle Eastern Chiefs of Mission held at Istanbul6 concluded that the attainment of United States politico-military objectives in Turkey and Greece, and consequently in the entire Middle Eastern area, requires that the United States enter at the earliest possible moment into reciprocal security arrangements with Turkey and Greece. The conference recommended that urgent consideration be given to this step, and set forth in a telegram7 to the Department of State, a copy of which is attached, the considerations upon which its conclusions were based.

A full-fledged security arrangement would insure Turkish belligerency in case of aggression which involved the United States. Further, it would be an important factor in obtaining Turkey’s cooperation in security measures which might only indirectly benefit its security but which would be of considerable value to the anti-Soviet coalition as a whole. The United States has not been in a sufficiently strong position to press the Turks to undertake a number of measures which would be of strategic importance to the United States. Among such measures are the following:

Controlled mining of the Turkish Straits, which the Department of the Navy is understood to advocate. The Turks fear that if the Straits are mined the Soviets will renew their demands for a revision of the Montreux Convention and possibly subject Turkey to other forms of pressure.
Agreement with the United States on the use of air and other bases which the Joint Chiefs of Staff consider essential. While these bases would undoubtedly be of great value to the United States in view of their proximity to vulnerable targets in the USSR, such a request would be viewed by the Turks as another indication that they are being asked to contribute their strength but are not being permitted the same guarantees of protection as are given to Western European countries. Moreover, the existence of bases in Turkey developed by the United States would appear to be of limited value if we were not assured of immediate Turkish participation in the event the United States becomes involved in hostilities with the Soviet Union. Neutrality would render such bases in Turkey of potential value only.
The supply of additional combat units for service with the United Nations military forces, as recently suggested by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Due to internal political factors, the Turkish Government would probably be unwilling to contribute more troops unless it could assure the Turkish people that a security commitment had been obtained or unless it felt that experience to be gained by military units would be of great value to the Turkish armed forces (the Turks have, however, agreed to furnish replacements for their Korean casualties).
Mutual defense arrangements between Turkey and its neighbors. High Turkish officials have made it clear that such arrangements would be undertaken only within the framework of a broader security arrangement to which the United States is a party.

The question of whether or not reciprocal security commitments should be entered into with Turkey and Greece, as well as the question as to the most desirable form for such commitments, of course involves many problems, most of which were considered by the Departments of Defense and State when the matter was studied prior to the last meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Council. Some of these are:

The extent to which a security commitment would serve as a provocation to the Soviet Union;
The political and military organizational and planning problems involved, including questions of command;
The extent to which the United States and the other powers participating in the commitment would in fact be able to extend assistance to Turkey and Greece in the event of hostilities;
The effect upon the North Atlantic Treaty powers of United States action in widening the scope of its security obligations;
The effect upon countries of the general area of Greece and Turkey which would not be included in the security commitment;
The extent to which the security commitment might lead to a relaxation by Turkey and Greece of their efforts to develop their maximum strength to resist Soviet or satellite aggression;

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The effects of the extension of a security commitment to Turkey and Greece upon their requirements for, and expectations of, additional United States military, economic or other aid;
The effects of such new commitment upon the ability of the United States, United Kingdom, and other participants in NATO to carry out their commitments elsewhere in the world.

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The Department considers that the time has now come when the advantages to be derived from the extension of a security commitment to Turkey and Greece must be carefully reviewed and weighed against the disadvantages. In this connection it considers as pertinent the following factors set forth by the Middle Eastern Chiefs of Mission in their communication to the Department.

Political situation in Turkey presently reveals such strong popular as well as official demand for security commitment as to assure the United States of maximum flexibility in arrangement offered and minimum commitments required;
If offer not made soon, there is reason to believe that Turkey will veer toward policy of neutralism, which will always have strong basic appeal. Until commitment is extended to Turkey, there is no assurance that Turkey will declare war unless attacked;
In order to assure immediate co-belligerency and utilization in collective security action of military potential which Turkey is building with United States help, commitment on part of United States is required;
Commitment on part of United States is required for assurance of immediate United States and allied utilization of Turkish bases in event we are engaged in hostilities;
Initially at least, Turkey in entering into security arrangement with United States would be committing more than the commitments which she would receive; and
Conference is convinced that, if security arrangement is offered Turkey, it must at same time be offered to Greece. Foregoing considerations apply also to Greece, particularly point (D). Moreover, apart from this important political consideration, Greece can contribute strong defensive forces and bases.

With reference to the form a United States security guarantee might take, the Department suggests consideration of the several alternatives set forth in the telegram from the Middle East Chiefs of Mission. These are:

Through adherence by Turkey and Greece to NATO, either
as separate regional grouping, or
Through bilateral arrangements between United States and Turkey, and United States and Greece.
Through multilateral arrangement among United States, United Kingdom, Turkey and Greece.
Through some other plan which, taking into account the complex political, military and administrative problems involved, will still accomplish the purpose of bilateral security undertakings as between the United States and Greece and Turkey, having always in mind the factor of urgency.

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It is understood that Admiral Carney, who participated in the Conference of the Middle Eastern Chiefs of Mission, transmitted to the Joint Chiefs of Staff a recommendation similar to that made by the Conference to the Department of State, and it is assumed that the appropriate military authorities are now giving consideration to the matter. In view of the desirability of arriving at an early decision upon the question, I would appreciate receiving as soon as possible the views of the Department of Defense.

Sincerely yours,

[ Dean Acheson ]
  1. Drafted on March 19 by William Rountree, Director of the Office of Greek, Turkish, and Iranian Affairs, and Edmund J. Dorsz, Deputy Director. Cleared with Deputy Under Secretary of State Matthews, the Policy Planning Staff, RA, EUR, and the Office of International Security Affairs.
  2. The issue of additional security guarantees to Greece and Turkey was the subject of a series of telegrams between the Department of State and the U.S. Deputy Representative on the North Atlantic Council, Charles Spofford, during the first 3 weeks of March. See telegram 4163 from the Department to London of March 14 and telegram Depto 666 from London of March 22. (740.5/3–1451; 740.5/3–2251)
  3. See memorandum of September 9, 1950, by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense Johnson, Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. v, p. 1306.
  4. See ibid., vol. iii, p. 278.
  5. See memorandum of conversation by Rountree, February 12, p. 466.
  6. For documentation on the Conference of Middle Eastern Chiefs of Mission, Istanbul, February 14–21, see volume v .
  7. Telegram 305, February 21, from McGhee at Istanbul, not printed.
  8. For a discussion of the question of Greek and Turkish membership in NATO, see Dean Acheson, Present at the Creation (New York, 1969), pp. 569–570 and Mike, The Memoirs of the Right Honourable Lester B. Pearson , vol. 2 (New York, 1973), pp. 70–72 and 85.