Memorandum by the Assistant Secretaries of State for Near Eastern and African Affairs (McGhee) and for European Affairs (Perkins) to the Secretary of State 1

top secret

Subject: Greek-Turkish Security Commitment

On March 24, you sent a letter (Tab A) to the Secretary of Defense2 asking for Defense views with respect to:

Whether reciprocal security arrangements should be entered into with Turkey and Greece; and
The form such a security commitment should take in the event the answer to (1) were in the affirmative.

[Page 512]

The letter set forth several alternative forms of a security commitment for Defense consideration. These were:

Through adherence by Turkey and Greece to NATO either as (a) a separate regional grouping or (b) directly;
Through bilateral arrangements between the US and Turkey, and the US and Greece;
Through multilateral arrangement among US, UK, Turkey and Greece; or
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 US and Greece and Turkey, having always in mind the factor of urgency.

In line with item (4) above, S/P prepared a draft Mediterranean treaty3 (Tab B), textually similar to the North Atlantic Treaty, involving a security arrangement between the US, UK, France, Italy, Greece and Turkey, and eventually other Mediterranean powers. This paper was subsequently submitted on an informal basis to the Defense Department and was taken into consideration along with the contents of your letter of March 24.

The Secretary of Defense replied in a letter dated April 14, 19514 (Tab C), to which was attached a memorandum and a study paper5 from the Joint Chiefs of Staff embodying a summary of their views and recommendations. The Secretary of Defense states in his letter that he concurs with the Joint Chiefs of Staff study and favors their recommendation for adoption of a policy whereby the US would propose and support early membership to Turkey and Greece in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

At a meeting with Deputy Undersecretary Matthews on April 17, attended by officers of EUR, NEA, S/P, and S/ISA,6 the Defense Department’s letter of April 14, 1951 was discussed. The attitude of the group was that the US should take steps leading towards the granting of a security commitment to Greece and Turkey. However, the question of what form the commitment should take was to be submitted to you for decision on the basis of such recommendations as the appropriate offices might agree upon.

Since this meeting, S/P has prepared a memorandum7 (Tab D), to which is attached a memorandum of conversation with Secretary [Page 513] Finletter of the Air Force,8 outlining the advantages and disadvantages of the various types of security commitment that have been considered. Each type has some favorable aspect; all have a number of difficult complicating factors.

As a result of this consideration, we have concluded that, upon the assumption some public action is necessary and desirable to afford a security commitment to Turkey and Greece, the NATO membership for Greece and Turkey is the preferred form. The principal factors which support this conclusion are:

The views of the Defense establishment;
Simplification of political problems connected with command structures;
Relative simplicity and speed, from standpoint of US reaction, of extending NATO membership as compared with other forms, having in mind the fact that Congress is familiar with the NAT and has called for the utilization of the military strength and resources of Turkey and Greece (also Spain and Western Germany) in paragraph 9 of Concurrent Resolution 18; and
Turkey and Greece are already associated with the NAT for planning purposes.

The main factors which would suggest seeking some solution other than NATO membership are political:

The concept of the North Atlantic community of countries with common cultural, religious, social and economic heritage and future does not readily lend itself to the thought of Greco-Turkish participation;
Natural reluctance of most members of NATO to see a broadening of security commitments, the immediate benefits of which they may not perceive;
Complications resulting from an enlarged membership;
Varying reluctance of other NATO members, based upon combinations of the above factors, which may be overcome only at the cost of some goodwill and diplomatic credit;
If it would be possible to resolve the Anglo-Egyptian base problem9 through some regional organization including Greece, Turkey and Egypt, this possibility would be prejudiced by placing Greece and Turkey in NATO at this time.

In our view, no other proposed security arrangement affords the military strength that can be obtained through NATO membership, nor does any such other proposal eliminate to a controlling extent the [Page 514]political problems inherent in the NATO solution. For example, other possible solutions have these serious objectionable features:

I. Bilateral arrangements (US–Greece; US–Turkey)

It would be extremely difficult to obtain Congressional approval of bilateral security commitments;
If done, the US would find it more difficult to refuse similar commitments to other nations;
It would cut at the foundations of our present policy of building a regional defense system through multilateral action.

II. A Mediterranean pact (US, UK, France, Italy, Greece and Turkey).

This would multiply the problems of the major powers by creating overlapping and contending organizations and command structures;
A Mediterranean pact which omitted certain Mediterranean countries, such as Egypt, would pose serious political problems;
If Egypt were included, it would hardly seem possible to omit Israel; if the latter were also included, the remaining Arab states would be resentful;
A pact with all Mediterranean countries would prove unwieldy and would cause us most serious operating and political problems;
It would be difficult to persuade Congress of the necessity for an entirely new pact if its only purpose is to include Greece and Turkey in the Western defense structure.

Two further factors should be borne in mind, no matter what type arrangement is considered:

Any approach to the Congress regarding inclusion of Greece and Turkey in a security arrangement will necessarily raise the question of Spain.10 It may be possible, however, for our military authorities to convince the Congress that the military potentials of Greece and Turkey are more immediate to us than is Spain’s.
Any act at this time in publicly bringing Greece and Turkey into the Western defense system could possibly serve as the ignition point in our relations with the Kremlin. It is not possible to forecast whether or not this action would be considered sufficiently provocative by the Kremlin to cause it to alter its time schedule. It is therefore most important for us to be sure that the added strength of Turkey and Greece at this time is of great enough importance to justify this risk. In any event, no public action should be taken by us pending the outcome of a CFM.

On the assumption that it is considered necessary for us to accept the risk mentioned in the preceding paragraph, we favor as a preferred course of action, after consideration of the various elements involved, the admission of Greece and Turkey into NATO. Accordingly we suggest, on the above assumption, a course of action which [Page 515]would involve sounding out the British and French Governments, with a view to determining as soon as possible how far those Governments would be inclined to support us in action designed to induce the other NATO powers to agree to Greek-Turkish admission into NATO. If these soundings should indicate that pressure for Greek-Turkish admission to NATO would unduly strain our relations with the NATO powers, we would suggest that the question of a Mediterranean pact should be looked into further.


It is recommended that:

you approve in principle, as the most feasible plan for according security commitments to Greece and Turkey, the membership of those countries in NATO;
you authorize the making of discreet, informal soundings of the British and French Governments concerning their attitude in this matter;
pending further developments, discussions of this subject be closely guarded and that our present thinking be indicated to no country other than the British and French;
in the interim, a careful review be undertaken in the NSC to evaluate the importance of a reciprocal security arrangement with Greece and Turkey in its relation to the possible effects on Soviet action.

Concurrences: 11

  1. Drafted by Henry Labouisse, Director, Planning Staff, Bureau of European Affairs, and Edmund Dorsz (GTI).
  2. Ante, p. 501.
  3. Dated April 3, not printed (781.5/5–151).
  4. Not printed (781.5/5–151).
  5. Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Bradley, dated April 10. with an attached “Summary of Views and Bases for Joint Chiefs of Staff Position on Security Arrangements for Greece and Turkey,” April 9, and a copy of the S/P draft of a Mediterranean Treaty: none printed (781.5/5–151).
  6. No report of this meeting has been found in the Department of State files.
  7. Memorandum dated April 19 on the problem of how best to utilize the elements of strength in the Mediterranean area, particularly Greece and Turkey, in the defense of the West; not printed. (781.5/5–151)
  8. Memorandum by Villard of a conversation on April 3 with Finletter and Under Secretary of the Air Force McCone, not printed (781.5/5–151). Finletter expressed a preference for Greek and Turkish membership in NATO as opposed to creation of a Mediterranean or other regional defense pact outside NATO.
  9. For documentation on the concern of the United States with Anglo-Egyptian relation, see volume v .
  10. For documentation on the question of Spanish participation in the defense of Western Europe, see volume iv .
  11. There is an indication on the source text that this memorandum had the concurrence of Deputy Under Secretary of State Matthews, Ambassador at Large Jessup, and the Committee of International Security Affairs and that the Policy Planning Staff had noted the foregoing recommendations. Attention was also called to approval of the document in the memorandum of a conversation with President Truman on April 30. The memorandum by L. D. Battle, dated April 30, said that the President had agreed with Acheson that NATO was “the best arrangement into which to bring Greece and Turkey” and that it was all right to begin to discuss this as outlined in the paper. (Secretary’s memoranda, lot 53 D 444, March–April 1951)