PPS Files: Lot 64 D 563: Record Copies, Jan.–April 1951

Memorandum by Henry S. Villard to the Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Nitze)1


Subject: Security Commitment to Turkey

1. Consideration of the role Turkey might play in the event of war, and the ways and means by which we might strengthen the defense of the Mediterranean sector, raises the question of a U.S. security commitment to Turkey. For the last three years the Turks have indicated their desire for assurances in one form or another that the U.S. would come to their aid in the event of attack. At the present time the Turkish Ambassador is pressing the Department to give such assurances by accepting a proposal that the U.S. adhere to the British-French-Turkish Mutual Assistance Treaty of 1939.

2. The 1939 Treaty involves a commitment by France and Great Britain to go to the aid of Turkey in the event that country is subjected to aggression. Article 3 of the Treaty provides an indirect guarantee by all three powers to Greece if the latter were attacked. The Greeks, however, apparently do not consider this portion of the Treaty to be still valid and if the U.S. adhered to the British-French-Turkish Treaty they would be certain to insist upon a similar fresh guarantee from the U.S.2

3. Since we have found that the “Security of Turkey is vital to the security of the U.S.” it would seem logical to give effect to this decision by some sort of formal commitment. Furthermore, we have staked so much on our program of military aid for Turkey and our prestige has been so much involved in the process that it would be unthinkable if we should fail to act in case of Soviet aggression against Turkey. If we should fail to help, not only would Turkish morale be shattered but the Turks would feel that they had been falsely encouraged by the U.S. to set up a front-line defense against the Soviet Union, without any intention on our part to afford them support in a final showdown. Deep-seated and lasting resentment against the U.S. would be the result.

4. Actually, to obtain the maximum cooperation from the Turks in bolstering the defense of the Mediterranean today, it seems essential [Page 1118] to offer Turkey some form of written guarantee. A security commitment from the U.S. would act as an immediate spur to the Turks in further developing their defenses and raising their morale. A written undertaking of U.S. support would be an essential prerequisite if we wished to encourage Turkey to enter into mutual, or regional defense arrangements with Greece, Yugoslavia or any other country in the Mediterranean area. Such a commitment would confirm Turkey’s faith in the United States and would assure the U.S. of a strong fighting ally on the vital Eastern Mediterranean flank.

5. The JCS attitude, of course, is adverse to any agreement that might even faintly imply the commitment of U.S. forces to the area in the event of hostilities. However, the Turks would be satisfied with a limited guarantee of U.S. or allied air and perhaps naval support. This would seem to be the minimum action we could take in any case and it stands to reason that we would have at least some such forces available in the Mediterranean at the time hostilities broke out.

6. From the negative side, Turkey fears that U.S. unwillingness to make any written security commitment indicates that we do not consider Turkey to be in a primary defense area. This naturally has its effect on Turkish morale as well as on its attitude toward our own planning. For example, the Navy desires to mine the Straits and the Air Force desires far-reaching Turkish commitments on airfields, which the Turks have been slow to agree to in the absence of assurance of any U.S. assistance in the event of attack.

7. Turkey would be fully satisfied if it were permitted to join the NATO. It accepted associated membership in that organization in the hope that this would be a half-way stop to full partnership. While the difficulties of including Turkey in NATO are obvious, the time may be approaching when we should take another look at the possibilities. If Turkey were admitted, it would, of course, be necessary also to include Greece. In fact, any commitment made to Turkey would have to apply to Greece as well. In the case of Iran, present indications are that it would not expect to join a European organization like NATO and would be willing to accept treatment in a separate category.

8. Turkey would consider it acceptable to be a member of a regional Mediterranean defense pact on the lines of the North Atlantic Treaty. Such a regional pact might include any or all of the countries bordering on the Mediterranean from Gibralter to Suez. It would have to include the U.S. as a member or at least have U.S. backings and could be linked with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization through the common membership of some country like Italy.

9. There would seem to be four possibilities for a security commitment to Turkey:

U.S. adherence to the British-French-Turkish Treaty of 1949;
admitting Turkey (and Greece) to membership in NATO;
developing a Mediterranean security pact, with U.S. backing, to include Turkey, and
a direct mutual defense aid agreement between Turkey and the U.S. (negotiating a similar agreement simultaneously with Greece).

It is recommended that the Staff discuss the subject with a view to exploring the possibilities in appropriate quarters.3

  1. Villard was also a member of the Policy Planning Staff.
  2. Presumably the information contained in this paragraph came from telegram 2438 from Athens, January 31, which is not here printed. Ambassador Peurifoy informed the Department in this cable that the formula proposed by the Turkish Ambassador in Washington was probably unsatisfactory to Greece because the Greeks had not referred to the Anglo-French guarantee in any recent discussions of collective security measures. Moreover, Peurifoy reported that British officials in Athens were surprised at the idea that the 1939 guarantee was still considered to be valid by Turkey, and they believed that the British Foreign Office and the government would be ill-disposed to consider the commitment still binding. (681.82/1–3151)
  3. For documentation regarding U.S. efforts to develop a Mediterranean security pact which would include Turkey, see pp. 1 ff.

    For documentation on the successful U.S. efforts to gain the admittance of Greece and Turkey to NATO, see vol. iii, pt. 1, pp. 460 ff.