S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351: NSC 109 Series

National Security Council Staff Study1

top secret
[NSC 109]

The Position of the United States With Respect to Turkey


1. To determine the position of the United States with respect to Turkey.


2. Turkey is the strongest anti-communist country on the periphery of the USSR and the only one in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East area having the determination and capability of offering substantial resistance to Soviet aggression. Aligned with the free world, Turkey has stood firm against Soviet and satellite pressures, having as their ultimate objective Soviet domination of Turkey.

3. Turkey’s geographic position makes its continued alignment with the free world of primary strategic importance to the United States. It not only controls important air, land and sea routes (including the Turkish Straits, which Russia has coveted for some two hundred [Page 1152] years) from the USSR to the Cairo–Suez area and to the Middle East oil fields, but it offers bases from which the USSR could launch operations against the Islands of Crete, Rhodes and Cyprus and against communications in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East.

4. The Joint Chiefs of Staff stated in their comments on NSC 73/1,2 that “denial of Soviet control of the Dardanelles is vital to the security interests of the United States. Therefore, direct USSR attack on Turkey would precipitate global War”. Attainment by the USSR of its objectives in Turkey would thus have grave consequences on the security of the United States, not only through the loss of the Turkish Straits to the Soviets but through the elimination of Turkey as an effective barrier to Soviet penetration in the Middle East area. The United States, therefore, seeks the preservation of a stable, strong, independent and democratic Turkey, aligned with the free world, and, to this end, it has been extending political, military and economic assistance to that country.

5. There have been relatively few important international issues on which Turkey has required United States political support. The most serious of such issues arose in 1946 over the question of revising the Montreux Convention of 1936 governing the Turkish Straits. It had been agreed by the United States, British, and Soviet Governments at the Potsdam Conference of July 1945 that the Convention should be revised as failing to meet present day conditions, and it was further agreed that the matter should be taken up with the Turkish Government by each of the three Governments. The British and United States views on the basis for an equitable solution of the Straits question were subsequently communicated to the Turkish Government. They were followed, in August 1946, by Soviet proposals for a “new regime” for the Straits. These proposals included two which Turkey rejected as unacceptable—(1) only Turkey and other Black Sea powers should establish the regime of the Straits and (2) Turkey and the USSR should organize joint means of defense of the Straits. In the diplomatic exchanges that followed, Turkey was strongly supported in its position by the United States as well as the United Kingdom. While not accepting the Turkish position, the USSR has allowed the issue to remain relatively dormant. Unless it is raised again before August 9, 1951, or unless the Convention is denounced by one of the signatories, the present Convention will remain in force without revision until its expiration in 1956.

6. The United States has endeavored to strengthen Turkey’s international position in various other ways, such as the following:

It initiated a program of military aid to Turkey in 1947 under the Truman Doctrine to assist Turkey in maintaining its political independence and territorial integrity.
It included Turkey as a participating country in the European Recovery Plan.
It strongly supported Turkey’s candidacy for a seat on the Security Council in October 1950.3
It sponsored the proposal through the North Atlantic Council, in the endeavor to meet constructively Turkey’s demands for full membership in NATO, that Turkey associate itself with such appropriate phases of the military planning work of the NATO as are concerned with the defense of the Mediterranean.

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

9. The long-term military objectives of the United States in Turkey have been defined as follows: development of sufficient military power to prevent Turkey from capitulating to communism during the ideological conflict; in event of war, to retain for the United States and its allies base areas in Turkey, to delay materially any USSR advance, and with allied support, to assure control by the Western powers of the Eastern Mediterranean and the security of base areas in Egypt.

10. The United States military aid program which has been in effect since 1947 has been directed to the attainment of these objectives. Through the supply of up-to-date military equipment and training in its use, the Turkish armed forces are being modernized and thus strengthened. Without United States or other foreign assistance, this modernization program could not have been undertaken by Turkey on an adequate scale as its defense expenditures were already absorbing 40–50% of its budgetary revenues. In the absence of such assistance, the defensive capabilities of the Turkish armed forces would have steadily deteriorated in relation to the offensive capabilities of its Soviet and satellite neighbors.

11. By the end of FY 1950, United States military aid to Turkey amounted to about $271 million, of which $105 million was authorized during FY 1950. The FY 1951 program envisages an allotment for Turkey of $67.4 million from the regular MDAP appropriation plus $87 million from the supplemental appropriation.

12. Since the inauguration of the military aid program, the peacetime strength of the Turkish Armed Forces has been reduced in numbers by almost 50 percent. However, with the modern equipment provided under the Aid Program and the complementary training system sponsored and supervised by the American Military Mission, the combat potential and capabilities of the present Turkish Military Establishment are considerably greater than when the Armed Forces were double their present size. Further United States assistance is, nevertheless, necessary in order to arrive at the goal of a Turkish [Page 1154] Military Establishment that is considered adequate (for our intended purposes), effective, and self-supporting, as far as is practicable.

13. A measure of great importance in arriving at this goal is the enlistment and training of an adequate Non-Commissioned Officers Corps. The Turks are endeavoring, within the limits of their already strained budget, to implement the recommendations of the Military Mission to correct this major deficiency. An adequate NCO program in Turkey, however, can only be assured if the United States is prepared to extend dollar aid to support it. In recognition of this, ECA has recently allotted $4 million to Turkey for the purchase of common use items to provide the funds to help finance such a program.

14. While Turkey suffered no destruction during World War II, its economy was disrupted through the loss of normal markets and the burden of maintaining a large mobilized army. The unsettled international situation, particularly the continuing Soviet pressures to which Turkey was subjected, and Turkey’s conviction that its most effective safeguard was a strong army, prevented a curtailment in military expenditures in the years following the end of World War II. As a consequence, foreign assistance has been required to help finance a program of economic development, which could no longer be delayed, designed to raise the country’s very low standard of living.

15. Although the Export-Import Bank established a $25,000,000 credit for Turkey in 1946 for economic development projects, Turkey, as a participating country in the European Recovery Program, has received the bulk of its post-war external economic assistance from ECA. The principal projects which have been financed by ECA are long-term in nature, are strengthening Turkey’s basic economy, and are increasing its ability to support its military burden. Ultimately they should provide Turkey with the means of assuring itself a gradually expanding economy without extraordinary financial assistance.

16. United States economic assistance extended to Turkey since World War II has been primarily related to the foreign exchange or external costs of Turkey’s economic development program. Henceforth economic assistance may also be required for other purposes, viz, to meet a portion of the internal costs of this development program and such additional internal defense expenditures as the United States may consider desirable. Turkey, which is already devoting over 30% of its budgetary expenditures to national defense (and has done so for more than 10 years), feels that it is unable to increase defense expenditures above present levels at the expense of its development program which it considers the minimum required to maintain a sound economy. Thus, as mentioned in paragraph 13 above, it has sought United States assistance to finance an adequate NCO program, one of the major deficiencies of its Military Establishment which otherwise would have been deferred indefinitely. It is understood that the financing of foreign [Page 1155] budget deficits is not the general policy of this Government. Any exception in the case of the Turkish NCO program would not be a precedent for other cases.

17. A curtailment in Turkey’s investment program would result in a corresponding reduction in Turkey’s need for United States economic assistance. However, a steady, even if modest, improvement in the country’s very low standard of living is needed to ensure internal stability, political as well as economic. Accordingly, United States economic aid should be continued (1) to assure the completion of the economic development projects already initiated with United States assistance; (2) to support, if warranted by Turkey’s own self-help efforts, an investment program which will satisfy minimum internal economic and political requirements; and (3) to assist the United States in securing from Turkey resources, such as chromite and opium, needed for the defense of the free world.

18. The primary objective of Turkey’s foreign policy, at present, is to obtain a United States security commitment. Its efforts to this end have been largely concentrated on seeking full membership in the NATO, although it has indicated its willingness to participate in some other form of security arrangement in which the United States is a party. Turkey is already linked with two members of NATO—the UK and France—in a Treaty of Mutual Assistance which was signed in 1939 and reaffirmed in 1949. In the view of the Turks, the principal value of this Treaty lies in its usefulness as a potential means of assuring United States intervention in the event of a Soviet or satellite aggression against Turkey. Turkey is also a signatory of the Saadabad Pact of 1937 with Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. This Pact is merely a passive treaty of good relations without any provision for positive common defense.

19. In August 1950 the Turkish Government formally requested that it be invited to adhere to the North Atlantic Treaty. The United States position at that time was that inclusion of Turkey and Greece (it was recognized that any decision on this issue should also apply to Greece) as full members in the NATO might adversely affect the progress then evident in North Atlantic Treaty arrangements. In view of prior United States military commitments elsewhere, the JCS expressed doubt that the United States could, at any time in the near future, provide substantially more military aid to those countries than was then planned. However, it was felt that maximum benefit would be obtained and disadvantages minimized by according the two countries a special status in the NATO short of membership which would permit participation in coordinated planning against Soviet aggression. After discussion in the Foreign Ministers’ meeting in September, the matter was taken up in the North Atlantic Council which thereupon proposed to Turkey (and subsequently to Greece) that it associate itself with [Page 1156] such appropriate phases of the military planning work of the NATO as are concerned with the defense of the Mediterranean.

20. The Turkish Government accepted the proposal of the North Atlantic Council but the “association” relationship has not satisfied Turkey for several reasons:

Some progress has been made in preliminary preparation for Mediterranean planning but planning discussions have not yet begun.
Despite its steadfast support of United States efforts, within the UN and outside, to contain Soviet imperialism, support which has shown Turkey to be one of the most reliable allies of the free world, no assurances have been given to the Turkish Government that the planning association will lead to eventual full membership in the NATO.
Despite public statements as to United States interest in Turkey’s security, the Turks fear that the unwillingness of the United States to extend a security commitment to Turkey indicates that the United States does not consider Turkey in its primary area of defense.

21. Public statements and programs of military and economic assistance are no longer considered by the Turkish Government or the Turkish people as a substitute for a specific security commitment. Turkey’s demands for such a commitment on a reciprocal basis have been renewed and are again under study in the light of present day conditions. A favorable decision would play an important role in assuring Turkey’s continued alignment with the free world, and its co-belligerency if thought desirable in the event of war, and in obtaining its cooperation in security measures of considerable value to the anti-Soviet coalition as a whole but of less direct benefit to Turkey’s security.

22. In the absence of subversive elements within Turkey that could be expected to organize and carry out either a seizure of power in the provinces or a seizure of the central government, the principal threats to Turkey’s security lie in a Soviet/satellite aggression or encirclement of Turkey as a result of Soviet and/or satellite advances through Iran or southeastern Europe.

23. The most likely satellite thrust would be directed against European Turkey (Thrace) by Bulgarian forces which are estimated to be the best trained, best equipped and most reliable among the satellite forces in Eastern Europe. A Bulgarian attack on Turkey, without overt Soviet participation, might accomplish the occupation of Turkish Thrace, with the exception of the Gallipoli peninsula which commands the Dardanelles area of the Straits, but a further advance into Asiatic Turkey would be unlikely. The occupation of Thrace would not appear to bring advantages to the Bulgarians or Soviets that would compensate for the risk of inviting a major war. Hence, such an attack does not appear likely unless it is one phase of the [Page 1157] Soviet plan of conquest which is undertaken in full recognition of the risk of a general war.

24. It is believed that the USSR would attack Turkey only if it were prepared to face the likelihood of global war. In view of the United Kingdom–France–Turkey Treaty of Mutual Assistance and the deep interest and heavy moral commitment of the United States in Turkey, this likelihood would have to be faced, regardless of whether the United States and Turkey conclude reciprocal security arrangements. Turkey would not be able to repel a Soviet attack in strength without outside assistance nor would it be able to carry on organized resistance for very long without such assistance. Further, its determination to resist, while very strong, would undoubtedly be influenced by the outlook for allied assistance, and in the event the war were not localized, by Turkey’s estimate of the ability of the allied powers to defeat the USSR.

25. Another threat to Turkey’s security is the possibility of Soviet encirclement. This could be accomplished by Soviet occupation of Iran, Iraq, and Syria and/or Soviet/satellite occupation of Greece. It is unlikely that Turkey would oppose such occupation militarily unless its intervention were part of a defense plan formulated within the framework of security arrangements to which the United States were a party.

26. Turkey’s reaction to the fact of encirclement would depend on a number of factors, including (1) the determination of the United States to oppose the USSR globally and to support and supply Turkey to the utmost of its ability, and (2) its ability to defend itself in the light of the new situation which might preclude the possibility of effective allied assistance. Although Turkey’s sympathies would continue to lie with the anti-Soviet forces, its alignment with the free world, in the absence of a United States security commitment, might be weakened with the result that it would be unwilling to expose itself to the risks involved in overt cooperation with those forces.

alternative courses of action

27. Any visible lessening of United States interest in the political independence and territorial integrity of Turkey would have such far-reaching consequences on the security of the United States that continued United States assistance to Turkey, on an adequate scale, in the political, economic, and military fields is imperative. Within these fields certain basic alternative courses of action present themselves.

a. Political.

(1) Continue present policy. The present policy of United States friendship and political support in international councils has been reciprocated by Turkey. With respect to Turkey’s internal policies and practices a wholesome development is already taking place. The indirect [Page 1158] influence which the United States can exercise in assuring the continuance of such development will undoubtedly be more effective than direct intervention to this end by the United States. In its exposed position to direct Soviet attack, Turkey is not satisfied with the present United States policy because it does hot provide an unequivocal United States commitment to come to Turkey’s support in the event of attack. On the other hand the present policy does not insure any assistance from Turkey in case of Soviet attack in other portions of the world. Without a reciprocal security arrangement which includes the United States, the exposed position of Turkey may lead it toward a policy of neutralism, thus losing to the free world the assistance of a powerful ally.

(2) The conclusion of a reciprocal security arrangement with Turkey. The most significant step that the United States could take in the politico-military field would be the conclusion of a reciprocal security arrangement with Turkey. Turkey’s international position would be enhanced thereby, through recognition that it had become a full partner with the United States in the common struggle to contain Soviet imperialism. More than any other political measure, a reciprocal security arrangement would assure Turkey’s continued alignment with the free world and its full cooperation with the United States and the latter’s allies in international security measures, and its co-belligerency in the event of war. Of the various alternative forms of reciprocal security arrangements, the most desirable would be Turkey’s membership in NATO, and the least desirable would be a bilateral arrangement between the United States and Turkey. Regardless of what form the security arrangement takes, the USSR would probably react by exerting increased pressure, through measures short of war, upon the countries of the Middle East.

b. Economic.

(1) Discontinue economic assistance to Turkey. While the Turkish economy would not collapse if United States economic aid were entirely discontinued, adjustment to this circumstance would entail a very substantial curtailment in Turkey’s investment and military expenditures, the latter already being at a level lower than consistent with its defense requirements. The political consequences, in the short run, would probably be of more significance than the economic. Such a decision by the United States on economic aid would be interpreted as indicating a lack of interest in Turkey’s economic well-being and a lack of appreciation of the heavy burden which the Turkish people are bearing to maintain their military strength. It would tend to negate the favorable effect which the extension of a United States security commitment would otherwise have on Turkish-American relations.

(2) Continue economic assistance. In the light of the foregoing, continued economic assistance to Turkey appears desirable to the extent required to assure the completion of economic development projects already initiated with United States assistance and, if warranted by Turkish measures of self-help, to support a short-range economic development program which will at least satisfy minimum internal political and economic requirements. In the long run, unless Turkey is able to carry on its development program, which is directed towards a substantial increase in its national product, its internal economic stability will be jeopardized.

[Page 1159]

c. Military.

(1) Continue present program. Continuance of the United States program of military aid to Turkey is essential to indicate that there is no lessening of United States interest in Turkey and to permit steady progress to be made in developing the military capabilities of the Turkish armed forces. To the extent that such progress is dependent upon further increase in internal defense expenditures, consideration should be given to extending United States aid in the form of common use items or consumer goods to generate part or all of the internal resources required.

(2) Provide expanded military support. The closer military and political relationships between the United States and Turkey which would result from reciprocal security arrangements, either direct or indirect between the two countries, would provide a basis for an even more rapid development of Turkey’s military strength, if this were desired and were supported by a substantial step-up in United States programs of military and economic assistance.

28. In the event of an attack against Turkey prior to the conclusion of reciprocal security arrangements including Turkey and the United States, failure of the United States to provide support to prevent Turkey from falling under Soviet domination would produce political and military consequences which would vitally affect the security interests of the United States. The USSR would acquire the strategic advantages to be derived from the control of Turkey and the Turkish Straits. In addition, the USSR might conclude that the United States would not respond to subsequent direct Soviet or satellite action against other countries in the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean areas, and that the governments of those countries would in time be forced to seek accomodation with the USSR with inevitable repercussions in Western Europe. In the light of the vital interest of the United States in Turkey and the deep commitment of United States prestige in that country, the more valid alternative open to the United States in the event of an attack by Soviet and/or satellite forces would be to provide matériel and if so recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time to deploy United States forces to the extent necessary and available without jeopardizing the security of the United States or of areas of the world of greater strategic importance to the United States, and to urge all other nations to take similar action.

29. It continues to be in the security interest of the United States that Turkey remain an ally of the free world in the struggle against communism.

30. Turkey is the strongest anti-communist country on the periphery of the USSR and the only one in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East area capable of offering substantial resistance to Soviet aggression.

31. The actions taken by the United States with respect to Turkey have increased Turkey’s ability as well as determination to resist Soviet [Page 1160] pressures and have thus made an important contribution in preventing Turkey from falling under Soviet domination, and in preventing Soviet expansion into the Middle East area.

32. Turkey continues to be a target of Soviet ambition. A Soviet or satellite attack on Turkey, however, is not likely unless the USSR is prepared to risk a general war. The USSR may, nevertheless, attempt to encircle Turkey in the expectation that it can thus weaken Turkey’s alignment with the free world and make it less defensible.

33. Turkey would probably not oppose militarily Soviet or satellite efforts to occupy Iran, Iraq and Syria, or Greece or Yugoslavia or NATO countries unless its intervention were part of a defense plan formulated within the framework of security arrangements to which the United States were a party.

34. Turkey is not satisfied with its present “association” relationship with NATO and attaches the highest importance to entering into reciprocal security arrangements with the United States, either directly or indirectly.

35. Any change in United States policy with respect to political, military and economic assistance to Turkey which could be interpreted as a lessening of United States interest in the political independence and territorial integrity of Turkey might weaken Turkey’s alignment with the free world and lead it to adopt a more neutral policy. It would also remove one of the important deterrents to Soviet or satellite aggression.

36. The United States should continue publicly to manifest deep interest in the independence and integrity of Turkey in order to deter the USSR and/or its satellites from initiating aggressive action against Turkey, and in any case, to prevent them from acting on the assumption that the United States would not provide determined support to Turkey in the event of an aggression.

37. The United States should continue to provide economic and technical assistance to Turkey which, when combined with maximum Turkish efforts, will make possible the carrying out of an economic development program designed to meet minimum internal political and economic requirements with minimum inflationary impact. It should also be prepared to consider providing economic assistance to help Turkey build up still further its military strength, as well as to assist Turkey in providing resources, such as chromite and opium, needed for the defense of the free world.

38. The United States should lend appropriate support to the Turkish military establishment to give it the capability of:

Maintaining internal security.
Repelling a satellite attack on Turkey.
Causing maximum practicable resistance to an attack on Turkey involving direct or indirect Soviet participation.
Conducting guerrilla warfare in Turkey and contiguous areas in the event portions of Turkey are overrun by an enemy.

39. Within the limits of priorities and availabilities, the United States should provide Turkey with military matériel, supplies and guidance necessary to the accomplishment of the objectives outlined in paragraph 38 above.

40. In order to assure Turkey’s full cooperation in international security measures and, in the event of war its co-belligerency, the use of Turkish bases and other facilities, and the closure of the Straits to the USSR, the United States should:

Press now for the inclusion of Turkey as a full member of NATO, this being the most desirable form of reciprocal security arrangement.
If full membership of Turkey in NATO would be unacceptably delayed, conclude alternative security arrangements which would include Turkey and would not prejudice Turkish membership in NATO at the earliest practicable date.

41. Pending the conclusion of reciprocal security arrangements between the United States and Turkey:

The United States should develop plans to assist Turkey in the event of an attack by Soviet or satellite forces. In this connection the United States should:
Consult with the United Kingdom (and as appropriate with France) on action it would propose to take in this event, in carrying out its commitments under the United Kingdom–France–Turkey Treaty of Mutual Assistance and in recognition of its primary responsibility for the defense of this area.
Urge at the appropriate time, military planning by the NATO to cover such a contingency.
Consider, at an appropriate time, the possibility and desirability for close military cooperation between Turkey and its neighbors.
In the event of an attack against Turkey by Soviet or satellite forces, the United States should:
Make every effort to stop the aggression, localize the action and restore the status quo by political measures, through the UN, jointly with the United Kingdom and France and unilaterally.
Accelerate and increase military assistance to Turkey to the extent appropriate and feasible.
If necessary, and to the extent consistent with other security requirements, mobilize available military support to Turkey through United Nations action, through implementation of North Atlantic Treaty plans, through joint United States–United Kingdom arrangements, and through unilateral United States support, as appropriate.
In participating in any military support action for Turkey as envisaged in (3) above, deploy, to the extent necessary, such [Page 1162] forces as can appropriately be made available in the light of the recommendations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time.
Take the action listed above in full knowledge that a general war may nevertheless be unavoidable.

42. After the conclusion of reciprocal security arrangements including the United States and Turkey, the United States should respond to a Soviet or satellite attack against Turkey in a manner and scope to be determined in the light of recommendation by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, circumstances then existing, and within the framework of the obligations of the United States under those arrangements.

  1. The source text, together with the cover sheet, the covering note dated May 11 from Executive Secretary Lay, and the Statement of Policy, were circulated as the final part of NSC 109 on May 11. The problems encountered with the subparagraphs of paragraph 3 in the Statement of Policy, as noted in footnote 1, supra, were reflected as well in the subparagraphs of paragraph 40 in the source text. However, when the difficulties with the subparagraphs outlined in footnote 1, supra, were resolved on May 10, the same changes were made with reference to the subparagraphs of paragraph 40 of this Staff study.
  2. Not printed, but for text of NSC 73/4, August 25, 1950, see Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. i, p. 375.
  3. For documentation regarding Turkey’s election to a nonpermanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, see Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. ii, pp. 87 ff.