Conference files, lot 59 D 95, CF 156

No. 48
Memorandum of Conversation, by the Counselor of Embassy in Turkey (Rountree) 1

ST D–10/1


  • Turkey


  • United States
    • Secretary of State Dulles
    • Honorable Harold Stassen
    • Mr. Byroade
    • Mr. MacArthur II
    • Ambassador McGhee
    • Mr. Rountree
  • Turkey
    • Prime Minister Adnan Mendores
    • Foreign Minister Fuad Koprulu
    • Secretary General Cevad Acikalin
    • Under Secretary General Nuri Birgi
    • Representative to NATO Rifki Zorlu
    • Assistant Secretary General for NATO Affairs Sadi Kavur
    • Assistant Secretary General for Economic Affairs Haydar Gork
    • Director General, First Department Talat Miras
    • Director General, Second Department Orhan Eralp

In his introductory statement the Prime Minister extended a cordial welcome to the American visitors and expressed the hope and expectation that the conversations which were to be held would be good not only for Turkish-American relations, but also for the entire free world.

Responding, the Secretary expressed his great pleasure at being in Turkey. He said that while the purpose of his trip as originally conceived was to visit the Arab capitals and South Asian countries, he found it impossible not to accept the invitation extended by the Turkish Government for him to stop in Ankara. His visit was not merely an act of courtesy and not merely to pay his respect for the great effort which Turkey is making, although it was in part to do those things, but he primarily wished to seek the views and advice [Page 138] of the Turkish leaders on matters of common interest. He said that he particularly hoped that the Prime Minister would express himself on:

present Soviet policy and the Turkish interpretation of what is going on in Russia, and
ways and means by which greater unity might be achieved within the Middle East area, where there is weakness and confusion which, it seems to the United States, is very dangerous at this time.

The Secretary said that he was at the disposal of the Prime Minister to discuss any matters of United States policy upon which the Prime Minister desired explanation.

By agreement, the Prime Minister set forth at some length his views upon international affairs with the understanding that the Secretary would later comment. He began with the general observation that the world is divided into two opposing forces: Russia and her satellites versus those countries which frankly opposed the communist menace. In between these groups were countries not definitely aligned with either. The Prime Minister said that there are substantial differences of methods employed by the two opposing forces. The Soviet countries act pursuant to one program, directed by one power, while the free world lacks this advantage. The links between the free countries suffer greatly as a result of clashes in local interest. If these countries were to consolidate their position they would constitute a much greater force. The Prime Minister felt that we should concentrate our efforts in that direction.

Relating this philosophy to situations in this part of the world, the Prime Minister said that the Suez Canal issue and difficulties in North Africa are problems in dealing with which we should have unity. He remarked that while the Secretary was in Egypt he had inquired of the Turkish Ambassador as to the views of his Government upon the Canal Zone issue. In this connection, the Prime Minister said that the Turks did not consider the Canal question to be exclusively between Egypt and the United Kingdom. A solution is, for example, of vital concern to Turkey and the question is one which concerns NATO strategy generally. The Egyptians could not properly maintain today that the nature of the British position in the Canal Zone is one of imperialism or of merely maintaining British interests. Turkey is convinced that the United Kingdom is acting as guardian of an outpost of one of the key positions of the free world. It is obvious also that the United States attaches great importance to the area; the fact that the United States maintains the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean is substantial evidence of this, as is, in fact, the visit of the Secretary of State to this part of the world. The Prime Minister believed the importance of maintaining [Page 139] the Canal Zone in safe hands to be equal to the importance of maintaining the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean.

In the Turkish view, according to the Prime Minister, attempts by Egypt to present the issue as a struggle for independence and freedom should be entirely secondary to the importance that the Canal Zone has to the entire free world as a point of strategy. He said that he believed that the Canal Zone problem could be solved, without adversely affecting Egyptian national aspirations, if the Egyptian Government understood the important point that the stationing of foreign troops in a country is no longer considered to be an infringement of sovereignty, as once was the case. The Turks, for example, possess airfields which they intend to use jointly with United States forces, and they do not feel that this involves in any way a question of infringing Turkish sovereignty. On the contrary, Turkey considers such arrangements to be elements of security for its very existence. In Egypt there is a tendency to overlook the danger facing the entire free world.…

Continuing, the Prime Minister said that the Turkish Government considered it to be of vital importance that the Canal area defenses be well maintained, and that the zone should not be evacuated unless and until suitable alternative arrangements have been made. The Prime Minister believed that evacuation should not even be considered until the expiration of the British-Egyptian treaty, which has about two more years to run, and even then evacuation should not take place until arrangements have been made for defense of the Canal area. He believed that the interested countries should get together now and consider defense arrangements to be effected after expiration of the treaty.

Turning to the question of Middle East defense, the Prime Minister commented that it had been the aim of all of us to provide for the association of the Arab countries in an organization to be created for this purpose. Each of the sponsoring countries strived in its own way to bring the Arabs into the organization. From various indications, including the status of negotiations on the Canal Zone, the Turkish Government has reached the conclusion that hope of having the Arab countries accept MEDO should be abandoned at this time. He believed that following these unsuccessful efforts a new leaf should be turned and a new enterprise undertaken. He expressed regret that the Arab countries failed to join; on the other hand, he felt that we should not exaggerate the importance of this and fall into despondency thereby.…

From this, the Prime Minister said, the conclusion can be drawn that in the defense of the Middle East, the backbone must be Turkey. In view of Turkey’s social and political stability, the determined attitude of Turkey vis-à-vis the Soviet threat, and the very [Page 140] serious efforts which Turkey is making to expand her already strong forces, it is only natural that she would have a primary role in the defense of the area. He said that Turkey will continue to exert every effort to accomplish an organization of countries in the area, including eventually Pakistan, for Middle East defense, and on the other hand is working toward effective results of the Balkan pact as an important element in the defense of that area.

. . . . . . .

Turning to the problems of North Africa, the Prime Minister said that these should be studied from the same angle as the Canal problem; i.e., from the point of view of having in hand important strategic areas which are vital to the defense of the free world, and not simply as colonial problems. He remarked that in the Suez Canal controversy, the United Kingdom appeared to be left to itself; in the case of the North African disputes, France likewise appeared to be left alone. Such matters as these, which in the final analysis are of great concern to all NATO countries, should be taken into hand as common problems to be worked out in the common interests of the free world. In the NATO Council the question would be of finding solutions not alone on the basis of satisfying the national dignity of local countries, but in recognition of the fact that we face a relentless enemy employing tactics which require NATO to act with forceful decision in instances where we have interests essential to be maintained. The Prime Minister said that his comments in this connection naturally require further study and consideration, but he thought that the general line was worthy of careful thought.

The Prime Minister then referred to recent reports which he had received to the effect that a four-power conference with the Soviet Union had been seriously proposed and that Prime Minister Churchill favors such a meeting. He said that he is not certain whether the motivation for this conference was in the hope for concrete results or merely to prove that the Western powers sincerely and earnestly seek by every practicable means to find peace. Whatever the reason might be, however, the Prime Minister felt that the meeting would produce no concrete results and, on the contrary, might have an adverse effect upon the common front. Moreover, such a meeting might give rise to unfounded hopes in the Iron Curtain countries and in certain other countries such as Egypt. The Prime Minister expressed the view that if the Soviet Union should by any chance be willing to abandon or relax her aggressive policy, she would be the one to come to us and seek an understanding; Russia started the cold war, if it served her purpose she would end it. He emphasized the belief that contacts with Russia by the Western powers might create in the free world suspicion [Page 141] that a policy of appeasement is being adopted. He underlined the importance in the Turkish view of a united front and united policy among the free countries in these matters.

The Prime Minister then turned to the question of United States military aid. He said that Turkey has one of the longest frontiers with Russia and is, so to speak, in the same bed with her. Because of that, and because Turkey has long recognized the Soviet threat, a substantial portion of the Turkish budget has since the last war been expended on her military forces, it being fully determined to maintain Turkish independence and freedom even if the country should be left alone. Turkey has every intention of intensifying her efforts in that direction. As an example, the present forces of 330,000 men will be increased to 410,000 by next fall. The Turkish Government has adopted sound measures to increase the numbers of junior officers and NCOs and is instituting extensive measures of training to build up the number of technicians in necessary fields. Turkish force goals and force requirements were determined jointly, according to the Prime Minister, in the presence of representatives of JAMMAT and NATO. Those representatives came much closer to the Turkish point of view upon force goals after they observed the intensified efforts of the Turks. He said that as a result of this joint study and the preparations being undertaken by Turkey, the fact was established that by the end of 1953 Turkey would be in a position to absorb additional military equipment amounting to $500 million. The Prime Minister commented that it is easy to demand such sums, but that his Government is entirely aware that the United States is the only country in a position to supply arms and equipment to the rest of the free world. It is evident that if the Turkish Army were the only one needing help, it would be in “tip-top shape” now; but the Turkish Army is only one of many seeking American assistance.

The Prime Minister said he would like to stress one more fact pertinent to the establishment of the level of defense aid. In addition to Turkey’s strategic position, her relentless determination to resist aggression, the social and political stability of the country, and her willingness to contribute forces to the common defense, it is clear that dollars spent in Turkey will buy more for defense than those expended in any other country. Continuing, the Prime Minister set forth his understanding that the funds included in Title II of the forthcoming aid bill had been reduced $30 million less than the amount appropriated last year. He said, however, that he had understood in conversation with Ambassador McGhee that Turkey would probably receive about the same amount of military aid as last year. However, Turkey is moved by the determination to speed up her effort, not to continue at the same level. He hoped that responsible [Page 142] United States representatives in Turkey, as they observed the fulfillment of Turkey’s efforts, will become convinced that Turkey deserves more. As he understood the matter, it is possible to transfer up to 10% of Title I funds to Title II. He said that he cherished the hope that this might be done in Turkey’s case, and that Turkey would prove that it is worthy of such additional assistance.

Regarding the matter of economic assistance, the Prime Minister said that Turkey is in the midst of an enormous development effort. He said that progress in no similar country can compare with that made in Turkey during the last four years, and especially the last three years. He commented that it fell upon him to state with gratitude that American economic aid had contributed in very large measure to this recovery and expansion. Economic assistance to no other country had been as effective as in the case of Turkey; every dollar given had been spent in its place and none wasted. He said that the Turkish Government naturally has in mind raising the standards of living of its people, but its most important goal is ultimately to be in a position to maintain a strong Army with Turkey’s own resources.

The Prime Minister commented that an important experiment is going on in Turkey today. A large segment of the free world seemed to adopt the conviction that very speedy economic development could take place only under a totalitarian regime. Between 1950 and 1960 Turkey will illustrate how great progress can be achieved by giving way to free enterprise and economic liberty. The Prime Minister quoted a number of statistics to demonstrate progress made thus far since 1950, and said that if the present rate continues Turkey will soon be in a position to maintain its Army from its own resources, assuming continued United States military end-item assistance.

The Prime Minister said that he expected that American economic aid would help to prepare the ground work for future private investment in Turkey after assistance of this type has ended. He said that economic aid at this time is necessary to help Turkey carry out her duty as “guardian of civilization and an element of security in this part of the world”, where Turkey constitutes a bridge between the West and the undeveloped countries of the Near East. Without Turkey, the Prime Minister said, the question of Middle East defense would merely lie in theory.

The Secretary thanked the Prime Minister for his full and frank exposition of his views, which he stated was the kind of thing he came to Turkey to obtain. He said that because the time remaining at this particular meeting was short, he would respond only briefly [Page 143] to various points and he hoped that later in the evening they might have a chance to discuss the matter at more leisure.

The Secretary referred to the problem of unity among the free countries, which had been raised by the Prime Minister. He said that while he would not on this occasion enter into a philosophical discussion, he would like to point out that operations of the Soviet world under a single will is not only a source of strength but is also a point of weakness, since those subjected to a single will become themselves incapable of independent, resourceful action in case of emergency. He said that he quite recognized that the free nations should stand together in order to maximize their strength, and should improve their techniques of arriving at understandings, but he was not dismayed if at times they should disagree. That, the Secretary said, partakes of the very nature of the freedom which we are trying to preserve. Because of the importance which we attach to unity, however, we value the kind of talks which we were having with our Turkish friends—not to dominate one another, but to obtain a meeting of the minds.

Regarding the Suez Canal Zone issue, the Secretary said that he fully agreed with the point of view which the Prime Minister expressed; namely, that the area is one of international concern and not purely of concern to Egypt and the United Kingdom. He said that he sought to present the idea in his talks with General Naguib and the Revolutionary Committee in Egypt, and it seemed to be a novel point of view to them which they had not yet absorbed. The Secretary expressed the belief that all of us share concern in the Canal Zone issue and that each of us, in our own way and without concerted pressures, should strive to bring this point of view to the Egyptians. On the other hand, we must recognize that if the Base were to be held only by use of force against the people who surround it, it would be of little value. We are, therefore, striving on the one hand to bring realization to the Egyptian leaders of their responsibility, and on the other a solution which it should be possible for them to accept. The Secretary said that he had pointed out to the Egyptians that the United States has bases in England, and that England did not regard this to be a violation of her sovereignty.

Turning to the problem of MEDO, the Secretary said that he would fully accept the point of view expressed by the Prime Minister that Turkey would have to be the backbone of any such organization or of plans for the defense of the area. While a backbone is important, however, it is equally important that there be flesh around it. The Secretary said that he was surprised by the Prime Minister’s indication that the Arab countries might be disregarded in this connection. From his own observations he questioned [Page 144] whether it was practicable at present to attempt to create a formal organization which would include all Arab states. Perhaps an organization such as MEDO would not be possible at the present time, but the Secretary expressed reluctance to go to the other extreme of feeling that the Arab countries should be wholly ignored with respect to plans for their own area. Some of the countries are more preoccupied with their own problems, such as Suez and Israel, etc., than with the bigger problem which preoccupies us. He expressed the opinion that in the northern Arab countries, such as Iraq, there is a sense of danger and he wondered whether it might be desirable, without activating a formal MEDO, to give some encouragement to selected Arab countries which seem to have the will and disposition to equip themselves to meet the big peril which we ourselves see. The Secretary expressed the hope that the Prime Minister would develop more fully the views which he expressed earlier in the meeting.

Referring to the question of the tripartite pact, the Secretary said that he wished to express the real gratification which the United States felt at the conclusion of the treaty and the development of better relations in the area to which it relates. He said that he was much impressed with what the Prime Minister had to say regarding further steps to integrate Yugoslavia into NATO. He stated that he could not at this time indicate the United States position upon that problem, except to say that he had an open mind and that there was now in his mind the point of view which the Prime Minister had expressed. He commented that there were several practical considerations which must be taken into account, some of which the Prime Minister had mentioned:

The relationship of Yugoslavia and Italy, which should be improved by a settlement of the Trieste matter. The Secretary said that we have discussed this with both parties, and he had personally talked with Mr. De Gasperi about it.
The attitude of the Scandinavian countries, which feel that too much attention is being given to Southern Europe and not enough to the north, and
Our own public opinion in the United States, which is still disturbed by certain religious aspects of communist policy in Yugoslavia.

He pointed out these problems not as insuperable obstacles but as elements which have to be taken into account in making a decision upon this matter.

On the North African question, the Secretary said that the Prime Minister had made an extremely interesting and somewhat novel suggestion that, in relation to the Suez issue and the issues in North Africa, these should be open to negotiation as international [Page 145] and not just national problems. The Secretary thought it important in one way or another to divorce the question of common security which concerned us all from colonial issues. He said that the French have been extremely reluctant to give problems of this sort any kind of international aspect, because of their fear that the security considerations will not be divorced from colonial aspects. As an example, the French strongly oppose bringing to the Security Council the matter of the invasion of Laos for fear that they would be attacked as colonialists. They might possibly take a different view with respect to the NATO considering the North African situation, feeling that NATO would be sympathetic to their position. The Secretary commented that the suggestion certainly is an interesting one in relation to both problems.

With reference to the Prime Minister’s comments upon the possibility of a four-power meeting with Russia, the Secretary said that there has been very strong pressure of public opinion for such a conference. He said that his knowledge of the immediate situation in Washington, London and Paris was somewhat limited by his absence during the past two or three weeks; however, when he left Washington the theme was that all aspects relating to the possibility of such a meeting should be very carefully examined before we commit ourselves to it. While it is always possible that a “conversion of spirit” might occur, we cannot forget the fact that the Soviet communists have always been taught that concessions and temporary retreats were parts of their tactics. The Prime Minister could therefore be assured that whatever we do will be done very carefully. The Secretary could not predict whether there would or would not be such a meeting, but he could state that if there were, the United States representatives would be very much on their guard. It is quite possible that the primary purpose of the Soviet Government may be to spread such confusion in Europe that the EDC is not created, and that Germany is not integrated. The Secretary said that it was a pleasure to hear the words of the Prime Minister with respect to this matter, as in so many places people are so eager for peace that they are willing to accept mere words as an excuse to imagine the possibility of getting what they hope for.

The Secretary then asked Mr. Stassen to comment upon the Prime Minister’s statement on American military and economic aid.

Mr. Stassen said that he wished first to emphasize that what is done in the MSA program will be in accordance with the foreign policy leadership exercised by Mr. Dulles. Secondly, that the 1954 fiscal year MSA program has just recently been presented to Congress and until Congress acts it is not possible for anyone to make [Page 146] commitments as to what military or economic aid will be given to Turkey or to any other country. He stated that he would estimate that it may be two months before Congress acts upon the legislation, and that it would take approximately one month after that to relate the world-wide program to the Congressional action. In considering this program, Mr. Stassen said, we would have very much in mind the progress which Turkey has made, the determination that Turkey has evidenced, and the views which the Turkish Government has expressed; but it is also necessary, he said, to have in mind the world-wide responsibilities of our Government which are very heavy. He stated that President Eisenhower had wisely concluded that our own defense appropriation as well as our overseas programs must be somewhat reduced in order to be sure of the sound economic and financial position of the United States. The President has in mind that not only must the United States be strong in the face of the danger this year, but it must so pace itself as to be in a strong position over a period of years to meet any threat which might exist. Thus, he said, we are also concerned that none of our friends should over-extend themselves or count on too much American aid, and therefore keep themselves strong over a period of years. He commented that it is unlikely that Congressional action will make it possible to have economic assistance for Turkey as high as last year. A number of European countries will, in fact, receive no economic aid whatever.

Mr. Stassen expressed concern that our friends should have in mind a proper export-import balance in order to avoid building up a future problem which might become quite severe. We have in mind that the development progress in Turkey has been remarkable, and we earnestly hope that the progress will be continued on a sound basis.

Mr. Stassen concluded by saying that as soon as possible after Congress has acted upon the aid program we will advise the Turkish Government as to what the Turkish portion will be. He emphasized that, until the notice arrives, Turkey should not count on any particular amount since we cannot make advance commitments. He said that the Turkish Government may be sure that full consideration will be given to the progress which has been made and the Turkish determination, and that in making decisions upon the program he would follow the leadership of Mr. Dulles.

In concluding his own remarks, the Secretary commented that of all of our allies he believed that Turkey had the greatest awareness of the fundamental problem which confronts the free world, and the staunchest heart with which to meet it. He said that we were very proud to have this association with Turkey and expressed the [Page 147] hope that we would play a worthy part in it; he was confident that Turkey would always play a worthy part.

The Prime Minister thanked the Secretary, and said that before adjourning he wished to add a few words of clarification of his earlier remarks upon the question of collaboration with the Arabs. He said that the Turkish Government was very anxious to cooperate with the Governments of the Arab states; however, it sees that today they will not collaborate. On the other hand, the question of Middle East defense is urgent, and he felt it possible that if we should proceed with a defense plan it would act as an incentive for Arab countries to join. He said that there was no desire to disregard the Arab countries, but in fact we may be driven to it.

  1. This conversation took place at the office of the Prime Minister.