Conference files, lot 59 D 95, CF 156

No. 50
Memorandum of Conversation, by the Ambassador in Turkey (McGhee)1

ST D–10


  • Turkey


  • United States
    • Secretary of State Dulles
    • Honorable Harold Stassen
    • Mr. Byroade
    • Mr. MacArthur II
    • Ambassador McGhee
    • Mr. Leon Dayton
  • Turkey
    • President Bayar
    • Prime Minister Adnan Menderes
    • Foreign Minister Fuat Köprülü
    • Finance Minister Hasan Polatken
    • Defense Minister Seyfi Kurtbeck
    • Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Grand National Assembly, Nihad Belger
    • Secretary General of the Foreign Office, Cevat Acikalin
    • Under Secretary of the Foreign Office, Ihari Birgi
    • Director General of Protocol, Teylik Kanim Kemahli
    • Chef de Cabinet of the President, Fikret Balbez
    • Senior Aide of the President, Lt. Col. Narettin Alpkartal
    • Deputy Secretary General of the Foreign Office, Haydar Cork
    • Deputy Secretary General of Foreign Office for NATO Affairs, Sadi Kavur
    • Director General of Second Department of Foreign Office, Orhan Eralp
    • Ambassador Zorlu

The President stated that there had been little opportunity for the Secretary of State to express his views fully at the meeting held earlier today with the Prime Minister; that he would appreciate it if the Secretary would comment on the subjects under discussion at that time and any other subjects that might be on his mind.

The Secretary replied that although the United States is not as close to the Soviet Union as Turkey, we do, however, have certain global responsibilities and we attempt to form our policies in respect to these responsibilities after full consultation with our Allies. We do not see in the present Soviet moves any basic change in their policy or in their strategy which is to attempt to rule the world. We interpret their present moves as an effort to gain time by appearing to make concessions in order to increase their strength. Present Soviet tactics are calculated to counteract the policies of our present administration which are more vigorous toward certain areas of the world.

In his inaugural message to the Congress President Eisenhower announced the end of the neutralization of the coast of China by the 7th Fleet. The Secretary and Mr. Stassen both went to Europe in an attempt to ensure the rearming of Germany and its incorporation into the European Defense community.2 They are both now travelling in the Middle East, an area which has previously been neglected by the United States, in order to help strengthen this area. Thus, in the Far East, Middle East and Europe, the United States is moving forward more vigorously. The present effort of the USSR constitutes an attempt to thwart this activity by attempting to prove peaceful intentions. Although we believe that under Divine Providence it is possible for the worst sinner to repent, and must be willing to keep an open mind, we must not accept the Soviets at their face value until their actions prove their words.

Unfortunately some of our allies are so anxious to relieve themselves of their present burdens that they are willing to believe the Soviet words. We must work to maintain the cooperation of these allies. We must take their views into consideration. We must, however, constantly be on guard to preserve our strength, not for one, two or three years, but for 15 or 20 years. Beginning with the Korean war in 1950, the United States and others started an effort which is of a magnitude which we cannot sustain forever. It is important [Page 150] to find a scale of military expenditures that can be sustained without harming our currency or economy. Stalin once wrote that the struggle in which we are engaged would last for an entire historical era, and that the moment that the Soviet blow would come would be when their adversaries were at loggerheads with each other and had exhausted themselves. Their policies therefore must be ones which can be maintained for an entire historical era.

If today the United States is cutting expenditures, both for our own defense effort and for foreign aid, in order to balance our budget, it is not that we think that the peril is over but that we must put ourselves in a position to maintain our defensive effort for a long time. The productive capacity of the United States is so tremendous that we can maintain strength without endangering our economy and risking inflation. This decision was taken by General Eisenhower in December during his trip to Korea, which was long before Stalin’s death. What the new administration is doing, therefore, is not because it is fooled by Soviet tactics.

The Secretary stated that the reason he and Mr. Stassen are here is because of the weakness in the area between Turkey and Pakistan. He said that during their visit they were impressed with the strength of Pakistan and their willingness to fight. Beyond Pakistan there are, of course, many problems: those of Korea, Indochina and Burma. We do not wish at the moment to burden you with these problems, said the Secretary. However, we do seek your help in the Middle East. The Middle East Defense Organization, which was a plan for Middle East defense invented some two years ago, has not proven to be any good. Too many states not part of the area and too many states in the area who are more interested in quarrelling over Israel and the Suez base than the defense of the area were included in the original plan. Since Turkey is in the Middle East and is interested in its defense, I would like, said the Secretary, to hear the views of your Government on this question.

The President replied that it is true that the Turks had lived as neighbors with Russia for many centuries, during which time they had fought many bloody wars. Russian policy has always played an important part in Turkish history. At the present time, however, there are not even minor frontier incidents with Russia, of the type that occurred when they were more friendly with Russia. Two years ago the Russians forced many ethnic Turks in Bulgaria to immigrate to Turkey. Now, however, there is calm on the Bulgarian frontier. This gives the Turks a clear impression that the Russians do not have any intention of bringing pressure to bear against them. The Turks, however, do not see any change in Russian policy either toward Turkey or the world. I agree, therefore, [Page 151] Mr. Secretary, with what you said, stated the President. One of the Russian tactics is to compromise when necessary. However, their objective remains to rule the world by Communism. The Turks are therefore continuing preparations within the limits of their potentialities and are hoping that the other NATO countries will not relax their efforts.

The Secretary replied that he felt that the other NATO countries had the same basic attitude toward the situation that the President had expressed. In the recent NATO meeting they had in fact passed a resolution to this effect. Because of internal political pressures, however, they have taken measures which have the effect of relaxing their effort, perhaps against the better judgment of their governments.

The President commented that such relaxation is dangerous to the ultimate NATO aim, to which the Secretary agreed.

The President said that he found that the policy, as stated by the Secretary, of continuing United States military effort in such a way as not to endanger the United States economy, was wise. We cannot, he said, judge your ability. On the other hand, if the impression is created that the United States is wavering, others will relax. The United States should never let go of the rudder of the ship.

The President continued that he would be brief in his discussion of the question raised with respect to the Middle East. I too, he said, do not envisage the formation of the Middle East Defense Organization. There are a number of Arab countries and there is the so-called Arab League. When we talk with the Arab countries individually they appear to have reasonable views. However, the position of the Arab League is always the same. The Arab countries vie with each other in proving their nationalism and in proving that they are “more tough than the other guy”. There are several knotty problems which they put forward in justification of their position: that of Israel, Suez, and the independence of several Arab countries. Even if these questions were solved, however, I do not believe they would be on our side. They put forward “puerile” arguments threatening the West with an association with Russia. They appear unaware of the greater danger which Russia represents. Under the circumstances we should feel free, in the event of war, to conduct our strategy as the situation dictates.

Take Suez, continued the President. The Egyptians present the Suez issue as one of independence. Independence is of course a sacred right, but we do not believe that this is the real issue in the case of Suez. How can such a strategic key position be left in the hands of people whose policy is so uncertain? My colleagues have, I believe, spoken to you in general of the present situation in the [Page 152] Arab countries. I will therefore do no more than to say that in my judgment the Middle East Defense Organization cannot be set up. In their present attitude I do not believe that the Arab states would be on our side tomorrow, even if we gave them arms. In response to the Secretary’s comment that the view he had expressed was a pessimistic one, the President replied “I hope I am wrong”.

The Secretary asked the President if he did not consider that any of the Arab states were reliable. To this the Prime Minister replied that even if they found one, what would they do with it?

The President added that Iraq was, in their judgment, more reliable than the rest. If Abdullah were alive, he would have confidence in Jordan, because of him and because of the British influence there. In Syria, however, any tough guy with a shotgun can take over at will.

The Secretary asked whether or not the President believed that Colonel Shishikli had any real promise in Syria. The President replied that all evidence which the Turks had was to the contrary. Shishikli has many enemies. Although Shishikli was more friendly than the previous dictator, who encouraged Communism under the guise of socialism, his tenure is doubtful.

The President continued that General Naguib had in his earlier days created a favorable impression on the Turks. His policy of land reform and his attempts to raise the standard of living had given them hope. We now, however, consider him the symbol of an extremist group. I recently read a statement, said the President, which General Naguib has not denied, expressing his conviction that Malenkov is a peace-loving man who would bring peace to the world. The normal course for Egypt was to take its place among the free nations of the world to assist in solving our problems. Who is he threatening and what can he gain by these threats?

The President said that he could not express an opinion on the Saudi Arabian Government. If it were successful in raising an army he might consider it. However, even then it would not break with the Arab League with whom it must show a common front.

If threatened tomorrow, Turkey would fight for its independence and that of the free world. I cannot see, said the President, how we can join with the Arab countries. We have lived with them for many years. We have a common religion and social traditions. We have attempted to capitalize on that for three years, especially during the last five months. However, we have concluded that we cannot deal with them under their present rulers. They will not fight. People who will not risk death can never fight. Whatever needs to be done we will do so in solidarity with our allies. However, the fact is that our right flank is exposed and in great danger.

[Page 153]

The President continued that Turkey would like to befriend the Arabs, if for no other reason than to avoid harm from them. I do not want to give up the MEDO for good, he said. We will continue to do our part along with our friends and allies. If any of the Arab states wish to speak we will be glad to talk with them. Perhaps Iraq will do so.

The Secretary said that we must not abandon our effort to build up strength on Turkey’s exposed flank. The President replied that he agreed but “how will we go about it?” The Secretary said he did not know, but that we must not abandon our efforts. We must give friendly help in the hope that developments will take a different shape. If the Suez issue can be solved, and if the present tension between the Arab states and Israel can be relieved, a situation can be created which will permit development of strength in the Arab states.

The President asked in rejoinder: “How can NATO consent to the evacuation of British troops in the absence of a government in Egypt sympathetic to the NATO cause?” The Egyptians now demand unconditional evacuation of the British forces, even before discussion of the question. When we first approached Egypt in collaboration with our allies, inviting them to join in the Middle East Command, we did so under the assumption that there was no infringement of Egyptian sovereignty and that she would be accepted as an equal. If I were Egypt, I would have accepted our offer and then sought to obtain my rights. We have in the meantime frequently spoken to Egypt in friendly terms along these lines.

As to Israel, continued the President, if anyone is shocked at its independence it should be Turkey, as it formerly belonged to Turkey. We now look at Israel quite differently and are glad to recognize Israel. The Arabs, however, look at it only through their own emotions. Sentiment and ambition defy solution.

The problem of the Arab refugees, continued the President, should first be solved. If the question of the frontiers between Israel and the Arab states could be solved, the “chip on the shoulder” of the Arabs would be relieved to a considerable extent. It must be drilled into their minds that they can gain nothing by supporting Russian policy. They must be told that their present attitude is a bluff which they cannot possibly carry into action.

The Secretary replied that he greatly appreciated this frank expression by the President, the authority of which he fully respected. We still hope, however, he stated, that the Arabs can gradually be brought into an association with you and with us. I admit that the immediate situation is gloomy. However, it is possible that the Arabs will change their view and that we can make them change. [Page 154] The area they occupy is so important that we must not abandon our efforts.

The Secretary thereupon stated that he understood that since the President and the Prime Minister were leaving early in the morning to visit the new Turkish brigade training for service in Korea he felt that he must part. The President replied that Turkey was proud to be fighting alongside of the American Army in Korea.

The Secretary stated that he had a letter to deliver to the President from General Eisenhower, from whom he brought greetings to the President. General Eisenhower was greatly impressed with the Turks during his visit while NATO Commander and often spoke of the great effort that the Turks were making.

The President asked to be remembered to President Eisenhower, for whom he expressed the greatest admiration.

  1. This conversation took place after a dinner given by the President of Turkey at his residence in honor of the Secretary of State.
  2. For documentation on the Secretary’s trip to Europe see vol. v, Part 2, pp. 1548 ff.