319. Memorandum of Discussion at the 238th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, February 24, 19551

[Here follow a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting and item 1.]

2. US Policy on Turkey (NSC 36/2; NSC 109; NSC 5510;2 Memo for NSC from Acting Executive Secretary, same subject, dated February 21, 1955)3

In the course of his briefing of the Council on the reference report (NSC 5510), Mr. Cutler read most of the General Considerations and Courses of Action contained in the report. He emphasized to the Council that Turkey presented the United States with two major interrelated problems, one military and the other economic. He then indicated the reasons for the difference in point of view regarding paragraph 20,4 which dealt with the nature of the commitment made by the United States Government to Turkey for assistance in Fiscal Year 1955. The short alternative form of paragraph 20, which had been proposed by State and certain other agencies, called for a determination by April 1, 1955, of “how best to fulfill such a commitment”. The second alternative, on the right-hand side of the page, proposed by Defense and other agencies, called for a determination of “the extent to which the US can fulfill [Page 613] it [the commitment],5 taking into consideration” the availability of funds, the ability of the Turkish armed forces to absorb increased military assistance, and the necessity of avoiding serious harm to the Turkish economy.

At the conclusion of his briefing, Mr. Cutler invited the comments of the Acting Secretary of State.

Secretary Hoover replied that the State Department felt, in view of the aide-mémoire of June 1954,6 that the United States had made a definite commitment to the Turkish Government, even if that commitment were qualified in some respects. No corresponding commitments had been made by Turkey in response to the US commitment. Accordingly, it appeared to the State Department to be a question of the US honoring what, at least in Turkish eyes, amounted to a firm commitment. For that reason, said Secretary Hoover, he supported the first alternative.

The President quickly stated that it was hard for him to believe that the United States could have made a commitment to Turkey in such very precise form without the President’s explicit agreement thereto (implying that he had not given such explicit agreement). …

In response to the President’s questions, Mr. Cutler quoted certain sentences from the aide-mémoire which cast light on the nature of the alleged US commitment. The President replied that regardless of the aide-mémoire, one would have to presuppose that in all these deals between the United States and allies which it was assisting, consideration was given to how much assistance an allied country could profitably absorb. It therefore seemed indicated to him that a fresh look should be taken at the whole problem of assistance to Turkey. If this revealed that the Turks could make profitable use of more money, the President said he would be for giving it to them; but he was afraid that the gift of further money might harm rather than help an important ally.

Admiral Radford said that he strongly shared the President’s feeling on the subject. Of course, we wanted to be strong in the general area of Turkey, Moreover, we wanted to do all we could to build up the strength of the Turkish armed forces. But his own recent visit to Turkey, in November 1954, had shown him a number of serious difficulties. When he had gone to Turkey the previous November, neither he nor any of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had been made aware of the commitment which the United States had made [Page 614] to Turkey in June 1954. Admiral Radford then proceeded to illustrate the serious lack in the Turkish armed forces of career soldiers, sailors and airmen with sufficient technical skill to make profitable use of many of the modern weapons for which the Turkish Government was making requests on the United States. He added that the FOA authorities in Turkey and the United States Ambassador to Ankara likewise shared his own feeling that the Turks were trying to move ahead too rapidly in building up the strength of and in modernizing their armed forces.

Mr. Cutler asked General Porter (who was representing Governor Stassen in the latter’s absence) whether he could throw any light on the problem of the commitment the United States had made to Turkey. General Porter replied that since he had discussed this matter at length with Governor Stassen before his departure to the Far East, he believed he could throw some light on the problem.

General Porter proceeded to describe the circumstances of the visit of the Turkish Prime Minister to Washington,7 and the background of the aide-mémoire of June 1954. While he admitted that Governor Stassen had been obliged to “cut some corners”, and had not discussed the program of military assistance to Turkey with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he had at least discussed the commitment with the Secretary of Defense. General Porter concluded his statement by commenting that Governor Stassen felt that the United States had made a firm commitment to the Turkish Prime Minister.

The President found this perplexing, and repeated that on the occasion of the Prime Minister’s personal call on him,8 … he had talked in generalities, which was why he believed that our commitment to the Turks was only a qualified commitment. …

Secretary Humphrey commented that it seemed a plain fact to him that we had “got ahead of ourselves”, and even so, the Turks were looking for further assistance. It seemed to Secretary Humphrey rather idle to debate the technical question as to whether we had made a commitment to the Turks, and if so, what kind. Turkey presented the United States with a colossal financial and economic problem. Secretary Humphrey again insisted that the United States had “out-promised” itself.

Secretary Wilson said that it was his view that all of us favored steps to strengthen the position of Turkey. If they would go ahead on their part to take these steps, we should do what was necessary on our side.

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The President asked with some impatience whether the time hadn’t come for Britain and France to step in and help us with such problems as Turkey. Both these countries were eager to export manufactured goods, and desperately needed markets.

Admiral Radford expressed the judgment that our current program for assistance to Turkey contained about as much as the Turks could successfully absorb unless they were radically to improve their own capabilities.

General Porter expressed the view that NSC 5510 did not quite present in a fair light the program for the modernization of the Turkish military establishment. As estimated in this paper, the costs of such a program seemed to him too high. Accordingly, he proposed that the Council agree that the United States did have a commitment to Turkey, and thereafter “work it out” on the basis of Turkey’s ability to absorb this military assistance.

The President said he agreed in general with General Porter’s suggestion, and Mr. Cutler offered language to revise paragraph 20 accordingly. As he was doing so, the President said that when you got down to the bottom of it, what Mr. Cutler was saying was that the commitment should be of such a nature that its implementation would be useful to both Turkey and the United States. Accordingly, he felt that the problem should be urgently studied by a new high-level commission which should promptly go to Turkey and carry out this mission on the spot.

Admiral Radford pointed out that there were already several survey teams in Turkey. Secretary Wilson added the opinion that we could readily spend our money in Turkey if we could only be sure that the Turks were up to using the money effectively. Secretary Humphrey took issue with Secretary Wilson, and insisted that the Turks were not only ahead of themselves in the military sphere, but in the economic sphere as well.

Secretary Hoover offered certain revisions to Mr. Cutler’s proposed language for paragraph 20, which the Council agreed to accept.

The President then spoke briefly from his own knowledge of the background of Turkish military development since 1952, when he himself had last been in Turkey. He drew the conclusion that the Turks were not yet in shape to take a large amount of new US military equipment. Therefore, thought the President, it would be better for them to use money for training and men to make effective use of new equipment. If we presented this problem in the right way, the President was confident that the Turks would agree to our solution.

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Secretary Hoover said all he wanted to add was a sense of urgency. We have got to get together and settle this matter with the Turks promptly. It has dragged on much too long.

After the Council had agreed on language dealing with the military problem in paragraph 20, Mr. Cutler invited the members of the Council to turn to what he described as the “sad part” of NSC 5510—namely, the problem presented by Turkey’s financial and economic condition. This, he said, was set forth most clearly in paragraph 11,9 which he read to the Council.

The President interrupted to point out that this appeared to be a situation in which we could be of real help by using our great agricultural surpluses, such as wheat. The President was insistent that this point be followed up. General Porter assured the President that the United States was already sending in wheat in exchange for Turkish chrome. General Porter was backed up by Dr. Elliott (sitting for Dr. Flemming), who provided figures on the exchanges of wheat and chrome.

Mr. Cutler then went on to read the Courses of Action dealing with the problems of Turkey’s economy. He pointed out that there was no difference of view in the paper on the economic courses of action, with the exception of paragraph 21, reading as follows:

“As an exception pursuant to NSC 5501, para. 55–b, be prepared to purchase from Turkey strategic minerals for long-term strategic stockpile in order to assist Turkey to meet its minimum essential civilian and military requirements.”

The Treasury and Budget members of the Planning Board favored deletion of this course of action. The Joint Chiefs, on the other hand, had indicated that they favored retention of the paragraph as written.

Dr. Flemming, who had by now joined the meeting, said that it was his understanding that the Treasury Department was now ready to withdraw its objection to this proposed course of action. He went on to describe briefly the US stockpile position with respect to chrome ore, noting that there was plenty of room in the stockpile for adding more chrome, and pointing out that if the current price of $48 were raised to $55, marginal producers in Turkey might be brought into operations again.

The President said that he failed to see why it was necessary for the United States to keep raising the price it would pay to stockpile chrome ore from Turkey. This problem, along with the others, should be put in the hands of Ambassador Warren as part of the [Page 617] new survey and as part of a package deal between the United States and Turkey.

Dr. Flemming again pointed out that the Council should realize that our stockpile position on chrome was not very good. The President replied that that might well be the case, but that it offered no excuse for us to jump what we were willing to pay for chrome from $48 to $55. Secretary Wilson agreed with the President, and said that if we needed it so badly we could buy chrome elsewhere than in Turkey. If we raised the price that we were willing to pay Turkey for her chrome, we might unwittingly add to Turkey’s embarrassing inflationary situation.

Secretary Humphrey expressed agreement with Secretary Wilson, and pointed out that there was no use in the United States “bailing out” the Turks each successive time that they got themselves into trouble. What we needed to do was to go over to Turkey now and deal with the whole situation.

While the President said that he agreed with this statement of Secretary Humphrey, the latter should remember, or try to recall, the prevailing climate of opinion when we had made our promises to assist the building up of Turkey’s economy and military position. We were “scared to death” at that time and only too glad to welcome Turkey as a military ally.

Secretary Humphrey said that he understood this, but that we could not reorganize everything that was wrong with Turkey in a minute. The thing to do was to try to cool the Turks off. They were so steamed up in their hopes for economic advancement and modern military strength. Secretary Wilson queried whether we wanted to do too much toward “cooling the Turks off”. After all, there were relatively few nations who, like the Turks, were really steamed up on our side of the struggle against the Soviet bloc.

Dr. Flemming assured the President that the US stockpile proposal, as set forth in paragraph 21, could be made part of a US package proposal to Turkey, as the President had earlier suggested.

The Council indicated approval for the inclusion of paragraph 21, although the Director of the Budget warned that US stockpile transactions should be handled on the basis of the items of materials that the United States needed, and not solely on the basis of countries which the United States desired to assist by purchases for the US stockpile.

Mr. Cutler suggested that Mr. Dodge, as head of the Council on Foreign Economic Policy, might wish to add some comments on the economic aspects of NSC 5510.

Mr. Dodge said that he only wished to say that it was impossible to overemphasize the seriousness of Turkey’s internal and external financial and economic position. The Germans had found [Page 618] themselves obliged to shut off all credit to Turkish buyers last August. Three months later they had offered to reopen credits, and they were now flooded with orders from Turkish businessmen. Mr. Dodge said it was also essential to remember that in their agreements with us the Turks had made a commitment to put their own financial house in order, and that thus far they had notoriously failed to do so. If they do not carry out this promise, Mr. Dodge warned, additional US assistance would amount to pouring money down a hole. The situation was very much like the situation in Japan, with which Mr. Dodge had been faced earlier in his career.

General Porter admitted that the Turkish economy was in dire straits, but said perhaps it might be considered a “ray of light and hope” that the Turks have asked the OEEC to send its people into Turkey to make a study of Turkey’s economic problem. At least the Turks had got around to admitting that they did have an economic and financial problem.

As Mr. Cutler was suggesting language to revise paragraph 22 in the light of the previous discussion, the President said that he hoped that Ambassador Warren could be told to start work at once toward a solution of these problems. Admiral Radford suggested that one or two high-level people, not merely to compose a survey team but who were of a policy-making rank, should be sent to assist Ambassador Warren. Expressing agreement with this view, Secretary Humphrey said he would like to find “another Joe Dodge” for Turkey.

At the conclusion of the discussion, the President and Admiral Radford both warned the members of the Council not to overlook the fact, in their criticism of Turkey’s economic condition, that the Turks were among the few people who had openly manifested the will to fight.

The National Security Council:10

Discussed the statement of policy on the subject contained in the reference report (NSC 5510) in the light of the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff transmitted by the reference memorandum of February 21.11
Adopted the statement of policy contained in NSC 5510, subject to the following amendments:
Paragraph 18, 1st line: Change “review” to “reviews”.
Paragraph 20–a: Revise to read as follows:

“a. Determine by April 1, 1955, as part of the review of military assistance programs called for by NSC 5434/1,12 the nature of such commitment and action with respect thereto in the common interests of both countries, taking into consideration:

  • “(1) The amount of mutual security funds and equipment that can be made available without seriously affecting other country programs.
  • “(2) The extent of the ability of the Turkish armed forces to absorb the increased military assistance.
  • “(3) The necessity for not seriously harming the Turkish economy.”

Paragraph 21: Delete the brackets and the footnote relating thereto; change “strategic minerals” to read “chrome”; and change “in order” to read “as part of a program”.
Paragraph 22–a: Change “encouraging Turkey to take” to read “Turkey’s taking”.
Agreed that, after completion of the review of basic data which is now in the process of being gathered and evaluated, the Department of State should arrange for a high-level mission to Turkey, including other appropriate agencies, to coordinate the development of and to negotiate an over-all solution to Turkey’s military and economic problems.

Note: NSC 5510, as amended and adopted, approved by the President, subsequently circulated as NSC 5510/1, and transmitted to the Operations Coordinating Board as the coordinating agency designated by the President. The action in c above, as approved by the President, subsequently transmitted to the Secretary of State for implementation.

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret. Drafted by Gleason on February 15.
  2. For text of NSC 36/2, “Construction of Airfields and Stockpiling of Aviation Gasoline in Turkey”, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. VIII, p. 884. NSC 109 is printed ibid., 1951, vol. v, p. 1148. Regarding NSC 5510, see footnote 2, supra.
  3. The memorandum forwarded a memorandum from Radford to the Secretary of Defense transmitting JSC comments on NSC 5510; see footnote 11 below.
  4. See footnote 4, supra.
  5. Brackets in the source text.
  6. The June 4, 1954, aide-mémoire dealing with US assistance to Turkey was transmitted in airgram 245, June 8, 1954. (Department of State, Central Files, 782.5–MSP/6–854), For a summary of the aide-mémoire, see telegram 1351 in Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. VIII, p. 949.
  7. Prime Minister Menderes visited Washington in early June 1954.
  8. For Eisenhower’s account of this meeting on June 2, 1954, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. VIII, p. 944.
  9. Paragraph 11 of NSC 5510 was identical to paragraph 11 approved in NSC 5510/1 (infra).
  10. Paragraphs a–c constitute NSC Action No. 1338. (Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 66 D 95, NSC Records of Action)
  11. “On February 18, Radford, on behalf of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a memorandum to the Secretary of Defense, transmitted by Gleason to the NSC on February 21, forwarded the JCS comments on NSC 5510. Radford noted that the Joint Chiefs of Staff were “in general agreement” with the NSC paper’s evaluation of the political and strategic importance of Turkey to the United States and with NSC 5510’s proposed objectives and courses of action. In regard to the differing views contained in subparagraph 20a, Radford indicated that the JCS recommended the adoption of the second alternative proposed in the right hand column. With regard to paragraph 21, Radford noted that the JCS recommended the retention of this paragraph unless it was decided that the proposal was incompatible with the US stockpile program. Subject to the foregoing comments, the JCS recommended that the Secretary of Defense agree to the adoption of NSC 5510 as a statement of US policy on Turkey. For text of the JCS memorandum, see ibid., S/P–NSC Files: Lot 62 D 1, NSC 5510.
  12. NSC 5434/1, “Procedure for Periodic Review of Military Assistance Programs, approved by the President on October 16, 1954, is printed in Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. I, Part 1, p. 786.