341. Memorandum of Discussion at the 285th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, May 17, 19561

[Here follow a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting and items 1–4.]

5. US Policy on Turkey (NSC 5510/1; NSC Action No. 1486–e; Progress Report, dated April 5, 1956, by OCB on NSC 5510/1)2

Mr. Anderson briefed the Council on the major points contained in the Progress Report on Turkey, emphasizing in particular the critical situation with respect to the Turkish economy and the study by the so-called Prochnow Committee3 on the capacity of the Turkish economy to support the levels of the Turkish armed forces. He pointed out that upon receipt of the Prochnow Committee report on Turkey,4 the Planning Board would undertake to review US policy on Turkey as contained in NSC 5510/1. (Copy of Mr. Anderson’s brief filed in the minutes of the meeting.)

When Mr. Anderson had concluded his briefing, the President inquired whether the studies of the various nations by the Prochnow Committee were being pursued as a matter of priority. Mr. Anderson replied that the Prochnow Committee report on Turkey had been completed and was only awaiting approval by the responsible department [Page 681] heads before being circulated. Studies of the other nations would follow. The President asked whether Mr. Anderson meant to suggest that we should needle certain department heads in order to get the report on Turkey out.

Secretary Dulles stated emphatically that the whole question of our military assistance programs was now in need of a most careful and thorough review. Whatever the nature of the changes going on in the USSR, we could at least safely conclude that these changes require us to do more by way of building economic strength around the periphery of the Soviet Union, rather than to continue our present scale of effort to build military strength around this periphery. The older policy which we have continued to pursue was obviously justifiable when it was undertaken some five years ago in the light of Soviet aggressive moves against Greece, Iran, Turkey, Yugoslavia, and elsewhere. Now, however, the time has come to reverse this policy. The military assistance programs which we are now envisaging will enormously strain the economies of such nations as Turkey. We will be confronted with two disagreeable alternatives. Either we will ourselves have to “pick up the tab”, perhaps to the tune of $400 million a year, in support of Turkey; or else we shall have to severely cut down the size of Turkey’s military establishment.

The President commented that it was to resolve such problems as these that we had created the Prochnow Committee. It was, nevertheless, a very great problem to him to determine how we could ever induce the Turks to agree to a considerably reduced military establishment. On the last occasion of a trip to Turkey it had become clear to the President that they wanted six more divisions than the nineteen which they already had and were finding it difficult to support.

Secretary Wilson said that he understood the point of view of the Secretary of State, and that in principle he favored it. In his opinion, it was no more than sound military principle to secure first your military headquarters and thereafter to proceed to secure your military outposts. Secretary Wilson said that he was beginning to have very great anxiety about military headquarters, by which term he said he meant the domestic economy of the United States. He expressed himself as very worried about the possibility of a recession, and added that a strong US economy was a fundamental bulwark of the free world.

The President again said that he had wished the Prochnow Committee to analyze in the case of a half dozen other countries, this problem which was represented by Turkey. In response to the President, Mr. Anderson read the schedule of the dates on which the [Page 682] working group’s reports to the Prochnow Committee were estimated to be completed.

Secretary Humphrey said that it was now time for the Council to get down to brass tacks on the problem of Turkey. He said that Messrs. Gray, Hoover, Hollister, Randall, and himself had been spending an awful lot of time in recent months on Turkey. Moreover, at this precise time former Ambassador Cochran, now of the International Monetary Fund, was in Turkey making a thorough review of Turkey’s economic and financial situation. He was expected to report his findings within a few days,5 and it was hoped that through the auspices of the International Monetary Fund the Turks could be induced to carry out some of the economic reforms which were badly needed and which we were strongly recommending.

As to cutting back on the size of the Turkish military establishment, Secretary Humphrey agreed that this would be extremely difficult. Accordingly, we were going at this objective in an indirect fashion. Turkey, moreover, was on the brink of economic disaster. Twice in recent weeks, Mr. Hollister had had to bail out the Turks at the last minute in order to keep them in oil and spare parts. At any rate, it was clear that there was no need to needle anyone on the problem of Turkey. In point of fact, until Mr. Cochran had made his report we simply could not decide what to do about the Turkish problem. Finally, said Secretary Humphrey, he wanted to point out that it was the Turks who were so anxious to build up a larger military establishment. It is not we who are pressing them on this matter. It is they who are pressing us, and we were being presented with a terrible problem in devising ways and means of inducing them to reduce their military forces.

The President replied that of course he knew this. Everyone today is clamoring for armament.

Secretary Dulles inquired whether the President would like to hear from Under Secretary Hoover on this matter. Secretary Hoover said that he actually had in hand the text of the Prochnow Committee report on Turkey, although it had not been finally approved. It emphasized two problems. The first problem was the cost to the United States of our program of economic assistance to Turkey. The second problem was the cost of our military assistance program both to the Turks and to ourselves. The Prochnow report estimated that for the years 1955 to 1960, if we give the Turks what they are [Page 683] asking for, the sums would run into the billions. Part of these costs would fall on us; part would fall on the Turkish economy. Secretary Hoover concluded with a brief comment on the procedures of the Prochnow Committee. The Prochnow Committee accepts from our military people the force goals for Turkey which they recommend. On this basis the Committee proceeds to figure up what it would cost the Turks and what it would cost the United States to maintain such force levels in Turkey. Incidentally, Secretary Hoover added, the economic data required by the Prochnow Committee for its study of Turkey had been handed in a long time ago. It was only recently that the Pentagon had supplied the requisite military data.

The President said that he was under the impression that the Prochnow Committee had been assigned the task of determining the size and character of military forces which the Turkish economy was in a position to sustain. Mr. Anderson then read to the President the terms of reference of the Prochnow Committee, and noted that the primary job of the Committee was fact finding. In the light of these facts, it was the responsibility of the Planning Board to review the policy of the United States toward Turkey and the other countries which were under study by the Prochnow Committee.

The President observed that the Council was now talking in terms of a program for Turkey which would cost $2 billion over the next five years. It was not to be forgotten that Turkey was only one of many claimants on the United States. Secretary Humphrey said with emphasis that this was precisely the situation, and that this country simply could not afford to supply military assistance in such vast amounts.

Secretary Dulles made the observation that one of the most frightening aspects of the Soviet Union was the undoubted capacity of its leaders to make significant decisions so quickly. He asked the Council to think what the Soviets had done by way of decisions over the last year, in the fields of both internal and external policy. The Soviet Union had demonstrated a capacity for prompt decisionmaking that no democracy could probably ever equal. Nevertheless, in the face of this Soviet capability our Government needed to do everything it possibly could to improve its own capacity to make prompt decisions. Things get studied to death in this Government, to a point where we are unable to reach a decision until the decision is too late to be really useful. If we could get the heads of the responsible departments and agencies here together around this table, we could make decisions in a period of 24 hours on the issues that the Prochnow Committee has been studying at such length. Such decisions would undoubtedly not be so perfect as if they had been studied at great length; but what the decisions lacked in perfection they would more than make up for in timeliness. In any [Page 684] case, we must reach decisions like these in a much shorter time span. We must either compel officials below us in our departments to move more rapidly, or else we, as heads of departments, must make the decisions ourselves.

Secretary Humphrey said he agreed with all that Secretary Dulles had stated, but felt compelled to point out that many of our decisions must be made on the basis of factors we cannot actually control. Turkey, for example, was on the verge of a bust-up.

The President said that he frankly doubted whether wise policy decisions could be made by simply getting together a few heads of departments and without full knowledge of the facts relating to the problem to be decided. He agreed, however, that we were probably in a position now to make a decision on the case of Turkey.

Secretary Humphrey pointed out that the Prochnow Committee report on Turkey had not yet officially been circulated. Only Secretary Hoover knew precisely its content. Despite this, however, we have long known the essential elements in the Turkish situation. The gist of the problem was how to revise Turkey’s military program to a point where we and the Turks together could find resources to support the military program.

Mr. Anderson pointed out that the Planning Board would promptly review the relevant country policies as soon as it received the reports of the Prochnow Committee.

Secretary Dulles indicated that, as Secretary Humphrey had pointed out, we already know the broad answer to the Turkish problem. No one, however, has received any authority yet to recommend what we should do in response to the Turkish problem.

(At this point in the discussion of Turkey, the Council launched into a discussion of broader aspects of US military and economic assistance programs, for which discussion see Item 6.)6

Subsequently, getting back to the problem of Turkey, Secretary Dulles asked whether the National Security Council should request the Prochnow Committee to indicate in their forthcoming report on Turkey a military program of a size and character which the Turks could support with an acceptable degree of assistance from the United States. In response, the President said he wanted the Prochnow Committee to make such a suggestion, and indeed believed that this request was already included in the terms of reference of the Prochnow Committee. Admiral Radford warned of the difficulties inherent in the attempt to provide the study requested by Secretary Dulles. Secretary Humphrey agreed that whatever the results of these studies, we would have to provide some financial assistance to [Page 685] Turkey for a very long period of time. Agreeing, Secretary Wilson said that we had better start out by figuring out just how much money we are willing to provide by way of assistance to Turkey. Secretary Humphrey said it seemed to him that we had to start with the military side and the military decision, and then work back to the economic and financial decision.

The National Security Council:7

Noted and discussed the reference Progress Report on the subject by the Operations Coordinating Board, with particular reference to the economic burden imposed upon Turkey by the current plans for Turkish armed forces.

[Here follows the remainder of the memorandum.]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret. Prepared by Gleason on May 18.
  2. NSC 5510/1 is printed as Document 320. NSC Action No. 1486–e, taken at the 269th Meeting of the National Security Council, December 8, 1955, dealt with military and economic assistance to Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Vietnam, Formosa, and Korea. (Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 66 D 75, NSC Records of Action) The Progress Report is not printed. (Ibid.: Lot 62 D 1, NSC 5510)
  3. Reference is to the Interdepartmental Committee on Certain US Aid Programs, composed of representatives of the Departments of State, the Treasury, Defense, and ICA, and chaired by Herbert Prochnow. The committee was instructed by the NSC to “examine special country situations where US-supported military programs might impose undue burdens upon the economy of the country.”
  4. Dated August 3. (Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 5610 Series)
  5. In a June 19 memorandum to Hoover, Kalijarvi referred to a brief report on Cochran’s mission to Turkey, which, although not found, had been attached to the memorandum. (Ibid., Central Files, 782.00/6–1956) A copy of the report is ibid., GTI Files: Lot 59 D 4, Economic Situation for January–March.
  6. Item 6 was a “Review of Military Assistance and Supporting Programs”.
  7. The following paragraph constitutes NSC Action No. 1559. (Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 66 D 75, NSC Records of Action)