Turkish Foreign Policy, 1943-1945: Small State Diplomacy and Great Power Politics

Turkish Foreign Policy, 1943-1945: Small State Diplomacy and Great Power Politics

by Edward Weisband


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Turkish Foreign Policy, 1943-1945: Small State Diplomacy and Great Power Politics by Edward Weisband

As it became evident that the Allies were winning World War II, Turkish policy-makers struggled to achieve their objectives in the shifting circumstances of wartime diplomacy. Edward Weisband's detailed description of Turkish foreign policy from 1943 to 1945 reveals that it was complicated by the fact that its two principal aims dictated contradictory positions. The first aim was the priority of peace over expansionism—this implied a noninterventionist policy. On the other hand, the belief that the Soviet Union represented the primary threat to the security of the Republic often made intervention to contain Russia seem necessary for national defense. Turkish officials became determined to influence the postwar settlement towards an equilibrium among the great powers that would limit Soviet expansionism, which the Turks assumed they could not do alone. Consequently, they were among the first to envision the contours of the Cold War.

After outlining the historical origins of the ideology that lay behind Turkish diplomacy, the first part of the book concentrates on the policy-making process in Ankara and assesses the relative influence of individual leaders and institutions. The second part analyzes both Turkey's responses to the exigencies of war and the general nature of small state diplomacy.

Originally published in 1973.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691619095
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 03/08/2015
Series: Princeton Legacy Library Series
Pages: 394
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 3.20(d)

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Turkish Foreign Policy 1943-1945

Small State Diplomacy and Great Power Politics

By Edward Weisband


Copyright © 1973 Princeton University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-691-05653-1



During the war years, the foreign policy of Turkey was one of neutrality, and the content of that policy, with its broad consistencies and pragmatic shifts was primarily the work of one man: Ismet Inönü. In molding state policy, Inönü was not alone, however. He regularly consulted a small foreign-policy "establishment" which extended through the Cabinet or Council of Ministers (Bakanlar Kurulu), the party and the parliament (Turkiye Biiyiik Millet Meclisi — TBMM), and included a number of individuals in the press and such organizations as the Turkish Historical Society (Turk Tarih Kurumu — TTK). Most important among those relied upon by Inönü in regard to foreign policy decision-making was Minister for Foreign Affairs 19421944, Numan Menemencioglu.

Ismet Inönü and the Constants of Turkish Foreign Policy

The predominant factor behind all public policy in Turkey during the period under review was the influence of Ismet Inönü. Between 1943 and 1946, the distance, in terms of status and influence, between the President on the one hand and the Prime Minister and Secretary-General of the Cumhunyet Halk Partisi (CHP) on the other increased considerably As Frederick Frey succinctly observes, "Put epigrammatically, Inonu had no Inonu!" In other words, Inönü fully controlled the instruments of government. He exercised control with authority granted to him as Chief of State as well as with the powers he acquired as leader of the party in a single-party political system "The rudder of the Turkish ship of state," as Inönü's biographer §evket Sureyya Aydemir remarks, "was completely in the hands of Inonu — with all that this implies "

This holds true in the realm of foreign affairs Inonu did not attempt to attend equally to all areas of governmental policy He, like all policy-makers at this level, found it necessary to select certain priority issues. Although a soldier by training and a highly successful administrator, Inonu devoted the greatest proportion of his time and energy to foreign affairs and, to an extent, "allowed the government to take care of itself." In various instances he paid particular attention to developments outside the realm of foreign policy. For example, he personally maintained tight control over the press and other forms of mass media; he directed the administration of martial law through his Minister of Defense, Ali Riza Artunkal, and carefully watched the progress of the Varlik Vergisi or tax on wealth which was levied at the end of 1942. But foreign policy was, for the most part, Inönü's prime concern in this period.

There is much evidence for this. Feridun Cemal Erkin, at this time the Deputy Assistant Secretary-General of the Foreign Ministry, recalls having five or six weekly sessions with the President in which Inönü established the guidelines for that week's decisions. One of Cevat Açikalin's first innovations upon becoming Secretary-General of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, furthermore, was to institute a practice whereby all diplomatic correspondence and cablegrams were transmitted immediately to Inönü. This procedure enabled the President to be apprised of diplomatic messages and intelligence reports as soon as they were received, Inönü could thus keep abreast of developments as easily as Menemencioglu or other officials at the Foreign Ministry, Inönü concedes that these procedures greatly facilitated his management of foreign affairs. Reports and recommendations from his ambassadors in the field represent, parenthetically, the single source of information upon which Inönü claims to have most relied in decision-making.

To understand Turkish foreign policy during the period under review, therefore, one must outline those constant elements or considerations which Inönü brought to bear as he guided Turkey's course during the war. At the top of any such list is his well-known innate sense of caution. Inönü claims to have conducted foreign relations according to what he describes as the first principle of military strategy, the need to be prudent. "The one cardinal principle in setting foreign policy which I followed throughout the war was that an early mistake is hard to make up." Consequently, Turkey, under Inönü, was always prepared to enter the war — but only under certain conditions set by him. He ruled out from the first rash actions or bold initiatives which could have deliberately involved Turkey in the fray.

This element in Inönü's make-up, although it may have succeeded in keeping the war from being fought on Turkish territory, did not save the former President from severe criticism during the war or since. In answer to the question as to what was Turkish policy during the war, Nadir Nadi, for example, states, "We [Nadi and a clique of friends in the Turkish press] used to kid about our administration, calling it a 'banana regime,' meaning that it was whatever you made of it." Later, much criticism fell upon Inönü on the grounds that his prudence destroyed the manliness of the Turkish nation. Others, outside Turkey, have since described Turkish foreign policy during the war as "timid" or "pusillanimous." But Inönü remains convinced that his application of prudence to foreign policy decision-making during wartime spared Turkey considerable damage and much grief. Public sentiment at the time seems to have substantially agreed. Inönü received a position paper prepared by the Turkish Foreign Ministry in March 1943, indicating that all segments of the population, including the army, were opposed to his taking a more aggressive stand, specifically, one which could lead to war.

Turkish neutrality, then, as guided by Inönü, was essentially a policy of waiting. The philosophy of prudence as applied by Inönü caused him to develop a specific style of decision-making, one which moved day by day. Aydemir pointed to this phenomenon when he wrote that Inönü, during the war, was always struggling to gain time through an attentiveness that evaluated events from hour to hour. As Inönü himself once cautioned, "Let us first live through the evening, let us first live through the morning, and not by years, months or weeks."

This is not to suggest that Inönü failed to imbue Turkish foreign policy with definition or purpose. On the contrary, he brought to bear in policy-making a deep sense of conviction. The fact that he prudently worked day to day does not mean that he possessed no long-term objectives. On the contrary, he operated with a commitment to one basic proposition: the preservation of Turkey for the Turks. Ever since Atatürk's revolution had taken root in Turkey, the touchstone of Turkish foreign policy had been the inviolability of Turkey, the right of Turks to determine their destiny on their own land. During the war, Inönü regarded this right and the preservation of Turkish boundaries as the basic tenets and principal objectives of Turkish foreign policy. Atatürk was the one to instruct his people on the territorial basis of the modern state during their transition from an imperial power to a sovereign entity, but it was Inönü who convinced Lord Curzon at Lausanne in 1923 that Turkish territorial integrity could not be transgressed except at great cost to the violator. He seems to have convinced Mussolini and Hitler of this as well. This deserves special attention.

Inönü began to fear Mussolini's Italy long before he feared the threat created by Nazi Germany; it was Mussolini, not Hitler, who first threatened Turkish boundaries. After the Italian campaign against Ethiopia in 1935, Inönü became apprehensive that Mussolini might attempt to annex the fertile region of Antalya, something Mussolini repeatedly indicated he wanted to do. On the other hand, the desire of the German people to be reunited by annexing the Saar seemed quite comprehensible in 1935.24 Inönü's attitude changed once the Germans invaded Eastern Europe and the Balkans; the Sudetenland was one thing, Poland and Bulgaria another. Throughout the war, moreover, especially during the period of Axis ascendancy, Inönü never hesitated to inform the Germans, or the Italians, that Turkey would not peaceably tolerate an encroachment on its territory, that Turkey would respond to the fullest against any invasion.

Nor did this fail to have an effect in Berlin. Ribbentrop on one occasion instructed von Papen, for example, that all pressure against Turkey was to remain completely diplomatic since the War Command felt certain that it possessed insufficient force for an invasion of Turkey. Inönü's constancy regarding the inviolability of Turkish territory may also help to explain the substance of Hitler's letter to him, March 3, 1941. This letter, transmitted while German troops were in the process of occupying Bulgaria, conveyed assurances that the occupation of Bulgaria in no way threatened Turkey. Hitler informed Inönü that he was taking the precaution of keeping his forces sixty kilometers from the Turkish border so that no doubt would be cast upon Germany's intention to leave Turkish borders alone. This letter, therefore, can be said to represent Hitler's acknowledgment of Inönü's determination to preserve the identity of Turkish boundaries.

In return, Hitler attempted to exact a price; Turkey must do nothing openly destructive toward Germany. Hitler's threats of consequent reprisals in his letter of March 1941 served to heighten in Inönü's eyes the importance of prudence. Indeed, for the duration of the war, Inönü and Hitler both consistently disavowed initiatives toward the other's country that could have led to open conflict. Each restrained the other by restraining himself first. They calculated that what each country could force the other to do was less important than what they hoped the other would not do. Each country chose a number of negative initiatives, the Turkish refusal to allow the British to construct airbases, for example, to avoid the one positive initiative both feared — attack from the other side.

Inönü, therefore, guided Turkish foreign policy during the war with a view to preserving Turkey's territorial integrity — as little interested in gaining ground as in losing some. This is doubly significant. If Inönü regarded Turkey as inviolable, he also accepted the converse. Firmly unwilling to cede one iota of Turkish territory, he was vehemently opposed to the forced cession of any other nation's lands. This applied to Russia as well. From the first days of German victory over Stalinist Russia to the end of 1942, German diplomacy failed to tempt Inönü into assuming a more favorable position toward Germany by holding out the bait of provinces ceded from the Soviet Union. Inönü's resistance to adventurist or irredentist notions, as we shall see, severely limited the influence of the Pan-Turanian movement over Turkish foreign policy at this time.

Turkey's acquiring territory from Russia was hardly a genuine problem, however. Much more pressing was the possibility that the Soviet Union might seek to annex Turkish land. To be sure, this was one of Inönü's central concerns. Although when he acceded to the Presidency, Turkey and the Soviet Union had undergone a period of nearly twenty years of unprecedented good will, Inönü's personal experience had taught him to be wary of Russian ambitions, Inönü, for example, had traveled to the Soviet Union in 1930, at a time when Turkish foreign policy was attempting to establish closer relations with the Western Powers but without offending Russia. When he returned, Inönü presented the following analysis to Atatürk before a caucus of the Parliamentary Group of the CHP: the Russians felt isolated particularly by the West and, as a result, were obsessed by what they believed to be the insecurity of their western borders. They desired and would continue to seek friendly relations with Turkey provided that the Turks refrained from actions which seemed calculated to put pressure upon Russia from the east. The Russians wanted their eastern front to be quiet in order to gain time to secure their borders in the west. As soon as they came to regard their western boundaries as safe, "they will no longer care to be friends with us," Inönü advised. Once the Soviets felt no longer threatened by the Western Powers, they would become more aggressive in the east and quite possibly toward Turkey as well. For that reason, Inönü wanted the Soviets never to feel too secure in the west. During April and May 1939, when British and French diplomats were exploring the possibility of a Turkish-British-French-Soviet alliance, Inönü, in the words of Sir Alexander Cadogan, "insisted on the necessity of Russian participation in hostilities on the ground that it would be disastrous if the Russian Army alone were left intact at the end of a European war." Russian insecurity in the west was Turkey's best protection. That protection would be removed if ever a war in Western Europe created a path for Russian dominance, Inönü predicted in 1930 that this could not in any case occur for at least 25 years. Russia was eventually implicated in the war, as Inönü had hoped; its incipient victory over German forces in 1943, however, made it seem as if the Soviets were about to become completely secure in the west twelve years earlier than Inönü had anticipated.

This perspective of his on Soviet policies may help to explain the severity of Turkey's reaction to Stalin's suggestion at the end of 1941 that the British and the Russians give to Turkey certain areas held by Greece, Inönü feared that perhaps Stalin was planning to annex parts of Turkey in the east. In short, if the one constant that guided Inönü's hand during the Second World War was the preservation of Turkey's territorial integrity, the variable which he perceived to most threaten it was the political ambition of the Soviet Union. During the period of German ascendancy, Inönü did not hesitate to make his apprehensions clear to British and American diplomats. His first official conversation with U.S. Ambassador Laurence A. Steinhardt, upon the latter's presentation of credentials, dealt largely with the question of Soviet influence in the postwar world. Despite the fact that German forces were advancing rapidly toward Stalingrad, the Turkish President warned Steinhardt that if Russia defeated Germany, Soviet imperialism would attempt to "over-run" Europe and the Middle East. Inönü let it be known that he was concerned that Russia, if ever in a position to do so, would take possession of the Straits.

During the war, Inönü brought to his side men of similar conviction. In formulating decisions as well as in executing them, Inönü relied heavily upon a number of subordinates. Since they were well versed in world affairs and politics, Inönü granted his advisers a considerable degree of power and allowed them to function, if not independently, then at least freely. Yet in analyzing the role played by these men, we must be careful to keep the following in mind: the freedom to make and implement foreign policy was a gift from Inönü and can be understood only in the context of his domination over Turkish politics during the period under review. Among those who served in a decision-making capacity as a result of Inönü's discretion, the most important was Numan Menemencioglu.

Numan Menemencioglu and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Numan Rifat Menemencioglu, a deeply complex individual, a lawyer by training but a diplomat by natural inclination, became Turkey's Minister for Foreign Affairs in August 1942 and served in that capacity until his resignation in June 1944. The grandson of Namik Kemal, Menemencioglu was born the second son of Refet Pasa who represented the province of Menemen in the First Assembly. Educated in Lausanne, Switzerland, he entered the Foreign Ministry in 1914. After the War of Independence, he rose through the ranks, and his unusual brilliance quickly won Atatürk's respect. In 1933 he became the Secretary-General of the Foreign Ministry. More an intellectual than a politician, more adept at manipulating ideas than people, Numan Menemencioglu deeply enjoyed the study and practice of foreign policy. He writes of his appointment as Foreign Minister, "I did not have to do an apprenticeship for this position; for thirteen years I had found myself at the head of the services of the Ministry and on account of this in the midst of directing the foreign policy of Turkey. My responsibility had now simply taken a different form." Indeed, it can be said that as years went by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs became the center of his life.

By the time Menemencioglu became Foreign Minister in 1942, he had already done much to mold the Ministry's personnel. Upon attaining the position of Secretary-General, he had immediately begun to improve the caliber of people in the diplomatic service and Foreign Ministry. Men such as Abdullah Zeki Polar, Muharrem Nuri Birgi, the chief and assistant chief respectively of the Ministry's first political bureau; Nurretin Vergin, the head of the second political bureau; §adi Kavur, Menemencioglu's private secretary; Turgut Menemencioglu, the chef de cabinet to the Secretary-General of the Foreign Ministry; Kadri Rizan, head of the office of protocol; Fatin Rüstü Zorlu, in 1944 a young consul-general in Beirut were all protégés of Menemencioglu. Intent upon educating them for their work in the Ministry, Menemencioglu would regularly hold seminars at his home or office during which he would examine them on their reactions to various problems or situations.


Excerpted from Turkish Foreign Policy 1943-1945 by Edward Weisband. Copyright © 1973 Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission of PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS.
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Table of Contents

  • Frontmatter, pg. i
  • Acknowledgments, pg. vii
  • Contents, pg. xi
  • Introduction, pg. 1
  • I. The Policy-Making Process, pg. 33
  • II. The Press and Public Opinion in Turkey, pg. 72
  • III. A Brief Analysis of the Economic Picture, pg. 88
  • IV. Allied Ascendancy Begins: The Conference at Casablanca, pg. 119
  • V. The Conference at Adana: A Meeting of Misunderstandings, pg. 133
  • VI. Operation Footdrag, pg. 146
  • VII. Pressure on Turkey Mounts: Meetings of Foreign Ministers, pg. 167
  • VIII. Pressures on Turkey at the Summit: Meetings of Heads of Government, pg. 192
  • IX. A Time of Estrangement, pg. 219
  • X. The Shift in Internal Policy, pg. 230
  • XI. Realignment of Turkish Foreign Policy, pg. 257
  • XII. Turkey Between Emerging Spheres, pg. 274
  • XIII. The Search for Postwar Security, pg. 295
  • XIV. A Historical Note: The Predicted Soviet Demands on Turkey, pg. 315
  • XV. Conclusion: Summary Analysis, pg. 319
  • Bibliography, pg. 335
  • Index, pg. 361

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