Turkey In World War II
A REVIEW OF THE TURKISH POSITION
By ISMET INONU, President of Turkey
Delivered before the Turkish National Assembly, November 1, 1945
Vital Speeches of the Day, pp. 158-160.
IT is with emotion that Turkey, too, follows the effort for the establishment of world peace, after the catas-trophies and sufferings caused by World War II. The sole desire of peoples everywhere is directed toward the attainment of the goal for humanity to live in peace on the foundation of the principles proclaimed by the United Nations.
In these days of the final settlement of world issues, Turkey finds herself in the position of one, who can face everyone and the world society of nations with a clear conscience and hold her head high, with a deep sense of justice. The United Nations have, during the last 6 years appraised the role of Turkey in the Second World War from different angles and viewpoints. In many ways Turkey has won their esteem. I beg the national assembly's permission to review the position of Turkey—without allusion to secrets which cannot yet be revealed—during the Second World War. At the time the horizons darkened in the spring of 1939, Turkey was the only nation, among her equals, who openly took her stand by the side of Great Britain and France, for the cause of the ideal of justice. When in 1940 France collapsed and the battle of Britain was in full progress, we were still the only nation who would laud British heroism and declare ourselves Britain's ally. Later, when diplomatic relations between France and Great Britain were broken and the battles of Merselkebir and Dakar were fought the triple alliance concluded between Great Britain, France, and Turkey imposed upon us, juridically and by reason of events which came to pass between our allies, a strict neutrality. Yet it was Turkey again, which declared, without hesitation that our alliance with Britain continued. In the Tripartite Treaty the reservation was made, in a special protocol, that Turkey's obligations, arising from the alliance, could not lead us to an armed conflict with the Soviet Union.
In the early parts of 1941, Turkey stood, her forces mobilized, ready to face German and Italian aggression from Thrace or Rhodes. Let us remember that these were the days when a pro-Axis Government had been installed in Iraq and that the Vichy Government had openly declared its anti-British attitude in Syria. When one remembers that though fully encircled from all sides by Axis forces the Turkish nation alone, solely dependent upon her own manpower and almost to the exhaustion of her financial resources, barred the road to those proud aggressors who held Europe in their grip, it is, in all justice, right that the services rendered and the perils envisaged by the Turkish people in the Allied cause should be accorded due appreciation at onccj
Upon the outbreak of hostilities between the Soviets and the Germans, Turkey informed the belligerent parties of her decision to remain neutral in the conflict. The years 19+1 and 1942 were the most difficult for Soviet Russia and Great Britain, when they had to face great pressure from the Aw powers. The recognition of the services rendered by us could not be better illustrated than repeating to the honorable members of the National Assembly the very words of an authoritative Allied spokesman. On January 19, 1942, the Soviet Ambassador, acting as an intermediary of the Soviet Government officially communicated, in detail, to the Turkish Foreign Ministry the appreciation of the Soviets, stating that Turkey's position had really benefited the Allies. •
On December 4,. 1941, the President of the United States declared that the defense of Turkey was of vital importance to the defense of America and that lend-lease materia! would be delivered to Turkey without signature of a formal agree* ment. This agreement was not officially signed until Pn ruary 23, 1945. As to the British Government, their appreciation of the Turkish attitude has been made public oo several occasions. In the early part of 1943, during his visit to Adana, Britain's Prime Minister made declarations the memory of which we shall always cherish.
I would now like to answer before the Grand Natioml Assembly to criticisms directed against Turkey since the end of 1943. You know that in the domain of international 8 lations secrets between powers are not the property of one state. However, I want only to emphasize as the expresspj of a simple factual truth the injustice of which has been imputed in our case. We have been criticized for having: cop* eluded a treaty of friendship with Germany. Before the outbreak of hostilities between the Germans and the Soviets and the arrival of the former at the gates of Istanbul, the Germans were tied to Soviet Russia by a pact of nonaggrep sion previously concluded. At a time when our country stood all alone to face the combined Axis forces, at a time when the United States had not yet entered the conflict, at a time when Great Britain mobilized everything against a possible invasion of the British Isles and at a time when the Soviets were tied to the Germans by a nonaggression pact, could fr have been rightly expected of us to refuse a written German commitment not to attack Turkey? All the more so, when it was explicitly stipulated in this pact that Turkey would remain attached to her alliances and obligations.
In all preceding and following discussions, German aidto Syria and Iraq, by giving passage through Turkey, had been categorically refused them. We were able to make the Germans accept all these conditions. It has been brought to light since and present disclosures show that this pact with Germany signified nothing but a postponement for the Germans to a later date of their military operations against Turkey. Insofar as we were concerned this pact afforded us the opportunity of taking the necessary military measures, providing us with the means to surmount these critical times. Besides, the point must be borne in mind that that Soviet, British, and American praise on the Turkish attitude antedates the conclusion of the friendship pact with Germany. This, too, indicates that the friendship pact with Germany had been considered, while it served its purpose, equally indispensable in the conscience of the Allied Nations and that criticisms have been artificially provoked. Once the dark days were over, it has been voiced, from a number of sources that at the time of the German advance to the Volga, we embarrassed the Soviets by concentrating our forces on our eastern frontiers. The truth, even though it may be unknown to peoples, is entirely known in detail to Allied authorities and officials. The facts are entirely contrary to these allegations used for purposes of reproach. When the Germans advanced up to the Volga, our defenses extended from Rhodes, in the Mediterranean to Hopa, on the Black Sea. The probability of a sudden German surprise attack against our Black Sea defenses led to the dispersal of our forces all along the Black Sea front. We even had to concentrate forces in the capital for the defense of Ankara. German plans, recently discovered, clearly disclose that these precautionary measures had not been taken in vain. Moreover, at the end of the summer of 1942, we officially informed the Soviet Government that we were concentrating forces at Trobzon and Hopa against the eventuality of a German landing at the back door of the Caucasus and that dispersal of our military forces was due to this reason.
In reply the Soviets expressed their satisfaction. I do not know of a more convincing proof than the disposition of the Turkish forces during this war, that our military movements were directed against no one else but the Axis powers.
With reference to criticism of our belated entry into the war against Germany and Japan, it is alleged that Turkey's declaration of war made no effect and that it came after Allied victory had assumed a decisive character.
We have no pretention as to the effect of our declaration of war. We contend, however, that Turkish conduct during the period of years of nightmare has helped in the victory of our Allies. Our entry into war against the Germans and the Japanese was decided upon demand of our Allies. To this declaration of war our Allies must have attached certain importance, for it was they who asked for it and it can never be alleged that we declared war on Germany after Allied victory had become definite. We were with them during the dark days. As to the days of glorious victory, we had no desire to share the spoils and we, therefore, would not think of taking advantage of the occasion. Our action was prompted solely with the desire of acting in concert with our Allies.
Criticism has also been levelled against us for not entering into the war immediately after the breaking off of diplomatic relations in the August of 1944. The Turkish attitude decided upon after exchange of communications between Great Britain and ourselves was as follows: Turkey's decision would constitute the first step toward effective belligerency. The British Government had informed us that they would go into detailed discussions with us later regarding Turkey's entry into the war. But our Allies made nodemand of us for the execution of the decision which they held in their hands.
As regards the reproach that we did not let Allied ships pass through the straits to aid Russia, the allegation is absolutely unfounded. No reproach or default can be leveled at Turkey on this account. If the Allies were not able to extend help to each other by using the straits, this is through no fault of Turkey. Nor is it due to Turkish action. The situation was the result of Axis Powers being able to keep closed on sea and in the air the Mediterranean routes. While on the subject, I judge it useful to mention that Great Britain drew our attention to the passage into the Black Sea of certain German ships in June 1944. In her capacity as one of the signatories to the Montreaux Convention, she objected to this. During the discussions which ensued, it did not take more than a week for Turkey to make categorical and radical decisions to stop the passage of German ships. This was again in accordance with the spirit of our alliance with Britain and our attachment to the United Nations cause. It is, therefore, impossible to argue that the Montreaux Convention, in practice, worked against the Allied cause. Moreover, it was proven during the Second World War that the straits were in good hands and that there was no obstacle to bar free passage of ships of all nations.
Honorable members of the Assembly—German policy contended that the Second World War was a continuation of the First. The fact is also clear that Turkey was the only country which constituted an exception. The rest of central European powers found themselves in the same camp.
As to Turkey, she had to bear burdens as heavy as those she bore in the First World War. After the First World War Turkey suffered four more additional years of war until she could conclude the Peace Treaty of 1923. She lost a great empire and to be able to safeguard her existence and national frontiers endured countless misfortunes. This was the Turkey, which 16 years later, took her firm stand by the side of Great Britain and for the survival of the cause of the United Nations, often at the risk of great dangers. In return for all this, Turkey had no demand or claim on her losses in the past. Instead, Turkey endeavored, within her means and to the best of her ability, to render services to the Allied cause. Under the circumstances, it would be fully inconsistent with any sense of justice to exact from Turkey, under any pretext whatever, something of her territories or her sovereign rights. We do not doubt that, if we could explain these facts and put forward our rights to the peoples of Soviet Russia, to the peoples of the British Empire, and to the peoples of the United States, they would find that we are within our rights.
I have no illusions as regards the fact that it is without the bounds of our material means and possibilities to make our cause heard and bridge the vast oceans to enter among the peoples of Soviet Russia, Great Britain, and America, for such explanation of facts.
Consequently, it depends essentially on the sentiments of justice and equity of the leaders of great powers that their peoples may have an exact knowledge of the problems concerning Turkey. If such sentiments are allowed to depart from the truth, it becomes difficult to formulate an idea of the nature of understandings with the great nations of the world. In spite of all, however, we want to believe that the principles of the United Nations Charter have been permanently established and that sincere intentions shall guide the world. If humanitarian feelings are to be taken as the foundation upon which the future world edifice is to be built, we have confidence that Turkey shall be recognized as one of the useful members of the new world peace organization.
Meanwhile, we proclaim openly that we have no debt to pay anyone whatsoever in territory or in the relinquishment of Turkey's sovereign rights. We shall live as men of honor and so we shall die as men of honor.
Honorable members of the assembly, the actual state of our foreign relations is as follows: Following the denunciation by the Soviets of the treaty of friendship we have exerted great effort to conclude a new treaty seriously ameliorating the old one and based on new foundations. The result of these efforts are well known to you. We have not lost hope that the truth will be better understood and that good neighborly feelings shall prevail. It is probable that good relations will be established between the two countries. We always welcome, wholeheartedly, that future possibilities with Britain—to whom we are tied by an alliance—shall increase and that after the many events which took place during the course of the Second World War, the Britishpeople consider our excellent relations and our alliance with them a useful factor.
Our relations with the United States of America are developing in an atmosphere of increasing friendship. We have faith that the United States will apply sincerely the principles of the United Nations Charter toward all the nations of the world. We wish that all our neighbors beginning from Bulgaria to Iraq shall live as independent nations. Our aim is to maintain good relations with them all. We follow closely and with sympathy the efforts of our neighbor, Greece, deployed by her on the road of rehabilitation and the healing of her wounds which she received during her catastrophic struggle. We welcome with satisfaction possibilities of the development and deepening of our friendly relations with Iraq. We have no other political objective other than to become one of the most civilized nations of the world so that Turkey ascends to the ranks of a useful and hard-working member of the family of world nations.