Record of the conversation Stalin, Molotov and Saracoglu ‐ 1939

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Record of the conversation Stalin, Molotov and Saracoglu ‐ 1939

October 1939

Top secret 

Comrade Molotov explained in a few words the reason for the delay in the negotiations. 

Saracoglu — when I saw the results of the work of the Soviet government in recent days, I understood the reasons for the delay in negotiations. At the same time, I acknowledge the honor that has befallen my lot to continue the negotiations in the presence of comrade Stalin. 

Comrade Molotov‐ now letʹs get down to business. We got acquainted with the draft Anglo‐French‐Turkish mutual assistance pact. We also carefully tried to study the articles of this treaty and came to the conclusion that the purpose of the entire document as a whole is not entirely clear to us, that is, against whom exactly the pact of mutual assistance concluded by Turkey with England and France will be directed. We would like to know to what extent Turkey is bound by the need to conduct these negotiations with both British and the French, how far Turkey has gone in these negotiations. We would also like to know to what extent the Turkish government considers it obligatory for itself to conclude this pact with the British and French, and whether it would not be better not to conclude this pact. The present situation and conditions are different from the situation and conditions that took place in the spring when negotiations began (about this pact). All of this interests us for the following reason: is it possible that a moment may come when Turkey finds itself in a position unfriendly towards the USSR, especially since (we) have symptoms of such anxiety. 

Saracoglu ‐ I will gladly answer your questions. However, wonʹt comrade Molotov be able to tell me something about the Soviet‐Turkish mutual assistance pact? 

Comrade Molotov ‐ We respond to this question dependent on your answer to my question;  Will there be confirmation of the existing pact or will there be something else, like a consultation? In addition, before answering Saracogluʹs question about the pact of mutual assistance between the USSR and Turkey, we want to get clarification from the minister of foreign affairs; against whom can this pact be concluded? We are interested in this if only because there are no signs now that would speak of Italyʹs intention to oppose Turkey. Hence, only Bulgaria remains. So, who will our mutual assistance pact be directed against? We are interested in these questions. 

Saracoglu ‐ Now I will try to answer the questions posed by comrade Molotov. The draft pact that we have handed ** is clear enough and, in any case, it is in the interests of the Turkish government to make it clear. Against whom are the Turkish‐English and Turkish‐French mutual assistance pacts directed, which have already been initialed and will be signed, against whom are these pacts directed? The text of the documents explicitly states that they are not directed against anyone in particular, but at the same time directed against any aggressor, with the provision that these pacts cannot be used against the USSR. We have already reached the signing of the pacts. Of course, many changes have taken place on earth during this time. However, as far as Turkey’s security is concerned, no change has occurred in this matter. In any case, the obligations assumed by Turkey, England and France were taken into account in the event that a war broke out in the Mediterranean Sea or in the Balkans. I donʹt think that it would be possible for Turkey not to sign pacts with Britain and France. As for the possibility of non‐signing the pacts with Britain and France in the event that these pacts have already been initialed, I personally cannot say anything definite. However, if these pacts are signed, then we can hardly refuse them. 

If you donʹt mind, then I would like to tell you the history of the negotiations. When the German ultimatum was presented to Romania, the British asked the Turkish government what the latter thought to do if the ultimatum turned into aggression. After two days, talk about the ultimatum was dropped, and it was no longer talked about. Later, the Albanian question arose, and then the threat of Corfu. In this connection the British asked us again what we intend to do. We informed the Soviet government of the British inquiries and instructed our representative in Moscow to ask what the USSR was thinking of doing. 3‐4 days later, England made us an official offer. We replied that our position would depend on a number of circumstances, but along the way, we set the following as mandatory conditions: 

1)  participation of the Soviet Union in the pact

2)  limited area of the pact; 

3)  economic assistance to Turkey from England. 

In the latter case, we had in mind our close economic ties with Germany, which would naturally reduce its purchases from Turkey. 

England agreed to our terms. We also noted with satisfaction that the Soviet Union, concluding a non‐aggression pact, puts Turkeyʹs participation in this pact as the main condition. At this time, comrade Potemkin paid a visit to Ankara, where they talked about various eventualities. Turkey planned to conclude a pact with Britain and France, if at the same time the Soviet Union also concludes an agreement with the British and French. It meant that [that] if England and France did not come to an agreement with the USSR, they would begin negotiations on the possibility of concluding a black sea pact. If it was not possible to carry out this too, then Turkey was ready to conclude a bilateral agreement with the USSR.  

Then Saracoglu recalled our first negotiations with Turkey on a mutual assistance pact, about the issues that were raised by the plenipotentiary envoy Terentyev, and Turkish answers to these questions, and reproduced briefly the last statement of Terentyev, made in accordance with the directive of comrade Molotov regarding the common language. 

“after all this, we have proposed to you the well‐known draft of a mutual assistance pact containing three articles. Then came an invitation from the Soviet government to come to Moscow as a minister of foreign affairs in order to agree here on everything related to the conclusion of a pact of mutual assistance. Coming here from Ankara, I retained the conviction that the Soviet government was ready to conclude such a pact with Turkey. 

Comrade Molotov ‐ we answered you: ʺcome to Moscow, and here the question of the mutual assistance pact will be settled.ʺ 

Saracoglu ‐ thatʹs right. I have finished with the history of our negotiations with the British. 

In my opinion, the Soviet‐Turkish pact interests not only us, but also our friends, that is, the USSR. Even taking into account the 4th article of the Soviet‐German non‐aggression pact , I still think that there is no obstacle to the signing of the treaty between the USSR and Turkey. I think that the Soviet‐Turkish mutual assistance pact meets the interests of both sides as a peace pact. The pact will be an instrument of peace also because there is a pro‐Soviet clause in our agreement with the British, and a similar clause, apparently, will be recorded in the Soviet‐

Turkish mutual assistance pact. 

I would not like to develop in front of you the thesis about the benefits of a pact between our countries, because you are better than anyone and, in any case, know the international situation better than me. 

Comrade Molotov ‐ against whom will this Soviet‐Turkish pact be directed? We cannot conclude a pact against Germany, against Italy — she is an ally of Germany, against Bulgaria, but the eye does not threaten Turkey! 

Saracoglu ‐ I will answer with a question. If Germany or Italy comes to the doors of Turkey, what position will the Soviet Union take in relation to Turkey? We think that this will not be indifferent to the USSR. 

Comrade Molotov ‐ it is true that it is not indifferent. But in reality, aggression against Turkey is out of the question. Italy not only does not threaten Turkey, but, on the contrary, withdraws its troops from the Dodecanese. 

Saracoglu ‐ this is true. 

Comrade Molotov ‐ Bulgaria is not capable of threatening Turkey.  Saracoglu ‐ if Germany is such a country as you portray it, or if Italy will not do anything bad to Turkey, then why are you asking ‐ to conclude a pact between the USSR and Turkey? 

We, however, have doubts about the sincerity of Germany and Italy. 

Why, finally, not allow such a possibility: the desire of England and France to attack Turkey, if not today, then tomorrow? Our pact, not being directed against any country, will at the same time have a general character, and then Turkey and the Soviet Union can be guaranteed against a common eventuality.  

Comrade Molotov ‐ we think that the Turkish‐English and TurkishFrench pacts impose many obligations on Turkey, which should bear responsibility even for Romania and Greece, but especially for Romania. All these issues should be resolved only by Turkey, and if the Turkish government does not consider it possible for itself to retreat from the Anglo‐Turkish pact, then we should agree in the form Saracoglu explained to the Plenipotentiary in Ankara: we are talking about the ʺSoviet reservationʺ in Anglo ‐Franco‐Turkish pact, which should fix that Turkeyʹs obligations under the Anglo‐Turkish and Franco‐Turkish pacts lose their force immediately if Britain and France oppose the USSR.  

Comrade Stalin — the Turks did not ask me, but if they asked me, I would not advise them to agree to the conclusion of the Anglo‐Turkish and Franco‐Turkish pacts. Of course, Turkey needs both England and France as states with a large fleet. Turkey is considered a Mediterranean power. What England and France should have given the Turks in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas (in particular, the return of the islands), the USSR could not give Turkey now. Therefore, I fully understand the intentions of the Turks to use the contradictions between England and France, on the one hand, and Italy, on the other, in order to get what Turkey needs in the Mediterranean for this and to protect their interests in the Dodecanese. It is right. And only in this way can you get the islands. Up to this point, Turkey is the winner. Next comes the complication. As for the Balkans, Greece and Romania were attached to Turkey. Here Turkey can give more to the British and French, but not vice versa. I think, as if , because of these burdens which Turkey took upon itself in the Balkans, the Turks and I did not have a misunderstanding, especially because of Bulgaria. The help with funds and loans given by the British, in my opinion, is worth less than the troops sent by Turkey. The situation in which Turkey finds itself unleashes everything on the continent: whether Bulgaria moved, whether the Hungarians attacked the Romanians, whether Italy attacked Greece ‐ the Turks must get involved in the war. Or there was a complication between the USSR and Romania because of Bessarabia ‐ we do not think to attack the Romanians, but we will not give Bessarabia as a gift ‐ again a conflict. In my opinion, Romania is like Poland: as she grabbed a lot of land, so did Romania. Whoever contacts Romania with mutual assistance must keep a sword at the ready: Hungary is here, and maybe someone else is not profitable for Turkey. 

This is one group of questions that confuses us. And that is why we believe that these points, that is, the first and second points of your pact with the British, would not have been better. 

There is also a group of questions that puts us in a difficult position. Events have their own logic: we say one thing, but events go the other way. We divided Poland with Germany, England and France did not declare war on us, but it may be. We have no pact of mutual assistance with the Germans, but if the British and French declare war on us, we will have to fight them. What will this contract look like? This is what is new, this is where the logic of events is felt. 

Mr. Saracoglu can reply that we have a reservation of the order that Turkish commitments will expire or that Turkey will be neutral. Then we will have to make a reservation that if Turkey gets involved in the conflict, then our pact will lose its force. We will not oppose Germany. What then remains of the pact? Nothing. Do we want to conclude a pact with the Turks? We want. Are we friends of Turkey? Yes. But there are circumstances that I spoke about and which turn the pact into a piece of paper. Who is to blame for the turn of affairs unfavorable for concluding a pact with Turkey? None. Circumstances, development of events. Poleshaʹs action played its role. The British and French, especially the British, did not want an agreement with us, believing that they could do without us. If there are guilty persons, then we are also guilty ‐ we did not foresee all this. 

Saracoglu ‐ first of all, I must declare that I have a commission from Ismet Inonu: if I manage to see comrade Stalin, then convey to him that

Ismet retains unforgettable feelings and the best of the impressions he got from his visit to the Soviet Union and from his meetings with comrade Stalin. 

Comrade Stalin — I would like to ask you to thank the president for the good memory of us. How is Ismetʹs health? 

Saracoglu ‐ he feels good to your words that Turkey did not ask for your opinion ... 

Comrade Stalin — (remark) —it is not necessary to ask. This is not a rebuke. 

Saracoglu ‐ can I, Saracoglu, understand the words of comrade Stalin in such a way that if the treaty between Turkey and England were drawn up as comrade Stalin advises, there would be no obstacles to the conclusion of a Soviet‐Turkish pact of mutual assistance? 

Comrade Stalin — certainly. 

Saracoglu ‐ but if we draw up our pact differently, without technical omissions, what to do? 

Comrade Stalin ‐ but this is not a technical mistake. If Saracoglu recalls, several years ago we had some correspondence with the Turkish government at the time when Turkey concluded the Balkan pact, the Turks somehow stipulated to defend Romania and Bessarabia, how did this end? But this is not a technical question. 

Saracoglu — we did not take on obligations to protect the external borders of the Balkan countries, and even a special Soviet clause was made. 

Comrade Stalin ‐ but it was not, it seems, officially recorded?  Saracoglu ‐ no, it was written down. Greece made a reservation that it would not oppose Italy, and Turkey made a Soviet reservation. The Balkan pact is a guarantee of the internal borders of the Balkan countries. If Romania had to fight against the USSR, the obligations of the Balkan pact would be invalid. Our pact with Britain, rightly, says that Turkey will defend Romania and Greece if anyone attacks these countries. But if, as a result of the conflict over Romania, Turkey should have opposed the USSR, then Turkey will not agree to this, which is provided for by the Soviet clause. We regard the Soviet clause as a substitute for the general conclusion of a mutual assistance pact that was supposed at one time. 

Comrade Stalin ‐ I think that the Soviet‐Turkish clause follows from the 1925 pact . We are also obliged to make a corresponding reservation, and we will. 

Saracoglu ‐ we considered it our duty to introduce a reservation arising from our non‐aggression pact with you. What will be Turkeyʹs position in the event of a war between Britain and France against the USSR? When Soviet troops entered Poland, I invited the British and French ambassadors to my place and advised their governments not to push the Soviet Union into a military agreement with Germany, and also not to create such moments for Turkey in relations with England and France that would have put Saracoglu in Moscow into a difficult position. However, if a war breaks out, Turkey will remain neutral. I am also sure, as comrade Stalin thinks, that Britain and France did not want to conclude an agreement with the USSR. However, now, under the influence of a cruel lesson, I am convinced that the British and French are inclined to come to terms with the Soviet Union. The Soviet‐Turkish pact can resolve all misunderstandings. It could be a harbinger of other broader agreements that are important not only for Turkey, but also for affairs of the world. We are talking about an amicable agreement with Britain and France. 

Comrade Stalin ‐ despite our doubts, does Saracoglu think that a pact can be concluded with us? 

Saracoglu ‐ yes, this is my conviction. 

Comrade Stalin ‐ is it difficult to change anything in the TurkishEnglish and Turkish‐French pacts? 

Saracoglu ‐ if a conflict arises between the USSR and Romania, Turkey remains on the sidelines. I agree to make a reservation about this. If the Soviet government says that any action by Turkey can be regarded by our friends as an unfriendly action, then Turkey will refrain from this. 

As for the reservation, if something adequate is proposed by the USSR, then he, Saracoglu, will accept it. This reservation is contained in the general reservation principle. The British themselves took the initiative to introduce a reservation, from which it follows that Turkey may refuse to help Romania if this latter could cause a conflict. 

Comrade Stalin ‐ when you are dealing with the French and the British, you need to remember that these are people who fulfill their obligations only when it is beneficial to them, and do not fulfill their obligations when it is not beneficial to them. Example: Czechoslovakia, Poland, etc. 

Saracoglu ‐ this is true. 

Comrade Stalin — couldnʹt article 3 be transferred to the category of consultations? Turkey would have free hands. 

Saracoglu ‐ we thought that by introducing the reservation, we obliged our partners to reckon with every Soviet proposal. If the USSR considered something inconvenient for itself, then we would have to reckon with it. 

Comrade Stalin ‐ this is inconvenient: the obligations under article 3 automatically come into effect. 

Saracoglu ‐ why canʹt we achieve the goal we need by concluding a pact with you? 

Comrade Stalin ‐ we have no pacts with Bulgaria, but we feel sorry for the Bulgarians. We mean if Bulgaria itself does not go against the Turks. It would be good to write down a clause about Bulgaria and Romania in our mutual protocol. For example, if Bulgaria does not attack itself, then it should not be beaten. If the Turks manage not to fulfill paragraph 3, then we will welcome it. But it is best to replace it with a consultation.  

Saracoglu ‐ as for the Romanian clause, this document already exists. However, if Italy attacks us or if Bulgaria attacks any of the Balkan countries, then we will have to fight. 

Comrade Stalin ‐ if Bulgaria opposes Turkey, then beat her. But why should Bulgaria be beaten in other cases? I would prefer to translate the 3rd article into an advisory one. 

Saracoglu ‐ in Romania, you can. But Greece is our vital issue. 

Comrade Stalin ‐ When was it decided to hand over the Dodecanese to Italy? 

Saracoglu answers ‐ Provides historical information. 

Comrade Stalin. ‐ so, the translation is not going to the consultation? 

Saracoglu ‐ how about Greece? 

Comrade Stalin ‐ it would be good too. 

Saracoglu ‐ impossible. The occupation of Greece is tantamount to the occupation of Turkey. 

Comrade Stalin ‐ all the same, the Turks will have to fight, and the British will help will not come to you. If the Greeks give the islands to the Turks, then help is needed. 

Saracoglu — we are not asking for an island. 

Comrade Stalin — the islands must be demanded. They are located at the exit to the sea. Your situation is difficult. We also had this situation. England guarantees, and because of Poland we are at war. 

Saracoglu ‐ Italy will not go to Greece because of Greece. Greece is a bridge to attack Turkey. 

Comrade Stalin ‐ what does Italy want from Turkey? 

Saracoglu ‐ Italy has not exactly formulated, but always talks about the roman empire. The fortification of the rocky islands is directed against Turkey. 

Comrade Stalin — Italy needs Egypt. 

Saracoglu ‐ maybe, but Egypt is now in firmer hands. 

Comrade Stalin ‐ doesnʹt Saracoglu consider it possible to ask Ankara about Greece ‐ for a consultation? 

Saracoglu ‐ but without adding anything, what do you give? 

Comrade Stalin ‐ well, letʹs say, a pact of mutual assistance in the event of an attack directly on Turkey in the straits and the black sea, without the Balkans, and consultation if something arises in the Balkans. 

Saracoglu ‐ when they talk about the Balkans, does European Turkey belong to the Balkan countries? 

Comrade Stalin ‐ yes. 

Saracoglu ‐ and if there is an attack in Thrace, will it be covered by a guarantee of assistance?  

Comrade Stalin ‐ yes. 

Saracoglu ‐ this is not only against Bulgaria, but against any state. We are afraid of Bulgaria if it unites with anyone. 

Comrade Stalin ‐ Bulgaria wants only Dobruja and, perhaps, Dodeagach. 

Saracoglu ‐ I would ask you to formulate everything concerning the pact with you. 

Comrade Molotov ‐ the reservation must be made in the spirit of the message of the Plenipotentiary, i.e., Turkeyʹs obligations to Britain and France immediately lose their force in the event of Britain and France coming out against the USSR. 

Saracoglu ‐ yes, the pact is inactive during the conflict between Britain,

France, on the one hand, and the USSR, on the other. 

What will happen if Germany moves towards Turkey? 

Comrade Molotov –  We will not support Turkey if she opposes Germany. But if Germany opposes Turkey, we will oppose. 

Comrade Stalin ‐ I understand the reservation so that if a conflict arises, Turkey will be neutral. But Turkey does not break with the British and French but helps them in other places.  

Saracoglu ‐ no, this is out of the question, I accept your additions to the Soviet reservation.  

I will report to my government on two issues of principle and receive instructions in this regard from Ankara: 

1)                   the commitment undertaken by Turkey to assist Romania and Greece is transferred to the advisory part and 

2)                   your additions to the Soviet clause that for the duration of the conflict between Britain, France, on the one hand, and the USSR, on the other, Turkeyʹs obligations are losing their force. 

As soon as I receive an answer, I will immediately inform you about it in order for us to continue negotiations., 


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