The Coup in the Kremlin
How Putin and the Security Services Captured the Russian State
FOR reasons which are obvious, the average American knows very little about Turkey. In the past, America was a world apart, a world complete and self-sufficient. The vast ocean which separates it from the old Continent and certain doctrines to which it subscribed kept it isolated from the complex problems which torment the little territory called Europe. Then things changed suddenly. Distances are no longer great, and in the United States people are coming more and more to understand that a danger which threatens Europe cannot leave them indifferent.
In this development of interest, the extent of which was unimaginable before the Second World War, Turkey holds an important place. The policy embodied in the Truman Doctrine and the military aid given to Turkey attest this fact. For the average American, nevertheless, Turkey's policy may seem to be the result of chance. Its origins and reasons why it has developed as it has are not known. My country has had very limited means for making itself understood in the United States, while for long years a widespread propaganda has been carried on by Turkey's enemies.
The foreign policy of the Turkish Republic, which has remained the same for 25 years, is the historical result of two main elements. After the First World War, the Ottoman Empire collapsed and Kemalist Turkey was born. The men who at that time presided over the destinies of the Turkish people sincerely renounced the ancient dreams of the Sultans. In 1919, they drew up a program known as the "National Pact," which clearly defined the strictly national frontiers of the new Turkey. Of her own free will, Turkey renounced all claims to territories not included within those limits. Out of the vast lands given up by Turkey at that time were formed seven independent countries that we know today as 'Iraq, Syria, the Lebanon, Palestine, Transjordan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
This first factor which dominated the birth of Kemalist Turkey supplied the basis of her policy: the Turkish people, who for six centuries controlled half of Europe and a part of Asia and Africa, resolved to live within the confines of their fatherland, and traced its boundaries according to strictly national lines. Hence Turkey does not have and cannot have ambitions which threaten the territories of other peoples. She necessarily respects the independence of others. The very circumstances of Turkey's birth made her an anti-imperialist country.
The second factor which dominated the formation of the new Turkey was her struggle for independence. Despite the great territorial sacrifice willingly made by the Turkish people, the victorious Powers of the First World War, encroaching upon President Wilson's famous Fourteen Points, tried to impose upon Turkey the Treaty of Sèvres (August 10, 1920), which divided Anatolia and Istanbul into various spheres of influence. The independence and integrity of Turkey were thus to be reduced to nought. Moreover, the Greek army, supported and encouraged by the British Government under Lloyd George, landed at Izmir (Smyrna), invaded Anatolia and approached the outskirts of Ankara.
Turkey was prostrate and exhausted, without an army and without any resources whatsoever; Istanbul and the government of the last Sultan were under the control of the Allied occupation force. These were the darkest days of Turkish history. Then it was that Mustapha Kemal arose, formed a national army and began the struggle for independence. Out of this struggle the new Turkey was born, free and sovereign, as recognized in 1923 in the Treaty of Lausanne. In the negotiations for this treaty, Ismet Inönü, commander of the national armies, represented his country. The circumstances of her rebirth have made Turkey especially jealous of her freedom and independence. She is always ready to fight any force whatsoever to safeguard them. This much being understood, it is easy to understand the main lines of her foreign policy and how they must develop.
The first diplomatic act of the new Turkey was to sign a treaty with her neighbor, Russia. The greatest revolution in Russian history had just been accomplished. The Tsar had been overthrown. Nothing was left of the Russian policy of expansion. Turkey, which had been obliged to war with Russia seven times in the course of two and one-half centuries, was now delivered from the nightmare of Muscovite imperialism. Furthermore, Russia, emerging from the Bolshevik revolution, established a democratic régime and fought against the invading forces of other states. Everything pointed to a rapprochement between the two neighbors.
Turkey signed a treaty with Russia -- the first treaty of Kemalist Turkey -- at Moscow, March 16, 1921. In it the two countries recognized "their solidarity in their struggle against imperialism, as well as the fact that any difficulty encountered by either of the two peoples would worsen the position of the other," and declared themselves "animated by the desire always to have a cordial understanding and relations of continued sincere friendship based upon the mutual interest of the two countries." This agreement fixed the boundary which today separates Turkey and Soviet Russia. Yet in the past few years propaganda has been carried on against Turkey to promote Russian desires for Turkey's eastern provinces. Today the Russians contend that these territories, which were returned to Turkey in 1921, were torn from Russia in her moment of weakness! Not even children would believe this. In 1921 Turkey was exhausted and cut in pieces, and was carrying on her national struggle against Greece, Great Britain, France and Italy.
At first, however, Soviet-Turkish friendship prospered. In Paris in 1925 the two countries signed a treaty of neutrality, nonaggression and mutual consultation which was renewed upon several occasions and constituted the basis of relations between Turkey and Soviet Russia for 20 years. The Soviet Union denounced it on March 19, 1945. But though the relations of the two countries had been friendly, at least in form, they had begun to change soon after 1935 -- the date of the last renewal of the Treaty of 1925. The change was not brought about by a shift in Turkey's own policy but by the forces of world politics. These external factors made themselves felt at the Montreux Conference on the Dardanelles in 1936. At this conference the traditional positions of the British and the Russians toward the Straits clashed from the start. Upon every occasion, the Soviet delegation passionately advanced the view that the Straits should be closed to foreign warships; even at the final session, the Soviet representative, M. Litvinov, while publicly expressing his satisfaction at the results obtained, could not refrain from once more repeating the views of his Government on the subject of the security of the Black Sea.
The change in Soviet policy toward Turkey came with the signing of the Montreux Convention. Although its terms were favorable to the Soviets (as became plain during the Second World War), the Russian press from that moment on began to complain about Turkey and charge her with playing the game of the "imperialist Powers." Nevertheless, until 1939 the Soviets made no suggestion, either official or unofficial, that the Dardanelles Convention should be revised. That was a crucial year. By the spring of 1939 it was no longer possible to doubt that war was imminent. Germany was preparing for aggression, but the western democracies clung to the hope that they could devise some political combination which would prevent the war, or at least delay it.
Faced with the outbreak of war, Turkey, like all the other states, saw that she had to define her line of action. She accepted the suggestion which was made to her to align herself with the western Powers and began to negotiate with them. However, faithful to her general policy of friendship with Russia, she immediately informed Moscow of these negotiations and proposed (in the Saracoglu-Potemkin conversations at Ankara, at the end of April 1939) a pact of mutual assistance similar to the one which she was negotiating with Great Britain and France. A communiqué was issued recognizing the common views of the two Governments on international questions, as well as on issues directly affecting the two countries, and expressing their intention of remaining in close contact in order to exchange all political information concerning their common interests (May 6, 1939). It must be noted that at this time the Soviets were negotiating with the western Powers.
On May 12, 1939, a joint Turkish-British declaration was made simultaneously by the chiefs of the respective Governments in Ankara and London. On June 23, 1939, a similar declaration was signed in Paris between Turkey and France. Early in August, the Soviet Government invited the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Saracoglu, to come to Moscow in order to negotiate a pact of mutual assistance; and this invitation was officially accepted. The Turkish view of the contemplated pact was that it should be limited in scope, "aggression" being understood in the broadest sense of the term; that it should cover land war as well as war at sea; and that it could be concluded either as a corollary of the Franco-British-Turkish tripartite pact, or independently.
The Soviets answered that this view had seemed acceptable as a basis of negotiations as long as the Turkish proposals were being studied in the light of the Anglo-French-Soviet conversations. These conversations had now been broken off, however, and the Soviets pointed out that as a result, the situation was no longer the same. But they added that it was still possible to envisage the conclusion of an agreement concerning an aggression directed against the Dardanelles or the Balkans. It was finally decided that the negotiations should concern themselves with questions of assistance in the Dardanelles and the Black Sea, consultation regarding the Balkans, and a reservation as regards Britain and France. This reservation, which the Turkish delegation insisted must be inserted into the projected Pact, would establish the fact that any obligations thereby assumed by Turkey could not involve her in an armed conflict with either of the two western Powers.
Official conversations began in Moscow on September 26, but immediately reached an impasse. The Soviets demanded that clauses be inserted in the Franco-British-Turkish Pact which would make it ineffective. They demanded a reservation regarding Germany similar to the one regarding France and Britain, i.e. a clause saying that, because of the engagements which Soviet Russia had assumed by virtue of Article 4 of the German-Soviet pact, she could not be involved in any aggressive act against Germany. Finally, and above all, the Soviet Government demanded that Turkey sign a protocol which would modify the Montreux Convention to bring it in harmony with the classical Russian view, that is, that the Dardanelles would be closed to the fleets of countries whose territories do not border upon the Black Sea, and that the Soviets would control all Turkish decisions relating to these seaways.
After several fruitless attempts to reach an understanding, during which the Soviets held to their point of view (which at one moment they had seemed ready to alter), the negotiations completely collapsed on October 16, 1939. Three days later, the Franco-British-Turkish mutual assistance pact was signed at Ankara in its original form.
Soviet Russia had signed a treaty of friendship and nonaggression with Germany on August 23, 1939, which made it possible for the Nazis to attack Poland and unleash the Second World War. She contended that the western Powers had tried to profit from Turkish-Soviet friendship (as displayed by the Turkish-Soviet negotiations) to draw her into an attitude of opposition to Germany and Italy, but that she had unmasked this game. She said her refusal to enter the tripartite pact helped guard the peace.
In a speech delivered at the fifth special session of the Supreme Council of the U.S.S.R. on October 31, of the same year, Mr. Molotov declared that he wished to deny the rumors then circulating to the effect that the Soviets had demanded the retrocession of the provinces of Kars and Ardahan, during the Turkish-Soviet negotiations held in Moscow, as well as certain privileges in the Dardanelles. All these rumors were pure inventions, he said, and the negotiations in question had failed because the Turks would not accept the reservation in regard to Germany and would not agree to close the Dardanelles to the warships of Powers whose territories do not border upon the Black Sea. M. Molotov added in the course of this speech that, by concluding this pact with England and France, Turkey had linked her fate to that of the western Powers and had thus "taken a hazardous line" which she would regret.
It is interesting to note the date of this declaration and to compare its substance with much later remarks by the same Soviet statesmen. In October 1939, the Soviets insisted that they were faithful allies of Germany. Today they have reversed the picture, and pretend that it was not they but Turkey who from the start adopted a line of conduct favorable to the Axis Powers.
As it happened, the course of the armed conflict, following an uncertain beginning, developed in favor of the Axis Powers too rapidly to suit Soviet Russia. She had counted upon a slow and difficult victory for Germany, to whom, despite the entente between the two countries, she had determined to give only the necessary minimum of assistance. She hoped that the war would end in the total destruction of the imperialist Powers and would leave no one the victor. She reasoned that Germany would be exhausted, even though victorious, and for a long time would lick her wounds and seek expansion in the colonies which she had recovered or conquered. This would give Soviet Russia, who had remained neutral in the conflict, a free hand in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
However, the lightning victories won by the Germans compelled the Soviet leaders to abandon this dream, which was indeed turning into a nightmare. Turkish friendship again began to seem precious. In July 1940, Premier Stalin accepted the good offices of the British Ambassador in Moscow for the improvement of Turkish-Soviet relations, but he again made clear that this depended above all upon the participation of the Black Sea Powers in the control of the Dardanelles. When the British Government asked the Turkish Government if it were willing to have the British ask the Soviets to define their point of view in greater detail, Turkey answered that she had no objection to this on condition that no discussions of that basic aspect of the question were undertaken.
The British effort was not to have any immediate results, for we know -- thanks to the documents published by the American State Department concerning German-Soviet relations between 1939 and 1941 -- that while Soviet Russia thus seemed to be giving Great Britain proof of her good will toward Turkey, she was secretly negotiating with the Germans. The negotiations concern the conditions -- and, so to speak, the price -- of closer collaboration with the Axis Powers and adherence to the German-Italian-Japanese Pact.
During an interview with Mr. Molotov in Berlin on November 12, 1940, the Führer and the German Minister of Foreign Affairs dangled before the eyes of the Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs the vision of a new world dominated in the west by the Third Reich and in the east by Soviet Russia. At that interview it was declared that Germany had no interest of any sort in the Balkans. Her temporary presence in that region was due to purely military necessities. As for Great Britain and the United States, they were to be completely excluded from the affairs of the European continent.
In his preparatory conversation, von Ribbentrop, in taking up the question of Turkey, supported a thesis which he knew in advance would please Russia. Turkey, he said, should be led progressively to relax her ties with England. He thought that the Montreux Convention should be scrapped and replaced by a new arrangement. Obviously Soviet Russia could not be satisfied with the present situation, he said; she was right to claim certain privileges in the Dardanelles. It seemed to him opportune that Russia, Germany and Italy should pursue a common policy toward Turkey, designed to lead that country to free herself from her ties with England, which naturally were displeasing to Germany, Italy and the U.S.S.R. Turkey would thus be induced to accept of her own free will the replacement of the Montreux Convention by another document.
The same evening the Führer asked Mr. Molotov how Russia viewed the problem of safeguarding her interests on the Black Sea and the Dardanelles. He assured the Soviet Foreign Minister that Germany would be ready at any time to help him achieve an improvement in the Dardanelles régime.
Mr. Molotov answered that he agreed in general with the Führer's view of the future world situation. He asked Hitler several questions, and added that certain points were also to be elucidated with regard to Soviet interests in the Balkans and on the Black Sea, relative to Bulgaria, Rumania and Turkey. He was in agreement with the declarations of the leaders of the Reich as to the rôle of Great Britain and the United States. The principle of the participation of Russia in the Three Power Pact seemed to him entirely acceptable, with the reservation that Russia must coöperate as a partner and not only as a supernumerary. Furthermore, the objectives and import of the Pact must first be more clearly defined.
The next day, November 13, Turkey was the subject of a much longer discussion between the two statesmen. Molotov raised the problem of the Black Sea and the Danube, emphasized the interests of Russia in these regions, characterized the Dardanelles as England's historic path of attack against Russia, and declared that the relations between Soviet Russia and the other Black Sea Powers were of primary importance. He asked the Führer what Germany would say if Russia gave to Bulgaria -- the independent country nearest the Dardanelles -- a guarantee similar to that given by Germany and Italy to Rumania.
Hitler answered that Germany had already accepted the principle of revision of the Montreux Convention in favor of the U.S.S.R. Molotov countered with the statement that Russia wished to be guaranteed against an attack coming from the Dardanelles and would like to settle this question with Turkey, but that she would also like to obtain a guarantee against such an attack not only on paper, but "in reality." He again raised the question of a Soviet guarantee to Bulgaria.
Plainly, the Soviets, while trying to take advantage of the general situation and of the German advances in order to get their hands on the Dardanelles, did not want anyone else doing the same thing. They feared a German movement into Bulgaria and a revision of the Montreux Convention which would permit the Germans and Italians to have their say, and their share of privileges.
After the Berlin interviews, work was begun in Moscow on the draft of an agreement between the countries of the Three Power Pact and the U.S.S.R., with the aim of establishing a new order in Europe, Asia and Africa. Each member of the pact would operate in its natural sphere of influence, and the new order would serve the welfare of all. The pact would lay a firm and lasting basis for the common efforts of the four interested parties in behalf of this aim. However, after Bulgaria joined the Axis and German troops entered that country, Russia hastened to approach Turkey once more. As a result, the two governments issued a joint declaration (March 25, 1941) which stated that "the reports appearing in the foreign press to the effect that, if Turkey were led to enter the war, the Soviets would take advantage of her difficulties to attack her . . . in no way corresponded to the position of the Soviet Union." In such a case Turkey could, "in accordance with the terms of the non-aggression pact between herself and the U.S.S.R., count on the full understanding and neutrality of the U.S.S.R.;" and the U.S.S.R. on her part "could count on the full understanding and neutrality of Turkey if she found herself in such a situation."
Such was the position of the two countries when the Germans attacked the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941.
As early as the beginning of March 1941, Hitler had informed the Turkish Ambassador in Berlin of the Soviet aims in the Dardanelles, though he did not, of course, add any information about the bait which he had held out. He wanted to arouse Turkey's fears and estrange her from the U.S.S.R. In spite of this, Turkey had not hesitated to publish the joint declaration of March 25 with the Soviet Union. Soviet ambitions in Bulgaria and the Dardanelles, fully enlarged upon in the German press, were even cited by the Germans as a reason for going to war against the Russians.
After the entry of German troops into Russian territory, the Soviet Government suddenly remembered that the Montreux Convention contained certain clauses which were extremely helpful to Russia and which gave Turkey the rôle of the faithful guardian of Soviet security in the Black Sea. Thus the Soviet Union hastened, on August 10, 1941, to hand to the Turkish Government, jointly with Great Britain, a note in which it reaffirmed its fidelity to the Montreux Convention and assured the Turkish Government that it had no aggressive intentions or claims concerning the Dardanelles. The note added that the Government of the U.S.S.R. was ready scrupulously to respect the territorial integrity of the Turkish Republic, and that while it fully understood the desire of the Turkish Government not to be drawn into the war, was nevertheless equally ready to grant Turkey all aid and assistance in the event that she was attacked by a European Power.
Yet as soon as the war was over -- on March 19, 1945 -- the Soviet Government, as noted above, denounced the 1925 friendship treaty with Turkey. The treaty had to be adapted to the new circumstances, the Soviets declared. At the same time, a furious campaign was launched against Turkey, without any plausible reason, in the Russian press and radio.
Turkey still desired to renew good-neighbor relations with the U.S.S.R., and therefore approached Soviet statesmen through her Ambassador in Moscow in order to learn the conditions under which a new agreement could be concluded. During the interview which took place between Ambassador Sarper and Mr. Molotov on June 7, 1945, the Soviet Foreign Minister said that there were two conditions for the conclusion of a new agreement between Turkey and Soviet Russia: the eventual rectification of the Turkish-Soviet frontier fixed by the Treaty of 1921, and the granting of bases for Soviet Russia on the Dardanelles. The U.S.S.R. and Turkey must defend the Straits together, he explained, since the Dardanelles are the gateway to Russia, and Turkey is not strong enough to defend them alone. Turkey completely rejected these conditions.
Russian journalists, learned geographers and historians then wrote long articles attempting to prove that the eastern provinces of Turkey, even including Trebizond, belonged to Russia. In a note delivered to Turkey on August 8, 1946, the Moscow Government demanded the modification of the Montreux Convention regarding the Dardanelles, declaring that the establishment of the new régime for these straits was a matter to be settled by Turkey and the other Black Sea Powers by themselves. At the same time Russia demanded that she be associated in the defense of the Dardanelles, without defining the form of this military association. It could only mean the occupation by the Soviet army of the Dardanelles, Constantinople and, obviously, the entire hinterland. After an exchange of notes, Turkey rejected these proposals, contending that all the signatories of the Montreux Convention should confer, and that a common defense of the Dardanelles with Russia was inconceivable for sovereign and independent Turkey.
Thus was the propaganda war unleashed against Turkey by the U.S.S.R. In the daily tirade, the charge which the Russians seemed most to enjoy repeating was that Turkey had remained neutral during the war. Indeed, one can readily believe that Russia's greatest regret is that Turkey was not occupied and then "liberated." If Turkey had gone to war when she was without arms, completely isolated and without any hope of aid, the German armies would have occupied her territory within a few weeks. Later on, the Red Army would have come to liberate her, as it liberated Poland, the Baltic countries, Rumania, Bulgaria. . . . A lost opportunity!
This brief survey of the development of Russian policy toward Turkey has been made as objectively as possible. It shows that Russian policy has not changed since the time of the Tsars. At the beginning of the war Soviet Russia laid down her conditions: the Dardanelles. During the war, she bargained with Hitler: the Dardanelles. After the war, she stated her conditions clearly to Turkey: the Dardanelles.
In 1945, when Russia was emerging victorious from the war, when Turkey's ally England, wounded and impoverished, could not give her any help, and when the United States, still far from Europe and even further from Turkey, revered her Soviet ally and had full confidence in her, Soviet Russia, convinced that the right moment had come, revealed her designs: she demanded Turkey's eastern territories, she demanded the Dardanelles. Would all that have satisfied her? We think not. If there had ever been a Turkish government willing to yield to these demands, Turkey still could not have reached an agreement with Moscow. For, after the occupation of the Dardanelles, the Soviet Union would demand a Communist Government at Ankara and would impose one upon Turkey. "How," Moscow would ask, "can we have confidence in a Turkish Government which is politically linked to the capitalist Powers?"
Turkey sought sincerely to renew good relations with Soviet Russia. But since those relations had to be compatible with the honor of a people attached above all to its freedom and independence, Turkey did not hesitate for one moment to reject the Russian demands in 1945, despite her isolation. The Turkish people were determined to defend themselves to the death -- alone, if the other Powers had been against her as in 1920.
Turkish policy is not accidental nor hard to account for. It is inherent in her historical development. It is the result of the essential factors which created the new Turkey: renunciation of the past at the cost of great sacrifices, and respect for the future. Those factors expressed themselves in a national struggle to the death for independence, against overwhelming forces and despite the extreme exhaustion of the country. "Peace in the land, peace in the world," said Atatürk.
We still hope that a better understanding of things on the part of our great neighbor will make possible better relations between our two countries. We believe it will be possible if the Soviets, accepting our candid and straightforward policy for what it is, and recognizing the value which the Turkish people attach to their sovereignty and independence, will treat with Turkey on equal terms. Meanwhile we have a clear conscience. We have always sought, and shall continue to seek, to renew better relations within the framework of our policy -- a policy of honor and dignity.
The United States has understood Turkish policy and judged it correctly, despite the very limited relations it has had with Turkey in the past. For there is a great affinity between the peaceful ideals of the two peoples, a perfect similarity in their struggle for independence and their devotion to freedom and sovereignty, and a mutual bond in the respect which both feel for the freedom and independence of others. It is this honest and firm policy of Turkey's, put to the test at the most difficult moment in the history of Europe, and a common interest in the maintenance of peace, which have won for Turkey the friendship of the United States.
This friendship has expressed itself by moral support and by material assistance. The Truman Doctrine was a great comfort to the Turkish people, for it made them feel that they were no longer isolated. They saw that a great nation, the most powerful in the world, was interested in their independence and integrity. The aid in military equipment which Congress granted as a logical consequence of the Truman Doctrine was vital for Turkey. The strengthening of the Turkish Army by the most modern weapons will serve the cause of peace in our part of the world, for it will strengthen our power of resistance to any aggression. The Turkish people and Army know how precious this aid is, and they know perfectly well that, no matter what sacrifices their country was willing to make, it could not have procured this equipment in any other way. We are happy to know that this military aid will continue until at least the most important of our essential needs have been met.
The present situation offers the most difficult test with which Turkey has been faced. The dilemma is tragic for Turkey and for all Europe: economic recovery demands, first, political security, and then the use of all the resources of the country for that purpose. But insecurity and constant danger necessitate heavy expenditures for national defense. And, to complete the dilemma, a sound national economy is necessary to maintain military strength. Modern armaments are very expensive and demand a degree of scientific and industrial proficiency which very few nations are capable of achieving. The resources even of a nation as rich and powerful as the United States are not limitless, particularly since -- alas! -- weapons are continually changed and developed.
Peace and security cannot be made to depend indefinitely upon mobilization and armament, above all for countries which are not rich. All the peaceful countries must, as soon as possible, organize a defensive security system capable of halting in advance any war of aggression. Until the United Nations is capable of carrying out this task, the European countries, in association with the most powerful idealist of peace, the United States, must assume it, needless to say, within the United Nations framework. Thus alone can war be avoided, thousands of human lives spared and modern civilization saved from collapse. The proposed North Atlantic Pact seems to be the first result of the recognition of this necessity by the United States.
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