THE TRUMAN DOCTRINE: TURKEY
When the writer [i.e. Satterthwaite] returned to the United States in July 1945 for the first time in more than five years, he found there was a feeling among many of the friends he met that the Soviet Union, our ally during the war, could be expected to co-operate with the Western world in solving grave postwar problems. Upon reporting for duty in the Division of Near Eastern Affairs in September, however, he at once learned how unrealistic that feeling was.
Thus Turkey already knew from Soviet claims on the border regions of Kars and Ardahan, and from Soviet demands for a new regime governing the Straits that would have given Russia virtual control of them, that the Soviets had no intention of letting up on these pressures, and that its only protection was to maintain its army of more than five hundred thousand men that had been mobilized since the early days of World War II.
Turkey had firmly rejected all these Soviet proposals. To the renewed Soviet proposal of July 1946 for sole control of the Straits by the Black Sea Powers, a proposal also repeated to the United States, Great Britain, and France, the Turkish government again said no, this time with the full backing of those Powers. President Truman in his Memoirs said that the answer to the Soviet Union made it clear that if the Straits should become the object of Russian aggression, ‘the resulting situation would constitute a threat to international security and would clearly be a matter for action on the part of the Security Council’.
Then Truman added:
The Turkish Government, encouraged by this American attitude, rejected the Soviet demands and showed admirable determination to resist if Russia should resort to open violence. But Turkey’s army, though sizable, was poorly equipped and would have been no match for the battle-tested divisions of the Kremlin. More serious still was the drain which this continuous exertion made on the nation’s economy. Toward the close of 1946 our Ambassador reported from Ankara: ‘Turkey will not be able to maintain indefinitely a defensive posture against the Soviet Union. The burden is too great for the nation’s economy to carry much longer’.
Thus with its experience of continuing Soviet pressures and the difficulties of modernizing its large army, Turkey found itself more than ready to welcome the assistance which the Truman Doctrine promised.
[On 12 March 1947, Truman spoke to Congress about the need to support Greece and Turkey. Congress agreed, and the aid eventually became law PL75 in May 1947.]
So, with the adoption of PL 75 on May 22 by the President’s signature, the Truman Doctrine became the law of the land. He explains it in his Memoirs thus:
I wished to state, for all the world to know, what the position of the US was in the face of the new totalitarian challenge. This declaration of policy soon began to be referred to as ‘The Truman Doctrine’. This was, I believe, the turning point in America’s foreign policy, which now declared that wherever aggression, direct or indirect, threatened the peace, the security of the US was involved.
It was clear from the inception of the Truman Doctrine that our aid to Turkey should be directed at modernizing and training the Turkish army… By furnishing the badly needed equipment and training, we would make it possible for the Turkish government to devote its resources to the restoration of the national economy. Another urgent need was the construction of all-weather roads which not only would serve to strengthen the military, but would also assist in reviving Turkish agriculture.
From the beginning of the Truman Doctrine there was a feeling on the part of our Defense officials that funds spent to support the Turkish armed forces accomplished more than aid spent anywhere else. William H. Arnold, Director of the Joint American Military Mission for Assistance to Turkey, told the House Committee that in four years the Mission had delivered substantial amounts of military equipment and had trained twenty five thousand Turkish officers and men in the use of the equipment. Turkey was by far the greatest point of strength in the Middle East.