Russophobic Neutrality: Turkish Diplomacy, 1936-1945
RUSSOPHOBIC NEUTRALITY: TURKISH DIPLOMACY, 1936-1945Onur Isci, M.A.Thesis Advisor: Mustafa Aksakal, Ph.DABSTRACTThis dissertation tells the story of Soviet-Turkish rivalry during the crucible of World War II. By 1939, as the possibility of a Soviet invasion through the Straits reemerged, Turkey began fast reverting to its old imperial attitude, when Istanbul's foreign policy had been dictated largely by the Sultan's fear of Russia. The state of wartime affairs between Ankara and Moscow gradually fell in sharp contrast with the cordial atmosphere of the 1920s and 1930s, when the first principle of Turkish foreign policy had been the alliance with the Soviet Union. As opposed to previous historians who have dismissed Turkey's wartime neutrality as a wily strategy of capitalizing on war, I argue that the underlying factor, guiding the Turkish state in its quest to remain neutral was the revival of Russophobia amongst the ruling circles in Ankara. There had never been a moment during the war for neither the Allies nor the Axis to depart Turkey from its neutrality unless some form of guarantee had soothed its Russian complex.A closer examination of the Turkish Prime Ministerial Archives (BCA) and the parliamentary minutes of the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TBMM) reveals that Turkey's fundamental policy consideration throughout the war had been a German victory over Russia provided that this was followed by a British victory over Germany. In other words, Turks very much desired to see another Brest-Litovsk status quo: two separate wars involving Germany, conducted independently by Britain and the USSR without cooperation. But, through unleashing Operation Barbarossa, Hitler presented to Churchill one ally as the hereditary enemy of another. By the same token, for both Nazi Germany and Great Britain, Turkey once again became the linchpin in their policy of containing the Soviet Union in the Middle Eastern theater.Overall, my conclusions point to a common fallacy in historical scholarship that construes Turkey's peculiar neutrality as an attempt to cash in on both warring blocs. On the contrary, I argue that Turkey's neutrality was precarious, rather than active or cunning, and that, in the face of growing pressure from Moscow between 1939 and 1945, Ankara admitted the need for stronger allies in Western Europe. As the war came to an end, Turkish leadership ultimately stumbled back into the Middle East while seeking to deter Russian encroachment in the region.
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