Because it had some importance in the history of the Second World War as a whole, Turkish diplomacy between 1939 and 1945 has received a good deal of scholarly attention – more so, for instance, than in the case of either the immediately preceding or succeeding periods. At first glance, it seems fairly straightforward and consistent. Although its government had signed a tripartite alliance with Britain and France in October 1939, Turkey remained a de facto neutral throughout the war, resisting strong pressure from both the Allies and Germany to join the war on their side. The careful balancing act is held up as an example of how a relatively small and militarily backward country could follow an independent path at a time of global struggle, and ‘a striking example of a small state which was no helpless pawn in international politics’.1

This policy could be seen as a natural outcome of Turkey’s experiences since 1914, and the country’s relative power and international position. All Turkey’s leaders during the Second World War had first-hand experiences of the previous one and were naturally anxious to avoid repeating them. Saving the country from a return to the death and destruction of war was their overriding objective. Turkey’s armed forces were too ill-equipped to hold off a counter-attack by either Germany or the Soviet Union effectively. Its political leaders were above all anxious to protect the security they had won in 1923. Assuming it was not invaded by one of the belligerents, Turkey had practically nothing to gain and everything to lose by joining the war. This view has a good deal to recommend it, but it does not seem plausible

as an explanation of Turkish policy throughout the war years.2 If, for instance, I . nönü and his colleagues had been determined to stay out of the war from the moment they signed the alliance with Britain and France in 1939, then one would have to conclude that they blatantly intended not to carry out their commitments under it, or that they thought that the circumstances under which they were supposed to do so would never arise. However, this would assume a degree of duplicity or naïveté on their part that is inconsistent with their overall policy performance. It is not supported by their policies during the first six months of the war, in which they accepted the principle of entering the war against Italy and Germany. Like other political leaders in most situations, they usually decided policy on the basis of the existing situation,

their previous experiences and their expectations at the time. Hence, Turkey’s wartime diplomacy can be seen as subject to significant shifts, adapted to the circumstances of a series of fairly distinct phases and to changes within these phases. On the policy-making side, I