7 August 1946: Turkish Straits crisis reaches its climax

A row over who was allowed to sail through the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus led to a stand-off between the USA and the USSR.

For the Soviet Union, the Turkish Straits could not have been more important. Since ancient times, the narrow bodies of water that make up the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles via the Sea of Marmara held enormous strategic importance both militarily and in terms of trade. The only way the Soviet navy could get from its Black Sea ports to the Mediterranean and the wider world was through the straits.

In 1936, the Soviet Union, along with several other regional and world powers, signed the Montreux Convention. It agreed that only ships from countries bordering the Black Sea could use the straits and it was up to neutral Turkey to police it. This, however, wasn't enough of a guarantee.

With the Second World War out of the way, Soviet deputy premier Lavrentiy Beria declared that a swathe of eastern Turkey close to the Black Sea belonged to Georgia, then part of the Soviet Union. It had been stolen, he said, by the Turks during the days of the Ottoman Empire. Moscow also complained that ships not from the Black Sea had been allowed to pass through the straits in violation of the convention.

For the Americans, this confirmed their worst fears of Soviet expansionism. President Truman decided that the Soviet Union had to be contained, leading to the Truman Doctrine. In April 1946, the huge American battleship USS Missouri arrived in the straits, conveniently bearing the ashes of the deceased Turkish ambassador. The Soviet Union smelt a rat.

The crisis reached a head on 7 August 1946, when the Soviet Union handed Turkey a note stating that it had breached the Montreux Convention and a new treaty was needed. A Soviet military build-up followed.

Fearing Soviet designs on the straits, Britain and the United States declared their support for Turkey and a naval taskforce was dispatched to the region. Moscow backed down, and under protest, withdrew its demands for a renegotiation of the convention.

Turkey abandoned its policy of neutrality in accepting aid from the United States, and in 1952, joined Nato. With the death of Joseph Stalin the following year, the Soviet Union dropped its territorial claims and relations with Turkey began to thaw.

Recommended

25 September 1237: The English-Scottish border is set in law
This day in history

25 September 1237: The English-Scottish border is set in law

The border between England and Scotland – having been fluid for many years – was legally defined on this day in 1237 (barring the odd skirmish over Be…
25 Sep 2020
25 September 1996: the Taliban reach Kabul
This day in history

25 September 1996: the Taliban reach Kabul

After the end of Soviet involvement in Afghanistan, the Taliban reached the suburbs of the capital, Kabul, on this day in 1996.
25 Sep 2020
24 September 1979: Compuserve launches MicroNET
This day in history

24 September 1979: Compuserve launches MicroNET

One of the first steps to the internet we know and love was taken today on this day in 1979, when Compuserve launched its MicroNET service.
24 Sep 2020
24 September 1841: James Brooke becomes the Rajah of Sarawak
This day in history

24 September 1841: James Brooke becomes the Rajah of Sarawak

Having crushed a rebellion against the Sultan of Brunei, James Brooke was made the governor of Sarawak on the island of Borneo, and was later confirme…
24 Sep 2020

Most Popular

How the stamp duty holiday is pushing up house prices
Stamp duty

How the stamp duty holiday is pushing up house prices

Stamp duty is an awful tax and should be replaced by something better. But its temporary removal is driving up house prices, says Merryn Somerset Webb…
25 Sep 2020
Can Rishi Sunak’s winter plan save the UK economy?
UK Economy

Can Rishi Sunak’s winter plan save the UK economy?

With his Winter Economic Plan, chancellor Rishi Sunak is hoping to support the economy through the dark months ahead as restrictions tighten again. Jo…
25 Sep 2020
The electric-car bubble could get an awful lot bigger from here
Renewables

The electric-car bubble could get an awful lot bigger from here

The switch to electric cars is driving a huge investment bubble. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, says John Stepek. Fortunes will be made and l…
24 Sep 2020