On this day in 1940, Turkey announces neutrality in the widening world war. Turkey was precariously positioned, prime real estate for both the Soviet Union to the north and the Axis Powers to the west. For the Soviets, an occupied or “satellite” Turkey could be yet another buffer zone, protection against invasion. For Germany, it was a means to an end, a bridge to conquests in the Middle East. Turkey could not afford to antagonize one or the other. But that position would not hold.
By the time the Soviet Union had reconquered Crimea from Germany in 1944, Turkey needed to be seen as an “ally” of the Russian Bear so as not to invite, unwittingly, Russian troops onto its territory. Consequently, Turkey stopped chrome shipments to Germany and–with added prodding by Winston Churchill–declared itself “pro-Allied” but still not a belligerent. But by February 1945, Turkey, anticipating Hitler’s defeat, finally formally declared war on Germany.