Memorandum by the Adviser on Political Relations (Murray) to the Secretary of State 9


In a statement of their policy towards Greece which the British recently gave us,10 they make it clear that they hope King George II will return to Greece and that they will help him get back. Though they recognize the King’s lack of popularity in Greece and say they “do not intend to restore the King by force”, they aim to “sell the King and the Tsouderos Government” to the Greek people, in part, at least, by persuading them that the King intends to rule as a democratic constitutional monarch. They add that they are themselves satisfied as to the purity of the King’s intentions and that they feel that a monarchial régime would provide a more stable government in Greece than a “republican regime which in the past failed to produce anything but weak and unreliable governments”.

We agree with the British in recognizing the Greek King and exiled Government as the legal Government of Greece and in hoping that all Greeks will subordinate politics to the immediate purpose of winning the war and liberating the occupied countries. We are also aware that continuity in government until the Greek people have a chance to express themselves is essential.

After giving this question thorough study (see NE’s memorandum of December 28, 194210), we believe this Government should not—in fact, cannot—go along with the rest of the British policy towards Greece. In our view:

The question of the acceptability of King George II by the Greek people is one that can only be determined by the latter, and in view of their known opposition to the King they should be given a chance to express themselves freely on the subject. If the King can [Page 127] “sell” himself to the Greek people, despite having let them down several times before, well and good. The selling job should not, however, be undertaken by a foreign power.
Incidentally, while the various declarations of the Greek King, Premier and Deputy Premier promise that the composition of the Greek Government will be submitted to the will of the people, they carefully avoid any pledge that the people will be invited to pronounce themselves on the question of the form of government (i. e. republican or monarchial).
A British campaign to “sell” the Tsouderos Government to the Greek people, besides constituting intervention in Greek internal affairs, seems likely to stir up political dissension and divide the Greek people on the old Royalist and anti-Royalist lines, rather than to create unity.
The British conclusion that only a monarchial régime will assure stable government in Greece, seems to us to be warranted neither by the facts of recent Greek history nor by a reasonable analysis of the present temper of the Greek people.
Return of the King and Tsouderos Government to Greece under the wing of an Allied military occupation would largely deny to the Greek people the free choice of their own Government promised in Article 3 of the Atlantic Charter.11 More immediately, it might well involve serious internal disorders, since it appears from reliable indications that both political and military elements in Greece are organized to oppose a restoration of the King.

Under the circumstances, it seems to us essential to get together with the British and decide on a practical method of handling this question and the connected question of other governments in exile. In our opinion it would be advisable for the King and the Tsouderos governments to refrain from returning to Greece until there has been an opportunity for the people to express their will freely under the auspices of an impartial Allied occupation.

There is reason to believe that the Greeks realize that the British intend to restore the King; that they are looking to the United States to see that they get the promised opportunity to express their own will; and that, if we fail them, they will turn to Soviet Russia.

The serious nature of the Greek political problem has been emphasized by the recent mutiny in the Greek armed forces in Syria and the resignation of the young liberal Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister, Panayotis Kanellopoulos, who escaped from Greece and joined the Greek Government some ten months ago.

  1. Prepared in the Division of Near Eastern Affairs by Mr. Kohler and sent by the Adviser on Political Relations to the Secretary of State for use in his conversations with Mr. Anthony Eden, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, during the latter’s visit to Washington in March 1943; see vol. iii, pp. 1 ff. On March 29 Mr. Murray had a conversation with Mr. William Strang, British Assistant Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, who accompanied Mr. Eden to Washington. During the course of this conversation Mr. Murray put orally to Mr. Strang two questions on Greek affairs which were based on this memorandum. The questions were: (1) Does the British Government contemplate that the Greek people will be given the opportunity to express themselves as regards the restoration of the Monarchy in Greece or only as regards the composition of the Government? (2) Does the British Government believe that King George and the Government in Exile, or either of them, should return to liberated Greece before the Greek people express their political will? Mr. Strang referred the questions to the Foreign Office for reply, and they were answered in an aide-mémoire of April 24, p. 131.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Joint statement by President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Churchill, August 14, 1941; Foreign Relations, 1941, vol. i, p. 367.