Briefing Book Paper
To take an active and benevolent interest in Greece at this time offers one of the most practical means of demonstrating this Government’s determination to play an international role commensurate with its strength and public commitments. Although Greece has been traditionally closer to Great Britain than to any other great power, there has always been a friendly bond between the United States and Greece, the ancient home of democratic ideals. Classical education derived through Rome from Greece helped to shape the republican ideals of the emergent United States. The American experiment in democracy in turn exerted an influence on Greece in its struggle for freedom from the Ottoman Empire in the early 19th century. The bond of sympathy between the two countries has strengthened ever since the renascence of Greece as a modern European nation. American prestige has been built up by our interests in Greece, which, though not extensive, have been of a type to promote good-will: trade, banking, engineering and development projects, philanthropy, archeology, and education. Large numbers of Greeks have emigrated to America. Approximately half a million have become progressive and patriotic American citizens, although retaining strong interest in the land of their origin, and the many who have returned to Greece after living in this country are almost unanimously pro-American in their sentiments.
Traditionally our policy towards Greece has been one of friendliness characterized by refusal to intervene in internal Greek affairs. The Yalta decisions necessitate a reorientation of this policy, for at that meeting this Government indicated its willingness and determination to participate in Allied guarantees that smaller nations liberated from Axis domination should be guaranteed the right of choosing by peaceful and democratic means the government under which they wish to live.1 It is obvious that tranquillity necessary for constitutional [Page 652] elections is closely tied up with economic stability and that we as a nation should not shirk the responsibility of contributing to a revival of economic health. In the case of Greece we have a particularly heavy moral responsibility because among the smaller Allied nations it is the one which has most steadfastly upheld the United Nations cause, materially contributing to the final victory by its unexpectedly effective resistance to Italian and German aggression in the early stages of the war.
It is possible that a closed Russian-controlled economy in the Balkans and an extreme nationalism in certain countries of the Near East will for a time interpose obstacles to American influence. Greece, geographically a part of southeastern Europe but closely associated with the Near East because of its maritime trade and its islands, is a bridge between these two parts of the Eastern Mediterranean; a strong American role there could not but be felt in both directions. Greece is the only one of the Balkans or Near Eastern countries (with the possible exception of Syria and Lebanon) which is not characterized by xenophobia. On the contrary, the Greek people have unmistakably indicated their desire for a closer rapprochement with the United States. The present Greek fear of Russia is probably partly responsible for this attitude—an attitude which this Government deprecates but which is understandable and might better be dissipated by our becoming an active mediator than by our relinquishing all of Greek affairs to the control of Great Britain.
To implement our policy toward Greece we should be prepared:
- To advance the suggestion, already written into the Varkiza Agreement of February 12, 1945,2 that at an early date the Greek Government should invite Allied observers to assist in and supervise democratic elections for a constituent assembly and a plebiscite on the question of the form of government. It might even be possible to indicate our belief that a republican form of government offers more possibilities for a peaceful future than the return of a monarchy already stigmatized by totalitarianism.
- To assist actively in the economic reconstruction and development of the country and its resources, including its merchant marine, and in the revival of its foreign trade. Although we are contributing generously to UNRRA, we should plan to make industrial credits available to Greece, perhaps through the Export–Import Bank, if forthcoming legislation removes present barriers.
- To encourage Greece to an early reconciliation and the development of good relations with her neighbors by supporting the reduction or removal of commercial, financial, social and cultural barriers. The situation in which British-dominated Greece and Turkey (and perhaps Albania) would become isolated economically and politically from a [Page 653] group of Russian-dominated Slavic neighbors on the north would be a real menace to world peace.
- To adopt positions outlined in separate territorial papers.3
- See vol. ii, document No. 1417, section v .↩
- Between the Greek Government and the National Liberation Front. Text in C. M. Woodhouse, Apple of Discord: A Survey of Recent Greek Politics in Their International Setting (London, 1948), p. 308.↩
- Not printed.↩