No. 444
The Secretary of State to the President

Memorandum for the President

Subject: American Participation in the Supervision of Greek Elections.

The question of American participation in the supervision of Greek elections raises an issue of the first importance. This Government has repeatedly affirmed its purpose, as stated by President Roosevelt [Page 655] in his Message on the State of the Union of January 6, 1945,1 “to respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live and to see sovereign rights and self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them”.

We have further asserted an obligation to see to it that the right of the peoples of the liberated areas to choose their own government and institutions should not be defeated by interim governmental authorities. President Roosevelt stated this obligation, in the same speech, in the following words:

“Until conditions permit a genuine expression of the peoples’ will, we and our Allies have a duty, which we cannot ignore, to use our influence to the end that no temporary or provisional authorities in the liberated countries block the eventual exercise of the peoples’ right freely to choose the government and institutions under which, as free men, they are to live”.

This general obligation on the part of the Allies was specifically formulated at the Crimea Conference. In his report of March 1, 1945,2 on that Conference, President Roosevelt stated that the three powers had agreed that the political and economic problem “of any area liberated from the Nazi conquest, or of any former Axis satellite, are a joint responsibility of all three governments”. The three powers, he continued, would endeavor to see that interim governing authorities were “as representative as possible of all democratic elements in the population”, and specifically to see to it “that free elections are held as soon as possible”. This purpose to assure to the peoples of the liberated and satellite areas an opportunity to determine their own forms of government through free elections has provided the moral basis of our political policy with reference to the peoples of areas overrun by the Axis. The question of the implementation of this policy is now urgently raised by the still unfulfilled agreement made in February3 between the Greek Government and EAM that elections to determine the will of the Greek people be held with Allied assistance. Furthermore, the decision made and the procedures employed as to the Greek elections will have a controlling effect upon the policy and procedures to be adopted in other liberated areas and former satellite states.

In view of these facts, it is considered essential that this Government should participate, preferably in association with the other Yalta powers, in the supervision of the approaching Greek elections.

[Page 656]

It is believed, further, that the participation of this Government should not be conditional upon the invitation of the interim governing authorities in Greece, since its obligation in this respect is an undertaking not so much to the interim authorities as to the Greek people themselves. It was specifically stated by the President in his Message on the State of the Union on January 6, 1945, that the peoples’ right to choose the government and institutions under which they wish to live should not be blocked by temporary or provisional authorities.

It is recommended, therefore, that the American and British Ambassadors in Athens, who are the only diplomatic representatives in Greece of the Yalta powers, should call the Yalta undertaking to the attention of the Greek Government, and should inform the Greek Government that their Governments are prepared to participate in the supervision of Greek elections and that they assume the Greek Government will wish them to do so. It is anticipated that the Greek Government would thereupon express its desire for Allied participation, requesting the three Yalta Powers, and, conceivably, France, to supervise Greek elections. It is believed important also that our willingness to fulfill the obligation we have assumed with reference to the areas in question should be made explicit and public.

In order that any Allied assistance with elections should be on a scale sufficiently large to be effective, it is suggested that the War Department be asked to furnish five hundred American personnel. Such a mission should be headed by someone other than our Ambassador to Greece, who might find the duties of supervision of elections prejudicial to his diplomatic status.

If you agree, the War Department will be requested to make the required personnel available for temporary duty in Greece.4

James F. Byrnes
  1. Text in Congressional Record, vol. 91, pt. 1, p. 65. The portions of the message pertaining to foreign affairs are printed in Department of State Bulletin, vol. xii, p. 22.
  2. See Congressional Record, vol. 91, pt. 2, p. 1618; Department of State Bulletin, vol. xii, p. 321.
  3. The so-called Varkiza Agreement. Text in Woodhouse, Apple of Discord, p. 308.
  4. At the end of the paper is the following manuscript endorsement by the President: “I agree Harry S Truman”.