The Ambassador in Greece
(MacVeagh) to the
Secretary of State
Subject: Developments in the North of Greece: Frontier Incidents and Anglo-Russian Relations.
Sir: Following my despatch No. 1213 of June 231 entitled “Report on Developments in the North of Greece”, I have the honor to enclose herewith a copy of a recent secret report (No. R 125–45 of July 2) rendered to the War Department by the Assistant Military Attaché of this Embassy whom I have caused to be stationed temporarily in Salonika as a special political observer. This report discusses recent incidents, beginning with the 20th of May and ending with the 20th of June, occurring along both the Yugoslav and Bulgarian borders of Greece, most of which have been, as the report states, insignificant in themselves but which in the total are undeniably impressive, and which must be considered as having at least a psychological [Page 671] importance in connection with the present international situation in the Balkans.
In an appendix attached to the report the Department will find a list of the incidents treated, three of which Captain McNeill singles out for special consideration as having been particularly disturbing to the British authorities. Two of these occurred early in the period under consideration, and are credited by Captain McNeill with altering the British attitude toward the Russians in the entire area under consideration. “Up to that time they had regarded the frontier incidents more or less as pin pricks due to irresponsible guards”, the irresponsibility being evinced on both sides. After May 30, however, “General Boucher decided to treat the Russians in the same way that they treated his own troops. The frontier was closed; and only upon prior notice and authorization from the ACC in Bulgaria, or the British Embassy in Belgrade, will Russians be admitted in the future …2 and to avoid further incidents, British troops were forbidden to approach nearer than one mile from the frontier, without special permission.”
Captain McNeill notes activity on the part of the Communist Party in Greece aimed apparently at intensifying this distrustful situation. This activity, he says, takes the form of spreading disaffection among the Indian troops in the North, even going so far as “bribery, in the form of offers of money in exchange for weapons and ammunition”. When he adds, however, that “British officers generally believe that the policies of the local Communist Party, as well as its monetary resources, stem from Russian sources, probably through the mediation of Bulgarian and Yugoslav agents”, he should not be understood to mean more than he says. The fact reported is pertinent so far as it goes, since the belief of the British officers must be considered a psychological element in the situation. But, according to secret sources both British and American, no direct evidence has yet been found to prove financial connection between the Soviets and the KKE. It seems more likely that the latter, which together with its democratic “front”, the EAM, undoubtedly continues to constitute the richest political organization in Greece, still derives its monetary resources from the gold contributed by the British to the resistance movement during the Greek occupation. The question of the extent of Russian influence on KKE policies is, of course, another matter, but even here “stemming from Russian sources” may be taken to mean too much. Captain McNeill’s final words in this connection are, “KKE couriers between Bulgaria and Greece have been intercepted on two occasions, but the documents in their possession were both times of a relatively innocuous nature.” Possibly the Russians, [Page 672] who are showing themselves in these days to be supreme realists, do not feel it necessary, in order to keep the leftist pot here boiling merrily, to do more than fan the flames with a sympathetic press and radio and keep the local communists in a constant state of hopeful expectation of more definite assistance to come.
In conclusion Captain McNeill shrewdly suggests that the Russians, “unaccustomed to the subtlety of a free press” may suspect the British of backing present Greek agitation for territorial revision (see my despatch No. 1228 of June 16 entitled “Continuing Agitation regarding Greek Territorial Claims”3). But he adds with wisdom that “the behavior of the Bulgarian and Yugoslav frontier guards, and of the Russians in Bulgaria, has certainly not been such as to inspire confidence on the part of the Greeks and British, and, under present circumstances, the Northern Greek frontier is a constant irritant, not only to Greco-Bulgar and Greco-Yugoslav, but also to Anglo-Russian relations.”
The Department will note that Captain McNeill’s report does not cover the situation on the Greek northwestern frontier with Albania. This situation, which has evoked excited allegations on the part of the Greeks of a definite plan to exterminate the Greek population of northern Epirus, is more difficult to appraise from here because most of the alleged trouble is located on the Albanian side of the border. Also the lack of military forces in the area has so far kept this trouble from touching directly on the British nerve. But that it may eventually become a problem necessitating attention by the Great Powers seems only too likely and separate despatches will be forwarded shortly in its regard.