868.00/1–1845: Telegram

The Ambassador in Greece ( MacVeagh ) to the Secretary of State

67. See my 21 of January 6.29 I had a conversation yesterday evening with General Plastiras. He said that since armistice no approach has been made to Government by insurgent leaders and that Government’s attitude remains as heretofore, namely, that insurgents must lay down their arms as first condition of any further parleys. If they will not do so he said Government will continue to pursue them until all Greece is liberated from what he described as an “international menace” not confined to Greece alone but threatening all countries and he added it should be to the interests of the United States as well as other powers to help avert this menace here in Greece where it is “first showing itself.” He repeatedly emphasized that movement here is not Greek in character though it has up to now received allegiance from many enthusiastic young Greeks misled by false propaganda [Page 106] and spoke bitterly of the hostages (see my 188 December 2630) who are apparently causing him his chief anxiety at this time. He said that he considers the present revolt “nine-tenths finished”, that serious military resistance by ELAS cannot last longer than “a week or ten days” more in view of the many defections now taking place in their ranks and the control now established by the Government over the main centers of population and that if the Communists keep on fighting as they may he has sufficient Greek forces now under his command to deal with their small numbers whether or not the British retire. He stated that he has no knowledge of the intentions of the British in this connection though obviously it would be easier for him should they continue to lend their assistance here but the foreign aid which he most desires has to do with equipment particularly mechanized equipment for his army. Regarding the size of the latter he said 50,000 or 60,000 men would be enough for Greece’s local security but spoke also of raising as many as 300,000 with the idea that these might be helpful to the Allies in active theatres such as the Far East.

The General showed himself very anxious over foreign reactions to his Government and perplexed as to how to proceed to make it better understood abroad that his purposes are purely democratic and not dictatorial. He said he thought that if the foreign correspondents would advise their papers of the facts as they are this would do the most good and talked at length of his intentions to give Greece the regime it wants by the method of popular elections. Specifically as regards America in this matter, he said it was the duty of “his Embassy” there to make clear the policy of his Government but that he had not yet had time to form an estimate of that Embassy’s ability. British Ambassador has told me that General Plastiras ever since taking up position as Premier has shown a desire to bring his old friend and collaborator General Gonatas31 into the Government against British advice which has pointed out the extreme dislike and distrust which Gonatas has incurred among Liberal as well as Leftist elements through his support of the security battalions under the German occupation. The press this morning announces “probable” appointment of Gonatas as Governor General of Macedonia and if this appointment takes place it may be regarded as showing not only that the Prime Minister is determined to run his own show here but also that he is prepared to take considerable risks with public opinion.

MacVeagh
  1. Not printed.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1944, vol. v, p. 169.
  3. Gen. Stylianos Gonatas; General Gonatas had participated with General Plastiras in anti-royalist revolts in 1922 and 1935.