868.00/4–1145: Telegram

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

375. The newspapers here published yesterday a report from Washington to the effect that the Secretary had made a statement as follows: “I know that the Regent did not consult the Ambassador of the United States concerning the change in the Greek Government. According to the information I have, the Archbishop consulted the British Ambassador.” No official confirmation of this report is at hand but it has created a furore in Athens being privately interpreted on all sides to mean that, had I been consulted, I would have advised the Regent against the change. Publicly the Liberal organ, Athenaikanea, said yesterday, “The statement is a sufficient expression, we think, of American displeasure at events which have taken place in Greece”, and the EAM paper, Elefthere Ellada says “The American Foreign Minister in language not so usual in diplomacy stated his disapproval of the change in the government.” In addition today’s Communist Rízospástis declares that “The Lackeys of Glücksburg57 and the foreign elements involved are panicstricken by the American-made bomb which exploded yesterday”.

In these circumstances, the Regent instructed the Chief of his Political Bureau to call on me urgently this morning. Mr. Georgakis said that the Regent would have asked me to come to him, if it were not that such a visit, which would inevitably become known, would increase the present embarrassing flood of rumor. He then proceeded to explain the Regent’s action in requesting Plastiras to resign. He said the publication of the Plastiras letter by the Royalist press (see my No. 345 of April 6, 4 p.m.58) which he described as a piece of political chicanery, was not the cause though it “unfortunately” coincided with the taking of a decision which the Regent had felt to be inevitable for some time. The Plastiras government he said had not been observing the “neutral” political attitude desirable in Greece’s present situation. On the contrary it had become increasingly a government of “the Liberals”, and more than that, a government of General Plastiras’ own personal henchmen (see my telegram No. 324 of April 2, 6 p.m. and the final paragraph of my No. 239 of March 3, 5 p.m.59). The Regent had he said pointed this out repeatedly to the General requesting a change in policy but without success. His [Page 124] resignation was requested not in the interest of any one party but of all parties and of the country as a whole, the Regent desiring to bring about a genuinely democratic solution of Greece’s problems rather than a republican one in the narrow political sense.

Mr. Georgakis then went on to say that the choice of Admiral Voulgaris as the new Premier was dictated by a desire to have a “dynamic personality” at the head of the NGS, to insure confidence in public order. The Regent feels however that the composition of the Cabinet should indicate clearly enough that there is an [no?] intention to truckle to the forces of the Right, and he has every confidence that its actions will prove its purpose to be to advance the general interest as a purely service government. In this connection Mr. Georgakis emphasized that there has been no promise by the new government to hold an early plebiscite, which is now the chief demand of the Royalists, but that on the contrary the Minister of the Press has stated that a plebiscite can not be held until the country is properly prepared for it. And he added that the new Ministers appointed today (see my No. 374 of April 1160) were all personal friends of the late Mr. Papanastassiou, “the father of the Republic”.61

In conclusion Mr. Georgakis said that in view of the report from Washington, the Regent hoped I would communicate the above to my Government, and also that I would explain that if he did not consult the American Ambassador before making his decision it was because he felt that the matter in question was of purely internal character. I replied to Mr. Georgakis that I would certainly make the communication desired, and asked him, in conveying my respects to His Beatitude, to assure the latter that while I have no confirmation of the report, I feel confident that there could be no intention on the part of the Secretary to criticize him for having failed to consult the United States, but rather that, if the report is correct, the wish was to emphasize the very point which the Regent himself has made, namely that the question at issue was one of those purely internal matters in which it is the policy of the United States not to interfere.

In regard to the Regent’s explanations as above given, I feel there is no reason to doubt their sincerity. However, the forcing of Plastiras to resign immediately after the publication of the Royalist charges against him would appear to have created in the public mind here a confusion regarding the issues involved which might well have been avoided by the exercise of a little restraint and patience and which seems likely to complicate considerably the task ahead of the new government. In addition that somewhat tortuous career of the unquestionably “dynamic” new Prime Minister, which includes relations [Page 125] with Bodossakis,62 the arms manufacturer, as well as repeated intriguing in the Middle East during the exile, fails to inspire the same confidence in his integrity as that enjoyed on all sides by his less intelligent, if also more definitely partisan, predecessor.

MacVeagh
  1. The founder of the reigning Greek royal house, George I (King, 1863–1913), was a Prince of Denmark, of the House of Schleswig–Holstein–Sonderburg–Glücksburg.
  2. Not printed. The immediate occasion for the fall of General Plastiras was the publication in the Royalist press of a letter written by the General to the Greek Ambassador at Vichy in 1941.
  3. Neither printed.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Alexandros Papanastasiou, who, as Prime Minister in 1924, set in motion the train of events which led to the end of the monarchy in Greece at that time and the proclamation of a republic on March 25, 1924.
  6. Bodossakis Athanassiades, generally known by his first name.