The British Embassy to the Department of State 65
It is clear that Allied supervision of the Greek plebiscite and elections will be an extremely difficult and complicated task. The losing side, whether they are Communists of [or] Royalists, will certainly criticise the arrangements made for supervision and will claim that the results have been falsified. Nevertheless, the Foreign Office feel that they cannot go back on the pledges already given in Parliament and elsewhere as regards supervision but should go ahead with this commitment. It is the Foreign Office’s opinion that even if the results are only partially successful, they will probably be a great deal more satisfactory than if elections are held without any Allied supervision.
The Foreign Office had previously envisaged that the three major Allies would exercise joint supervision, but, in a message addressed to the Prime Minister on May 5th [4th], Marshal Stalin said that he was unable to share the British view that the three powers should supervise the Greek elections.66 Such supervision, Marshal Stalin said, in relation to a people of an Allied state, could not be regarded otherwise than as an insult to that people and a flagrant interference with its internal life. He went on to say that such supervision was unnecessary in relation to the former satellite States which had subsequently declared war on Germany and joined the Allies, as was shown by the experience of Finland, where elections had already been held without any outside intervention and had led to constructive results. It therefore appears likely that the Soviet Government would refuse any invitation from the Greek Government to participate in supervision of the Greek elections.[Page 127]
In addition to the United States and British Governments the French Government might also be asked to participate. There appears, however, to be little advantage in French participation, and it is doubtful whether the French Government would agree since they have not so far shown much inclination to assume responsibility in Greece. Since the operation of supervising the elections will be difficult and complicated, there would be great advantage in restricting the team of observers to British and Americans.
His Majesty’s Ambassador in Athens has pointed out that the Greek election would be carried out in three stages, viz, (a) the preparation of electoral rolls; (b) polling on the election day; and (c) the operation of the returning machinery. Sir R. Leeper has recommended that attention should be concentrated on the third stage; the Foreign Office, on the other hand, are inclined to feel that an attempt should also be made to supervise the second stage, i.e. the actual polling on the election day. Public opinion, both in the United Kingdom and in the United States would, it is felt, be likely, whether justifiably or not, to regard this second stage as the most critical part of the whole election. It appears possible that there may be as many as 10,000 polling booths, and in this event it is quite clear that adequate supervision could not be undertaken over all of them. If, however, there are about 150 Allied observers in the country they would probably be able to visit most of the polling booths in the larger towns and ensure against flagrant violations of the regulations, or intimidation of voters.
It will probably be undesirable to use the Greek National Guard to supervise the polling booths, but they might be reserved to deal with disturbances. It might, on the other hand, be advisable that some British troops should supervise the polling. It seems highly desirable that armed sentries should be posted on as many polling booths as possible. Whilst a reserve of British troops must of course be retained to support the Greek forces in the event of serious trouble arising, it may be hoped that a considerable number could be spared for guard duty on the polling booths. The extent to which this would be possible can no doubt be settled by further consideration.
In communicating the above views to the Department of State, His Majesty’s Chargé d’Affaires has been instructed to say that His Majesty’s Government would welcome the comments of the United States Government. His Majesty’s Government are most anxious to do their best to ensure that the Greek plebiscite and elections are conducted as fairly as possible, and they very much hope that the United States Government will assist them in this task. Pending receipt of the United States Government’s views Sir R. Leeper has been instructed not to begin discussions with the Greek Government. If the United States Government agree in principle on American [Page 128] participation, the best course would probably be for Sir R. Leeper to work out details in close consultation with his American colleague.
- Handed to Mr. William O. Baxter of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs by the First Secretary of the British Embassy (Pares) oil June 16; copy forwarded to the Ambassador in Greece (MacVeagh) with instruction 295, July 6, not printed.↩
- For the exchange of messages between Prime Minister Churchill and Marshal Stalin concerning Poland, which occurred between April 24 and May 4, and in which were made statements regarding British and Russian policy with respect to the situation in Greece, see vol. v, pp. 262–284, passim.↩