868.00/1–1146: Telegram

The Ambassador in Greece (MacVeagh) to the Secretary of State 12


64. With reference to mytel to Dept No. 50, January 1113 repeated to London as No. 4, January 11 the immediately following paragraphs contain a joint message which my British colleague14 and I would respectfully submit to you and Mr. Bevin.15 The gravity of the present situation in Greece, the importance to us (ultimately) as well as to the British of finding a successful solution promptly, and the striking unanimity of opinion on the part of our respective technical advisers, have all united to make me associate myself with this message drafted by my colleague, to which I earnestly hope you will have time and opportunity to give your appropriate consideration.

We are deeply disturbed by position now reached in discussions with Greek Ministers in London. Bad as currency position is, the usual remedies might be applied were the Greek problem today purely financial. Unfortunately the financial problem is gravely affected and aggravated by nervousness resulting from political instability and the growth of a well organized revolutionary Communist movement.
Under such conditions it is our firm and considered opinion which is supported by the advisers of both Embassies that the financial and economic proposals shortly to be put formally to the Greek Ministers in London do not sufficiently meet the realities of the Greek situation.
We have to deal with a public in a highly nervous condition convinced that it cannot find economic recovery without long term financial aid from outside. Whether this is true or not (and we ourselves believe it to be true on all the evidence available to us) the belief is so widely and strongly held that it has become a fact which dictates the policy of any Greek Government. No Greek Government could survive which failed to secure satisfaction in this respect.
Rightly or wrongly the Greeks believe that they put up a finer resistance against the enemy in 1940 than any other small country and that the magnitude of their sufferings during the war has not been understood. This sense of being insufficiently appreciated as allies [Page 92] is very widespread and is only aggravated by admonitions to them to do more for themselves. On the other hand it can be eradicated by a generous long term policy on the part of our two Governments.
If we fail to deal with the Greek problem with imagination and understanding at this moment it is our view that the present democratic government will certainly fall and probably be succeeded by a regime of the extreme right which in turn could scarcely fail to produce in due course a Communist dictatorship. We are faced with a highly inflammable situation where there are still bitter memories of the civil war a year ago and where fear for the future grips the whole public.
We believe that our Governments have an opportunity right at this moment to give hope and encouragement to this people, to put them on their feet again and get them to work by a broad generous and statesmanlike approach, by wiping out debts which cannot and will not be paid and by giving a definite guarantee that whatever material or financial assistance is in fact found to be necessary will be made available. The response to such a policy would be immediate and would produce more practical results than anything else. What Greece needs is a plan (1) which gives her the reassurance of continued economic existence after the present year; and (2) which prevents the Greek vices of extravagance and incompetence from wrecking the plan.
The moment is extremely critical. If we permit detailed discussions to hold up broad lines of positive action we may find that the economic structure here has collapsed before we have finished the argument. We suggest therefore, with all due respect to the British and American Secretaries of State to whom we address ourselves, that they should lift the discussions with the Greek Ministers onto a higher plane, giving them the necessary assurances that their people will be enabled to live and work and that necessary financial assistance will be provided for the stabilization of the currency though guarantees of sound financial administration will be required at the same time. We suggest as time presses here that a statement incorporating these assurances should be coupled with announcement that the discussions in London are at an end and that any British and American experts and advisers who are to assist Greece should immediately be sent to Athens to work out details.
We consider that this is a matter of extreme urgency and that if our advice is accepted the situation can almost certainly be saved and that relief and gratitude will give an immediate impetus to work and hope. Otherwise we feel it is our duty to warn you that Greece will not only be a source of grave political trouble for some time to come, but will also in all probability be condemned to bloodshed and famine.

Sent London as 5; repeated Department as 57 [64].16

  1. Mr. Byrnes was at this time attending the sessions of the United Nations at London. He left the British capital on January 25.
  2. Not printed; it stressed that the urgency and seriousness of the situation in Greece was such as to require tangible and not merely verbal assurance of Allied intentions to maintain Greece as a sovereign state. The most effective, because the most tangible, form of assurance was said to be direct and adequate financial assistance from the British and American Governments with accompanying implications of political support. (868.51/1–1146)
  3. Sir Reginald W. A. Leeper, British Ambassador in Greece.
  4. Ernest Bevin, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  5. No evidence of a reply to telegram 64 by the Department has been found. A summary of the communication was incorporated in a memorandum of January 15, 1946, by Mr. Hawkins to the Secretary of State. The summary noted that Mr. Bevin had approved the proposed British measures for assisting Greece despite their inadequacy in terms of the MacVeagh-Leeper recommendations. (868.00/1–1546)