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

No. 2100

Sir: I have the honor to enclose herewith a copy of a report20 recently submitted to the War Department by the Assistant Military Attaché of this Embassy, Captain William H. McNeill, which I believe merits the Department’s attention and a place in its files. The report is described as an “annual estimate of the stability of Government in Greece” but is in reality a very sound analysis of the whole political situation in this Country at the present time. It is written with remarkable lucidity and based on a very wide range of information. In particular, one of the ideas presented in conclusion, namely that certain factors in the Greek political situation are such as to favor a recurrence of dictatorship in this Country, after elections have been held and the British troops withdrawn, seems to be especially worth keeping in mind.

The report, oddly enough, but apparently as desired by the War Department for the sake of convenience, begins with a summary and conclusion. It then discusses factors making for stability of government [Page 98] in Greece at the present time; viz: the presence of British troops in the Country; the British trained and supervised Gendarmerie and Police Force, described as being “more impartial in politics and less brutal against the public” than before the British Police Mission took over; the National Guard, now incorporated in the Greek Army; and the Greek Army itself “in which so far, there has been no overt expression of excitement [incitement?] or any breach of discipline,” despite Communist infiltration and the nationalist sentiment of both “the overwhelming majority of the officers now on duty” and “at least 60% of the enlisted men”.

Factors promoting instability are next considered: the serious economic paralysis and monetary inflation; the prevailing “psychological climate” of discouragement; the resulting political confusion, with Extremes of left and right (each possessing a criminal fringe) facing each other across a weakly organized and emotionally unappealing center; the inefficiency and corruption of the government bureaucracy; the confusion of the legal system; the frequent changes of key administrative personnel; and the uncertainties of an unrealistic foreign policy based on a national feeling of insecurity due to past experience and fear of “Slavic inundation and Communist imperialism”.

In a final section the above factors making for stability are weighed against those making for instability and found wanting. It is also pointed out in this section that Greece’s economic and political problems must be tackled concurrently and that in the long run her salvation as an independent country depends on a balance being achieved between the Near Eastern policies of Great Britain and Soviet Russia.

Though the report ends at this point, its last word and main interest would appear to lie in the implications of the “conclusion” prefixed, as mentioned above, to the whole discussion. It is indeed always possible for Greece to find a kind of temporary “stability” in what Captain McNeill describes as an “authoritarian” government, “enjoying the support of a violent police and a pliant army”. Such a thing has occurred many times before in Greece throughout her very long history, and the present report indicates convincingly that all the essential conditions may now be present for its occurring again once the British forces leave. However, in the present state of world opinion, and particularly of British politics, such an authoritarian government, if issuing from the right, could hardly maintain itself, and therefore the most likely eventuality in case the new government to be produced by the forthcoming elections should prove unviable in the face of a Parliament closely divided between leftist and rightist elements (thus repeating the situation which only a few years ago produced the fascist dictatorship of Metaxas21) would seem to be the eventual [Page 99] emergence of a dictatorship of the left, which in turn would infallibly place Greece, like all the other Balkan Countries at the present time, under the predominating influence of Russia. Persons interested in world politics and the future maintenance of world peace might do well to consider what such an eventuality would mean, having regard to the critical position of this small Country at the oldest historical cross-roads of empire.

Respectfully yours,

Lincoln MacVeagh

[On January 21, 1946, Ambassador Gromyko, Acting Representative of the Soviet Union at the United Nations, sent a letter to the President of the Security Council transmitting the allegation of the Soviet Union that the presence of British troops in Greece represented foreign interference in the internal affairs of that nation and was fraught with grave consequences for the maintenance of peace and security. The communication requested the Security Council to discuss the matter and put an end to the situation; for text, see United Nations, Official Records of the Security Council, First Year, First Series, Supplement No. 1, page 73.]

  1. Undated report not printed.
  2. Gen. John Metaxas, Greek Prime Minister, 1936 to 1941.