The British Embassy to the Department of State
Reference is invited to the letter which His Majesty’s Ambassador wrote to Mr. Byrnes on March 12th,60 on instructions from His Majesty’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, enclosing a copy of the reply which Mr. Bevin had written to the Greek Prime Minister’s message on the subject of the forthcoming Greek elections. As the Department of State will recall, the hope was expressed in the Ambassador’s letter that Mr. Byrnes might feel able to send a similar message to the Greek Prime Minister.
In this connection Mr. Bevin had in mind the following considerations. Elections in which the Left-wing do not participate would certainly not be satisfactory, and if as a result a Right-wing Government should come to power, political and economic problems in Greece would be far from being solved. On the other hand, the disadvantages of holding elections under such circumstances would, in Mr. Bevin’s view, be far outweighed by the consequences which would almost certainly follow on a postponement. From the political point of view, a postponement would result in a deterioration in the state of law and order and it might even lead to civil war if the Right attempted to take action. It can safely be assumed that a delay of two months would increase rather than diminish the tension between the extreme Right and the extreme Left which is the cause of the present state of insecurity.[Page 125]
On the financial and economic side, a postponement would almost certainly lead to disaster. The Greek Government have done very little to put their house in order since the agreement of last January,61 and no marked progress can be expected until there is an elected Government. Even if elections are held on March 31st, there is bound to be a delay of several weeks before a new government has been formed and is in a position to take strong action. It will be difficult enough to get through this period without a further inflation, and, in Mr. Bevin’s view, the situation could certainly not be held for a further two months. A new financial collapse would produce far worse conditions for holding elections in two months’ time than those which exist now. There are some indications that some of the Left-wing parties other than the Communists may be reconsidering their decision not to take part in the elections. Thus a declaration by the United States Government in favour of elections on March 31st might well tilt the scale and once there was a break, the whole of the Opposition Front might cave in with the result that the Communists would be the only party who would in fact abstain.
Mr. Bevin is most grateful for the Department of State’s courtesy in imparting to His Majesty’s Embassy the substance of the statement which Mr. Byrnes proposed to make and which was released yesterday, March 19th. Mr. Bevin hopes, however, that in view of the importance, from the economic as well as the political point of view, of holding elections in Greece at the earliest practicable date, the United States Government will see their way clear to supplement the statement of March 19th by instructing the United States Chargé d’Affaires at Athens to approach the Greek Government and urge them to adhere to the date of March 31st which they have already fixed for the elections. His Majesty’s Embassy understand that instructions in this sense were in fact sent to the United States Chargé d’Affaires at Athens on March 2nd, but were not put into operation and that the United States Chargé d’Affaires is at present holding them in abeyance pending receipt of further instructions. Mr. Bevin very much hopes that Mr. Byrnes will agree with him on the disadvantages of a further postponement and will feel able to authorise the United States Chargé d’Affaires at Athens to carry out these instructions of March 2nd in order to strengthen the Greek Government in their intentions of holding elections on March 31st.62
- Not printed; but see footnote 52, p. 117.↩
- The agreement of January 24; see telegram 793, January 22, from London, p. 100 and footnote 27, p. 102.↩
- An announcement on the elections in Greece was issued by the British Foreign Office on the night of March 20. The text of the announcement as printed in the London Times the following day was transmitted to the Department in despatch 28917, March 21, 1946, from London.↩