501.BC Greece/2–1747: Telegram

The United States Representative on the Commission of Investigation ( Ethridge ) to the Secretary of State

top secret

227. Ethridge No. 15. For Secretary and Austin1 from Ethridge. Commission moves to Salonika this week, with first meeting there Friday. This highly desirable objective attained only after Soviets and Poles helped by their satellite liaison officers had exhausted every means of stalling and after I had spent 3 hours with Lavrishchev2 in which he advanced every argument for staying in Athens. Believe he gave in only after it had become apparent to him that I would force vote in Commission which he realized would be 9 to 2.

Soviet tactics here have been to stall work of Commission and delay as long as possible drafting of proposals invited in last paragraph of [Page 24] SC resolution. Yugoslavia [Yugoslav] had to be roped and tied down to force him to finish his statement. On one occasion he read for 35 minutes and said he had finished for day. He pleaded necessity for further preparation, sore throat and everything else he could think of to secure delay.

Feverish Soviet desire to stay in Athens comes from two things. One is propaganda value involved in taking advantage of free Greek press to belabor Greek Government. Other is much more serious. I am convinced and conviction is shared by other members of Commission that Soviets feel that Greece is ripe plum ready to fall into their hands in a few weeks. Secretary’s statement3 aroused great interest in Commission but three commissioners have asked me how we proposed implement it.

My own view from what I have seen in Comm and what I have learned through British and American political, economic and military sources is that Soviets have every good reason to feel that Greece may be about to fall. Army enlistments are down, army desertions up with two detachments going over to guerrillas in last three days, army morale at lowest possible. Military maps show that area which government has lost is growing. Communist membership and boldness increasing while Greek Government steadily losing popular confidence through ineffectually. These factors combined with complete confidence expressed by Yugo liaison officer in statement to newspaper man “we have iron nerves and we will hold on. This situation will be cleared up in a little while” convince me that border problems may be solved by default before Commission gets a chance to propose anything. How fully Ambassador MacVeagh shares this view may be seen from his telegram 196 February 11.

Department of course understands all implications as to Near East. General feeling of commissioners with whom I have close contact particularly British, French, Chinese and Colombian is that if Greece goes not only Near East goes with it but also Italy and France. French commissioner Daux said to me this morning that he was sure France could not withstand pressure if Greece through inadequate support by Britain and America fell into Soviet orbit. These colleagues feel that after having been rebuffed in Azerbaijan and Turkey Soviets are finding Greece surprisingly soft and that matter has gone beyond probing state and is now an all out offensive for the kill. Effect upon UN if that comes about is obvious.

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Urgently suggest that matter has reached necessity for highest level consideration and action involving coordination with Britain who seem as frustrated as in Palestine. Aside from concrete measures which have been advised by Porter and which MacVeagh and I feel must somehow be effected if immediate collapse is to be avoided we strongly suggest Secretary consider further dramatization of our interest here such as visit by him to Greece on way to Moscow.4 Believe it necessary to make Soviets understand clearly that most serious situation will arise if they permit their satellites and agents to continue to direct and supply guerrilla forces and foment anarchy in Greece.

Will make effort to confine work along border to one month but this will be most difficult to achieve in view of stalling. Soviets will agree to expedite only if they feel they have lost their game.

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  1. Warren R. Austin, United States Representative at the United Nations.
  2. Alexander Andreyevich Lavrishchev, Soviet Representative on the Commission of Investigation.
  3. See footnote 2, p. 13.
  4. To participate in the Fourth Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers, which was held from March 10 to April 24, 1947.