Executive Secretariat Files, Lot 63–D351

Report to the National Security Council by the Executive Secretary of the Council (Souers)1

top secret


The Position of the United States With Respect to Greece

the problem

1. To assess and appraise the position of the United States with respect to Greece, taking into consideration the security interests of the United States in the Mediterranean and Near East areas.


2. The National Security Council has concurred in the following:

“… The security of the Eastern Mediterranean and of the Middle East is vital to the security of the United States . . . . The security of the whole Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East would be jeopardized if the Soviet Union should succeed in its efforts to obtain control of any one of the following countries: Italy, Greece, Turkey, or Iran. In view of the foregoing, it should be the policy of the United States, in accordance with the principles, and in the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations, to support the security of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. As a corollary of this policy the United States should assist in maintaining the territorial integrity and political independence of Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Iran. In carrying out this policy the United States should be prepared to make full use of its political, economic, and, if necessary, military power in such manner as may be found most effective . . . . It would be unrealistic for the United States to undertake to carry out such a policy unless the British maintain their strong strategic political and economic position in the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean, and unless they and ourselves follow parallel policies in that area . . . .”2

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3. The Communists, under the leadership of the USSR, seek world domination and to this end are making piecemeal advances, principally by aggression through indigenous Communist movements within other countries. In line with this strategy the Communist movement, operating through the Communist party of Greece and the Soviet satellite countries in the Balkans, is engaged in a forceful, energetic effort to overthrow the present Greek Government, and to achieve complete and dictatorial control of Greece. The Communist movement has strong guerrilla forces operating in Northern Greece and has announced the formation of a “Free” Greek Government. Almost certainly one or more of the satellites, and possibly the USSR, will recognize this “free” Government. The objective of such recognition will probably be to facilitate open military assistance which may enable the “free” government to obtain de facto control over large segments of Greek territory.

4. The Greek Government rests on a weak foundation and Greece is in a deplorable economic state. There are general fear and a feeling of insecurity among the people, friction among short-sighted political factions, selfishness and corruption in Government, and a dearth of effective leaders. The armed forces of Greece, both military and police units, are hampered in their effort to eliminate Communist guerrilla forces by lack of offensive spirit, by political interference, by disposition of units as static guard forces and by poor leadership, particularly in the lower echelons. The Greek army, if strengthened, adequately equipped, operationally and technically well advised, and assured of continued US support, can eliminate guerrilla forces composed of Greek nationals alone. British troops, which remain in Greece and which we are urging the British to retain there, have served the purpose of contributing to Greek morale and of deterring overt intervention in Greece by the neighboring Soviet satellites.

5. UN Security Council action has been and will continue to be rendered ineffective by Communist veto and other obstructionist tactics.

6. The United States has declared its intention to aid Greece in keeping with US policy to help free peoples resist aggressive totalitarian movements. US measures to date have been inadequate to thwart the Communist advances. It is now apparent that the aid program of the United States, which expires June 30, 1948, will not strengthen the Greek Government sufficiently to enable it to withstand Communist pressure. The lack of convincing evidence that we are firmly determined to prevent Greece from falling under Soviet domination has weakened the will of the Greek people in resisting Communist aggression. Effective implementation of US policy has also been hampered by lack of centralized control of American activities in Greece.

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7. A Communist success in the face of US aid to Greece would have serious widespread political repercussions in addition to its significance as one more advance under the limited objective strategy now pursued by the Soviets toward their objective of world-wide domination. Results might be the collapse of resistance in Iran to external Russian pressure, and encouragement in Italy and France to internal Communist movements. Resistance to Communism by countries not now under pressure would be discouraged; the, success of the European Recovery Program, if adopted, might be jeopardized; and the USSR would take further action to destroy our position on the Eurasian land mass. The British might decide to reconsider their present position in the Eastern Mediterranean and Near East.

8. The possible courses of Communist action in Greece are:

The current pattern, which consists of armed opposition by Greek nationals to the established Greek Government, with aid and refuge furnished by the neighboring Soviet satellites. The leader of this armed opposition has recently announced the establishment of a “free state”.
Recognition by USSR or one or more of its satellites of tile illegal “Free” Greek government, possibly accompanied or followed by action indicated in c or d below.
Armed opposition to the Greek Government within the present Greek borders by non-Greek nationals, operating as guerrillas, as an international brigade, or in support of the illegal “free” government.
Armed aggression across present Greek borders by Soviet or satellite forces.

9. Recognition of the “First Provisional Democratic Government of Free Greece” by Albania, Yugoslavia, or Bulgaria would constitute an open disregard of the resolution of October 21, 1947 of the General Assembly of the United Nations.3 Such recognition, combined with the UN Balkan Commission’s report charging assistance to the Greek guerrillas by these three nations, might be regarded as evidence of armed attack against a member of the United Nations, justifying action under the terms of Article 51 of the UN Charter. Military aid to the illegal “free” government would be more convincing evidence of armed attack against the legal Greek Government.

10. If evidence is established by a responsible source, such as the UN Special Balkan Committee, that non-Greek nationals in significant numbers are participating in hostilities on Greek soil against the recognized Greek Government, as envisaged in paragraph 8c, such participation would definitely constitute armed attack under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations and could be dealt with accordingly.

11. Overt armed attack across the present borders of Greece by troops of a foreign government, as envisaged in paragraph 8d would [Page 5] be an act of war against Greece, justifying military action under the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations.

12. US actions in Greece can be effective only if they are coordinated with US actions to combat Communist aggression throughout the entire Eastern Mediterranean and Near East areas.


13. The defeat of Soviet efforts to destroy the political independence and territorial integrity of Greece is necessary in order to preserve the security of the whole Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East, which is vital to the security of the United States.

14. The United States should, therefore, make full use of its political, economic and, if necessary, military power in such manner as may be found most effective to prevent Greece from falling under the domination of the USSR, either through external armed attack or through Soviet-dominated Communist movements within Greece, so long as the legally elected government of Greece evidences a determination to oppose such Communist aggression.

15. The United States should be prepared to send armed forces to Greece or elsewhere in the Mediterranean, in a manner which would not contravene the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations, if it should become clear that the use of such forces is needed to prevent Greece from falling a victim to direct or indirect aggression and that Greece would thereby be afforded a reasonable chance of survival.

16. The President should consult with appropriate members of Congress to inform them of the changed situation in Greece and to seek assurances of the full support of Congress as a prerequisite for the successful implementation of the measures outlined below. He should make clear to these members of Congress that the decision to take a firm stand in Greece is based on overall political and strategical considerations, but that this decision does not necessarily commit the United States in the event of war to fight in Greece. He should also emphasize that the measures contemplated will probably make necessary a strengthening of our military establishment in men, equipment, and facilities, involving appropriate measures to attain adequate personnel and equipment.

17. The Commander, US Naval Forces, Mediterranean, should be assigned as additional duty the following missions:

Responsible for making recommendations direct to this government concerning our over-all military policy with regard to Greece and other areas threatened by Communist activities in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Authorized to make recommendations direct to this government on political and economic matters of interest from the standpoint of the area as a whole.
To advise and assist the respective Chiefs of Missions in the Eastern Mediterranean area in order to further the coordination of military activities in that area.

He should be specially qualified to evaluate the politico-military factors pertaining to Communist aggression in the Eastern Mediterranean and should be free to move about the area.

18. The United States should immediately designate a forceful individual of outstanding reputation with diplomatic experience and talent to serve as the senior representative of the United States and the director of all US activities in Greece. The mission of such an individual should be:

To direct and coordinate in the most effective manner possible all US activities in Greece.
To strengthen in every practicable way the Greek effort to withstand Communist aggression.
To conduct US activities in Greece with the overall objective of preserving the territorial integrity and political independence of Greece.
To keep the United States Government fully informed as to the measures which, in his opinion, should be taken to achieve this over-all objective.

19. The United States should immediately take steps to strengthen and successfully execute its present assistance program to Greece by measures such as the following:

Demand as a condition for the continuance of the assistance program, the complete cooperation and aggressive action of the Greek government, including such measures as undertaking necessary political, economic and financial reforms, presenting a united and determined front against Communist aggression, divorcing politics from the conduct of military operations, and in general improving the efficiency of the administration of the Greek aid program.
Increase the assistance to the Greek armed forces to the extent necessary to cope with the guerrilla situation by reallocation of funds within the present aid program and by placing emphasis upon the military assistance in future programs.
Provide promptly through appropriate legislative action the additional funds required to compensate for expenditures under the present assistance program caused by such unforeseen emergencies as caring for Greek refugees evacuated from guerrilla-threatened areas, a one-third decrease in the Greek wheat crop by reason of drought, and the substantial recent rise in world prices.
Take steps to implement the President’s approval of the extension of the present assistance program beyond June 30, 1948.
Strengthen US foreign information measures with reference to Greece in order to counter Soviet propaganda; to emphasize Soviet direction of the Communist efforts to hinder Greek recovery, establish a Greek “free” state, and dominate Greece; to demonstrate the determination of the United States to defeat these Soviet efforts; and to make clear the ideological objectives of the United States.
Through the Department of State, keep the people of the United States fully informed concerning the danger to the principles of the UN Charter and in turn to our own national security of the type of Communist internal aggression being waged in Greece.
Encourage resistance movements in any potential Communist-dominated area of Greece.

20. The United States should immediately move to strengthen the Special Balkan Committee set up by the General Assembly by increasing the scale of its observer activity through the assignment of additional personnel.

21. If recognition of the illegal “First Provisional Democratic Government of Free Greece” is accorded by Albania, Bulgaria or Yugoslavia, the United States representative in the Special Balkan Committee should support a resolution in that body to the effect that such recognition constitutes an open disregard of the resolution of October 21, 1947 of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

22. The United States should consult now with the British Government as to the course of action which should be followed if recognition of the illegal “First Provisional Democratic Government of Free Greece” is accorded by Albania, Bulgaria, or Yugoslavia. Such consultation would presumably be followed, if the British agree, by joint consultation with the French and other interested governments, with a view to ascertaining whether support can be obtained among members of the UN for calling a special session of the General Assembly or other action under the Charter. If, for example, a special session is called, the United States should be prepared:

To call upon the General Assembly to recommend that the governments extending recognition withdraw such recognition within a designated period; and
If recognition is not withdrawn, to support a Greek request for a resolution calling on member states of the UN to render maximum assistance to the Greek Government in any practicable way. Although such a resolution should not specifically mention military assistance, extreme care should be taken to insure that the General Assembly resolution does not in its language exclude direct military assistance.

23. If the US should become involved in any military action in Palestine, this would require reconsideration of these conclusions.

24. If evidence indicates that the Soviet or its satellites are planning to employ their armed forces across the present borders of Greece, the National Security Council should review the situation.

  1. In a note to the National Security Council on January 6, Admiral Souers stated that this report “has been prepared by the Staff of the National Security Council with the advice and assistance of the representatives of the Departments of State, the Army, the Navy and the Air Force and of the Central Intelligence Agency.

    “This report has been coordinated with the above Departments, with the exception of paragraphs 17 and 18 thereof. Representatives of the Department of State have proposed paragraph 17, but this has not been concurred in by representatives of all of the other Departments. Representatives of the Army and the Air Force have recommended the inclusion of paragraph 18, but this is not concurred in by representatives of the Department of State.” (Policy Planning Council Files, Lot 64–D563)

  2. The quoted portions are taken from “The American Paper”, prepared in connection with talks beginning on October 16, 1947, between the United States and the United Kingdom on political, military and economic subjects concerning the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean; for documentation on these talks, see Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. v, pp. 485 ff. “The American Paper” is printed, ibid., p. 575.
  3. For information on this subject, see bracketed note, Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. v, p. 888.