Executive Secretariat Files, Lot 63–D351

Report by the National Security Council to President Truman 1

top secret

NSC 5/2

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.

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

“…2 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 . . . .”

3. The President has stated to Congress, “… I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures … Should we fail to aid Greece and Turkey in this fateful hour, the effect will be far-reaching to the West as well as to the East. We must take immediate and resolute action. I therefore ask the Congress to provide authority for assistance to Greece …”

4. In Public Law 75, the 80th Congress of the United States states, “… The national integrity and survival of these nations (Greece and Turkey) are of importance to the security of the United States …” and by that law authorized military and economic aid to Greece to June 30, 1948.

5. a. As recommended by the National Security Council the President has authorized the expansion of U.S. military assistance to Greece to include the furnishing of operational advice to the Greek National Army; has recognized the necessity of diverting to military purposes a portion of the aid previously allocated to economic projects; and has agreed that strong recommendation should be made to Congress that assistance to Greece be continued beyond the expiration of the present program ending June 30, 1948.

b. The British have agreed to suspend withdrawal of British troops from Greece for the present.

6. Considerations affecting the Greek situation today are:

The guerrilla attacks continue.
The UN Special Committee on the Balkans has found that the guerrillas are provided aid, supplies, and refuge by the neighboring Soviet satellite states.
UN Security Council action has been and will continue to be rendered ineffective by Soviet veto and other obstructionist tactics.
The efforts of the Greek National Army to defeat the guerrillas are hampered by lack of offensive spirit, by its defensive dispositions, and by political interference. With proper leadership and elimination of these handicaps the Greek National Army should be able to reduce the guerrillas to small roving bands, provided foreign aid to the guerrillas is not substantially increased. It is estimated that Greece cannot support the required military force after July 1, 1948 without foreign assistance. Assurance of future support is necessary for present planning.
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 people know that Greece, without resolute backing, cannot indefinitely resist the Soviet Union and they have no assurance that their country possesses such backing.
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, unless further aid is forthcoming.

7. 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 the USSR or one or more of its satellites of the illegal “free” Greek Government, possibly accompanied or followed by action indicated in c or d below. Such recognition by Albania, Yugoslavia or Bulgaria would constitute an open disregard of the resolution of October 21, 1947 of the UN General Assembly.
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. Such overt attack by troops of a foreign government would be an act of war against Greece.

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8. Alternative courses of US action in Greece are:

To end all aid or all military aid to Greece. This would eliminate for the brief present one point of conflict with the USSR, but such action 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 worldwide domination. It would mean that US objectives in Greece announced by the President had been abandoned. It would be a reversal of previously approved National Security Council action (paragraph 2) and mutual understandings with the British. It would almost certainly result in Soviet control of Greece. Results might be the collapse of resistance in Iran to external Russian pressure, and encouragement in Italy and France to internal Communist movements. The effect upon Turkey’s will to resist Soviet pressure would be grave. 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.…
To continue and strengthen the present US assistance program to Greece, using all feasible means short of the application of US military power. Congressional action will be required for additional funds. This would not be as convincing to the Greek people as the course in c below and they may therefore work less energetically to save themselves. It is possible Greece will lose part of its territory, if not all, to a Soviet-dominated government. We could withdraw from Greece, avoiding armed conflict but suffering substantial loss of prestige. We would gain considerable prestige if the efforts of the Greek National Army prove successful; more forceful assistance later is not precluded; and the impact upon our domestic economy would be relatively slight.
To continue and strengthen the present type of aid to Greece, combined with one or more of the following uses of US military power:
Dispatch of a token armed force to Greece.
Employment in Greece of available US armed forces to take such action as is necessary to assist in preventing Communist domination of Greece.
Strengthening US military forces in the Mediterranean area, outside of Greece, at such places and in such manner as would be deemed most effective.
Initiation of partial mobilization within the United States as an indication of determination to resist Communist expansion.

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The costs and consequences of these alternatives will be analyzed in a subsequent study.


9. Termination of all aid or all military aid to Greece is unacceptable in view of the consequences noted in paragraph 8 a. above.

10. 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.

11. As an interim step based upon the analysis in paragraph 8 b, this determination should be immediately evidenced and implemented by:

Strengthening the present U.S. assistance program to Greece, using all feasible means short of the application of U.S. military power.
Conducting, with the consent of the legal Greek government, training flights into Greece by U.S. armed forces.
Actively combatting Communist propaganda in Greece by an effective U.S. information program and by all other practicable means, . . . .

12. As a necessary basis for any future decision to use US military power as visualized in paragraph 8 c., the National Security Council Staff should obtain and correlate comments and recommendations from the following Departments and Agencies upon each of the courses of action enumerated in paragraph 8:

The Department of State
The Joint Chiefs of Staff
The National Security Resources Board
The Central Intelligence Agency

13. If recognition of the illegal “First Provisional Democratic Government of Greece” is accorded by Albania, Bulgaria or Yugoslavia, the United States immediately should take the position that such recognition constitutes an open disregard of the resolution of October 21, 1947 of the UN General Assembly. The United States should also take the lead in urging consideration of the matter by appropriate organs of the United Nations, possibly by a special session of the UN General Assembly. The United States should be prepared:

To propose that the UN call upon the governments extending recognition to 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 Greece in any practicable way. Although such a resolution should not specifically mention military assistance, extreme care should be taken to insure that it does not preclude direct military assistance.

14. If the United States should become involved in any military action in Palestine, this would require consideration of these conclusions.

  1. The National Security Council, on February 12 discussed NSC 5/1 (see editorial note, p. 39) and adopted a revision of the paper, printed here as NSC 5/2. Admiral Souers, in a memorandum of February 16, advised the Council that “The President has this date approved the conclusions contained in the reference report, and directs that they be implemented by all appropriate Executive Departments and Agencies of the U.S. Government under the coordination of the Secretary of State.” (Lot 63–D351)
  2. Omissions throughout this document as in the source text.