Memorandum by the Director, Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs (Satterthwaite) to the Under Secretary of State (Lovett)2


Subject: Suggested Topics for Conversation With Greek Ambassador


The Greek Ambassador,3 who is leaving the United States January 5 to return to Athens for consultation, is eager to have your views on general or specific problems connected with Greece as a basis for reporting to his Government.


The Greek Ambassador has on several occasions made the suggestion to Departmental officers that his trip to Greece might offer an opportunity for you or the Secretary to send some direct messages to the King or the highest officials of the Greek Government. He has been particularly disturbed, as have we, by recent manoeuvers of minority party leaders in Greece to bring about the fall of the coalition Government. Such moves have had extremely adverse effects on the efficiency and performance of the present Government. Cabinet ministers have devoted more time to political jockeying in order to maintain the Government in existence than to the vital business of restoring internal order and effectively utilizing American assistance. The Ambassador evidently feels that, if he were authorized to transmit your personal views confidentially, influential Greek political figures might be persuaded to carry out whatever changes or policies you recommend. We have not encouraged the Ambassador in his idea of acting as a special [Page 228]emissary, considering it a less effective method of communicating with the Greek Government than through our Embassy. However, we have indicated the advisability of his having a general talk with you before his departure, so that he will be able to inform his Foreign Office of current thinking in the Department.


There are listed below for your convenience certain topics which you may wish to discuss with the Greek Ambassador.

In undertaking, nearly two years ago, a program of aid to Greece and Turkey the United States made a significant step in enunciating to the world a policy of helping peoples to maintain their democratic way of life against threats of direct or indirect aggression. This policy was intended, in the case of Greece to assist the Greeks to help themselves. It was meant to get the country back on its own feet again, politically, economically and militarily, after the abnormality of war and occupation. It is therefore distressing to us that Greek political leaders frequently seem more concerned with their own narrow party ambitions than with the urgent necessity of working together in a Government pledged to courageous policies for advancing the welfare of the Greek people as a whole. It is also disturbing to find a growing feeling in Greece that Greek recovery is more a problem of the United States or of Greece’s great allies than of Greece itself. The time is perhaps overdue for the Greek Government to face the reality of the situation: Greece cannot be saved from Communist aggression unless the Greek people and their leaders wish to be saved, and it must be recognized that Greek political independence can be retained only by the extraordinary efforts of the Greek people themselves, with what assistance we can make available.
We cannot view sympathetically a tendency of the Greek Government and Greek political leaders to expend all their energies on attempts to increase the amount of aid from the United States, instead of on concentrated efforts to make the most effective use of available resources. This attitude also has a very dangerous morale effect on the Greek people themselves, who are now so accustomed to hearing from Government sources about the insufficiency of American aid that they may develop a defeatist psychology, and be convinced that there is nothing which Greece can do for itself to bring about a better future. The Greek press reflects this official or semi-official attitude in its increasing criticism of American assistance.
It is the considered opinion of American officials concerned with Greece that the present size of the Greek military establishment and the present scale of American military assistance have given Greece [Page 229]the capability of meeting the guerrilla threat. A better effort cannot be bought by increased US aid, but only by better performance on the part of the Greeks. We gave very careful consideration to the question of increase in the size of the army before granting the recent increase of 15,000. We have no intention of reconsidering this decision unless there is a change in the basic situation in Greece, which there has not been up to the present. On more than one occasion in the past the Greek Government has allowed it to be publicly known that requests for large increases in military assistance have been submitted to the United States Government. This method has proved unsuccessful in two ways. It has lowered the morale of the Greek people to learn that such widely publicized requests have not been approved by the United States; and, at the same time, American officials have refused to approve unjustified requests merely because of the argument that it would be unwise to disappoint the exaggerated hopes of the Greek people. It is becoming increasingly difficult to defend Greece before the American public and Congress when the Greek Government keeps returning again and again with unrealistic requests for additional aid, without being able to show many positive results for assistance already extended. There are now two sources of assistance to Greece, the European Recovery Program and the Greek Turkish Aid Program. Together they are furnishing Greece at a current rate of about $1,000,000 a day. There is absolutely no possibility of the President’s recommending or the Congress acceding to any new special appropriation for Greece apart from these sources. It only makes the task of the Executive greater for the Greek Government to continue to ask for “special” appropriations. Aid to Greece is more generous, per capita, than aid to any other country.

In conclusion you may wish to indicate that, even though some of your observations appear harsh, they do not signify any lessening of American interest in Greece. We feel that we can speak more frankly to our friends than to mere nodding acquaintances, particularly when our hopes for their welfare are as strong as they are in the case of Greece. The Ambassador may assure his Government that we intend to request Congress for continuing aid to Greece on as large a scale as can be justified by the circumstances. In this attempt we hope we will not be embarrassed by Greek insistence that the United States is not being sufficiently generous. Our global responsibilities are very great indeed, and we must be able to show that our foreign assistance is appreciated and being used with maximum effectiveness.

On another score, we know that some members of the Greek Government fear that possible United States participation in a North Atlantic Pact signifies an intention of abandoning Greece. Such an [Page 230]interpretation of current negotiations with Western European countries is far from the truth with regard to our position. Our firm support of Greece in the United Nations, our program of military assistance, our economic contributions through ECA, and the reiterated statements of Government officials and of the President have made it amply clear to the world that Greece occupies a special place in our foreign policy. The maintenance of Greek political independence and territorial integrity is of importance to the security interests of the United States. However, we feel that it would be premature at this time to give consideration to a possible Mediterranean Pact, which has been mentioned at various times by Mr. Tsaldaris.4 For the United States to associate itself for reasons of defense with nations outside the Western Hemisphere constitutes a radical departure from traditional American foreign policy. We therefore feel that we must proceed with utmost deliberation to see exactly how an Atlantic Pact can be developed before giving any consideration to broadening such an arrangement or to association with any other regional grouping.5 At this time we wish neither to encourage nor to discourage the creation of any group in the Mediterranean which might seek the association of the United States.

In ending the conversation you may wish to emphasize to the Ambassador that your remarks do not constitute a special message for the Greek Government but are merely a summary of current Departmental thinking and a reiteration of views already expressed to the Greek Government by United States officials both here and in Athens.
On previous occasions the Greek Ambassador has requested Department views on the desirability of a visit to the United States by the Chief of Staff or the King and Queen. If he should mention this matter, it is recommended that, after pointing out that a visit by the Greek Chief of Staff would require discussion with the Military Establishment and consultation with the White House in respect to the King and Queen, you express the opinion that the present military situation in Greece is not auspicious for official visits to the United States at this time. If at a later date when conditions in Greece have improved, the King and Queen express a desire to come to this country, we will be glad to give friendly consideration to their wishes.

  1. The source text was seen by Mr. Lovett. A copy of this memorandum was transmitted as an enclosure to instruction 5, January 10, to Athens, not printed (868.20/1–1049).
  2. Vassili G. Dendramis, Greek Ambassador in the United States.
  3. Constantine Tsaldaris, Greek Minister for Foreign Affairs; leader of the Greek Populist Party.
  4. For documentation on the establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, including the possible inclusion of Greece in that organization, see vol. iv, pp. 1 ff.