Athens Embassy Files: 350 Greece
Memorandum Prepared by the Embassy in Greece 1
Appraisal of the Greek Situation and Recommendations for Future Action
The formation of the new Sophoulis Government provides an opportunity for a fresh appraisal of the Greek situation and for a reconsideration of our policy in the various fields of activity.
appraisal of the situation
The Greek situation during the past year or more has degenerated. We have hardly held the line. A continuation of the present trend may bring defeat. In a military sense, failure to eliminate the organized bandits in 1948, the setback at Vitsi and the violent large scale attacks on isolated towns, such as Karditsa and Naoussa, have resulted in lower morale and lessened already poor aggressive spirit. Economically, while there has been some accomplishment, the line has hardly been held. Funds have been diverted to military purposes and the refugee problem has grown to fantastic proportions. Politically, the situation has deteriorated with politicians engrossed in personal and party matters and progressively losing the confidence of the people. The politicians have tended to discredit themselves, the traditional political parties, and to a considerable degree the parliamentary system by continuing to play partisan politics at a time of national emergency. Psychologically, the position is dangerous, with lowered morale of the military and civilian elements and with a growing feeling of hopelessness and despair.[Page 243]
causes of situation
The causes of the situation are of two varieties, one of basic character which it is difficult to eliminate and one less fundamental which is more susceptible of improvement. Among the former are war weariness from eight years of travail, feeling that Greece has been let down on the international level, a belief that this is in any event a war between the powers, and a growing cynical attitude that war is coming and the Greeks should think of the future. In the second category, defeatism has been spread not only by military failure and political degeneration, but also by what might be called “the unconscious will to failure”. This last has been built up partly unconsciously by Greek officials who preached that Greece must fail unless the frontiers are closed, unless additional aid is given by the United States and unless the Greek Army is increased in size and equipment. The Greek Army can hardly be expected to fight aggressively when its own military and political leaders advance a dangerous defeatist doctrine.
remedies for the situation
While we are committed to a policy of no further increase in the size of the Greek Army we should bear in mind the possibility that the Greeks simply will not respond to our shock treatment. If we meet Greek obstinancy on this score with an intransigent attitude of our own, we may be faced with choosing between the alternatives of acceeding to the request or facing defeat. We should therefore remain flexible on this point.
It is doubtful that a mere increase in the size of the army will save the situation. Further remedy must lie on the international plane through a stronger attitude on the part of the United Nations. But even with a larger army and with United Nations assistance the real solution for the Greek problem is to bring about increased morale on the part of the population and a more aggressive spirit on the part of the army.
In the political field the Greek Government must respond to the will of the people and have the confidence of the masses. Politicians must stop politicking and begin to sacrifice personal interest for the common good. The Government must carry out a program of social and economic reform, decentralization, suppression of excesses, and as soon as possible hold municipal elections. The Greek Government must make a serious attempt to win the confidence and trust of the masses of the people. The politicians must subordinate party interests and give an example of sacrifice. The social and economic reforms inherent in ERP must be publicized in concrete terms—social insurance [Page 244]is a good example. Moves tending toward equality of sacrifice must be adopted and fully explained—the beginnings of equable taxation measures and their necessary concomitants such as the keeping of books are illustrative. Indications should be provided that the people will have their say in choosing their own kind of government—immediate resumption of the yearly revision of the electoral lists, local elections in the Dodecanese, et cetera, are possibilities. Only through top political leadership will the masses abandon their feeling of hopelessness which is leading more and more to neutrality in the civil war. The refugee situation must be tackled more energetically. Scandals such as the Bacopoulos affair2 must be mercilessly put down to show the people that the Government is not an instrument of the privileged class. Since the war cannot be won by military means alone, reconstruction and rehabilitation must to the extent possible, go forward at once. Militarily there must be more inspired leadership. The Government must cease its disruptive interferences in military matters. Failures such as Karditsa and Naoussa and Karpenisi should be investigated and the responsible persons punished.
We should, in a full dress meeting with the Greeks, insist that they stop forthwith endeavoring to solve all their difficulties by asking for additional American aid. The Greeks must adopt a realistic attitude of carrying on the fight with what we have provided and can provide under existing appropriations and then preach to the armed forces a dynamic doctrine of victory. We should insist that leaders who are tainted with the doctrine of defeatism be removed.
The new Sophoulis Government, while little more than a recasting of previous governments, differs in two fundamental respects from what has gone before. In the first place, Sophoulis has a more clear mandate for action than he had under the other coalition Governments. Second, the Greek politicians have received in the last week severe shock treatment which it is hoped will bring them to their senses. There is hope therefore that the Government will be vitalized. Politicians realize that the eyes of the people are on them and that another failure on their part will almost surely bring about a solution outside the parliamentary framework. We should therefore give the present Government not only encouragement but guidance and leadership to insure the carrying out of its tasks. If Sophoulis proves physically and mentally incapable of carrying out his tasks, we should encourage his resignation and in any case insist on a responsible executive who will make decisions and see that they are carried out.[Page 245]
While we should continue to encourage democratic and parliamentary solutions of the Greek political situation, we should not oppose an extra-parliamentary solution as a last resort and as a natural evolution. We should, in this case, endeavor to prevent such a Government from developing into a dictatorship and from taking actions which will weaken or discredit Greece.
- This memorandum, which was drafted by Counselor of Embassy Harold B. Minor and Embassy Second Secretary Robert G. Miner, was directed to Ambassador Grady.↩
- The reference here is to the case of the former treasurer of a Greek shipping firm who absconded to Argentina after having been accused of embezzling a large amount of company funds in the course of alleged smuggling activities.↩