Memorandum of Conversation, by the Officer in Charge of Greek Affairs (Cromie)
Subject: Greek Governmental Situation and ECA Aid to Greece
|Participants:||Vassili G. Dendramis, Ambassador of Greece|
|George C. McGhee, Assistant Secretary|
|John D. Jernegan, Director, GTI|
|Leonard J. Cromie, Officer in Charge, Greek Affairs|
Ambassador Dendramis inquired as to the truth of reports that ECA aid to Greece would be cut off unless the Greek Government were reconstituted. He also suggested by intimation that Ambassador Grady request Plastiras and Tsouderos to participate in and support a Venizelos Government without making difficulties about the Premiership.
In reply it was stated that there appeared to be no new developments on the ECA aid situation, which was very clearly set forth in Ambassador Grady’s letter to Venizelos.1 Mr. McGhee emphasized that this letter was written in accordance with Ambassador Grady’s responsibilities to the American Congress. He further stated that Ambassaor Grady was following, in all of these matters, the course of action which he believed to be most effective and that the Department deferred to his judgment and was fully behind him.
Ambassador Dendramis called at noon by appointment at his request. He stated that he had received a telegram from Prime Minister Venizelos according to which opposition press circles in Athens were saying that ECA aid to Greece would be cut off unless the Greek Government were modified in the sense desired by Ambassador Grady. A UP story from Athens of April 3 carries the same report. Ambassador [Page 360] Dendramis stated that he also had a last-minute press clipping of Mr. Paul Porter’s denial of these reports, but he nevertheless wished to ascertain whether they had any substance and whether the Department was satisfied with Venizelos’ reply of April 12 to Ambassador Grady’s letter of March 31. It is most important, Mr. Dendramis said, to avoid any misunderstandings between Greeks and Americans and any appearance of undue American pressure on the Greek Government which could be misinterpreted and exploited by hostile propaganda.
Mr. Jernegan stated that we knew of no developments since the Grady letter which changed the situation with respect to ECA aid to Greece from that clearly set forth in the Grady letter. As to Mr. Venizelos’ reply, the Prime Minister seemed to agree with Ambassador Grady’s opinion on the requirements of the Greek situation, and his letter thus seemed satisfactory.
Mr. McGhee observed that he did not feel we were exercising any great pressure on the Greek Government. On the contrary, he thought, most objective observers would agree we were acting with exceptional restraint, considering the extent of American aid to Greece, and that we had always been most scrupulous in avoiding intervention in Greek internal affairs.
Mr. Cromie concurred, pointing out that Ambassador Grady’s letter did not make any specific demands regarding the composition of the Greek Government. At the same time, Mr. Cromie said, Ambassador Grady had made it clear to Mr. Venizelos and others that in his opinion a very narrow single-Party Government, supported only by a portion of the Liberal Deputies and dependent on right-wing toleration for its existence, was not the kind of Government which would be able to carry out the American aid program objectives.
Mr. McGhee said this was obvious. Any observer of government could see that.
Ambassador Dendramis explained that the King had merely followed constitutional procedures, calling first on Tsaldaris and then on Venizelos to form a Government. If that Government can obtain a majority in the Parliament, the King must not intervene. However, he understood that negotiations are now proceeding between Venizelos and Plastiras with a view to broadening the Government. It seems to be merely a question of who is to be Premier, and they will find a solution to that. Meanwhile we must avoid creating misunderstandings, and in this connection, it had perhaps been unfortunate that the Grady letter was given to the press simultaneous with its delivery to Venizelos.[Page 361]
Mr. Cromie said Ambassador Grady had explained that. His letter was intended for the Greek Parliament and people as well as for the Prime Minister. It was really a message to the Parliament and people in the form of a letter to the head of the Government.
Mr. McGhee underlined that Ambassador Grady, in publishing the letter, was merely following a customary practice of making public statements with regard to the Greek aid program. To do so was in fact in accordance with his responsibilities and obligations to the American Congress as administrator of American aid in Greece. Mr. Jernegan added that the Grady letter was simply an elaboration of what had previously been stated on several occasions.
At this point, Ambassador Dendramis raised the question of whether it would not be desirable for Ambassador Grady, instead of urging reconstitution of the Government, to endeavor to persuade Plastiras and Tsouderos to participate in and support the Government. (The Ambassador did not say so, but his suggestion implied that Plastiras and Tsouderos should be asked not to make difficulties over the Premiership.) He was confident that Plastiras and Tsouderos would go along if Ambassador Grady spoke to them privately and made clear the necessity of supporting the essential and perhaps unpopular legislation which will be needed to carry through the reconstruction program.
Mr. McGhee replied that this was a question of judgment, that Ambassador Grady was in the best position to make that judgment on the spot, and that we would have to defer to his opinion. Ambassador Grady, Mr. McGhee said, considers that he is following the most effective line of action and the Department is fully behind him.
The interview concluded with some discussion of Mr. McGhee’s observations in Africa (see separate memorandum) and an expression by Mr. McGhee of his confidence that the Greek political situation would work itself out.