The Ambassador in Greece (Peurifoy) to the Secretary of State

top secret
[No.] 1644

Subject: Security Arrangements for Greece and Turkey

Reference is made to the recommendation of the Istanbul Conference of Chiefs of Mission “that the U.S. enter at the earliest possible moment into reciprocal security arrangements with Turkey and Greece,”1 to recent indications that Greek and Turkish public opinion are becoming increasingly apprehensive and resentful at the failure to include their countries formally within the Western defense framework, and to the Department’s Top Secret circular airgram of March 31, 19512 transmitting Ambassador Spofford’s views as to the form which security arrangements comprising Greece and Turkey might assume.

This Embassy feels strongly that the most urgent and delicate problem existing in our relations with Greece is that of formalizing these security arrangements in the most feasible form at the earliest possible moment and that continued delay will detract from and perhaps, if an emergency should suddenly arise, vitiate the important contribution which Greece and Turkey could otherwise make to Western defense. An added factor of significance is that the problem of the relationship of Yugoslavia to the Western defense system, complicated enough at [Page 509]best, is rendered even more difficult by uncertainty as to the position of Greece and Turkey in that system. The significance of all these considerations is enhanced by recent indications that peace in the Balkans continues to rest on a most precarious foundation and that a Soviet-inspired attack on Yugoslavia and perhaps Greece this year can by no means be ruled out.

The security arrangement for Greece and Turkey preferred by the Istanbul Conference was their adherence to NATO. It is obvious from the history of this proposal, since it was first raised by the Turks almost a year ago, that it has disadvantages, particularly from the point of view of some Western European countries, which make it difficult to bring about. These disadvantages are well set forth in Ambassador Spofford’s comments. On the other hand, the Department is well acquainted with the advantages of this solution which prompted the Istanbul Conference to give it first preference.

This Embassy continues to believe that, taking all the factors on both sides into consideration, participation in NAT is the best solution of the problem. We feel that too much weight may have been accorded to the supposed extension of the commitments of the present NAT members involved in the inclusion of Greece and Turkey, taking into consideration the fact that, whatever our paper commitments may be, a combination of moral, political and strategic factors would in any case oblige the US and UK to assist Greece and Turkey in resisting a Soviet or Soviet-inspired attack, to the greatest extent possible in the light of US-UK capabilities and other obligations. On the other hand, we are not sure that all parties concerned have given due weight to the very important military contribution which the immediate participation of the Turkish and Greek armies and the availability of Turkish and Greek bases would bring in case of Soviet aggression in Europe outside the Balkans. In other words, we feel Greece and Turkey would in balance represent an asset rather than a liability to NAT military capabilities. The question of whether Greece and Turkey can be identified with “Europe” or “Western civilization” and hence should form a part of an evolving Atlantic Community would seem to be distinctly secondary, since participation in the NAT at this time does not involve a commitment to an ultimate political union or federation which, even if it should emerge, would not necessarily include all the present members of NAT.

Nevertheless, it is realized that the obstacles to the inclusion of Greece and Turkey in NAT at this time may be too great to be overcome and that, in view of the urgency of the matter, another solution may have to be found. This Embassy is inclined to believe that a broad Eastern Mediterranean Pact would involve as great or greater difficulties than the inclusion of these two countries in NAT. No other Near or Middle Eastern country would contribute real strength to [Page 510]such an alliance, the Palestine issue divides them sharply among themselves, and the US and UK would be obliged to assume new commitments without commensurate return.

All in all, the best alternative might be a four-power pact among the US, UK, Greece and Turkey, to which France and/or Italy could be joined if either so desired and to which Yugoslavia might ultimately adhere. Such a pact would involve mutual obligations which would (1) provide Greece and Turkey with the assurances of support they seek, (2) ensure that Turkish and Greek forces and facilities were available to the Western Powers at the outset of war wherever it might break out, and (3) knit Turkey and Greece into the fabric of Western defense organization and planning. For these objectives to be fully achieved it would be desirable that, even though Greece and Turkey were not members of NAT, their armed forces be placed under the command of General Eisenhower and, perhaps also, of any subordinate NAT commander who may be selected for the Mediterranean area. While such an arrangement would have some of the untidiness which usually characterizes political compromises, it should satisfy the major parties at interest and would have sufficient flexibility to permit an evolution in the future along whatever lines seem most appropriate in light of developing circumstances.

The Embassy would appreciate receiving the Department’s comments as to whether it believes a scheme somewhat along these lines would have any possibility of general acceptance.

John E. Peurifoy
  1. See volume v . See also the letter of the Secretary of State to the Secretary of Defense, dated March 24, p. 501.
  2. Ante, p. 505.