No. 422
Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State 1



  • Current Greek Political Situation; NATO Command Regarding Greece; and NATO Headquarters Location.


  • M. Sophocles Venizelos, Greek Deputy Prime
  • Minister, Foreign Minister and head of Greek Delegation to NATO;
  • Mr. Michael Melas, member, Greek Delegation to NATO; and
  • The Secretary;
  • Mr. Dorsz, GTI.

Venizelos called on me today and said he wanted to discuss two NATO questions, i.e., command and location of NATO headquarters, and also the current Greek political situation.

On the command, Venizelos said he was disturbed because he understood that the Italians were still pursuing the question of getting an Italian designated as deputy to Admiral Carney. In this intermediary role the Italian Deputy would be directly over the Greek and Turkish land and air forces. He feared Italian pursuance of this issue would adversely affect Italy’s relations with Greece. He therefore thought that establishing two deputies under Carney would solve the problem: an Italian over the Italian forces, and an American over Greek and Turkish forces.

I told Venizelos that I knew the Italians had suggested creating a position for an Italian to serve as deputy to Admiral Carney. Admiral Carney, however, had turned it down and the suggestion did not find favor outside of Italian quarters. I would, however, speak to General Bradley and tell him about the Greek fears.

As regards the location of the headquarters for NATO, Venizelos said it was a very embarrassing matter for a small country such as Greece to take a definitive position before the major countries worked out a mutually agreeable solution. The Greeks wanted to cooperate with all of the NATO countries. He, therefore, wondered whether a possible solution might be the following: United States retain the Standing Group; Paris serve as NATO headquarters; and a British national serve as Secretary General.

[Page 785]

I told Venizelos that I had talked several times with Mr. Eden on the NATO reorganization problem. Currently only two questions were still unsettled, i.e., the name of the Secretary General and the location of the headquarters. We considered it impossible to split the functions of the organization. I was, however, hopeful that we could find a solution, even though it appeared that these particular points may have to come before the NAC for decision.

On the political crisis in Greece, Venizelos mentioned that he was principally responsible for putting into effect the modified proportional electoral system which resulted last Spring in the election of three main parties, instead of the customary 15 or so small parties under the previous electoral systems. His Liberal party, while smallest of the three, feels it can work with the other two. By inclination, however, his party is nearer to that of Marshal Plastiras than that of Marshal Papagos. Venizelos had been willing to join in a three party coalition, but Papagos had shown no disposition to accept this formula. Instead, he was campaigning for new and early elections. Further, rumors were current in Greece to the effect that the United States Government approved the Papagos program. This tended to increase instability in Greece. For his part, he was not satisfied with the effectiveness of the present government. However, if new elections were undertaken a serious rift would occur and a more unfortunate situation would result. The Liberals would have to merge with one of the two main parties. Up to the present, the Liberals were able to keep EPEK from going too far to the left. If the Liberals withdraw from association with EPEK, the country might drift further left. Further, if the Liberals joined with Papagos, the general impression would be that the government was reactionary and Greece would find itself in the same position as in 1946 when the right wing took over and Liberal ideas were suppressed. At that time, Henderson 2 persuaded him to step into the breach and form a government for the purpose of trying to heal the wounds.

For the reasons he gave, Venizelos said he hoped the United States Government would not give the impression that it favored Papagos. So long as this impression lasts, Papagos’ attitude would be stiffened. If we indicated that we were not favoring any particular side, Venizelos implied that everything would be all right.

In commenting on Venizelos’ special plea, I said that we wanted to see as broad a government as possible in Greece and that some of our people thought that a coalition between Papagos and the Liberals might be the answer. I would get in touch with Ambassador [Page 786] Peurifoy, letting him know of our conversation and would seek his views and recommendations in the matter.3

I myself raised with Venizelos two questions: (a) Greek political interference in the high command of the Greek armed forces, .…

. . . . . . .

Before the meeting broke up, I reiterated my hope that Venizelos would be able to do something on the two points which had been worrying us so much lately.

  1. Drafted by Dorsz. The source text is the copy transmitted to Athens. The participants were in Lisbon for the Ninth Session of the North Atlantic Council, Feb. 20–25; see vol. v, Part 1, pp. 107 ff. A briefing memorandum, Feb. 21, by Dorsz to Acheson, on the “Prospective Call of Head of Greek Delegation,” is in file 781.00/2–2152.
  2. Loy W. Henderson, Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs, 1945–1948.
  3. No record of an effort by Acheson to seek Peurifoy’s views and recommendations on this matter has been found in Department of State files.