Athens Embassy files, lot 60 F 16, “500 Greece 1953”

No. 441
The Deputy Director of the Office of Greek, Turkish, and Iranian Affairs (Baxter) to the Ambassador in Greece (Peurifoy)

secret-personal
official-informal

Dear Jack : In this between-Markezinis interval (he returns from Canada on Thursday1 for a few days), perhaps I can find time to give you a somewhat detailed account of those busy days last week when we were knee-deep in Greeks from dawn until far into the night. You can imagine most of it: the large delegation at the station to meet the large delegation that arrived from New York; the dinners, the luncheons, the cocktail parties; the briefings for Markezinis’ calls on Government officials, the arrangements for the gifts to be taken to the White House so that they could be presented to the President in the Minister’s presence; the protracted meetings in MSA when the content of an Aide-Mémoire 2 and a proposed press release3 were haggled.

The real fireworks came on Saturday.4 We had contended until after eight o’clock the night before with Markezinis’ advisers over the phraseology of the two documents. To boil the problem down into its basic elements, the Greeks wanted a blanket approval of the government investment program which it had submitted, whereas MSA was willing to endorse the idea of an investment program subject to project review. Late in the evening I was able to dangle as a carrot in front of their noses the possibility that, if agreement could be reached early Saturday morning, it might be arranged that the Secretary could lead off his Saturday noon press conference, the final one before his takeoff that evening for the Middle East, by reading a statement on the result of Markezinis’ discussions in Washington. Markezinis recognized the public relations angle and indicated his willingness to accept certain of our positions which his advisers had rejected.

Bright and early Saturday morning we were busy with redrafting in preparation for a meeting at nine-thirty with Markezinis and company. By a little before eleven everyone was happy with the proposed draft of a press release which was immediately processed and sent to the Secretary with the recommendation that he [Page 827] read it at the outset of his press conference. At two minutes before twelve, as I was walking into the Department auditorium, I was snagged by a fifth-floor messenger who said that the Secretary wanted to see me immediately. In his office, with McCardle and McDermott,5 he expressed something considerably less than enthusiasm at the final paragraph of the draft release, saying that its implication of extending aid to make Greek economy self-supporting was contradictory to the line he had taken in Congress and the strong line he had taken with various other countries, particularly with France.

I tried to explain that MSA had agreed to a change in emphasis in Greece, that consideration would be given to sound development projects aimed at permitting a healthy Greek economy to support its own military effort, and that no more money would be involved than had already been appropriated and included in present requests for the next fiscal year. However, the Secretary was unimpressed, probably because Markezinis had talked to him steadily for 45 minutes when he called on him and had waxed both eloquent and emotional about the $100 million development program. Any encouragement, the Secretary seemed to feel, would lead the Greeks to think that we were morally committed to financing a program of such proportions. His last remarks as we went down on the elevator were to the effect that, as this was mainly an MSA matter, MSA could issue any statement it wished.

Well, you can imagine my state of confusion. With a statement cleared all the way through MSA and all the way through the Department with the exception of the Secretary, we had foreseen no last-minute snag and were prepared to issue the statement at the end of the press conference in the normal handout fashion, even if the Secretary had decided he did not wish to read it himself. Consequently, I gave a signal to Bill Porter as I went into the press conference to stop the telegram to you and to suppress the mimeographed copies of the release. Despite the fact that the Greek correspondents had been led to expect some statement, they did not have the opportunity during the press conference to ask the Secretary any questions.

Following a hurried conference with Hank Byroade and Jack Jernegan immediately afterward, it was decided that we should try to see the Secretary. We knew that he was leaving the Department at two and was taking off at seven on his trip; however, Jack, Charlie Yost and I managed to get in to see him at about one-thirty. It was apparent that the Secretary had had some rugged days with [Page 828] Congress, which, as he pointed out, was in no mood to approve building a dam in Greece at the same time we were cutting down our own defense appropriations. It was touch and go for some little time, until the Secretary picked up a pencil and began playing with the wording of the final paragraph of the statement. Eventually he redictated that portion, changing one or two words at Jack’s suggestion, but, when he tossed it to us as approved, we were so pleased to have something that we were not at all prone to quibble.

Concurrently with all this hassle, Bill Porter learned that Markezinis had already jubilantly cabled the unauthorized version to Papagos and that Greek correspondents had been given copies. Therefore, the next step, and one which filled us with dread, was for Charlie and me to take the new wording and break the news to Markezinis. We went through quite a session of histrionics. The Minister found himself more completely “exposed” than at any previous time in all of his political career—and through no fault of his own! He could not be responsible if the United States Government couldn’t make up its own mind and stand by an approved text. He would have to tell Papagos that he was wrong in having cabled his acceptance of an American position from which we had now withdrawn. This new text he could not accept. He would resign. Papagos would in all probability tell the United States to take its money and its mission and go home!

We tried to reason with him (a posture a little difficult to assume at that moment), pointing out that the statement was after all a United States release and not a joint communiqué, that in our view it changed none of the substance of the understandings reached at a working level, that it would be not impossible to explain the appearance in the press of variant wording which had been considered during the drafting stages, and that the only way in which it could be interpreted as a defeat for him was for him to treat it as one. In the midst of all this, I had a telephone call from the Department reporting that the new wording was considered by MSA to have even fewer safeguards than the previous version and that they felt Mr. Stassen himself had to be consulted before it could be released.

Meanwhile, everyone was fluttering on the sidelines with luggage, telling the Minister he would miss his train to Canada if he didn’t leave at once. His final Jovian bolts were (1) an ultimatum that he must have an immediate letter of explanation from the Secretary himself in order to protect his position with Papagos and [Page 829] (2) an order to Pesmazoglu 6 to remain in the Embassy without budging until such a letter was delivered.

By this time it was after four o’clock. With nothing to eat since early breakfast, Charlie and I retired to our house for a sandwich (and a drink) to lick our wounds and consider our next move. Hank Byroade, who had moved only the day before and whose new telephone had not been connected, could not be reached; so we decided to go to the airfield with the hope of telling him the story and suggesting that he seek the Secretary’s authorization for some sort of mollifying letter which we could write after getting telegraphic authorization back from their first stop. As it turned out, the group at the airport was very small and family, with children and dogs running about and the Secretary arriving early. He called us over to ask about how we had come out with Markezinis, and, when he heard our tale of woe, beckoned Bedell Smith to join us. The upshot was an agreement that Smith would sign a letter on Monday morning.7 That document, which was for Markezinis’ personal and confidential use with Papagos, I delivered to the Ambassador yesterday afternoon, after which the Ambassador phoned back to say that he had talked with Mr. Markezinis in Canada and that the latter had instructed him to convey his appreciation and the information that he was “very happy” about everything which had happened during his visit and had so informed his Government.

Thus ended another Greek tragi-comedy. For your personal information I am attaching the draft press release,8 the final press release,9 the agreed Aide-Mémoire,10 and a draft letter concerning the EPU allotment.11 These latter two have not yet been processed and formally delivered to the Greeks.

I well know the long history of your devotion to the cause of a Royal Greek visit to the States. You richly deserve to be the channel through which an eventual invitation is extended. However, we were unable to jar this project loose from the Department until we tied it up with the magnanimous offers contained in the Papagos letter which Markezinis was delivering to the President.12 Even [Page 830] then the President did not broach the subject with Markezinis. It was not until the morning of the Secretary’s departure that we were told on a very Top Secret basis that the Secretary was carrying with him a letter from the President inviting the King and Queen to visit the United States sometime next Fall.13 It is the Secretary’s wish that Their Majesties have no hint in advance of this development. He wishes to be able to handle it as a surprise package when he sees them in Athens. It has been agreed that both Markezinis and Papagos be informed of the Secretary’s intention, with the clear understanding that no one else be told. Charlie feels that both of these men can be trusted to respect the confidence. We have not yet had the opportunity to talk to Mr. Markezinis but will do so within a few days when he returns from Canada.14 At the same time we will ask him not to telegraph this information to Papagos for fear of a leak, and will explain that, realizing that the Prime Minister should of course, be apprised, you have been requested to do so in Athens. I sincerely hope that Papagos will agree to maintain strictest secrecy in order that the Secretary may be able to carry out his plan of giving the King and Queen a pleasant surprise without having the edge taken off by advance knowledge.

What with the presence of Charlie, Harry Turkel, Lee Barrows and Al Costanza, there are very few facets of the Greek scene which have not been kicked about during the past week. It makes most of us long to get an even closer look by coming to Athens ourselves.

Best personal regards.

Sincerely,

Bill
  1. May 14.
  2. For text of the aide-mémoire handed to Markezinis, May 15, see infra .
  3. Not found in Department of State files.
  4. May 9.
  5. Michael J. McDermott, Special Assistant for Press Relations, Office of the Secretary of State.
  6. John Pesmazoglou, General Director, Ministry of Coordination.
  7. Dated May 11, not printed. (781.00/5–1153)
  8. Not printed; there is no difference between the texts of the draft press release attached to the source text and the final press release.
  9. For text of Department of State press release 255, May 9, on discussions of Greek problems with Markezinis, see Department of State Bulletin, May 25, 1953, p. 752.
  10. Infra .
  11. The undated draft letter to Markezinis for the signature of FitzGerald (MSA) is not printed; it stated that MSA was prepared to make an allotment to Greece of $25 million in EPU special resources for the settlement of three-fourths of Greece’s monthly deficits with the EPU.
  12. See footnote 2, Document 439.
  13. Not found in Department of State files. The amended draft letter was attached to the Department’s copy of the memorandum, May 8, by Dulles to Eisenhower on the subject, “Letter of Invitation to King Paul and Queen Frederika of Greece.” (781.11/5–853)
  14. No record of conversation with Markezinis upon his return from Canada was found in Department of State files.