711.56381/8–1453: Telegram

No. 448
The Chargé in Greece (Yost) to the Department of State1

top secret

431. Noforn. Reference Embassy telegram August 11, sent Department 387.2 Prime Minister called me in this morning to say that, after consultation yesterday with His Majesty, he was happy to inform me Greek Government accepted unreservedly United States proposal for establishment military bases in Greece. He said he considered this historic event of greatest significance to both countries. He then added that he desired to issue immediately following press communiqué:

“With deep satisfaction, I declare, that following a request from the United States Government, the Greek Government in full agreement with His Majesty the King have decided to grant air bases for United States forces. As soon as the negotiations for all details will be finished, the Greek Government will submit to the Chamber the pertinent law according to the Greek constitution.

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The above agreement—clearly of a defensive nature—is another proof of the indissoluble bonds of friendship which exist between the two countries and firmly assures the security of the country”.

I signified deep appreciation for prompt and sweeping acceptance of our proposal. I expressed serious doubt, however, whether my government would wish to make public announcement so rapidly, pointing out that coordination with NATO was involved and that there might be other factors in our foreign relations which would make immediate announcement untimely. Marshal replied that British will be strongly opposed to this agreement and will, as soon as they hear of it, do everything in their power to sabotage and delay. These obstructions might unfortunately have considerable success. He therefore expressly wished to confront British and NATO with fait accompli.

After considerable argument, he reluctantly agreed to postpone press release in order to give me opportunity to obtain views of my government. He hopes to receive our reply in two or three days. He would not object to NATO Council being given prior notice of agreement by United States and Greek representatives, provided its concurrence was not asked and public announcement was made immediately thereafter.

After meeting with Marshal, at which Stephanopoulos and Markezinis also present, latter gave me following additional explanation. He emphasized earnestness of Marshal’s and his conviction that British will do all in their power to obstruct agreement and may succeed in creating interminable delays, whereas otherwise he would hope that detailed bilateral negotiations by our two governments might be concluded within two or three weeks. He also urged that, once King is informed, as Greek constitution requires, security can no longer be assured and facts may leak to public in near future. He even suggested King might inform Mountbatten3 today since these two are expected to meet in earthquake area.4

On positive side, Markezinis urged that immediate announcement this agreement would have most salutary effect in checking spirit of apathy and appeasement now prevalent in Europe. It would warn USSR, he argued, that we are not slackening our defense, it would hearten those in western European countries who are opposing excessive reduction in military programs and would strengthen hand of United States in negotiating for bases in other countries.

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We of course realize that there may be factors in our general foreign relations which would make it unwise for an announcement of this kind to be issued at this time. Solely from the local Greek point of view, however, we would hope we might be able to agree to joint announcement in very near future, perhaps after appropriate notification to NATO. Greek Government has accepted our proposal with great enthusiasm (though they have not yet studied detailed agreement) and has feeling of having taken historic decision of greatest significance. If we cool their enthusiasm by insisting upon considerable delay in public announcement, we run risk not only of possible interference of other powers to which Papagos refers, but also of causing Greeks to be infinitely more sticky and demanding in ensuing detailed negotiations.

If we do decide to go ahead promptly, however, we should have one point clearly in mind. When we first proposed this matter to Papagos he emphasized repeatedly that Greece could not assume any military burden over and above what it already bears and therefore could not commit itself to additional expenditures as a result of this agreement. All American representatives here are agreed that Marshal is correct in stating Greece cannot increase its military expenditures. Additional burden imposed by most disastrous earthquake in modern Greek history redoubles force of this judgment. If we proceed with this agreement therefore we should recognize that United States would have to assume all or practically all of costs involved. If Greek Government did contribute land and utilities, as draft agreement envisages, we would be expected to provide compensatory assistance in some other field. In their present mood, Greeks would probably accept without too much quibbling, agreement along lines draft despatched by Department, but they would expect in return definite understanding we would cover or compensate for costs not already provided for in Greek budget.

In summary, we would recommend concurrence in early release of joint announcement provided external factors do not rule it out and provided we feel mutually satisfactory financial arrangement can be worked out later.

  1. Transmitted in two parts and repeated to Frankfurt for Satterthwaite and CINCEUR, to Paris for USRO and Reinhardt, to Rome for Maffitt, to London for CINCNELM, and to Wiesbaden.
  2. Telegram 387 reported on Yost’s discussion of the proposed military facilities agreement with Papagos on Aug. 11. (711.56381/8–1153)
  3. Adm. Louis F. Mountbatten, Earl of Burma, Commander-in-Chief, Allied Forces, Mediterranean.
  4. In the Ionian Islands.