282. Letter From the Acting Secretary of State to the Secretary of Defense (Wilson)1

Dear Mr. Secreatary: The question of the privileges and immunities of United States military personnel in Greece has become [Page 539] an acute political problem in Athens. The issue is increasingly embarrassing to a government friendly to the United States, and threatens the excellent relations between the United States and one of its staunchest allies. The State Department, therefore, strongly suggests that we should agree to negotiate promptly on the problem with the Greek Government.

Present arrangements are based on the United States-Greek AMAG agreement of 19472 which was negotiated at a time when Greece’s existence as a free nation was threatened by the Guerrilla War. Under this and subsequent arrangements our military personnel enjoy virtual “extra-territoriality” and are completely immune from both civil and criminal jurisdiction in the Greek courts. Such immunity far exceeds that granted to the United States by other NATO members. As Greece has recovered her strength and pride, popular resentment against the extraordinary immunities granted to alien military personnel stationed in Greece has increased.

For over a year our Embassy in Athens was successful in dissuading the Greek Government from raising the question formally. However, the Greek Government is losing its ability to withstand popular criticism on this question. During the past six months, Foreign Minister Stephanopoulos has repeatedly raised the question with Ambassador Cannon in the course of official conversations. Finally, on June 14, the Greek Parliamentary Opposition demanded a statement from Foreign Minister Stephanopoulos on the status of the question. In reply, the Foreign Minister made it clear that his Government considered it necessary to revise the present arrangements and was already in contact with our representatives.

Thus, the Greek Government has not only officially raised the question with us, but has publicly gone on record with its position that a revision must be negotiated.

Ambassador Cannon feels that the longer we wait on this question the more difficult our bargaining position will become. At present the Greek Government is considered willing to negotiate an agreement by which United States military personnel would receive privileges and immunities at least as favorable as those we enjoy in other NATO countries.

It is essential, of course, that friendly and harmonious relations be maintained with allied countries where our forces are stationed. Greece in particular has been one of our most loyal friends. If you agree that it is in the interests of the United States Government to negotiate promptly with the Greek Government on this subject it [Page 540] would be appreciated if your Department would advise us of its views on the question.3

Sincerely yours,

Herbert Hoover, Jr.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 781.5/7–1555. Confidential. Drafted by Wood on July 13.
  2. For text of the agreement, see Charles I. Bevans, Treaties and Other International Agreements of the United States of America 1776–1949, vol. 8, p. 403.
  3. In a September 29 reply to Hoover’s letter, Gordon Gray, on behalf of the Department of Defense, agreed to delete all reference to extraterritorial rights in the existing arrangements with Greece. Gray noted, however, that the Department of Defense could not agree with the Department of State’s suggestion regarding criminal jurisdiction: that the Greek Government be offered Article VII of the NATO Status of Forces Agreement “supplemented by Greek agreement to waive its primary jurisdiction in favor of the United States except in cases which may be of particular importance to the Greek Government.” (Department of State, Central Files, 711.56381/9–2955)
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.