284. Letter From the Counselor of the Embassy in Greece (Thurston) to the Director of the Office of Greek, Turkish, and Iranian Affairs (Baxter)1

Dear Bill: These are busy days for all of us, but I am stimulated by your letter of September 22 to try my hand at an informal evaluation of the present Greek internal political situation. I had planned to do so at the time of the King’s departure for Belgrade 3 but for reasons I am sure you understand have not up till this time been able to get around to it.

In response to the specific point raised in your letter, that is, the plans of Karamanlis, the Embassy … has been following this subject very closely both with Karamanlis himself as well as with persons in the Royal circles sympathetic to the aspirations of Karamanlis. [Page 542]Just before his departure on leave the Ambassador had a long talk with Karamanlis, the purport of which was reflected in the intelligence reports you mentioned.

I agree with you that ideally it would be a tidier situation all around if Karamanlis would continue to serve in a transitional government should such a government have to be set up. However, Karamanlis himself feels very strongly that staying on would adversely affect the possibility of his becoming prime minister and we have to take his judgment seriously in arriving at our own conclusions as to the better course. If he sullies himself politically by serving in what may likely be the unpopular swan song period of the Rally as we know it, his qualities of leadership and professional competence may be lost for an indefinite period. A lot will depend of course on the actual march of events and the extent to which a crisis situation might develop in Greece in the weeks ahead as a result of various internal and external pressures now at work.

If we are lucky, the question you raise may not be acute until later in the year. Just before the King’s departure for Yugoslavia there was a momentary flurry in Royal and political circles, the gist of which seemed to be the apparent decision of the King to persuade Papagos to resign and to appoint Stephanopoulos as his successor in an interim government. At the same time the Marshal, or at least his family, embarked on a small counter-campaign. This involved an indirect approach to me in which some persuasive arguments were used to make a strong case for the Marshal to remain in the prime ministership as long as possible. … There is a good deal to be said for this point of view, and certainly in the present atmosphere the formation of a new government bringing with it the possibility of early elections is a prospect I do not view with enthusiasm. In the end the Marshal managed to get a good medical certificate from a French doctor and the King and Queen went off to Yugoslavia with the stated purpose of not coming back to Athens until the end of October. Some critics in high places have told me that the King and Queen were acting like spoiled children in insisting on carrying out their plans for a long vacation in Austria, but the King’s absence might actually have a beneficial effect in that it will tend to reduce to a minimum speculation about imminent political changes.

All this of course took place before the recent blow up in Greco-Turkish relations and the rather sad conclusion of the London [Page 543]Conference from the Greek point of view.4 Other than what we have said at some length in recent cables on this subject I would only like to add here that these recent events make it absolutely impossible to predict whether the present Government will stay put for a few more months or whether the King will change his plans and come back to Athens. Otherwise it would have been a pretty safe bet that no important changes would occur here until November.

Not directly related to the foregoing but certainly worth consideration in the present overall Greek picture is the attached memorandum of a conversation I had with Papandreou, the Liberal Party leader.5 Although it covers a number of topics, I should especially like to allude to his statements about the fear of the Greeks that we are abandoning them, a fear which at this time seems primarily to stem from the fact that there has not been from the United States either officially or otherwise a public condemnation of the atrocities in Turkey against the Greeks. The Greeks expect an awful lot under the best circumstances but knowing so well our traditional humanitarian reaction to persecution of minorities, they simply cannot understand why we seem to take so lightly the recent outbreaks against the Greek minority in Turkey.

I do hope we can get a favorable response to our recent suggestion on how to handle the Presidential invitation to the Marshal. I hope that you are pushing this wholeheartedly.

All of us here look forward to your paying us a visit before the end of the year both because we would like to see you again and also because a visit now or in the near future would be very useful.

Sincerely yours,

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 781.00/9–1255. Secret; Official-Informal.
  2. Not found in Department files.
  3. King Paul and Queen Frederika of Greece visited Yugoslavia, September 8–14, at the invitation of President Tito.
  4. On August 29, a tripartite conference of representatives of the United Kingdom, Greece, and Turkey convened in London to discuss problems of the Eastern Mediterranean. The conference was suspended on September 7 pending Greek and Turkish consideration of British proposals for granting self-government to Cyprus. On September 6, a series of violent anti-Greek riots broke out in Istanbul and Izmir resulting in extensive damage and destruction of Greek-owned shops and Orthodox churches. The rioting was reportedly in response to a number of anti-Turkish incidents in Salonika on September 5.
  5. Not printed.