291. Staff Study Prepared by an Operations Coordinating Board Working Group1


I. Nature of Security Threat

Since the liberation of Greece in 1944, the principal security threat in the country has been the Communist Party (KKE), which twice (December 1944 and December 1947) launched attempts to [Page 554] seize power by force. The first attempt ended in three months—the second continued until October 1949, when the KKE declared a “change in its political line” and “a tactic of withdrawal in the face of the enemy’s colossal superiority.” Since the latter date the KKE has steadily lost strength and significance; it does not at present constitute an immediate political or insurrectionist threat to Greek security. This defeat was the result of resolute action by the Greek Government, supported by American and British aid, and of the withdrawal of Yugoslav support for the guerrillas. However, in spite of substantial successes achieved by Greek security forces in uncovering and breaking up clandestine KKE organizations during the past five years, the Party does continue to present a considerable security threat in terms of its current capability for subversive activity and its potential for sabotage and guerrilla warfare.
Illegal since 1947, the KKE now has clandestine membership estimated at 30,000 in Greece. There are another 20,000-25,000 KKE members abroad, most of them former Greek guerrillas who, with their families, are now refugees in the Soviet Bloc countries of Western Europe. On the basis of returns in the last three Parliamentary elections it is estimated that the KKE also has a reasonably dependable bloc of 200,000 sympathizers, constituting about 10% of the electorate.
The KKE is a broadly based party. In addition to the valuable educated element composed of minor government officials, journalists, and teachers, a substantial proportion of its membership consists of industrial workers, peasants, and agricultural workers. Recruitment and indoctrination is believed to be concentrated at present among Greeks abroad and an estimated 25,000 political prisoners and ex-prisoners inside Greece. Its recruitment of youth has been impeded by proscription of its youth fronts (EPON in 1947 and EDRE in 1952).
The geographic distribution of KKE membership is of strategic significance. Its industrial component is located primarily in Piraeus, other major port areas, and in northern Greece. Rural strength is also largely concentrated in the sensitive northern area adjoining the Bulgarian border, around Salonika, Kavalla, and Drama.
Inside Greece the KKE organization has been largely disrupted since 1950, but contact is maintained among some elements through clandestine channels. Political leadership and exploitation of KKE clandestine assets is the responsibility of the KKE central committee and secretariat in Bucharest which broadcasts instructions over the Free Greece radio, infiltrates agents through Bulgaria and Western nations, and provides most of the funds for internal party work. The party is active among colonies of Greeks throughout the [Page 555] world, and its sympathizers (estimated at 30,000) assist in its infiltration and finance operations.
As of January 1955 over 3,500 Greeks of an estimated 50,000–80,000 resident in the Soviet bloc had been repatriated. So far their resettlement and rehabilitation has been largely unsuccessful. In spite of joint American-Greek security screening, the group presumably contains undetected trained agents, and the growing dissatisfaction within the group makes it likely that many others will be susceptible of recruitment by the KKE in the future. Funds are currently inadequate to support the government program for handling these 3,500 repatriates and other pressing matters such as the Volos earthquake disaster have diverted attention from the development of a well thought-out program for the refugee group as a whole. It is anticipated that the security threat to the sensitive northern areas of Greece, where the majority of the repatriates are now living will increase significantly if a substantial proportion of the group still in the satellites is repatriated.
In the satellite area the KKE conducts training schools for espionage, sabotage and political organization. Of about five hundred agents known to have graduated from these schools, about 150 have so far been dispatched clandestinely to Greece to engage in espionage or to conduct political and psychological warfare and rebuild the party cadres. In addition, practically all male youth who were evacuated to the Iron Curtain countries during the guerrilla war have received intensive indoctrination and some degree of paramilitary training, including sabotage and infiltration techniques.
The majority of Party members and sympathizers who take part in overt political activity are affiliated with the United Democratic Left party (EDA), which was created in 1950 at the instigation of the KKE. Others are affiliated with the Democratic Party of the Working People (DKEL). In the labor field the KKE works primarily through the United Syndicalist Movement of Greece (ESKE) which controls about 20% of Greek labor.
The EDA has worked overtly to win supporters for the Communist cause and to obtain a strong position in the political life of Greece by legal means. It succeeded in sending deputies to the Parliament until 1952, when the proportional representation system was changed to the plurality system. The vote of the party and its sympathizers remains fairly constant at about ten percent of the total, as evidenced by several by-elections held since 1952, and by the increase in the vote for non-Communist opposition candidates supported by the EDA during the municipal elections of November 1954. The failure of the EDA to attract a wider popular following is indicative of the resistance of the majority of the Greek people to overt Communist influence.
Rather than attempting to seize power now the KKE appears to be pursuing a short-range program to neutralize Greece as an element of Western military strength and as a base for operations against the Soviet orbit. Toward this end its members and agents are endeavoring to undermine the faith of the Greek people in the Rally government, to create economic and political instability, and to exacerbate differences and frictions between Greece and its allies.

[Here follow sections II—IV.]

V. Political Factors Bearing on Internal Security Programs and Feasibility of U.S. Assistance

The Rally has a large Parliamentary majority and governs more effectively than any other Government since World War II. However, it is not an organized political party but a group of political elements held together chiefly by the prestige of Prime Minister Papagos.3 He is not well, and there is no indication that he will return to vigorous health. Moreover, defections from the Rally have occurred, and while they have not affected its present control of Parliament, they do indicate some deterioration in the cohesive-ness of the group. If Marshal Papagos should disappear from the scene, this would lead to jockeying for position by the various leaders, both in the present Rally and in the opposition, and a consequent period of political uncertainty.
Stabilizing influences in such a situation would be the King and Queen, who could, if necessary, appoint a caretaker government, and the possibility that the Rally may be preserved by several of the capable and experienced younger ministers who are dedicated to the Rally program. The military clique, IDEA, which reportedly favors the younger ministers, would undoubtedly use its influence against the formation of a government in which communists had a dangerous degree of power.
Greece has been consistently pro-Western in its orientation, and joined NATO in 1952 under the left of center Prime Minister Plastiras. Under the Rally Government it has continued to cooperate loyally and enthusiastically in NATO. It has maintained heavy military expenditures, which put considerable strain on the Greek budget, in order to work toward the achievement of its force goals. This has been done at the expense of development plans, which in a country with such a low standard of living has meant real sacrifices by the people. This policy, though increasingly criticized, has been [Page 557] acceptable partly because of national pride in Greece’s place in NATO and partly because Greece expects continuing U.S. assistance.
The Greek Government would probably be willing to accept technical assistance to improve its internal security forces, provided this did not entail diverting aid from the armed forces. While the Government recognizes the necessity for outside help in meeting NATO commitments and in developing the Greek economy, it believes that it has, on its own, done a good job of countering subversive activities. The people share their Government’s satisfaction with its record in this respect; they are, however, far from satisfied with the rate of economic development. Consequently any effort to divert aid from the armed forces to provide assistance to internal security forces rather than to the economic program would be politically unacceptable.
Moreover, assistance given Greek internal security forces at the expense of aid to the armed forces would have widespread and undesirable repercussions in NATO. Greek armed forces, while small, would play an essential role in a general war. A reduction of military and economic aid would diminish Greece’s ability to meet its NATO commitments and would seriously affect allied military strategy in Southeast Europe. Moreover, substantial U.S. support of internal security forces in Greece would undoubtedly lead to renewed requests for similar support from other NATO countries.

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  1. Source: Department of State, OCB Files: Lot 62 D 430, Greece. Top Secret.

    The working group that prepared the study included representatives of the Department of State, the Department of Defense, CIA, ICA, and USIA.

  2. On December 21, 1954, the NSC charged the OCB with the task of formulating a concept for U.S. aid in the development of forces adequate to provide internal security in countries vulnerable to Communist subversion. (NSC Action No. 1290–d; ibid., S/S Files: Lot 66 D 95) In a circular telegram sent to 20 posts, including Athens, on March 23, 1955, the Department requested the respective Chiefs of Mission to whom the telegram was sent to have “the country team, including representatives from FOA, MAAG (or service attachés), … prepare a report on the possibilities and requirements for U.S. assistance in increasing the effectiveness of the regular armed forces to deal with communist subversion and insurrections.” (Circular telegram 559, March 23, 1955; ibid., Central Files, 700.5/3–2355) According to a memorandum of December 8, 1955, by the OCB Secretariat Staff, attached to the source text, the OCB noted the paper on Greece at its August 24 Board meeting; concurred in its analysis and recommendations at its meeting of November 16; agreed that implementation of recommendations should be carried out in the same manner as the implementation of courses of action in Outline Plans of Operations; and noted that the International Cooperation Administration will assume “over-all” leadership in the implementation of the program. An overall report on the 1290–d program was concurred in by the Board on November 23 for transmittal to the NSC. On December 8, the National Security Council discussed the report.
  3. Since preparation of this country analysis, Marshal Papagos has died. A Rally Government of a caretaker nature is in office until elections in the Spring of 1956. [Footnote in the source text.]