261. Telegram From the Embassy in Greece to Secretary of State Herter, at Geneva0

24. Geneva for the Secretary. Paris for Thurston.

In conversation with Horner today, Foreign Minister Averoff laid particular stress on difficulties which GOG is facing in with connection with possible decision to accept siting of missile bases on Greek soil. Averoff felt that on the whole public response to recent barrage Soviet notes and Soviet and Khrushchev threats1 had been cool and firm. He feared, however, that should Yugoslavia and UAR take public stance in favor denuclearized Balkans, this would strike sympathetic chord with appreciable portion of Greek public. Fundamentally, Averoff thought question one of timing, and said he regretted GOG had not been able to retort to Khrushchev’s visit by announcement acceptance missile bases. It should take a lesson from this and be fully prepared to seize another occasion which might present itself.
Averoff suggested there is need for high level consultation and close coordination between US and GOG on this matter. He suggested that if Secretary would find it possible to make brief stop in Athens while he is in Europe, this could be utilized both for consultation purposes and to prepare public opinion for acceptance base agreement. He would of course understand if Secretary were unable to come.
Embassy believes visit Athens, even if inevitably of few hours, could be useful reaffirmation US interest in and support for Greece in this hour of heavy tribulation, marked by synchronized pressure from Soviet bloc (Khrushchev visit Albania, and successive notes from USSR, Bulgaria and Rumania). Karamanlis few days ago said to me with some feeling that while reaction in Greece to these pressures generally positive, Soviets still have further weapons in their arsenal, particularly economic ones. Greece, continued Prime Minister, feels itself somewhat isolated from NATO, and considers its traditional friends, US and UK, doing little to help (this latter reference probably refers to GOG difficulties in economic realm, particularly over disposal of tobacco and what GOG considers to be lack of understanding over domestic wheat exports, etc.).
While Embassy more than aware of demands on Secretary’s time, and other more pressing matters which demand his attention, for reasons above we would consider short visit Athens would have useful consequences extending beyond narrow field Hellenic-American relations. Conceivably, such visit taking place during break in meetings current Geneva Conference could serve to demonstrate to Soviets wider interests US in helping and supporting our friends and allies. Alternatively, possibly some senior Departmental official such as Merchant could come Athens in Secretary’s stead.2
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 660.0012/3–1259. Secret; Limited Distribution. Repeated to the Department of State as telegram 2480 and to Paris. The source text is the Department of State copy. Herter was in Geneva to attend the Foreign Ministers Meeting May 11–August 5.
  2. See Document 258.
  3. In Secto 241, repeated to Athens as telegram 18, June 15, Herter replied that Merchant could not visit Athens and sent the text of a message that he proposed be presented to Averoff complimenting the Greeks on their “courageous” decision to establish missile sites on their territory. (Department of State, Central Files, 660.0012/6–1559) Tocah 110 to Geneva, June 16, informed Herter:

    “President has seen Secto 241 and Athens 24 to Geneva. He has some serious reservations regarding any attempt to encourage Greeks to take IRBM’s in present circumstances. Arrangements are being made for McElroy and me to discuss matter jointly with him shortly. In view of President’s feelings suggest proposed message contained Secto 241 be held up pending further clarification here.” (Ibid., 781.5612/6–1659)