180. Telegram From the Embassy in Greece to the Department of State1

1364. I called last night on PriMin Papandreou at his home in Kastri together with Anschuetz. The PriMin was in serious, almost grim, mood and seemed rather tired.

I immediately launched into discussion of Cyprus question and covered substantially same ground covered by Ball and Talbot yesterday with Matsas (Deptel 1161).2 I said that although during latter part of February and first days of March, situation had seemed to be improving on island (for which I credited Papandreou’s influence on Makarios and Grivas). In recent days things had taken serious turn for worse. There seemed to be two elements in this. First, increasingly hard line taken by Archbishop Makarios, as indicated by his restrictions on Turkish population, his refusal to cooperate with UNFICYP to reduce tensions in Famagusta, and his reported statement that his “peace offensive” had not yielded results with implication that therefore Archbishop would have to assume tougher line. Second aspect was introduction of Soviet heavy equipment including surface-to-air missiles into island, manned by Greeks trained in UAR. I pointed out introduction these missiles could be “straw that broke camel’s back” with regard to GOT, taking into [Page 373] account steady erosion Turk position as result Makarios policy of “faits accomplis.” USG had been shocked that loyal NATO ally, Greece, without informing US or NATO, permitted its citizens to be trained in Soviet weapons. USG viewed this development with gravest concern, and we request GOG to exert all its influence on Makarios immediately to stop any further deliveries of SAMs and to seek means to dispose of or neutralize arms already delivered.

Papandreou first commented on “unacceptable” manner in which matter had been presented to Matsas. He said he realized Cyprus problem could involve question of war and peace between Greece and Turkey and possibly consequent escalation into confrontation between blocs. He reiterated that US had no more loyal ally than Greece and spoke with sincere regret of fact there had been series of misunderstandings between GOG and USG since he had come to power. He referred specifically to his inability to accept President Johnson’s suggestion for direct talks with Inonu. Failure USG to take position on merits of Cyprus problem had unhappily permitted Moscow to inject itself dangerously into situation. His own invitation to Moscow was part Soviet disruptive policy. Although he had accepted invitation to Moscow he had interposed conditions with regard to timing and diplomatic preparation which would never be met. Internal divisions within country make it impossible for him to leave at this time and inasmuch as Soviet Union would never accept self-determination and enosis for Cyprus, diplomatic condition precedent for visit to Moscow will never be fulfilled. Reflecting obvious sensitivity to unfavorable reaction which might be created by his current domestic policy toward left, he reiterated his uncompromising opposition to Communism as well as his dedication to use of democratic measures to combat it. These measures he insisted require time and organization, but democratic approach is only one which holds ultimate hope for success.

PriMin then reverted to question SAMs and asserted delivery of SAMs do not constitute threat to GOT because they can be used only against aircraft and only in event of GOT aerial attack on Cyprus. Papandreou noted that last August Turks had been able to bomb island with impunity and that Cypriot Govt had legitimate right to seek defensive weapons. He observed it is much better that these missiles be in hands of Greeks, and not Russians, and thus could be controlled. He asked if I would prefer to have Russians man these weapons. In apparent effort vindicate participation Greeks, Papandreou noted that as result of training in use of SAMs, GOG now in possession of considerable technical data on these Soviet weapons which it would turn over to US. I noted USG had not been informed by GOG that it is in possession of such data but that we would welcome receipt of it. However, price is much too high [Page 374] and we would prefer not have secrets than see Greek soldiers trained by Soviets and Soviet missiles introduced into Cyprus.

Papandreou then turned to what he described as GOT’s “threatening attitude.” He asserted Turks are constantly threatening to bomb Cyprus which in turn justified Cypriots to seek defensive weapons. When I asked him provide instances such threats, he answered that aside from frequent declarations of GOT military figures, British MP Francis Noel-Baker, who had seen GOT PriMin one morning last week, had informed him that PriMin Urguplu had admitted that he could not control Turkish military which boasted that GOT Air Force needed only “seven minutes” to be over target on Cyprus.

PriMin continued that in view of these circumstances he could not logically tell Makarios to give up his defenses. It would be “illogical” for him to tell GOC that they must disarm themselves and only “pray” against Turkish attack. Papandreou then returned to his favorite theme, which he has repeated to me many times (cf. Embtel 314 August 16, 1964)3 throughout Cyprus crisis: if US would only issue warning to both GOT and GOG against any military intervention in Cyprus, then he could assure US that there would be no further troubles on island itself. He himself could go there to establish GOG control over situation. PriMin spoke at some length on advantages to be gained from such “guarantee”.

I answered that if GOT unwilling to give such pledge throughout past year it is most improbable that events now would induce them to do so. I contrasted Cypriot acquiring of SAMs as means to deter GOT attack to person who gets inoculation against disease only to find that inoculation itself provokes the disease. I stressed that GOT could consider Makarios’ actions as attempted blackmail to which they would not submit, since GOT continues adhere their own interpretation of their rights under treaties.

I told Papandreou we would like certain specific information, which Under Secretary Ball had requested of Matsas and I had requested of Garoufalias, concerning arrangements made with UAR and/or USSR concerning training of Greeks to operate SAMs, number of SAMs, etc. GOG note (Embtel 1359)4 had not been responsive in this regard. PriMin replied somewhat indignantly that as GOG note had stated, there were no agreements between GOG and UAR or USSR; PriMin said individuals involved were all retired personnel who had joined Cyprus forces of own accord. In fact he had only learned there were Greek personnel involved when present question arose. I noted I had been informed that GOG had recalled from US all those Greek technicians being trained in [Page 375] operation Nike-Hercules missiles in US immediately after completion of training instead of permitting them spend some extra time in US as has been custom. This led some observers surmise they might be recalled to replace those learning to operate Soviet SAMs. I added that I would like to discuss all of these aspects with DefMin Garoufalias. Papandreou said he would give DefMin instructions to supply me with all information I needed.

I then posed question to Papandreou as to what specific measures GOG could take re SAMs. Papandreou countered he was more than willing make every effort reduce tension but that it must be “joint effort.” Therefore, he said, he would use all of his influence with Makarios and Grivas to prevent any further shipments of SAMs if US and/or GOT agreed to give guarantee against any future Turkish aerial attack on Cyprus except in case of serious provocation. He noted Grivas was coming to Athens and he would tell Grivas that he must obey instructions to refrain from aggressive actions and if he would not do that, he must resign.

I pointed out such GOT guarantee was highly unlikely. Consequently, question is whether PriMin would make necessary effort without this assurance. Reluctantly, PriMin said he would do all he could, even in absence of such guarantees. However, he concluded that he would be counselling “illogical” course, since he was asking Makarios to be “defenseless” in event of possible Turkish attacks.

Anschuetz asked if PriMin considered present situation might not be suitable moment to initiate direct GOG-GOT talks. Papandreou said policy of GOG is to not take any initiative prior to submission Mediator’s report. He remains firmly attached to policy of maintaining peace on island pending eventual solution and says he will do all in power to that end.

Comment: Although interview was discouraging, I believe Papandreou and his govt will make sincere efforts to prevent escalation and, given some cooperation from Turkish side, to reduce tensions. Last night Papandreou limited himself to general assurances and provided no concrete commitments or precise information. Papandreou, of course, attempted to bargain for cessation of shipments of Soviet anti-aircraft missiles to Cyprus and apparently saw controversy over SAMs as opportunity to present his favorite proposal for US “guarantee” that there be no outside military intervention in Cyprus. When he saw this was not possible, he agreed to exert his efforts to stop any further shipments, although it remains to be seen whether he can actually produce on this. His argument that Makarios and Cypriots may not be willing to follow his advice on this “illogical” line seems to me quite possible. Leaving Soviet equipment, emphasis on defensive nature of the missiles will have popular appeal here and on the island.

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Although I feel that Papandreou and others with whom we have talked have come to realize very serious aspect of Greek involvement with Soviet SAMs they obviously find themselves in most serious dilemma and are hard put to work way out. Because of defensive nature of missiles and strong position Makarios and Grivas will doubtless take for their installation, it will not be easy. However, impotence of Papandreou’s position, demonstrated once again, derives from knowledge he cannot control Makarios but must keep up pretense he is in control of situation, from his fear of taking a position which would compromise him vis-à-vis public opinion in Cyprus or in Greece, and fact that emotionally he is convinced Cyprus is justified in doing what it can to defend itself, notwithstanding reservations about methods employed to do so. On other hand, friction with USG and American public opinion deeply distresses him and he would sincerely like to be responsive to US requests.

I wish to stress to Department and others in Washington that final paragraph of Papandreou’s reply to our démarche5 is a sincere reflection of Greek feeling. In spite of all we have told Greeks over many months, they remain convinced that we pamper the Turks, reserving our condemnation for the Greeks.

To set the record straight (see para number 5 of Papandreou reply) FonMin Costopoulos did not tell me that members of active Greek military were training in UAR. He referred to “Greeks” or “Greek crews” as I recall. As Costopoulos may be called to task for going even that far and as he is undoubtedly very friendly to us, I made a point last night in my talk with Papandreou of minimizing Costopoulos’ role as an informant. I stated that I had gone to see the FonMin because of the rumors I had heard from other sources; that, although the FonMin had acknowledged missiles were possibly on the way and that “Greeks” were training on them, he had not mentioned “regulars” but that we very naturally assumed those Greeks had been trained on Nikes and were part of Greece’s armed services.

I intend continue press gravity of situation upon FonMin Costopoulos, DefMin Garoufalias and other high-ranking Greek officials at every opportunity.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 CYP. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Repeated to Ankara, London, Nicosia, USUN, and Paris for USRO. Passed to the White House.
  2. Document 179.
  3. Not printed. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 CYP)
  4. See footnote 4, Document 179.
  5. This paragraph stated that Greece had been and continued to be a “sincere and faithful ally” while Turkey, which had opened a “courtship” with the Soviet Union, had not attracted “any allied criticism which seems to be reserved as a prize of the steadfastness of Greece.” (Greek aide-mémoire, March 14; Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 CYP)