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

1862. In past few weeks present govt has entered new phase of malaise which has afflicted it for at least six months. As result (1) dispute over “Aspida” organization2 and presumed involvement of PriMin’s son; (2) controversy over Public Power Corp (DEI) investigation which threatened to bring former PriMin Caramanlis and other former ERE ministers to trial; and (3) most recently, furor over alleged sabotage of military vehicles in Thrace (Embtel 1833),3 question arises as to long-term prospects of Papandreou government.

PriMin Under Attack Within Party

Basically, govt is now paying for its accumulated mistakes over past year and half. PriMin’s juggling act, of playing off one faction against another, which served him so well during early months in keeping party together, appears to be breaking down as party criticism of PriMin’s leadership mounts. Pro-govt press, which was such valuable weapon in beating down periodic revolts which cropped up during 1964 is now increasingly critical of Papandreou. Cumulative resentment of Andreas and his activities is certainly a major cause of the problems which confront the PriMin.

Both left and right within Center Union are unhappy over PriMin’s temporizing. Conservatives, always concerned over Papandreou’s lenient attitude towards cooperation with left, are now disturbed at PriMin’s acceptance of army’s involvement in partisan politics. On the other hand, left wing of party, which has been increasingly critical of what it considers Papandreou’s efforts to placate Palace, is now bitter at PriMin’s decision to permit statute of limitations to be invoked in DEI case. Extreme left had been eagerly anticipating putting its old enemy, Constantine Caramanlis, in dock; however, PriMin’s action, after building up leftist hopes since February, has snatched away this prospect at last moment. As pro-govt Eleftheria pointed out in last Sunday’s editorial (Embtel 1847)4 PriMin’s handling of DEI case has been “neither straight-forward, nor serious, nor brave.”

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Controversy Over Gen. Gennimatas

Important elements within party, including two leading pro-govt papers, Eleftheria and To Vima, are currently attacking PriMin for his failure to heed their demands to remove present Army Chief of Staff Gen. Gennimatas and to carry out general purge of so-called right-wing “junta.” PriMin, however, reportedly promised Palace last Feb that he would make no changes in military high command before end of year (A–739, 3/16/65).5 Moreover, Eleftheria editor Kokkas told Embassy officer that PriMin is indebted to Gennimatas for his help in keeping name of Andreas Papandreou out of Simos report on Aspida affair (A–1014, 6/12/65).6 In view of dilemma posed by two opposing sets of pressures, Papandreou may choose rather characteristic way out by kicking Gennimatas upstairs to be chief of NGDS. Much depends on degree of pressure exerted by two papers; should it subside, Gennimatas could well remain on.

Antagonism of Army Towards Papandreou

Army, which from beginning has been unenthusiastic about Papandreou administration, is now widely disillusioned with his govt. First real jolt came with publication of so-called Operation Pericles plan in Feb, in which, much to distress of military leadership, PriMin used Lt. Gen Loukakis as his hatchet man in attempt to implicate army in exercise of partisan political activity in support of ERE 1961 electoral campaign (A–739). Now, “Aspida” case has further undermined PriMin’s prestige with senior officers. Moreover, DefMin Garoufalias, who was considered conservative element in Cabinet, has demonstrated disappointing willingness to accommodate himself to some extent to PriMin game.

Rumors of Coup d’Etat

One feature present political climate is existence of rumors re possible army moves against Papandreou govt, fanned by extreme left. IntMin Tsirimokos this week told Emb officer he, too, was concerned about these rumors. While senior military officials have given no indication of such intentions, number of them have expressed concern in recent days about drift of current political situation. Retired Gen. Sakellariou, who was ousted last year as Army Chief of Staff, told Emb officers openly last week that it is essential Papandreou be “overthrown” before he drags country down to destruction. Certainly army leadership is strongly opposed to Andreas Papandreou, whom it regards as leftist sympathizer who might lead Greece out of Western camp if he ever came to power.

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Attitude of Palace

However, from all indications, talk of possible coup d’etat remains in rumor stage despite uneasiness it creates in political circles. Before military leadership would attempt such move, it would almost certainly seek Palace’s approval. There are no indications, however, that King would be willing to go along with any extralegal solution at present time, despite the strong anti-Papandreou propaganda he is undoubtedly subject to from various rightwing sources. Palace was unquestionably upset by revelation of “Aspida” affair and involvement of PriMin’s son (Embtel 1809).7 Particularly disturbing to King was implication that “Aspida” represented essentially anti-monarchy element in armed forces which might be used at a critical moment by its leaders as an instrument of political and/or military pressure against throne. However, King is aware that Papandreou is still popular in the country, particularly in rural areas. King presumably aware of dangers to monarchy of a struggle at this time with PriMin who still has masses with him.

Possibility Some Ministers Might Withdraw Support

Possibility always exists that significant segment of party might suddenly withdraw its support of govt and thus bring about Papandreou’s fall. Major obstacle to this action is continued popular support for Papandreou, general fear of new elections, and inability of various discordant elements within CU to agree on successor to PriMin. FinMin Mitsotakis is recognized as most dynamic in Cabinet but has disadvantage of bitter opposition of liberals in party, led by powerful Vima newspaper. More likely choice would be De PriMin Stephanopoulos, who while not highly regarded, has few real enemies and whose relatively advanced age makes him more acceptable to other ambitious leaders. Some observers believe such attempt might be made this fall, when Cabinet conflict over govt’s economic policy, and particularly question of agricultural price supports, may well erupt. Anti-Papandreou forces in govt would prefer to act before PriMin could suddenly call for elections to secure new mandate while his popularity still holds. PriMin, of course, would not take revolt against him lying down, and would certainly press King for elections. In event King refused to proceed to elections, Papandreou might well go to streets to make his case.


In sum, uneasy atmosphere prevails in Greek political world. Opposition press, taking advantage of Papandreou’s troubles, has stepped up intensity of its attacks. These attacks may well concentrate on Andreas Papandreou, who remains PriMin’s most vulnerable point. In [Page 415] view of this strained atmosphere, further incidents involving army or national security, whether real or contrived, might set off train of events which could threaten Papandreou govt.

However, armed with his temporarily invulnerable position vis-à-vis Greek electorate and his undoubted political cunning, Papandreou will probably be able to sustain himself at least during summer months.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15 GREECE. Secret. Repeated to Paris for USRO, USDOCOSouth for Burris, Ankara, and Nicosia.
  2. A reputed conspiracy of left-wing officers within the Greek armed forces.
  3. Dated June 13. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 23–7 GREECE)
  4. Dated June 15. (Ibid., POL 15 GREECE)
  5. Not printed. (Ibid., POL 14 GREECE)
  6. Not printed. (Ibid., POL 27 CYP)
  7. Dated June 7. (Ibid., POL 13–8 GREECE)