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

1921. I called this morning on PriMin. Embassy Political Counselor and Sossides of PriMin’s staff also present.

PriMin commenced by stressing that his aim is to bring internal peace to Greek political scene. He had achieved this in part by taking firm and moderate stand on question of referral Caramanlis to the courts (Embtels 1864, 1829)2 although this had been unpopular step for him with many of his party.

Now he must face up to problem of taking politics out of the army. This means removing those within army who espoused cause of either right or left. He has therefore decided he must ask for MinDef Garoufalias’ resignation within next few days and assume post himself. Garoufalias, in whom he has great trust and who would be highly competent in any other Ministerial post, is unhappily labeled as man of the Palace. Garoufalias strives to protect Palace interests but in order compensate Garoufalias does not act with appropriate vigor toward center elements who require discipline. His actions are constantly misjudged and he is thus no longer in position to do job necessary in keeping army free of politics.

Gennimatas, Chief of Staff, had also been labeled as a man of the King and was also unable to function effectively because he too is under [Page 419] fire from “the democratic elements”. A new man is needed as Chief HAGS who would not be tarred with this brush and he, the past PriMin is going to advise the King that a change has to be made. He said he thought the King would agree to this change when he had presented his reasons for it.

I said frankly I am concerned at implications of confrontation between Palace and govt over question of military leadership. US interests in stability of Greece as well as our continuing contributions to Greek armed forces are basis legitimate interest in this question. I entirely agreed with PM that politics should be kept away from armed forces. While I agreed that govt, not King is responsible for policy determination, I am also aware that modern Greek history shows clearly that King has over period of time acquired a generally recognized interest in armed forces. Any severe shock to this delicate balance of powers could be dangerous and might even risk raising basic issue of regime. This would be tragic for Greece. For this reason I earnestly hope that a solution satisfactory to both parties could be found. I said that I am pleased PriMin will soon have occasion to see King in Corfu in connection with formalities following birth of Royal baby. This will provide opportunity for direct discussion and eliminate possible misunderstandings resulting from reliance on intermediaries. I expressed concern that departure of both Garoufalias and Gennimatas might create profound reaction in Palace and perhaps certain opposition circles.

PriMin bridled at inference his personal assumption of Defense portfolio could produce any anxiety. He was adamant that Gennimatas as a person would have to go but acknowledged that once agreement had been obtained to this move timing might be matter for negotiation.

Comment: Papandreou was in a very serious mood and showed a degree of stubbornness to my probing as to what the implications of the change in the military hierarchy might mean to the political fabric of Greece. He appears confident he can stand down King on this issue and will use the threat of resignation and elections in the event the King does not agree. He stated flatly no new government based on support of ERE could stand because it would be a travesty of will of people. He did not once mention Mitsotakis factor or allude to Kokkas attacks except indirectly, when he said his son Andreas is being blamed for all ills of Greece. He would not be surprised if they were to run out of issues to bomb him for, Andreas would be blamed for situation in Santo Domingo.

Garoufalias confided to me earlier this morning he did not intend to resign, that Papandreou would then ask King to sign decree revoking his (Garoufalias’) appointment. If King refused, govt crisis would ensue and perhaps Garoufalias or Stephanopoulos would be requested to form government. This evening FonMin Costopoulos, a strong royalist, expressed concern that King would be in weak constitutional position if [Page 420] he refused to concur in Papandreou’s assumption of Defense portfolio. According to Papandreou proposal Garoufalias would receive another portfolio. Houtas, present Minister Public Works and reliable from Palace point of view would replace Papaconstantinou as Deputy Min Def.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 13–8 GREECE. Secret; Limdis.
  2. Telegram 1864 from Athens, June 18, reported Parliament’s decision to drop charges against Karamanlis. (Ibid., POL 15–2 GREECE) Telegram 1829 from Athens, June 10, reported Parliamentary discussion of the investigative report on the DEI case. (Ibid.)