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

37. Incipient political crisis appears suddenly to have crystallized following letter from King to PriMin allegedly delivered last night by Chief Royal Political Bureau, Choidas, informing PriMin that King is prepared to receive him but not concur in the removal of DefMin Garoufalias or Army Chief of Staff Gennimatas (contents letter separately reported [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]). Apparently letter asserts, inter alia, King has always acted scrupulously within framework of his constitutional powers, and reproaches Papandreou not only for having failed to support the King, but for having permitted impression to grow that King is prepared to act extra-constitutionally. Existence of letter has not yet been publicly revealed, but may result in resignation of government.

Festering political situation which has developed as result of Palace and ERE alarm at alleged efforts of Papandreous and certain other Center Union elements to establish political control over the armed forces may well explode as result of this sudden action by King. According to some reports King has decided not to concur in any changes in leadership armed forces at this time, and is determined to push for showdown with PriMin and his son Andreas before what King regards as the corruption [Page 423] of the armed forces becomes more extensive and the position of EDA and extreme left even stronger. There have even been some rumors that King prepared to accept government under a military leader if satisfactory government, willing and able to confront demonstrations and strikes which Papandreous and left might foment, cannot be formed.

Embassy position has remained unchanged from that which we have taken ever since collision between King and PriMin first became real possibility. As reported in my conversations with Choidas (Embtel 1880)2 and PriMin (Embtel 1921),3 I have consistently expressed opinion that it should be possible for a compromise solution to be found which would permit persons mutually acceptable to PriMin and King to be named to the positions of DefMin and Chief of Staff of Army (subject to questions of timing) and that raising of the question of the regime would be tragedy for Greece from which ultimately only the Communists would profit. This position has naturally been received with a lack of enthusiasm by those elements on both sides who hoped to win the unqualified support of US.

Last night at dinner at which ERE leaders Kanellopoulos, Papaligouras, Tsatsos, Rallis and Theotakis were present, I reflected similar views. ERE leaders were highly emotional over current situation but revealed very little evidence they had carefully considered all implications of confrontation between King and PriMin at this time.

King has been isolated in Corfu presumably depending principally upon Queen Mother, his political advisor Choidas and his long-time confidant, Major Arnaoutis, as advisors and intermediaries. In extensive conversation with Choidas June 23 reported in Embtel 1880 I expressed serious reservations as to wisdom of direct collision between Papandreou and King under current circumstances. Since that time I have twice seen him socially. On each occasion he asserted he wished to talk with me again and promised to get in touch with me, but conspicuously failed to do so. I had also expressed my own opinion clearly to General Papathanassiades, Marshal of the Court, who asserted that he entirely agreed and that he had transmitted not only his own but my views to the King.

My present feeling is that the King has acted with imprudent haste and abruptness, thereby incurring serious risk to internal stability which might possibly have been avoided. If King’s action results in establishment of relatively stable new government (presumably headed by a Center Union personality depending principally upon ERE support for its existence) without bringing EDA and the Papandreous even closer and [Page 424] without possible violence, he will have proved to be shrewder judge of the situation than I am prepared to hope.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15–1 GREECE. Secret; Limdis.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 196.
  3. Document 197.
  4. Telegram 48 from Athens, July 12, reported that during a meeting with the King, Papandreou offered a compromise that would remove Garoufalias but retain Gennimatas as Chief of Staff. The Embassy commented that the “key question now is whether PriMin will insist on holding Defense portfolio himself.” (Department of State, Central Files, POL 15–1 GREECE) Intelligence cable TCDS/DB 315/02331–65, July 9, reported that on July 8, King Constantine expressed his determination to oust Papandreou. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Robert W. Komer, 1965 Cabinet Crisis)