251. Memorandum of Conversation1
- Conversation with Dimitrios Bitsios
- Mr. Dimitrios Bitsios, Chief of the Royal Cabinet
- Mr. John Maury, First Secretary
- I had a one-hour private conversation with Dimitrios Bitsios following a dinner at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Angelos Kanellopoulos on January 28. I gained the impression that Bitsios deliberately sought me out to raise some of the matters noted below.
- He began by commenting on the recent activities of Andreas Papandreou and his friends, remarking particularly upon what he interpreted as their use of the Aspida trials to amplify their electoral campaign themes.2 Bitsios went on to say that it now seemed perfectly clear that Andreas was serving the purposes of the Communists and the Soviets, and that it was thus hard to explain the apparent American reluctance to face this fact. He added that reluctance of the Embassy to become involved in internal political controversy between the “national” parties was fully understood and accepted; but that if the U.S. was serious about resisting Soviet aggrandizement and internal Communist subversion, it should certainly be serious about countering the activities of Andreas.
- I responded that we may all have our suspicions about Andreas, but I was aware of no solid evidence of collaboration between him and the Soviets. I said that if such evidence existed we would be much interested in it. Bitsios admitted that there was no “direct” evidence, but he felt the “circumstantial” evidence was conclusive. He said he had no doubt that Andreas was receiving generous financial support from Moscow and from the KKE. When asked for details Bitsios said that money was probably being provided through Greek business firms who had lucrative contracts with the Soviets, and who, as a quid pro quo, were forced to contribute to Andreas’ coffers. Bitsios went on to reiterate that everything that Andreas had said and done demonstrated his sympathy with Communist and Soviet aims and his hostility to constitutional government in Greece and to Western unity.
Bitsios then asked what I thought the U.S. reaction would be if the “situation” required resort to “extreme measures.” I said if he were speaking of unconstitutional measures, I was confident that U.S. reaction would be extremely unfavorable. I pointed out that:
- It is our general observation around the world that unconstitutional measures rarely solve knotty political problems, and once such a course is embarked upon it is difficult to turn back.
- Whatever we may suspect of Andreas’ motives and affiliations, there is still no proof of active Communist or Soviet connections.
- However Andreas may look to us from the perspective of Athens, the fact remains that in the U.S. and perhaps in serveral other Western countries, he has influential admirers in intellectual, political and academic circles.
I added that there was the further question of whether a dictatorship could be effectively imposed in the face of the kind of strikes, violence [Page 530] and general resistance measures with which Andreas might react. Bitsios said that if a dictatorshiop were decided upon, “Andreas would not be around.” In response to my further question, Bitsios said that for the present the loyalty of the army could be relied upon to support a temporary dictatorship, but a few years hence “it might be too late.”
- I then asked Bitsios under what conditions the situation might call for “such drastic measures.” He replied that action would have to be taken, if at all, before rather than after elections. (It was not clear whether he referred to the next election or some future election from which Andreas might appear likely to emerge with an absolute majority.)
- I reiterated that whatever justification might be found here for an unconstitutional solution, I saw no way in which it could be justified in the eyes of the American public, press or political leaders. I said that if Andreas was the threat that many believed him to be, it was difficult to see why influential and responsible Greeks did not work more vigorously against him. Bitsios agreed, deploring the lack of leadership in ERE and among moderate elements in the Center.
- I asked Bitsios’ views about the possible return of former Prime Minister Karamanlis. He replied that he felt this was urgently needed “at the proper time” but was not clear on just when this would be. He did, however, go out of his way to emphasize that there is “absolutely no foundation” for rumors that Karamanlis’ return would not be welcomed by the Palace. In response to Bitsios’ question, I said the nationalist elements seemed much in need of leadership, vitality and unity; but whether Karamanlis’ return now would help to fill these needs was a question he could answer better than I.
- Source: Department of State, Greek Desk Files: Lot 69 D 553, Andreas Papandreou. Confidential. Drafted by Maury on February 1.↩
- An October 1, 1966, report on Aspida had charged Andreas Papandreou with involvement. On January 26, the court martial trying the officers accused of participating in Aspida went into secret session. The Center Union attacked this decision as a violation of the rights of the accused and as an effort by the Greek Government to cover the weakness of its case.↩