265. Letter From the Ambassador to Greece (Talbot) to the Country Director for Greece (Brewster)1
As the attached memo of conversation shows,2 the King last night confirmed our suspicion that Greece is entering a new political stage. He represented himself as deadly serious in concluding that he cannot afford to risk the destruction of free Greece by permitting Andreas Papandreou to come to power. From that conclusion, if he should hold to it, there naturally would flow decisions ranging on the extreme. At least for now the King’s thinking has been narrowed to the question of whether he can stop Andreas by constitutional (or relatively constitutional) means or will be forced outside the Constitution into an extra-parliamentary government.
Perhaps optimistically, I do not regard the dialogue on his major premise as yet closed. Last night, with the Paraskevopoulos Government apparently falling round his head and with the near future even murkier than it had looked 24 hours earlier, the King seemed little interested in any general discussion of the proposition. Indeed, it is hard for us to [Page 563] argue that Greece under the Andreas that has emerged in the past year would be either a liberal democracy or firmly oriented toward the West. The signs increasingly point in another direction.
You will note that I raised enough questions to keep the door open for a later presentation of views of American Andreas-watchers. We in the Embassy will, and perhaps you in Washington can, get to work immediately on a commentary on the King’s major premise.
On his minor premise, i.e., that, however reluctantly, he might need to move to an extra-parliamentary government, I used a similar approach. My questions in this area were directed only toward pragmatic aspects: what kind and strength of opposition would be generated and how repressive would such a regime have to become? You’ll recall that in earlier talks I had emphasized to the King our generally repugnant attitude toward dictatorships, citing our foot-dragging in recognizing the new Argentine regime. He is sufficiently aware of the general American posture so that I saw little point in going over the same ground last evening.
What we need to do now is to prepare a response which can be presented to the King as the view of the United States Government. I am sure that, like us, you will ponder seriously the King’s request for assurance of United States support of moves he may feel forced to take. Nor will it be easy to frame a reply, since our record in dealing with extra-parliamentary regimes covers the broadest possible spectrum of cases, ranging from the Communist coups d’etat of the 1940’s through Pakistan in 1958 and Turkey in 1960 to the rash of authoritarian takeovers spreading across Africa in the 1960’s—not to mention Latin America. We shall of course work urgently on a draft for consideration by Washington. Naturally, the essential decisions must be made at your end.
As to the question of persuading George Papandreou to give Andreas a one-way ticket out of Greece, it is such a gloriously simple idea that I could wish it were not wholly impractical. If you have any thoughts that would moderate our sense that we can’t do anything about this one, please do let me know right away.
A word about timing: in this fast-breaking situation crucial decisions could be made almost any night in the next dozen. As of this moment (when we don’t yet know the outcome of the EK–ERE confrontation over immunities), however, it still seems more likely that the King will try to stick to the parliamentary track as long as he can until he is finally persuaded that if elections are held the Andreas forces are headed for an EK majority. Today I don’t know whether the critical moment will come in mid-May or a further interim period will carry Greece through the summer and into the autumn.
In any case, until the signals become clearer I believe the King’s request must be treated with the utmost urgency. Unless we learn over [Page 564] the weekend that a more extended time-frame will be available to us, I would hope that you can get instructions to me early in the coming week. Knowing what a demand this puts upon you, I pondered sending all this by telegram. Since pouch delivery should be very prompt, however, I concluded you would be in a better position to proceed by having the whole story at once.
As I say to my colleagues here: Well, chaps, we’re in it now!
With best wishes,