443. Memorandum by Robert W. Komer of the National Security Council Staff1



Whether or not the US joins an allied force, we’re almost compelled to take a major role in finding a Cyprus solution. This is because only we have the power (and aid leverage) to influence Athens and Ankara. UK can’t force a settlement precisely because it lacks this power. And even if we stood aside and let the issue go to UN we’d be blamed by Greeks and Turks (or both) for whatever we let happen.

Moreover, Cyprus is of major strategic interest to us, because of its highly strategic location, US and UK bases, and fact of our closest allies being so emotionally involved.

We can only get UK to stay in if we participate in some way. UK is determined either to share this problem with us, or dump it on UN.

Dumping Cyprus into UN is worst solution because Communists and Afro-Asians will all buy in and force a settlement to our disadvantage and that of Greeks and Turks too. Only beneficiaries will be Makarios and the Communists. And we’ll have to take a stand in UN too.

For all these reasons the US cannot really avoid being drawn into the Cyprus affair. Indeed I feel we and UK let the problem drift until too late. We had plenty of warning, and if we’d tried preventive diplomacy we might not be in present fix. But this is water over the dam. Now the situation calls for quick US action. But the real issue is “what kind of action?”
An “allied” peacekeeping force, including US, would tend to forestall more shooting on Cyprus, and block Turk intervention. But it might not help move settlement closer because the very threat of Turk intervention is what is restraining the Greek Cypriots from demanding the whole loaf. So unless we’re prepared to apply real muscle (perhaps getting Greeks and/or Turks very unhappy with us), we might be on Cyprus for many moons.
On other hand, tensions are so high on Cyprus that without a larger UK, UN, or allied peacekeeping force, fighting could break out again. If so, Turks would almost certainly intervene (so their Cypriots [Page 953] wouldn’t be massacred). Then Greeks would move, though I personally doubt regular Turk and Greek forces would actually go to war (we could probably stop this by threatening to cut off all aid).
The best course I see is to prepare for prompt “allied” intervention if necessary, but meanwhile try an all-out diplomatic effort to forestall this need:
Make all preparations for quickest entry of “allied” peacekeeping force if tragedy looms. Promise UK we’ll act in this case (which should calm them).
Put maximum diplomatic pressure on Turks, Greeks, and Greek Cypriots to accept in principle Sandys’ compromise solution, arguing that it really gives both sides what they want. Why shouldn’t some higher degree of local Turk Cypriot autonomy be acceptable to Greek Cypriots? I doubt that we could get early agreement, but at least we might be able to get both sides talking again. We could send Ball or Harriman on a quick trip to area for this purpose—authorized to lay it on the line. The very presence of our man in the area would be a factor for restraint, as everyone would be waiting to see how he came out.

The above course would both prepare for the worst, and not jump the gun until absolutely essential. The risks are that fighting would break out before we got there, or that Makarios would rush to the UN. But both risks seem acceptable to me on present reading.

R.W. Komer 2
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Cyprus, Vol. 2. Secret.
  2. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.