462. Memorandum From Robert W. Komer of the National Security Council Staff to President Johnson 1
George Ball returns gravely concerned over the Cyprus crisis; he regards the risks involved as second only to those of the Cuba missile crisis. Ball sees a “50/50 chance” of Greek-Turkish war if we don’t forestall it quickly.
Only two options open to us now, in Ball’s view. First we can involve the UN and seek UNSC sanction for a peacekeeping force. Since we’ve in effect withdrawn from any force, the UK seems resigned to this route. But, as Ball puts it, the Turks will move if the UN leans toward Makarios (as is likely). Moreover, the Western powers will tend to lose control, and the Soviets have a field day in the UN.
So instead Ball urges (see attached)2 a joint peacekeeping force of the guarantor powers—Greeks and Turks joining the UK. He argues that the one way to keep the Turks from acting unilaterally (and the Greeks reacting) is to have them both act together.
While Ball may be a bit alarmist about a Greek/Turk war, he’s dead right in saying Turk intervention on Cyprus could be triggered any moment—only one more incident is needed. Moreover, we’ve little to lose by trying his gambit—it limits our liability, takes the play away from the two irresponsible Cypriot communities and forestalls the UN.[Page 985]As Ball says, the Greek Cypriots might resist even agreed Turk landings—but this should be manageable.
Problem is that it may be too late either to turn off the UN or to sign on the UK and then Greece. But the threat of imminent Turk intervention may be enough to bring them around. At any rate, it seems well worth trying.
If you accept Ball’s plan, it’s imperative we move fast to: (1) short-circuit the UNSC by getting it to dump the problem back in the guarantor powers’ lap; (2) force the UK’s hand by telling them the Turks are ready to move; (3) do the same with Athens.