244. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Call on the Secretary by King Constantine of the Hellenes—U.S.-Greek Relations


  • His Majesty King Constantine of the Hellenes
  • Ambassador Leonidas Papagos, Marshal of the Court
  • The Secretary
  • Suart W. Rockwell, Deputy Assistant Secretary for NEA
  • H. Daniel Brewster, Country Director for Greece

The Secretary asked the King for his assessment of the situation in Greece and prospects for its future. The King described the steps he had taken while in Greece to move the GOG toward constitutionalism. He underlined the fact that he had never signed the decree abolishing the 1951 constitution and had insisted on the early appointment of a drafting committee for a new constitution made up of eminent jurists. The constitution had been voted on by referendum in September 1968 but no date for elections has been fixed. The Regent was appointed for a period until elections were held or until the King returned on the basis of an agreement with the Greek Government.

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The King then briefly described his meeting on March 31 with Deputy Prime Minister Pattakos which had taken place at the Greek Embassy. In response to Mr. Pattakosʼ statement that the King should not press for his return to Greece, the latter had replied he was not pushing for this, but thought he and the government should now start talking about the future of Greece. The King was surprised to hear Mr. Pattakos say that it was not possible for the Greek Government representatives to meet with the King because if this became public the government would be overthrown. The King had nonetheless asked Mr. Pattakos to tell Prime Minister Papadopoulos that he still felt it would be useful for the two of them to meet. The King observed that the Prime Minister was under the strong control of the younger officers in the junta. The King also sensed that the Prime Minister was worried as to what the younger officers might do if Papadopoulous should win any eventual elections.

The Secretary asked for the Kingʼs views on what the U.S. attitude should be towards the Greek Government. The King responded that the U.S. should keep up strong pressures for constitutional evolution, because if there was no pressure on the Greek Government, it would just play for time, stay in power a long while, and continue the process of removing senior army officers. It would also take advantage of any opportunity to enhance its image, such as the fact that the President had had a private meeting with Mr. Pattakos at the White House reception but not with himself.

The Secretary noted that there was a limit as to what the USG should and could do in this regard. The USG had repeatedly been asked to become involved on different sides of international problems, (e.g., the Nigerian-Biafran issue) and the USG was very reluctant to do this. It would be inappropriate to become involved in what was a domestic matter. The Secretary continued that the USG respects the Kingʼs role as Chief of State and the importance of having a strong Greece as a member of the NATO alliance. This stance poses a dilemma for the United States on the issue of deliveries of military equipment to Greece.

The King stated that the Greek Government needs the equipment both for military strength and also for psychological reasons. He suggested the USG tell the Greek Government that it should either implement the constitution fully or there would be no military aid. He added that the Greek Government is extremely sensitive to United States views. Such a posture on military aid would also help the rest of the army who would then realize that the USG meant to link constitutional evolution to military aid.

The Secretary responded that we would be reluctant to tie our assistance to a NATO partner strictly to Greeceʼs internal affairs. He added, however, that we had made clear to Greek Government officials that [Page 622] we expected progress on implementing the Greek constitution and restoring civil liberties and that this had been our posture for the past 23 months.

Mr. Rockwell said that the question of the relationship between the King and the Greek Government was obviously a significant factor in the Greek problem. With regard to our military aid policy, it looked as if the Greek Government was not prepared to give up the essence of its position in exchange for military equipment. The Greek Government believes it has a mission to accomplish and does not seem prepared to make basic adjustments in its policies simply to obtain military aid. It is proceeding at its own speed. Mr. Rockwellʼs personal view was that pressures from within Greece would require the Greek Government in time to adjust its policies in a desirable manner. This would not happen overnight, and was something to be worked out between Greeks, including the King and the Government. The United States could not do this. The King dissented, saying that in another year the Governmentʼs control would be so tight that it could act as it pleased toward the Greek people. Only United States pressure could prevent this.

The Secretary noted that it was very difficult to put the question of MAP deliveries bluntly in terms of “either you do what we want or you do not receive MAP.” We wanted to see Greece progress to constitutionalism but at the same time did not want to see Greece weakened militarily as a NATO ally. Although we had a basic interest in political evolution and constitutional development in Greece, we questioned whether our voice could be decisive in achieving these objectives. It was our policy not to intervene in domestic matters of this sort, and it must be for the King and the Greek Government to work out the political future of Greece.

The King said he now understood our policy and if this had been made clear to him when he was in Washington in September 19672 he might not have undertaken his action of December 13 and would have instead stayed in Greece to continue influencing the government. He went on to say that he was in touch with other Greek leaders abroad about steps to move things back to political normalcy. He hoped that whatever decision was reached by the USG regarding U.S. policy in dealing with the Greek Government, and particularly on the question of military deliveries, might be conveyed to him. He wanted to be sure to be in step with whatever the USG was planning because his actions would be affected in large measure by the United States stance. The [Page 623] Secretary noted this request but made no commitment that it would be feasible to meet it.3

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL GREECE–US. Secret; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Brewster and approved in S on April 7. King Constantine and Pattakos both attended the funeral of former President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Pattakos was the official representative of the Greek Government. In a March 29 memorandum to Kissinger, Walsh noted “that the Kingʼs visit to the United States carried the enthusiastic endorsement of Foreign Minister Pipinelis. We therefore see no alternative to Constantineʼs being accorded the treatment appropriate to his position, which is that of Chief of State of Greece.” (Ibid., POL 6–2 US/EISENHOWER)
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XVI, Cyprus; Greece; Turkey, Document 301.
  3. In an April 4 memorandum for the files, Brewster noted a “delicate matter” that the King raised with Rogers. The King expressed deep regret that he was not given a private audience with President Nixon, like all other heads of state at the EISENHOWER funeral. Complicating the situation, Pattakos had a private meeting with the President. The King told Rogers of “the great psychological problems the Greeks were having these days, and the control being exercised by the Greek Government.” The King regretted that the Greek people would read significance into the Presidentʼs slight against him. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 15–1 GREECE)