247. Letter From the Chargé dʼAffaires in Greece (McClelland) to the Country Director for Greek Affairs (Brewster)1

Dear Dan:

Arch and I have reapplied ourselves over the week-end to the important question raised in your letter of April 14th,2 and reiterated in your telephone call of Friday,3 of whether continuing the current U.S. policy of withholding delivery of suspended MAP items can still serve to impel the GOG to make more rapid and genuine progress toward representative government.

In summary, it is our conclusion that, whereas we can probably extract some further short-range, tactical mileage from a continuation of this policy (i.e. until a new Ambassador arrives and has been able to assess the situation, in other words, for perhaps another 3 months), we believe this would be unlikely over the longer range to have any appreciable effect on the pace and nature of internal political evolution in Greece. As was noted in NEA/GRKʼs succinct March “Memorandum for the President” on the subject of “Policy on Military Deliveries to Greece”: “the Regime clearly…is not prepared to make basic concessions in return for a lifting of the arms suspension.” Persisting with suspension would moreover retain all the inherent disadvantages of this policy.4

A second part of our conclusion—and we regard this as an important concomitant—is that by abandoning the MAP withholding policy, we do not necessarily need at the same time to abandon significant leverage over the GOG which could be exerted in other ways. We believe that this conclusion is reenforced by recent evidence, in particular the exaggerated interpretation in the controlled Greek press of the significance of Pattakosʼ visit, and to a lesser extent that of Pipinelis and General Angelis,5 to Washington, together with the disproportionate reaction to the seemingly minor Viewpoint episode,6 that it is [Page 627] not so much the intrinsic military content of the suspension policy (although this obviously plays some part) as it is the psychological evidence of political disapproval on the part of the U.S. which the withholding of arms represents, that exerts the real pressure on the GOG. It should be feasible, we think, to exercise such pressure, if perhaps less tangibly, through other means and avoid the obvious dilemma of simultaneously depriving the Greeks of the means of defending themselves which the fulfillment of their NATO commitments requires.

We therefore believe that while a restoration of the MAP items should take place after a suitable interval, it ought to be accompanied by some very specific political and psychological conditions. The principal of these is that it should be made clear to the GOG that the USG will not countenance any public acclaim of this action on their part as evidence of unqualified USG approval of the domestic political policies of the GOG. We would stipulate that when the decision is made to restore the balance of the MAP, the USG will issue a statement, as we did in October 1968,7 to the effect that this action is primarily motivated by military considerations and is unrelated to the Greek domestic political situation. The USGʼs position in this respect remains one of continuing concern and of advocating more genuine and rapid progress toward constitutional normalcy and representative government. Arch and I believe that by following this course we could retain the essential advantages of keeping the GOG under psychological pressure to improve its political performance and also avoid the various disadvantages of continuing the MAP suspension policy.

As we have all previously recognized, there are several of these of a serious practical nature: the undercutting of the military effectiveness of the Greek armed forces; prejudicing joint planning with the United States; encouraging the GOG to acquire non-compatible equipment elsewhere; the diversion of limited resources from economic development; and possibly, risking restrictions on the free use of U.S. military facilities in Greece. Even more important, we believe that shifting our pressure from the questionable grounds of withholding military equipment to the diplomatic and psychological arena would avoid the danger of alienating the Greek military leadership (i.e. Angelis, Tsoumbas, Kostakos, Margaritis and Co.). Under present conditions the only potential source of meaningful internal pressure on the GOG toward political change is the Greek armed forces. We have every interest therefore of keeping them on our side. Supplying them with the weapons [Page 628] they need to play an honorable and effective role in the defense of their national territory is an indispensable part of this aim. One of the critical aspects of the MAP withholding policy has indeed been its implicit affront to Greek military pride. If handled discriminatingly, this tactic can be effective, up to a point, but if carried too far, without really convincing justification, it could end by being seriously counterproductive. You know the arguments the Greek military put forward: “You Americans obviously fear the Russians as do we, so why do you cut off our weapons?”, or the invidious conclusion: “Your actions clearly reveal that you do not consider the Greek officer corps sufficiently trustworthy to refrain from using these weapons against their own people.” In addition, permitting the Greek military establishment to fall notably behind that of Turkey could have highly undesirable repercussions by prejudicing the current painstaking effort to improve Greek-Turkish relations.

We therefore believe that an important adjunct to the foregoing tactic would be to make clear to the Greek military leadership, as distinct from Papadopoulos & Co., that whereas we are restoring our arms deliveries in recognition of the value of Greeceʼs NATO role, this action has considerably strained domestic political tolerances in the United States and does not at all signify uncritical acceptance of the GOGʼs internal policies. The Greek military should be informed that we will accordingly continue to press for a return to constitutional government. Here one could adopt the line that the failure of Greece to return to democratic practices increases the prospect of internal political instability which, in turn, tends to make Greece a less reliable strategic ally of the U.S. and in NATO. While we shall obviously have to be very careful in any such attempt to drive a wedge, however subtly, between the Greek armed forces and the “Colonels,” it should undoubtedly be considered as a possible policy instrument.

In support of the psychological aspects of a policy of restoring the MAP and disassociating it from political performance, I have always felt, as you know, Dan (without, Iʼll admit, any very profound insight into the Greek psyche), that one is on firmer psychological grounds with a Greek in manifesting friendship and trust toward him than in treating him in a manner which casts doubt on his personal reliability. This is doubtless part of the old, if overused, business of “philotimo.”8 Having given concrete evidence of such confidence, it seems to me that one is then in a stronger position to criticize, with some expectation that the Greek will listen to, and possibly even accept such advice. At least the chances of his resenting it would appear to be less. I suspect, on the other hand, that the Greek also responds to the Middle Eastern [Page 629] “carpet trading” approach; but Iʼll have to rely on the last analysis on your superior familiarity with the Greek character to judge which technique is the best.

Another advantage of the course we recommend of restoring the MAP but also making quite clear that this does not imply acceptance, let alone approval, of the GOGʼs domestic policies, is that it would retain many of the favorable features of the old withholding policy. We should clearly begin by disabusing the proponents of the present suspension policy of the notion that withholding MAP weapons has had any appreciable effect on the ability of the GOG to carry out a policy of internal repression. The GOG has always had more than enough of the type of weapons necessary for this purpose. By making clear that the resumption of full MAP deliveries does not imply political approval, we should be able to satisfy the domestic critics of this move within the United States (i.e. in Congress, the press and the intellectual community), as well as internationally in the ranks of our NATO partners.

If anything has driven home to me, Dan, the almost pathetic eagerness of the present GOG for evidence of U.S. approval, it has been the exaggerated lengths to which their controlled press went in attempting to interpret the fact that high officials in Washington were willing politely to receive, listen, and talk to Pattakos as conclusive evidence of unequivocal U.S. acceptance of the present GOG and all its works. Conversely, the disproportionately sharp reaction over the rather minor evidence of U.S. disapproval which the publication in the USISʼs Viewpoint Bulletin of the Departmentʼs fairly mild effort to set the record straight brought home with equal force, and in a context unrelated to MAP policy, the GOGʼs acute unhappiness over any public U.S. censure. One is frankly at a loss to understand why it is that a regime which is so relatively firmly in the saddle and not seriously threatened by any organized internal or external opposition, manifests such patent insecurity. One wonders what in the world might happen were the President of the U.S., for example, to issue a resounding official condemnation of the Greek regime. This almost lends credence to Andreas Papandreouʼs contention that the junta would collapse as a result!

From our Athens vantage point we are not in a position to estimate how serious the flak would be which the Executive Branch would run into on the Hill in restoring the suspended MAP items or, indeed, how willing and able the White House might be at the present time to accept the repercussions. In the declining days of the past Administration, the Executive Branch was unwilling to incur these risks. If I recall correctly the substance of the position Mr. Katzenbach took in a memorandum to the President on the subject, the Department feared that the entire Foreign Aid bill might be jeopardized if it pressed for a restoration of full military deliveries to Greece. From what we hear [Page 630] now, however, I gather that Congressional opposition on this score is perhaps not quite so strong or vociferous as it was in the past, although weʼve had quite a spate of antagonistic press stuff of late and have not noted any reluctance on Senator Pellʼs part to jump into the fray. Yet, with the increasingly unstable condition of the Middle East, the continuing Soviet pressure on Czechoslovakia and the augmentation of the Russian fleet in the Eastern Mediterranean, I should think we could put up a strong case at this time for maintaining cooperative military relations with Greece.

I hope that these recommendations, Dan, will be of value to you in attempting to devise a workable alternative to our current unsatisfactory MAP policy toward Greece.

With all the best to you.


Roswell D. McClelland 9

P.S. I enclose an excellent memorandum of Arch Bloodʼs which serves to underpin the central recommendations of this letter and corroborate the essential arguments which I have advanced.10 George Warren, with whom this has also been discussed, is in basic agreement with our views.

  1. Source: Department of State, Greek Desk Files: Lot 75 D 227, U.S. Policy Towards Greece. Secret; Official-Informal.
  2. Not found.
  3. No record of this conversation on April 25 was found.
  4. The Department of State memorandum was not found. The President ordered a study of military aid to Greece on April 26; see Document 246.
  5. Angelis accompanied Pipinelis to Washington April 9–11. A memorandum of his conversation with the Vice President is in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL GREECE–US.
  6. This USIA publication had printed an article critical of the Greek junta.
  7. At the October 21, 1968, daily briefing, Department of State Spokesman Robert McCloskey read a statement that certain types of military aid were being restored to Greece in light of NATO requirements and recent events in Eastern Europe (a reference to the crisis in Czechoslovakia).
  8. Dignity, self-esteem, or sense of honor. Literally “love of honor.”
  9. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
  10. Attached but not printed.