255. Letter From the Chargé dʼAffaires in Greece (McClelland) to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Rockwell)1

Dear Stuart:

I have understandably been doing some thinking lately about Ambassador Tascaʼs forthcoming arrival and the conduct of our relations with Greece thereafter. Since I know youʼll be involved in briefing him, and since the Greek NSC papers on which Alfred [Vigderman], and others, have been working in NEA/GRK strike me as having become unnecessarily tortuous and complicated, I thought perhaps it might be helpful to share my own, somewhat less complex thoughts with you.

There are two facets to the matter: policy and tactics. Under policy, as you well know, the two main issues are: the nature of our future military assistance to Greece, and constitutional advancement within the country. On the policy side, I continue to believe rather strongly that our best course would be to de-link military assistance from the question of internal political progress. For having examined the issue pretty exhaustively, I believe that the advantages of this course considerably outweigh the disadvantages, and that it should be possible to overcome the latter. The most compelling argument, to my mind, is that the MAP suspension policy has not been successful and has not produced the political evolution it was intended to promote. It helped, perhaps, at the outset, to prod the Junta into drafting the new Constitution; but there has been almost no genuine forward movement since that time.

Continuing the suspension, on the other hand, has had a number of increasingly adverse consequences. The most obvious one is that it progressively undermines the credibility of the Greek millitary deterrent in NATO. Less apparent, perhaps, is its tendency to alienate ranking Greek military officers whose good-will we may well need at some future stage of developments here. Although Greek “philotimo” is a frequently overdone national trait, it is nonetheless true that denying responsible Greek officers the weapons they need to fulfill their NATO obligations (which they take seriously), including the invidious implication they canʼt be trusted not to use them internally on the Greek people, has a particularly devastating psychological effect. General Angelis is a strong case in point. In my brief experience of dealing with [Page 642] Greeks, one of the most important things is to manifest friendliness, if not affection, toward them. If this sort of rapport has been established, it is then possible to be much more critical with a correspondingly greater chance that such criticism will be heeded and accepted. Another element of this equation which is seldom mentioned is the risk of allowing the Turkish MAP to get disproportionately out of line with the Greek one. The continued suspension of tanks, in particular, is having this result. The potentially adverse impact of this state of affairs on Greek-Turkish relations, and on the Cyprus problem, needs no elaboration. The Greeks donʼt mention this one (nor do the various “pro” and “con” lists drafted in Washington), but itʼs unmistakably in the back of their minds. Having very closely escaped the disaster of a Greek-Turkish conflict over Cyprus in November 1967,2 we cannot afford to relax on this score.

Naturally there are “cons” to adopting a policy of restoring the suspended MAP items. The most serious of these, in my view, is the U.S. domestic political one. Youʼll recall, Stuart, that when the issue of whether to restore the balance of the Greek MAP came up at the tail end of the Johnson Administration, the decision not to do so was based on the fear that if we took such action the opponents of the present GOG on the Hill would vote against the entire Foreign Aid Bill. We accordingly adopted the “intensive review” gambit weʼve been using ever since. We in Athens do not have enough of a feel for the power relationships between the present Administration and the Congress to judge whether a comparable situation exists now with respect to Greece.

I fully recognize that restoring the MAP for Greece will have to be accompanied by some form of continued pressure on the GOG to improve its constitutional performance, not only because we believe that this is an intrinsically desirable course if Greece is to achieve political stability, but because we must maintain a satisfactory modus vivendi with the democratic opponents of the present GOG within Greece, in our own Congress, and in key NATO circles. Although I hope to obtain some clarification of this aspect of the problem from Ambassador Ellsworth when he visits us at the end of this week,3 Iʼm inclined to doubt that restoring the MAP would create serious, or at least insurmountable, difficulties in NATO. The primary purpose of this Organization, after all, is to maintain an effective defensive alliance in which [Page 643] Greece, willy-nilly, continues to play a necessary role. I can hardly imagine that responsible NATO member governments like the British, the Germans, and certainly the French, would tax us too severely for contributing to adequate Greek military preparedness, however unsatisfactory a government the country may have.

A U.S. decision to restore the full Greek MAP will unquestionably have to be matched by a parallel decision to make clear to the GOG that this move is based essentially on military and strategic considerations, and does not signify U.S. approval of their internal policies. (The formula we used in October 1968 of “remaining no less interested in constitutional progress” is still a perfectly useable one, in my view.) There will be no problem about doing this privately in conversation between Ambassador Tasca and Prime Minister Papadopoulos, or between the Ambassador and other ranking members of the Junta. The trick will be to get this key point over to the internal Greek Opposition and to the exercised parties in our Congress and in NATO. This might well call for a public statement, depending on whether the GOG tries to distort the significance of the decision. Or if we donʼt want to go this far, there are several other means (press backgrounders, planted queries, etc.) of disseminating our position. I would personally favor a somewhat bolder and firmer stand in this respect than we have taken in the past, for, despite our frequent assertions that we continue to “press” the GOG to make democratic progress, the pressure has been largely private and pretty mild. In sum, it should not exceed our ingenuity to devise some formula which would achieve the twin purpose of getting out from under the disadvantages of continuing the MAP suspension, and at the same time of indicating forcefully that the type of friendly and cooperative relations between Greece and the United States which we desire will continue to depend on further movement in Greece toward representative government. This would be easier to do, I think, if we had signified our confidence in them militarily.

Let me turn briefly now to the tactical side of the picture. I think itʼs very important that Ambassador Tasca be given the maximum leverage from the outset; and even if a decision to restore the MAP should have been taken before he arrives in Athens, this ought to be withheld temporarily from the GOG. He should indicate to them early in his talks that the final decision on this important matter will depend on the recommendations he makes to the President and Secretary of State after he has had an opportunity to review the whole question sur place. I believe the Ambassador ought, however, to be in a position to assure the Greeks that a definite decision will be reached by some specific, early date, such as December 1. I have serious misgivings about trying to string the GOG along much further, and certainly not beyond the end of the year at the latest. I would suppose, incidentally, that the business of Ambassador Tascaʼs confirmation by the Senate, (given Senator [Page 644] Fulbrightʼs pronouncement), may tend to speed up the process of reaching an Executive Branch decision on the MAP question.

While I have no particular illusions that a tactic of this sort will produce notably greater political progress on the part of the GOG, it could serve to force Papadopoulos & Co. to improve somewhat on the constitutional timetable the GOG recently submitted to the Council of Europe.4 Although it is not yet clear whether the GOG, if the initiative fails (which it apparently will), will maintain this timetable for use in other contexts, I think they probably will do so since the Junta is no less anxious, and probably even more so, to conciliate the United States than the Council of Europe. In many ways, their relationship to the U.S. is more important to them than their relationship to an essentially parliamentary, and hence rhetorical body, like the Strasbourg organization. We should also not overlook the GOGʼs concomitant offer, (related to Article 3 of the Human Rights Convention),5 to permit free access by the ICRC to political detainees in Greece. It is curious that this almost equally significant offer was not conveyed to us (when Grigoriades came to see the Secretary) along with the constitutional timetable but seems to have been limited mainly to Bonn. If they make good on this matter alone, it could go a long way toward improving their shabby public image in the United States and in Western Europe. I hope you will accept these views and recommendations for what they are, Stuart: an effort to focus attention as precisely as possible on the key issues which will confront Ambassador Tasca when he takes over the management of our relations in Athens. As you know, I myself have exercised pretty much of a holding brief during this interim period, but I believe it is time we came more actively to grips with the problem. Iʼm afraid that from a personal standpoint, our new Ambassadorʼs job is not going to be either an easy or a particularly pleasant one. But he is happily a skilled professional, and this will be a great advantage.

What steps in the right direction we can prod this unattractive government into taking will be small, slow and unsatisfactory at best, but I think itʼs the only course open to us since we clearly do not propose to adopt either of the extreme courses of attempting actively to displace them or of accepting them as they are. As is so often the case in our trade, the result has to be a compromise.

With my warm personal regards.


  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL GREECE–US. Secret; Official–Informal. A copy was sent to Vigderman.
  2. For documentation, see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XVI, Cyprus; Greece; Turkey, Documents 285322.
  3. In a September 26 letter to Vigderman, McClelland reported: “Weʼre in the midst of Ambassador Ellsworthʼs visit. He got a load of General Angelis this morning and had a good talk with Pipinelis later.” (Department of State, Greek Desk Files: Lot 71 D 509, Correspondence To and From Athens)
  4. Pipinelis presented the timetable on August 25. It called for a multi-stage reintroduction of basic liberties to be completed with the election of a new parliament in mid-1971.
  5. For text, signed September 3, 1953, see 213 UNTS 221.