256. Minutes of the National Security Council Review Group Meeting1


  • Military Assistance to Greece (NSSM 52)


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
    • William I. Cargo
    • Donald McHenry
    • Stuart W. Rockwell
  • Defense
    • G. Warren Nutter
  • CIA
    • Edward W. Proctor
  • JCS
    • LTG F. T. Unger
  • OEP
    • Haakon Lindjord
  • USIA
    • Frank Shakespeare
  • Treasury
    • Anthony Jurich
  • NSC Staff
    • Harold H. Saunders
    • Robert E. Osgood
    • Jeanne W. Davis


  • —Mr. Saunders should prepare a summary paper2 which would project two courses:

    • 1. Continue present policy, or
    • 2. Resume military deliveries.

    If latter, consider two general approaches:

    a quid pro quo approach which would lift the embargo as the Greek regime takes steps toward constitutional government; or
    resumption of full deliveries while avoiding public endorsement of the present regime.
    • —Scenarios will be prepared showing how Options 2a and 2b would work in practice.
    • —This paper will be circulated to the Review Group members who will decide whether it may be cleared for transmittal to the President for his decision or whether an NSC meeting should be held on the issue.

Mr. Kissinger opened the meeting, saying we have both a bureaucratic and a substantive problem. The bureaucratic problem was whether this issue need go to the NSC or whether, following the Review Group discussion, we could submit a memorandum to the President, subject of course to the right of appeal. He described the situation in which the U.S. has delivered $100 million in equipment under grant assistance, plus $47 million in excess stocks and $36 million in sales. We have suspended military items amounting to $52.6 million.

General Unger commented that that was generally correct.

Mr. Rockwell pointed out that we have not, in fact, made $36 million in sales.

Mr. Kissinger asked what we are proving by withholding the $52.6 million worth of equipment.

Mr. Rockwell said that following the coup we were uncertain where the new regime was heading. We were concerned about the possibility that tanks marked with American flags might be paraded through the streets of Athens by what might turn out to be a fascist government. We had arbitrarily decided to continue to furnish some spare parts and ordnance items but to hold back major items of heavy equipment including tanks, aircraft, etc. We later came to envisage the suspension of these items as a means of pressuring the government toward a more constitutional situation. He noted this had not been particularly effective.

(Mr. Kissinger was called from the meeting at this point and returned 10 minutes later. During his absence there was a general discussion of the source of the $36 million figure for sales and of possible alternative sites for U.S. bases in the Mediterranean. When he returned, Mr. Rockwell resumed.)

Mr. Rockwell said at the time of the Czech crisis3 when we were calling on our NATO allies for support, it was decided to release to Greece some military equipment directly related to its NATO responsibilities. Some equipment was still held back so as not to foreclose the [Page 647] options of the new administration and also because of concern over congressional attitudes.

Mr. Kissinger asked why should Congress object more to release of the $52.6 million worth of equipment than they had to the $100 million worth—was it because the former included tanks?

Mr. Rockwell thought provision of this equipment was considered symbolic of the U.S. attitude toward the present regime. Those members of Congress hostile to the regime have made maintenance of the embargo a symbol of the U.S. attitude, which had had significant influence on both sides in US-Greek relations. He thought personally it would have been simpler to release all suspended items at the time of the Czech invasion.

Mr. Kissinger asked if the program goes on year after year—is it voted on year after year? How would provision of the items be noted in the Congress?

General Unger replied that there is a requirement to report deliveries of such equipment.

Mr. Rockwell said Senator Pell plans to introduce legislation that no new funds should be authorized for Greece this year on the grounds that there was ample money in the pipeline.

Mr. Kissinger asked if any other country had been treated in this way. Have we ever before used military assistance program to reform governments? Is there any precedent that military assistance is reserved for constitutional governments?

Mr. Cargo and others cited the withholding of arms from India and Pakistan, acknowledging that this was during an actual war situation, and the situation in Peru.

Mr. Rockwell noted that the State Department opposed Senator Pellʼs resolution.

Mr. Kissinger commented that we do not give military aid to support governments but because a country is important to the U.S. He asked if the equipment is needed by Greece.

General Unger replied that it was.

Mr. Rockwell agreed that Greek implementation of its NATO program was held back by the fact that this equipment had been withheld.

Mr. Nutter noted animosity toward Greece among NATO countries, citing the attempt to throw Greece out of the Council of Europe, based partly on the preamble to the NATO Treaty which refers to “democratic governments,” etc.

Mr. Cargo noted that this was more a question of NATO governments reacting to political presures than any feeling about the preamble. He agreed anti-Greek sentiment existed in Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands and, to a lesser extent, in Italy and the UK.

[Page 648]

Mr. Shakespeare suggested that, in line with the Presidentʼs regional policy, we might ask NATO to review the military assistance to Greece to determine whether or not it is essential.

Mr. Cargo objected that that would be a highly divisive action in NATO in this context. He thought this was generally done as a part of NATO planning activity in determining force goals. He thought this would lead to an awful row in NATO.

Mr. Rockwell confirmed that it would be putting our friends in an extremely awkward position.

Mr. Cargo added that NATO was a political instrumentality which would not produce dispassionate judgments on a matter of this kind.

Mr. Kissinger asked if this equipment was required from a military point of view.

Gen. Unger and Mr. Nutter replied that it was, and Mr. Cargo added that MAP does not even meet minimal Greek priorities.

Mr. Kissinger asked if this was a one-shot problem or a continuing problem.

Mr. Rockwell noted that of course the funds were appropriated each year and Mr. Cargo added that the political issue would arise each time.

Mr. Kissinger noted that he had been horror-stricken in the Middle East Contingency Planning exercise to learn that Greece was the only possible staging site in the Mediterranean. He asked if we were jeopardizing this by holding up these items.

Mr. Rockwell thought that the Greeks would probably not deny U.S. access to Greek facilities on the grounds that they count on us for support and that their NATO position is dependent on U.S. assistance. They would be removing a prop that they count on for their security.

Mr. Kissinger pointed out that Italy relies on us but denies us transit rights for the Phantom aircraft being delivered to Israel.

Mr. Rockwell acknowledged that the Greeks might react with one specific incident.

Mr. Kissinger asked if the Greeks might confine U.S. use of their facilities to NATO purposes. General Unger agreed it could happen.

Mr. Shakespeare asked what our situation would be in the Mediterranean in the worst circumstances.

General Unger replied we would have to rely on Turkey.

Mr. Shakespeare asked what the alternative to Turkey would be.

General Unger replied “none.” Mr. Nutter added possibly Cyprus for communications.

Mr. Shakespeare noted that the left in Turkey would likely be inhospitable to the U.S. If Tunis and Wheelus go we would be down to the short hair.

[Page 649]

General Unger agreed that the security interest is paramount.

Mr. Kissinger asked if State agreed with this and Mr. Cargo and Mr. Rockwell replied that they did.

Mr. Kissinger asked if it was true that most members of the Group were in favor of resumption of deliveries if we can find a non-costly way to do so.

Mr. Rockwell noted that, although Secretary Rogers had not focussed personally on the issue, he thought State would generally favor resumption and that the question was how it should be done.

Mr. Cargo agreed.

Mr. Kissinger asked if we could eliminate options 1 (cut off all military aid and mount a campaign for return to democratic government) and 3 (continue present policy).4 He thought the President would not consider option 1.

Mr. Cargo said the consequences of Option 1 would be quite serious particularly in NATO.

Mr. Rockwell confirmed that State would not advocate Option 1 which he thought would greatly increase the chances of real danger to U.S. interests. He thought, however, that some Congressional opponents, some newspapers including the New York Times, and even some in government would advocate Option 1. With regard to Option 3 he said we had been continuing our present policy in the absence of any decision to do otherwise.

Mr. Kissinger said the President then has two real choices: to continue present policy or to resume military deliveries and, in the latter event, he could choose between Options 2,5 4 and 5.6 He asked if the paper states well the arguments for and against various options. All [Page 650] replied ‘yes’ except for Mr. Shakespeare who thought the paper did not state clearly enough the potential danger to U.S. interests in the Mediterranean.

General Unger submitted an additional paragraph for insertion on page 2 of the paper immediately preceding the paragraph headed “Security Interests,” which gave more emphasis to this point.

Mr. Kissinger asked if the major argument for continuing present policy is that it gives us a lever on the existing government.

Mr. Rockwell agreed, saying also this was less painful to NATO. It was, however, opposed by some of the more vociferous members of the Congress and by Greek opponents of the regime.

Mr. Kissinger asked if there wasnʼt a risk that we would wind up by alienating everyone. That if we give them a substantial amount of military aid the opposition would protest while the Junta would consider we were discriminating against them.

Mr. Rockwell admitted that if we turn on the supply of tanks and heavy equipment it would be considered a sign of approval of the Greek government; however, he thought our security interests outweighed this disadvantage.

Mr. Cargo noted that the NATO problem was not too serious. NATO attitudes would not result in less support for Greece since the other NATO countries did not give assistance to Greece in any event.

General Unger commented that the NATO countries think Greece is a greater advantage to the U.S. than it is to NATO. He thought they looked on Greek and Turkish accession to NATO as a U.S. gift.

Mr. Shakespeare asked what the effect of Karamanlisʼ recent statement would be.7

Mr. Rockwell said that we would have to wait to see what the political influence would be of Karamanlisʼ call on the military to overthrow the present government, particularly if the King should join such a move. He noted that the government has banned publication of Karamanlisʼ statement and that the Prime Minister has called a press conference.

Mr. Shakespeare noted that the VOA would have to cover the Karamanlis story if its credibility were not to be completely shot in Greece.

Mr. Kissinger asked if this could be done on a one-shot basis, and Mr. Shakespeare replied that it could.

[Page 651]

Mr. Rockwell thought that the regime would not be shaken to any real degree by the Karamanlis statement and General Unger noted that the possibility of a military takeover was considered in about the fourth order of probability.

Mr. Rockwell thought Karamanlisʼ statement would have most effect on the older members of the army who were fairly well isolated in any event. He commented that one reason for Karamanlisʼ action is the fear of the erosion of his own position as the regime becomes more entrenched.

Mr. Kissinger commented that Karamanlisʼ natural appeal is not to the army.

Mr. Rockwell noted there was some discontent in the army but it was not a major issue.

Mr. Kissinger asked how we would go about implementing Option 2.

Mr. Rockwell thought this would depend a great deal on the relationship which our new Ambassador would be able to establish with the Prime Minister and the government. He thought they might cooperate with a view to easing the problems step by step.

Mr. Kissinger asked if the Greek government could afford to admit that they were changing their policies under U.S. pressure.

Mr. Rockwell replied that the government was already committed to return to constitutional government but they were in fact not meeting their stated timetable. He thought the success of Option 2 would depend on the powers of persuasion of our Ambassador.

Mr. Kissinger asked, “and if he does not succeed?”

Mr. Rockwell replied we would then have to decide whether to continue to withhold or release the suspended items.

Mr. Cargo asked if, once we had made the pitch, the Greeks do not respond, can we in fact resume deliveries?

Mr. Rockwell thought that if, indeed, the effort is a failure there would still be no reason why we could not release the equipment.

Mr. Kissinger asked if we would then be going through the option 2 exercise to quiet American domestic opinion.

Mr. Rockwell said we would be attempting to use the leverage we had to bring about advantageous political change.

Mr. Kissinger said that if, in fact, aid is given in U.S. security interests, and the result of option 2 would be no aid, we would be hurting ourselves.

Mr. Rockwell thought we might be postponing delivery of aid but it would probably eventually go, depending on the Ambassadorʼs view at the time.

[Page 652]

Mr. Kissinger commented that option 2 would be an effort rather than a precise quid pro quo policy. If it fails we would probably still resume. In this regard he thought option 4 was more threatening than option 2.

General Unger thought option 4 would give the Ambassador a chance to establish rapport with the government and that it would in fact encourage the government to help us. He cited the question of F4 flights to Israel.

Mr. Kissinger asked if there were a real difference between options 2 and 4.

General Unger replied that under option 2 we might release one-third of the equipment for one Greek step, two-thirds for a second Greek step, etc.

Mr. Shakespeare commented that this would create eternal haggling over the adequacy of the steps, the timing, etc. Mr. Cargo agreed.

Mr. Kissinger asked about the time period for withholding aid. General Unger replied possibly two years, commenting that Greece and Turkey really needed the aid on a yearly basis.

Mr. Cargo thought we would get in an awful box by giving aid and then taking it away. He thought relations would deteriorate drastically.

Mr. Kissinger asked why we should go through the exercise. He thought we could not resume aid without telling someone, including the Greeks, that it is conditional. If we canʼt tell anyone, then we might as well resume, with the understanding that we could always stop. Option 4 gives us a chance to tell people of the conditional nature of the resumption. Can the Greek government accept such pressure either in a public statement or in private bilateral discussions? If the government did not move quickly, would we have an obligation to stop the program? Under Option 2 the $52.6 million could trickle out. Under Option 4 he asked if the idea were to get the equipment as quickly as possible before all hell breaks loose. Once it is there, then what is there to cut off?

Mr. Nutter replied that we could of course cut off future military assistance.

Mr. Kissinger asked why not Option 2 or 5 if we wanted to go the reform route?

General Unger replied that he personally favored Option 5.

Mr. Cargo said Option 5 was unrealistic in the sense of refraining from public comment. If you do it, it would be necessary to stress U.S. security interests both to the public and to NATO. We would have to make it clear both publicly and privately to the Greeks that resumption does not constitute approval of the present regime. This would, however, fall short of saying “shape up.”

[Page 653]

Mr. Rockwell commented that releasing the equipment without quid pro quos would be inconsistent with U.S. policy. It would not be good for our image to say that we did not urge return to constitutional government.

Mr. Nutter agreed this would produce a yearly Congressional threat.

Mr. Rockwell commented in this regard that the present Greek government is probably not permanent.

Mr. Kissinger thought this suggested Option 2. He thought the trouble with Option 4 was that in order to justify release of the equipment we may have to say things that would be more galling to the Greeks than under Option 2.

Mr. Jurich asked if under Option 2 we would specify the stages of desired improvements to the Congress? He thought this would not stop Congressional criticism since the criticism was not that rational.

Mr. Rockwell replied that if the Greeks took certain steps, we would release the equipment regardless of Congressional criticism.

Mr. Jurich asked if, given the irrational nature of the Congressional objection, would we not be better off without giving them specifics?

Mr. Shakespeare thought Option 2 was interesting in theory but would be hard to handle. He thought the public relations implications would be difficult and there would be constant arguing whether or not the Greeks had done what they were supposed to do. He thought we were in effect asking the regime to bring itself down.

Mr. Rockwell agreed that all alternatives had some disadvantages and it was a question of which had the least.

Mr. Kissinger said he did not think we should pass on options which the President would not consider and asked if he could exercise this prerogative in not passing option 1 to the President. He pointed out, of course, that any principal officer could present the President directly with this option if he chose. He suggested preparation of a summary paper for Review Group clearance which would project two courses: (1) continue present policy, and (2) resume military deliveries in some fashion. If the latter course were accepted, there would be two general approaches. It would help the President make up his mind if we had a more precise description of these approaches.

Mr. Saunders suggested we could take Options 2 and 5 and prepare a scenario for our Ambassador.

Mr. Jurich asked if, under Option 5, we would refrain from public comment.

Mr. Cargo thought this was unrealistic.

Mr. Kissinger thought our comment could be that we give military assistance to Greece for U.S. interests, not Greek interests, noting [Page 654] that we give aid to Yugoslavia but do not necessarily approve of the government.

Mr. Cargo thought some public comment would be required to the effect that we were giving military aid to further U.S. military or security interests in the Mediterranean and that it does not mean we approve of the regime. We would continue privately to urge steps toward representative government.

Mr. Kissinger commented that, in fact, the latter point would be none of our business.

Mr. Cargo confirmed that we would do this only privately.

Mr. Kissinger said we could take the position that we prefer to give assistance to governments we approve of, and that we do not approve of the present Greek regime, however, military assistance to Greece is in our interests.

Mr. Nutter thought under Option 5 we could merely avoid endorsement of the regime.

Mr. Rockwell thought the President need only approve the principle and need not approve the words used.

Mr. Kissinger agreed, but thought the President would want to consider how strong a statement we should make. He asked Mr. Saunders to prepare a summary along the lines discussed and circulate it to members of the Review Group, then we could either decide that the President could make a decision on the basis of the paper or that we should use the first half-hour of an early NSC meeting to discuss the issue. He asked if this were satisfactory.

Mr. Rockwell remarked that Secretary Rogers had not yet been personally involved in the paper.

Mr. Kissinger assured him that the Secretary would, of course, see the paper and that if he wished an NSC meeting it would of course be held.

Mr. Cargo agreed to this procedure.

Mr. Kissinger said we would then have the basic paper and a summary which would pose the questions of continue present policy or resume deliveries, and if we resume deliveries, how do we do it.

Mr. Rockwell thought that no one at the table had said we should continue present policy. He thought the consensus of the group was that our security interests require resumption of deliveries.

Mr. Shakespeare thought that the Congressional stir would be so great that we should carefully consider the timing of resumption, particularly with regard to any upcoming votes.

Mr. Saunders noted the page on Congressional attitudes in the basic paper and suggested we might ask for an elaboration.

[Page 655]

Mr. Cargo agreed that the timing would have to be carefully considered but asked if this need go to the President.

Mr. Kissinger suggested we might give the Under Secretaries Committee a crack at this issue and that a brief operational scenario could be attached to the paper.

Mr. Nutter asked for a review of the mechanics.

Mr. Kissinger confirmed that the summary paper would come back to the Review Group members for clearance. They could either clear the summary for transmittal to the President for decision or could indicate their desire for NSC discussion. He confirmed that he had no interest one way or the other.

Mr. Cargo suggested State might indicate which option was favored by the Secretary. He also suggested that Option 5 be modified to include reference to an appropriate public statement that the U.S. action does not constitute endorsement of the present Greek government.

Mr. Jurich commented we should not use NATO interests as an argument.

Mr. Cargo agreed.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–109, NSC Minutes, Originals, 1969. Secret; Nodis. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room.
  2. See Document 257.
  3. Reference is to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia August 20–21, 1968.
  4. Reference is to options B and A in the approved paper (NSCIG/NEA 69–35) submitted by the Chairman of the NSC Interdepartmental Group for Near East and South Asia to Kissinger on September 26. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1235, Saunders Chronological File, Greek Military Supply, 1/20/69–12/31/69)
  5. Kissinger is apparently referring to Option C in NSCIG/NEA 69–35: “A Two-Pronged Orchestrated Quid Pro Quo Policy.” Release of specific U.S. military equipment would be linked to specific steps taken by the Greek regime toward the restoration of representative government.
  6. Kissinger is apparently referring to Option D in NSCIG/NEA 69–35, “Temporary Lifting of the Arms Embargo.” It differed from Option C in that it allowed the embargo to be re-introduced if Greece did not make measured progress toward democracy. Option 5 is presumably Option A of NSCIG/NEA 69–35, “Continuation of Present Policy,” withholding major military aid while maintaining a “cool but correct relationship with the Greek regime.” This option contemplated privately urging the Greek authorities to make good on their promises of returning to a more normal political situation without endangering the U.S. military facilities in Greece by “pushing the Greek regime into a corner.”
  7. On September 30 Karamanlis issued a statement calling for the overthrow of the junta and expressed his willingness to head an interim government. For text, see Greece Under the Junta, pp. 116–118.