263. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Presentation of Credentials by Greek Ambassador


  • The President
  • Ambassador Emil Mosbacher, Chief of Protocol
  • Rodger P. Davies, Deputy Assistant Secretary, NEA
  • H.E. Basil Vitsaxis, Ambassador of Greece

The President welcomed Ambassador Vitsaxis and noted American admiration for Greece as well as real concern over certain internal problems. The President noted that he had visited Greece three times, most recently in 1967, and was aware of the antecedents of the present situation. The United States could not involve itself in Greek internal affairs; it was with Greek international relations and our own bilateral relations that we were properly concerned. If Greece could solve some of its internal problems, then it would be possible for us to have more complete relations. The President noted that Ambassador Vitsaxis had made an effective presentation of Greeceʼs case before the Council of Europe and he knew how well qualified the Ambassador was to represent his country in Washington.

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Ambassador Vitsaxis noted his previous service in the United States and his great love for this country. He assured the President that the Greek regime, having rescued Greece from the chaos being wrought by the Leftists, had a fixed timetable for a return to a viable democracy within the framework of the Greek Constitution. Last summer he had participated in drawing up this timetable. As scheduled, the new press law had just been released. In March, two of the three suspended articles of the Constitution would be made effective and the third in September. This would restore full constitutional life to Greece and make possible elections and organization of a new parliament.

Ambassador Vitsaxis noted that the Greek Government had recently welcomed an ICRC team, knowing that its investigations would help it cope with the slanders and distortions being fabricated about conditions in Greece. He assured the President that there had been and would continue to be a steady, orderly, and inevitable move to democratic constitutional government.

The President said that he hoped Ambassador Vitsaxis would press this line not only with his diplomatic colleagues but, also, with the press. He conceded that sometimes the press applied double standards. Had a Leftist regime taken over in Greece, any suspension of civil liberties would have been defended by most of the press on the grounds that they were essential to stabilize the regime. He was pleased to hear that the government planned to move toward full restoration of civil rights, and he hoped they would move quickly. Systems of democracies differed and it was not for him to say that what we tried to make work in America was the system for Greece or any other country. But, a regime based on individual rights seemed the objective of most democratic systems.

Ambassador Vitsaxis said there were indeed many forms of democracy but only one standard for liberty.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 17 GREECE–US. Secret;Nodis. Drafted by Davies. A notation on the memorandum reads: “Approved by WH/Kissinger per David White to HBrown 1/16/70.” In a November 26 memorandum attached to a copy of this memorandum, Saunders, recommending clearance, wrote: “Neither HAK nor I was present, so we have to take Rodgerʼs word for it.” Saunders continued: “The Presidentʼs crack at the press on p. 2 is the only questionable statement as far as distribution is concerned. But since the Department has this already, I think Secret/NODIS is probably tolerable.” (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1235 Saunders Chronological Files, Greece, 10/1/69–12/31/69.