268. Telegram From the Embassy in Greece to the Department of State1

324. Subj: My First Meeting with Prime Minister Papadopoulos.

This morning I paid my initial call on Prime Minister Papadopoulos. We had more than an hour of substantive discussion in which USG and GOG positions laid out frankly and fully. With complete frankness I outlined for Papadopoulos problems of mutual concern facing USG in maintaining and strengthening our general relations with Greece, and in preventing any erosion from affecting Greeceʼs important contribution to NATO. Meeting was a cordial one and I think decks are now cleared for proceeding to more detailed discussion in our next meeting of the specifics affecting the problem of the Greek image in the US.
After brief exchange of amenities, I proposed that we begin what I hoped would be a series of frequent and frank discussions by outlining for each other the basic elements, as we each saw them, in the Greek-American relationship. The Prime Minister asked that I lead off. I said that first of all I would like to say that I brought the personal regards of President Nixon who had expressed to me his desire for a relation of friendship with Greek Government. I would do everything possible to work towards such a relationship within the fundamental context of Greeceʼs role as faithful and important member of the NATO Alliance. The USG fully appreciates exceptional efforts made to fulfill this role on part of Greek people and Greek Government. It is fundamental aim of US administration for Greece to continue to play this role, the importance of which is further increased by growing Soviet penetration in the Mediterranean.2 The position of the US in these respects is shown by continued flow of military assistance in recent years, as well as administrationʼs position in supporting appropriation for military assistance to Greece in FY 70.
However I hoped Prime Minister appreciated strength of forces in US which might hamper seriously USG efforts towards these objectives. When thirty-eight Senators could vote against further appropriation [Page 683] of military assistance to NATO ally,3 situation was serious indeed. Letter from fifty Congressmen to Secretary of State4 was another example extent feeling against Greek Government. Congress ultimately responsive to US public opinion and Greeceʼs image with public appeared to be deteriorating. Public opinion is being strongly influenced by American press, which admittedly may have failed to appreciate fully precarious state of affairs in Greece prior to Army takeover. But regardless how well informed critics are, Prime Minister should fully recognize that USG basic position of good will towards NATO ally is under powerful attack in US. We realized they had problems, but I wished them to understand our problem as well, since latter were of mutual interest and fully relevant to our common objective of maintaining and strengthening our relations. I expressed the deep satisfaction of the USG with the firm assurance given Secretary Rogers regarding Greek determination to proceed on its path toward full constitution expressed by their Ambassador immediately after the unfortunate Council of Europe meeting in December.5
Prime Minister replied rather soberly that Greeceʼs NATO role and especially relationship with America of utmost importance to Greece. While recognizing full well that Greece small country that should feel honored be able play significant role in Western defense, Greeceʼs friends must also recognize that Greek Government will not allow its NATO role to be tied in any way whatsoever to Greek internal situation. This matter on which there absolutely no room for compromise. In fact, Greece attaches so much importance to its role in defense of West (much more than some of our European allies) that rather than let other countries meddle in Greeceʼs affairs, country would go its separate way, if necessary putting its defense relationship with US on bilateral basis.
I told Prime Minister, in reply, that it firm position USG that internal Greek political situation not appropriate subject for NATO debate, and we would vigorously defend this position, on this he could rely.
Turning to internal situations in US and Greece, Papadopoulos said he could assure me I would not find it necessary to emphasize to him the problem posed for Greek-American relationship by US Congress, press and public opinion. While fully recognizing the problem, he would have to frankly say that it would not always be possible to [Page 684] listen to “our great friend” on questions of internal political development in Greece. He would gladly do so when possible, but GOG would basically have to decide for itself how things progress. The Prime Minister compared himself to man walking through a minefield. This minefield was 1968 Constitution and steps toward its full implementation. He was sure that I, as a former naval officer,6 would appreciate that plotting course through loaded mines required greatest of care and caution.
In reply I said our common objective of friendly relations and of maintaining a strong NATO could require our best efforts. I fully understood that Greece would have to determine its own policies in their national interest and my comments were made in the sense of what related to our common interest. It seemed to me that our aims could best be served by frequent and frank discussions. The Prime Minister responded that he held identical views on this subject. He would like to make it clear he available any hour of day or night for consultation. He would provide me with number to private line on which he might be reached at any time, and we would like to propose that I set the date myself for another meeting which he hoped would take place over dinner at his home. However, if this were in any way embarrassing to me, his feelings would not be hurt if I wished to make other arrangements. I said that I would be most pleased to accept his invitation and I would call him within a few days to set an exact date.
I think initial frank, even blunt, exchange with Prime Minister cleared air and meeting ended quite cordially. I see no reason why our next meeting, which I am glad to see he wishes be on more informal basis, should not begin come to grips with specific problems in Greek-American relations.
Prime Minister raised specific problem regarding May Ministerial meeting of NATO, which I will cover in separate message.7
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL GREECE–US. Secret; Limdis. A summary of this telegram was included in the Presidentʼs briefing of January 27 (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 593, Country Files—Middle East, Greece, Vol. I Jan 69–Oct 70)
  2. On December 30, 1969, Ambassador Tasca submitted a report on Soviet penetration in the Mediterranean to President Nixon. The President, in turn, relayed it to Kissinger as an “excellent analysis.” (Ibid.)
  3. Reference is to legislation banning military aid to Greece. It passed in committee but was defeated in the Senate.
  4. Reference is to a July 30 letter calling on the United States to take action to achieve the fall of the junta.
  5. See Document 264.
  6. Tasca served as a staff officer in the Mediterranean during World War II.
  7. Telegram 325 from Athens, January 26. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 6 NATO)