272. Response to National Security Study Memorandum 901


NSSM 52 (April 26, 1969)2 called for a review of our current military aid policy towards Greece and an assessment of the present political situation there as it affects US interests. The decision resulting from that study (NSDM 34, November 14, 1969)3 may be summarized as follows:

The United States is prepared to resume full military aid shipments to Greece. Our Ambassador is to make clear to the Greek Government that movement towards a constitutional situation would ease United States problems in speeding the release of the suspended equipment. The Ambassador is to report to the President the Greek Governmentʼs response to his efforts to influence the Greek Government in the direction of a constitutional situation, and, in compliance with NSSM 90, recommend the degree of speed with which we should move in resuming military shipments.

Developments since November

There have been few significant developments towards the restoration of a constitutional situation in Greece since the issuance of NSDM 34, and the tide of sentiment against the Greek regime in Western Europe (and in some Congressional circles in the United States as well) is not falling. On the other hand, the loss of Wheelus Air Force Base has increased the strategic interest of the United States in Greece even beyond the high levels described in NSSM 52.

Probable Future Developments

Without disregarding the lessons from Greeceʼs volatile past, we anticipate as the most probable development for the foreseeable future a period of relative stability within Greece and as regards Greeceʼs relations with her neighbors.

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On the Greek domestic level we foresee no radical political development in any direction. At best we anticipate a slow and spotty political evolution which may give back to the Greek people some measure of political freedom and of political activity. As far as we can see, political opposition within Greece, and its counterpart abroad will not change the situation decisively. The present Greek leadership, in one form or another, will be around for some time to come. As long certainly as economic prosperity continues, the attitude of the mass of the Greek people will probably continue to be colored by their abhorrence (based on experience) of civil strife, and by unwillingness to risk very much for ideological principle.

Greeceʼs economic prospects look good for the long run. Like any developing country with fairly limited resources Greece has a number of economic problems, the most crucial being that of its balance of payments. Servicing on borrowing to cover that endemic deficiency will in the middle run put a considerable squeeze on the Government and perhaps even cause some revamping of its current ambitious development plan. Given Greeceʼs trading patterns and experiences, it is fairly certain that it will not embark on any adventurous course but will follow traditional methods in facing its problems.

GNP grew by 8.3% in 1969. This may be too high a rate for continuing sound growth, but Greece will probably continue to try for substantial rates of increase and probably has the capability of achieving it. Per capita income is now almost $800, and the regime hopes to increase this to over $1,000 by 1974.

A potentially serious problem of both economic and political dimensions is the discrepancy between the urban and rural sectors. If the regime should face serious trouble in the future it would most likely come from that imbalance and the problems inherent in resultant urbanization.

On the international scene we can expect Greece to continue to display a strong sense of identification with the West and particularly with the United States. Whoever controls the Mediterranean determines Greeceʼs orientation. As long as the United States is dominant or holds its own in the Mediterranean, Greeceʼs traditional ties and security considerations reinforce one another.

At the same time Greece will continue to try to improve or “normalize” its relations with all its immediate neighbors especially as far as trade is concerned. It will also continue to try to enhance its relations with Turkey. These are small ways it has of reducing its necessary dependence on a great power and it can be expected to follow this course, especially as the US military grant aid program comes to an end.

As Greece pursues these aims it will show somewhat greater independence, but almost certainly within the framework of its NATO [Page 695] commitment. The nature of that independence, and how much will eventually remain of the unique access the United States today now enjoys to Greek facilities, will depend to a large extent on United States attitudes and the manner in which Greece is weaned from past high levels of dependence on the US.

Implications for the Future

Since his arrival in Greece in early January, Ambassador Tasca has had his first round of discussions with Greek officials, emphasizing the value to them and to us of moving ahead to implement the new Greek constitution. He has pointed out the difficulties under present circumstances of trying to maintain and strengthen ties on a bilateral basis and within the NATO alliance.

Subject to Ambassador Tascaʼs evaluation and recommendations, our conclusions are that:

  • —for the foreseeable future we will be dealing with the current regime in Greece in one form or another;
  • —the regime will continue to give top priority to Greek defense needs and its economy will be able to sustain the present level of defense spending (just under 25% of budget expenditures) while still maintaining respectable economic growth;
  • —the Greek Government has shown some intention, and ability, to slip the net of our arms embargo by negotiating to purchase arms from West European sources, notably France. To the extent Greece succeeds, our current policy of withholding arms will no longer exert major influence on internal Greek developments;
  • —the considerations which led to the decision to resume arms shipments in principle are even more impressive today than they were in November, particularly as a result of the denial to us of Wheelus, the Middle East situation, Turkish sensitivity regarding US fleet visits and continuing Soviet activity in the Mediterranean. In other words Greece is essential to NATO and Greek real estate is important to United States interests elsewhere in the area.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–170, National Security Study Memoranda, NSSM 90. Secret; Nodis. This section of the response to NSSM 90, “U.S. Interests in and Policy Toward Mediterranean Area,” February 26, was prepared by the Interdepartmental Ad Hoc Group on the Mediterranean. The Chairman of the Group, William Cargo, forwarded it to Kissinger with the explanation that it was being handled separately from the rest of the response to NSSM 90 because of its more restricted classification.
  2. Document 246.
  3. Document 262.