273. Report by the Ambassador to Greece (Tasca)1



Internal Situation in Greece
Relations Between the U.S. and Greece; Greeceʼs Other Foreign Relations
Present U.S. Policy Toward Greece
Conclusions and Recommendations


I. Background

Internal Situation in Greece. After almost three years the military-backed regime which seized power in April 1967 in a bloodless coup retains firm control over the country. Such domestic military intervention has however been a recurrent phenomenon in modern Greek history. The present government enjoys the predominant support of the Greek armed forces; and opposition to it, both internal and abroad, which is concentrated mainly in intellectual circles and among expoliticians, appears marginal. While the regime is certainly not popular, it enjoys widespread public toleration, a situation aided by favorable economic conditions and a popular fear of any recurrence of the violence of the 1940ʼs. There is a strong internal security apparatus operating presently under martial law which however is applied in special, defined cases relating to the protection of the state. A new government-promulgated constitution was adopted by referendum in September 1963, but it is not yet in force pending completion of implementing laws. These are promised by the end of 1970. The present Greek leadership has also embarked on an ambitious and long-range “revolutionary” program aimed at reforming the structure of Greek political and social life, with heavy emphasis on Christian virtues, law and order, and stamping out what they regard as the corruption and irresponsibility of the past.

Relations Between the United States and Greece. Friendship between the U.S. and Greece is still deep, indeed unsurpassed in my experience of our relations with the peoples of other countries. It rests on the broad foundation of over two million American citizens of Greek extraction; some 25 years of close economic and military association, begun under the Truman Doctrine in 1947, which contributed about 3.5 billion dollars to Greeceʼs postwar rehabilitation, economic progress and defensive reenforcement; substantial U.S. private investment in Greece and an expanding market in it for U.S. exports; and a strong identity of views on the defense of the Free World against further communist encroachment. In consequence Greece is a resolute member of NATO, has committed forces to the defense of the Allianceʼs S.E. flank, and granted the U.S. valuable facilities in support of our strategic objectives in the increasingly critical Eastern Mediterranean region.

Greeceʼs Other Foreign Relations. The Western Europeans, especially those countries with influential socialist parties and narrow governmental majorities, have been politically antagonistic toward the present Greek regime. This reaction culminated in forcing Greece to withdraw from the Council of Europe in December 1969 on the charge of having violated political and human rights. While this European pressure may have played some part in engendering constitutional progress in Greece, on balance it appears to have been psychologically counterproductive. Having driven Greece out of the Council of Europe, the Europeans are now showing signs of shifting their attack to the more critical NATO forum. They have however not allowed such moral indignation to prejudice bilateral trade with Greece, which happens to be a substantial net importer of EEC goods. Franceʼs attitude has been characteristically apolitical; and the GOF is willing to sell Greece Mirage military aircraft and possibly tanks. The Soviet Union has bided its time politically with respect to developments in Greece, and otherwise maintained a business-as-usual stance. The present Greek Government, shaken by the November 1967 Cyprus crisis, has made a concerted effort to improve relations with its important Turkish neighbor by working constructively toward a solution of the unstable Cyprus problem. Greek relations with Yugoslavia are good; tolerable with Bulgaria; and the GOG has recently made overtures for commercial relations with Albania. The GOG, finally, plans to establish full, de jure diplomatic relations with Israel soon.

II. Present U.S. Policy Toward Greece

For the lack of other tangible leverage—U.S. economic aid having been terminated in 19622—and as a mark of official USG disapproval, [Page 698] the USG stopped the delivery of certain “high visibility” military equipment items to Greece following the April 1967 coup. While this tactic may initially have contributed to internal political progress on the part of the GOG, notably the promulgation of the 1968 Constitution, it has not otherwise appreciably accelerated a return to democratic government. On the other hand it has produced several side-effects increasingly adverse to U.S. security interests: (1) tended to strengthen the radical anti-democratic faction within the Greek revolutionary government against Papadopoulosʼ seemingly more moderate constitutionalist approach; (2) by undercutting Greeceʼs military potential has degraded the credibility of NATO in Soviet eyes on the strategic southeast flank; (3) prejudiced U.S.-Greek military cooperation and thus weakened U.S. influence over Greeceʼs military dispositions; and (4) led the GOG to look elsewhere for military equipment with good promises of satisfaction. At the same time, the U.S. MAP curtailment policy has been popular with domestic and foreign opponents of the Greek regime, particularly in Western Europe and the U.S. Congress and has kept lines open to sincerely democratic elements whose views and support cannot be ignored. On balance the evidence does not sustain their unrealistic thesis that more drastic pressure on the Greek Junta, by the U.S. in the first instance, would lead to the Colonelsʼ rapid demise. They appear to be firmly in the saddle.

III. Conclusions and Recommendations

Restore Suspended Equipment and Continue U.S.MAP for Greece at Adequate Level. Since the U.S. MAP withholding policy has proved ineffective in accelerating a return to democratic government in Greece, and is beginning to undermine the countryʼs NATO-committed defensive strength, it should be abandoned. I also recommend that future year U.S. military aid to Greece be maintained at a level calculated to strengthen Greeceʼs contribution to NATO. Such a policy constitutes a necessary element of the U.S. objective of preventing further Soviet penetration of the key Eastern Mediterranean area. If U.S. aid is not forthcoming, either as grant or sales, the Greek Government will obtain such military equipment elsewhere. The resulting diversion of scarce foreign exchange could retard Greeceʼs economic development and thus favor the ascendancy of anti-democratic forces in Greece. Regional political equilibrium requires a fair balance between U.S. military assistance for both Greece and Turkey.
Continue to Press Greek Regime to Return to Constitutional and Representative Government. Concurrently, we must continue to press the Greek regime to return to the form of representative government which best meets Greeceʼs needs. American friendship is more important to the GOG than military equipment; and the GOGʼs failure to make internal political progress is eroding this friendship in the U.S. We should [Page 699] therefore substitute this leverage for the questionable tactic of restricting military aid. Restoring the MAP first and then pressing earnestly, as an ally and friend of Greece, for progress toward effective implementation of the Constitution promises to be the most advisable course psychologically.
Prospects for Further Constitutional Progress. The return to constitutional government in Greece will be slow since the GOG is master of its own house and will be exceedingly careful to keep the reins of control firmly in hand. The Papadopoulos Government, in accordance with its avowed aim of restructuring Greeceʼs political life, gives evidence of planning to adhere to this course. The GOG is nevertheless still apprehensive over holding parliamentary elections which are therefore very unlikely for some time to come. This process will require a continuous and intimate dialogue between ourselves and the GOG at the highest levels, and with key elements in Greece outside the present establishment.
Future U.S. Policy Toward Greece. There is no feasible alternative for the U.S. to pursuing the dual policy of supporting Greece militarily and pressing it politically in the interest of U.S.-Greek friendship to return to constitutional government. Since the GOG is neither running the country into the ground nor following foreign policies contrary to U.S. national interests, the policy of partial MAP restriction, coupled with quixotic public criticism, tends to be self-defeating. While the state of affairs in Greece is not without serious inadequacies and certain dangers, especially of political polarization, real improvement is possible. Insofar as American influence may be a key factor, the necessary rapport toward this end has been established with the present Greek leadership.

[Omitted here is the body of the report, consisting of 25 pages with a 3-page annex on tactical handling of the decision.]

Henry J. Tasca
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 593, Country Files—Middle East, Greece, Vol. I Jan 69–Oct 70. Secret; Nodis. The report was submitted to the President as an attachment to an NSC Under Secretaries Memorandum, May 21, not printed.
  2. For documentation, see Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, volume XVI, Eastern Europe; Cyprus; Greece; Turkey, Documents 320338.