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

3586. Ref: State 105703.2 For Assistant Secretary Sisco From Ambassador Tasca.

While I appreciate fact that there widespread belief both within Executive branch and Congress that Greek Government would be in far better position to normalize its relations with its allies if King were to return, I would like you to have some thoughts of mine on the practical problems involved. I think these might be useful for you and your colleagues in NEA when the subject is raised by members of Congress and others.
Question of regime normalizing its relations with King runs into three important obstacles, most formidable of which is that there is widespread animosity within regime towards King. Feeling runs so high that Papadopoulos could only normalize his relations with the King at this time by running risk of endangering his own position and at the least his program for Constitutional progress. From what we know of internal situation within regime there are substantial number of coup group members who simply will not agree to Kingʼs return at this time. If they were convinced Papadopoulos working to bring King back, it might no longer be possible to carry them along on question of Constitutional implementation, to which they have only reluctantly agreed at best.
Regime, I am convinced, is firmly entrenched, and it is only through regime that we can hope to achieve our objective of making Greece again fully acceptable to European governments and peoples and American public opinion; and for this reason alone question of Kingʼs return involves serious problems for us. But, in addition, it should be remembered that King is not the unifying force he may appear when removed in time and space from the Greek scene. Constantine was always highly controversial, and he opposed the very progressive forces which we would like ultimately to play a role again in Greeceʼs development. It is not only the left which would be incensed by US efforts promote Kingʼs return but the solid majority of progressive moderate opinion. They consider King as bearing large share of responsibility for breakdown in democracy prior to coup, and quite rightly so.
Finally, even on right of political spectrum and within army King is by no means the unifying force he might be. Serious doubts are entertained about Constantine by a number of influential rightists (Eleni Vlachou is one example that comes to mind); and in middle grade of Greek army officer corps, King is thoroughly unpopular. He has in fact showed consistent immaturity in action and lack of the intellectual qualities that would enable him to deal with delicate situation in Greece today. His continuing flirtation with enemies of regime is typical, and we should bear in mind that regime leaders are intelligence officers by profession and are quite well informed on Kingʼs activities.3
In addition to his activities which displease regime, perhaps even more important is Kingʼs failure to speak out in favor of full military assistance for Greece, so that Greek people may be defended against external aggression regardless of type of government which they may have at moment.
Having said this, I would like to make it clear that I am not implying that King has no role to play in Greece. But this role can only come about when and if regime feels it must regularize its relations with the monarchy. It may well be that we will have to play an intermediary role between King and regime. However, based on my analysis of situation, this can only take place to extent climate improves in regard to King, and even then we must act only with closest agreement [Page 726] Prime Minister Papadopoulos. Despite his faults, King may be needed in this situation at some point. (As Department aware King, in interim, is being kept financially by regime; and Constitution provides for his return after elections.) But our first requirement must be that he return under conditions that do not prejudice US interests here. In no case should it ever appear that US instrumental in any way in his return. I have King very much in mind as I follow the Greek scene, and I think you can count on me to give you every indication of opportunities that may arise for using his position to further our interests here.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 593, Country Files—Middle East, Greece, Vol. I Jan 69–Oct 70. Secret; Exdis.
  2. Dated July 2, it reported Siscoʼs meeting with the Under Secretary of the Prime Minister. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 GREECE)
  3. In telegram 3758 from Athens, July 13, Tasca reported that during a July 11 meeting with Papadopoulos, the two men discussed the future of the monarchy. The Greek Prime Minister expressed strong personal dislike for King Constantine but stressed his own monarchism. Tasca concluded that abdication might be the regimeʼs answer and that “Prime Ministerʼs almost totally negative attitude on King may reflect belief that at this point King is mainly Trojan Horse for regime opponents.” (Ibid.)