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

5509. Subject: Meeting with Greek Prime Minister. From SecDef Laird.

This morning I met for more than hour and half with Prime Minister Papadopoulos in company with Chairman JCS, CNO and Ambassador Tasca. Meeting was quite cordial and also quite frank. I began by conveying message of friendship from President Nixon, and explained that purpose Presidentʼs visit to Mediterranean2 was to underline resolve of US administration to honor its commitments to its allies and to negotiate from position of strength with Soviet Union. Unfortunately, in some areas Soviets seemed to be talking in one way and acting in another. Mediterranean one area where this was case, and President wished allies in Mediterranean be aware importance we attach to peace and stability in this area.
Prime Minister replied warmly, endorsing the recent US moves in the Mediterranean and Mid-East and indicating they were convincing evidence of US resolve. He noted US and Greek goals of preventing Communist aggression identical. He said we could be assured that every weapon put into a Greek soldierʼs hands was as good as in hands of an American soldier. Greece had no territorial designs or ambitions of its own, and importance of strengthening Greek Armed Forces related entirely to Greeceʼs NATO role. Greece giving its limit in men and matériel for defense effort, and it expected same total commitment from other members Alliance. Greece could not however meet all of its needs, particularly since country in front line of NATO defense, facing three Communist neighbors. It expected help from its NATO allies in the common interest of the Alliance, but even without such help it would do its best to live up to its commitment.
To this I replied that from very beginning I personally made clear in my testimony before Congress3 that I favored resumption arms shipments to Greece. Now happily this had been done, and we would [Page 738] be working closely with his military to do the best possible job of strengthening and modernizing the Greek Armed Forces within the limitations which existed; and I hoped that Greek MAP would not be affected too adversely by our Cambodian and other requirements. I agreed that we must all stand fast by our NATO commitments and we would certainly live up to ours. Admiral Moorer took occasion of this meeting to mention to Prime Minister importance of Sixth Fleet facilities in Greece to our common interests.
I mentioned fact that within US Congress there is some opinion not as concerned as it should be with the vital importance of NATO. Same elements in US reflected also, as he knew, some hostility towards the present Government. For example, some members had asked him about existence of martial law. I believed however that we had enough support in Congress to permit us to maintain our policy regarding military cooperation with Greece. We intended to stick by this policy, and he could be of help to us in this regard. However, I wished Prime Minister to clearly understand that US administration not in business of telling its NATO allies how to run their affairs, and internal Greek situation entirely a matter for Greeks.
Prime Ministerʼs reply was that Government had said what it intended to do. Its friends would have to be content, as regards return to more liberal form of government, with evidence of liberalizing measures as they were taken. Prime Minister made it quite clear that he not prepared make any predictions about timing of future moves, although he also made it clear that Governmentʼs aim of returning to fully constitutional rule remains fixed. He said that he hoped that this would be sufficient for Congressional critics but if not, that would not be Greeceʼs problem. In any case his Government intended arm itself as best it could to carry out its NATO role.
Prime Minister then went on to say that at risk of seeming to interfere in our internal affairs, it seemed to him that Congress too had responsibility to uphold US commitment to NATO. Congressional attitude reminded him of man who hired guard for his farm only to discover that man had black hair. Owner then refused to give guard rifle and let him enter on duty since he wished have blond. Man said in fact he had blond hair but it had been dyed. Owner said, “Fine, come back in two months when dye has grown out and you can have rifle to guard my property.” In meantime ownerʼs crop stolen. In interchange on applicability of the parable to the current situation involving Greece, Prime Minister replied that unfortunately it happened to be true story.
Additional substantive matter I raised was importance Greek-Turkish cooperation in NATO and its relation to Cyprus problem. Prime Minister said his position was that Greece could never live at ease and in security without friendship of Turkey. Greece making every effort [Page 739] in this direction, but unfortunately Turkey still mistrusted Greece. He hoped this situation would gradually improve. I said I most impressed both in Turkey and in Greece with degree of awareness of common Communist threat to both countries, placing Cyprus issue in secondary position, and I found it encouraging that both countries took such realistic view of situation.
In closing, Prime Minister asked that in any statement we might make about my visit to Athens, we be careful not to give impression that significant decisions taken during my conversations with his government, particularly if such remarks might encourage speculation that discussions related to Greek internal political matters. In Greek atmosphere this would immediately lead to press and old politicians jumping to conclusion elections had been agreed on. On other hand, he hoped that we would not by our silence indicate that our meetings had ended in disagreement.
My impression from meeting with Prime Minister is that he remains totally committed to NATO, and friendship with the US. He believes that US administration will stand by its policy on military cooperation with Greece. While he recognizes Congressional problem, this cannot be decisive factor in how fast and in what specific ways Greece moves towards more liberal form of government which basically an internal Greek matter, to be decided by the internal political needs of Greece. I think he appreciates that while we take essentially same view of situation, in warning him of Congressional problem our aim is to protect our ability to continue and strengthen our military cooperation with Greece. I recognized special needs of Greece as regards its internal political development relating to Soviet and Communist threats resulting from its geographic position.
Saturday morning I also called on Regent [Zoitakis], Chief of Armed Forces Angelis, Deputy Prime Minister Pattakos and Coordination Minister Makarezos. I was given particularly useful military briefing by Angelis (septel),4 and my meetings with other senior officials were marked by warm atmosphere. I saw Prime Minister and his principal associates again at lunch Saturday hosted by Ambassador and at dinner hosted by Prime Minister.
Please pass SecDef, CINCEUR and US Mission NATO.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 593, Country Files—Middle East, Greece, Vol. I Jan 69–Oct 70. Secret; Exdis. Another copy is ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, ORG 7 OSD.
  2. The President visited Italy, the Vatican, Yugoslavia, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. September 27–October 4.
  3. See The Foreign Assistance Act of 1969. Hearing Before the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, 91st Congress, 1st session (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office 1969), pp. 128–129.
  4. The Embassy reported on Lairdʼs discussions with Greek officials in telegrams 5542 and 5568 from Athens, both October 6. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 593, Country Files—Middle East, Greece, Vol. I Jan 69–Oct 70)