298. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Greece1

184935. Subj: Palamas meeting with the Vice President.

Greek Under Secretary of Foreign Affairs Palamas, accompanied by Ambassadors Vitsaxis and Cottakis, called on the Vice President October 21. After exchange of amenities Palamas made special point of praising Vitsaxis as one of their most effective ambassadors who, he said, enjoyed the admiration and respect even of his colleagues in the Greek diplomatic service.
Palamas said that Greek-American relations had reached an excellent plane now that the U.S. had removed the arms embargo. It remained only to continue to foster the excellent existing relationships.
The Vice President responded that both our governments were convinced of the necessity of safeguarding the Mediterranean area from Soviet efforts at encroachment. With this in mind, the Vice President had urged on the President to speak strongly and favorably about our Greek friends during his Mediterranean trip. Palamas replied that along that line the recent trip of Defense Secretary Laird had been very helpful indeed.
The Vice President expressed amusement at comments Palamas had made to Secretary Rogers concerning the Danesʼ interest in proposing a candidate for NATO Secretary General.2 Palamas replied that Lord Hume had asked Palamas what he thought of the current position of Greece within NATO. Palamas said he told Hume that he felt things were definitely improving and that Greeceʼs antagonists were now adopting a less aggressive posture. He added that Greece may have waited too long to leave the Council of Europe, because that action had seemed to startle other Europeans into a new sense of reality and it had certainly not hurt the Greek regime in any way. Finally, Hume had asked about elections in Greece and indicated an early resolution of that problem would be most helpful to Greeceʼs friends abroad.
The Vice President remarked that we, too, were hoping the Greek Government would continue to move toward elections. We had no wish to interfere in the interval affairs of Greece. Nevertheless, if the Greek Government were to move in the direction of elections, it would help to undercut the criticism of the regime here in the United States, as well as in NATO. At the moment, opposition elements are deliberately trying to misconstrue the administrationʼs friendship with Greece as evidence that we condone “repressive” governments and actions abroad—and by implication perhaps also at home. Thus any steps taken toward popular participation in government in Greece would not only help the Greek image, but also Greeceʼs friends. The Vice President said all reports indicate that the Government is in firm control, that most people are happy and that progress is being made; so the only problem the Greeks have is with their image. Palamas responded his Government was concerned that when elections are held, the old Greek politicians would allege that they were not held under fair conditions. Starting from that premise the former politicians would try to undermine what had been accomplished and recreate the confusion of the past. Palamas was certain the current government would never allow a confused and unstable political situation to reemerge, so prior to elections a sound democratic system must be developed within a framework of stability.
The Vice President said he was concerned about the image of Greece in the United States citing the impression left by the film “Z.”3 He wondered why the Greeks did not counter such propaganda by making movies presenting a truer picture of the situation in Greece. [Page 749] Perhaps famous Greek-American movie makers like Spyros Skouras would be willing to help if asked. The Vice President added that our own administration has considerable difficulties with the press, so he in no way meant to imply criticism of the Greek Governmentʼs handling of their image problems, but rather hoped he might be suggesting a useful idea to them. Palamas explained that the incident upon which the film “Z” was based actually happened during the rule of Prime Minister Karamanlis. The Vice President said this was not common knowledge, although he certainly knew the true origin of the events depicted. He felt it was insufficient to try to counter the effects of a film like “Z” by simply making an announcement that it was a distortion. The opposition drills home its points by repetition, and we must be prepared to do the same thing. We must not sit by complacently just because we are in the right. Continuous efforts must be made to counter socially destructive activities by our vocal opponents—not only in Greece, but in the United States as well. Palamas concurred in this general appraisal and Vitsaxis said that the Greeksʼ record in fighting both fascism and communism just in the past generation alone had had a tremendous beneficial impact on the history of the Western world and should make excellent material for a film.
Palamas mentioned how pleased the Greek Government would be if the Vice President were in a position to accept an invitation to visit Greece in the spring. An invitation would be promptly forthcoming whenever the Vice President considered it possible to accept such an invitation. Without making a firm commitment, the Vice President responded that a visit to Greece in the spring was certainly a most interesting and delightful idea.
For Nicosia: President Makarios extended a similar informal invitation to the Vice President during the White House dinner commemorating the 25th anniversary of the UN and received the same generally favorable response.
The meeting closed following a brief discussion of the existing instability in Italy, the situation in France, and the importance of the forthcoming elections in the United States.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 594, Country Files—Middle East, Greece, Vol. II 1 Nov 1970–31 Dec 1971. Confidential; Nodis. Drafted by Vigderman; cleared by Kent Crane (Vice Presidentʼs office); and approved by Curran (S/S). Repeated to Nicosia.
  2. A memorandum of their October 12 conversation is ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 GREECE.
  3. Reference is to the film by Greek director Constantine Costa Gavras, based on the novel by Vassilis Vassilikos.