306. Response to National Security Study Memorandum 1161


Policy Toward Greece: Summary

The dilemma of United States relations with Greece has broader implications than the simple contraposition of our desire to preserve important security interests in Greece with a wish to see a restoration of representative government in Greece.

The continued unreserved participation of Greece in the North Atlantic Alliance and the concomitant availability of Greeceʼs strategic geography to the Alliance plays an important role in providing the United States and the Alliance with the ability to respond quickly and effectively to events in the Middle East and offers the U.S. and the Alliance the tactical flexibility necessary to serve as a deterrent to Soviet adventurism in the Eastern Mediterranean. But pressure on the Greek regime to move more quickly toward the restoration of parliamentary democracy could lead to a loosening of Greek ties to NATO and the U.S.

Conversely, the failure of the Greek regime to take steps which would convince its critics within the Alliance and in the U.S. Congress of its intention to restore representative government in Greece and the failure of the United States to adopt a more visibly energetic policy of encouraging that restoration could lead to reactions within the NATO Alliance, in European and American public opinion, in European parliaments and in the U.S. Congress which could develop into real obstacles to the continuance of a cooperative relationship between the U.S. and Greece.

Military aid to Greece, curtailed by a partial embargo for 41 months, was restored in full in September 1970 in accordance with NSDM 34 of November 14, 1969 and NSDM 67 of June 25, 1970.2 Although the decision was made on the basis of U.S. security interests, our interest in the return of representative government in Greece was clearly stated.

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A Greek commitment was clearly made to take certain key steps in the direction of constitutional order. This commitment took the form of a timetable made public in April 1970.3 The commitment was also frequently privately stated to U.S. officials as well as in an April 1970 letter from the Greek Prime Minister to the President.4 To a great extent the Greeks met the letter, if not the spirit of the commitment. With one key exception—martial law remains in force. In addition, it now appears as though the prospect for a return to parliamentary government has receded farther into the future. In any event critics of Greece in NATO and in the Congress remain unconvinced that the regime plans ever to return the reins of government of a freely elected parliament or that the regime will abandon the repression of which it has been accused.

The Greek regime remains in firm control of the country. A healthy and burgeoning economy continues to dampen any incipient grass roots movement against the regime. Although the Prime Minister has faced some threats from within the regime to his continued primacy he appears at least for the time being to have overcome them.

To the extent possible, we should chart a course in our relations with the Greeks which would both preserve our security relationship and make it possible to exert as much influence as possible for the restoration of civil rights in Greece and for a return to a more normal political situation. Serving both these objectives severely limits the viable options available to us, eliminates the possibility of attempting to use Military Aid as leverage as well as the possibility of adopting a position of indifference to internal Greek affairs.


In theory we have action alternatives ranging from a severe (and high risk in terms of the Greek regimeʼs attitude) approach at one end of the spectrum to a strict policy of non-concern for internal Greek affairs (with high risk in terms of NATO and Congressional attitudes) at the other. Practically, our options are more limited and can be expressed as two alternatives: do somewhat more or do somewhat less.

Option II calls for a somewhat more energetic application of our present two-pronged policy, calculated to preserve access to security facilities in Greece while exerting as much pressure on the regime as is possible without jeopardizing those interests. This course of action has the advantage of providing evidence to our critics in Congress and [Page 768] within the Alliance that the U.S. is concerned with and working toward the return of representative government in Greece. It would enhance our ability to control attempts by some allies to introduce divisive debate on Greece into the Alliance. At the same time, the very nature of the ad hoc approach to selecting pressure points makes the risk of applying the policy manageable. Ambassador Tasca believes pressure to lift martial law should continue as should our efforts to seek a reduction or commutation of sentences against political prisoners.

Option III, our present essentially passive policy, has assured access to facilities in Greece but has not proved effective in either satisfying our critics or in moving the Greek regime. To do somewhat less is to move in the direction of Option IV, to drop all attempts to influence events in Greece, which, though it would offer the best assurance of continued access to Greek facilities, would significantly elevate the risk of serious division in NATO and arouse strong reactions among some elements of the Congress.

[Omitted here is the body of the response to NSSM 116, and three annexes entitled “Pressures for United States Policy Changes,” “Greek Options in the Face of Increased Pressures,” and “King Constantine of Greece: His Role in United States Policy Toward Greece.”]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–181, National Security Study Memoranda, NSSM 116. Secret; Nodis. This response to NSSM 116 (Document 301) was prepared by the NSC Interdepartmental Group for Near East and South Asia and submitted to Kissinger by Chairman of the Group Sisco. Davis sent it to the members of the Senior Review Group on March 11 indicating it would be discussed at the March 22 SRG meeting. It was discussed at the March 31 meeting of the SRG; see Document 310.
  2. Documents 262 and 284.
  3. The timetable was first made public to the Council of Europe in August 1969; see footnote 4, Document 255.
  4. Document 274.