308. Memorandum From Harold Saunders and Richard Kennedy of the National Security Council Staff to the Presidentʼs Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • SRG Meeting on Greece—March 22

Purpose of the Meeting

The NSSM 116 exercise which culminates in this meeting was launched to review our posture toward Greece.2 As you recall, there was a flurry of activity at the end of the year in which State began thinking in terms of getting closer to King Constantine, partly as a means of showing displeasure over the fact that the military regime in Athens had not met all of its pledges on progress toward constitutional government.3 The purpose of this meeting, therefore, is to inject as much precision as possible into our strategy toward Greece. The objective of the meeting, therefore, is to develop an exact statement of what we are trying to do and what we are not trying to do.

The Papers

At the Tabs in this book you will find the following three papers:4

  • Analytical Summary. This paper outlines the IG paper and discusses the current problem in setting policy toward Greece, as well as the options in selecting a general posture and the options vis-à-vis King Constantine. This summary also provides a guide to the few pages you will want to read in the IG paper.
  • IG Paper. This contains two real options in connection with our general policy toward Greece and an extensive discussion of the role of the King. The first paragraph of the Analytical Summary provides a guide to the pages you need to look at. A recent cable from Ambassador Tasca commenting on the paper is included.5
  • Senate Report. This is included to give you the flavor of the MooseLowenstein report which is probably reflective of the current mood on Capitol Hill.6

Talking Points for Opening the Meeting

There is no crisis in Greece and the choice among options is fairly narrow. However, it seemed worthwhile to review the situation since it has turned out somewhat differently from what we anticipated when the President made his decision to resume a normal military assistance relationship last June.
You find on reading the IG paper that the choices are really relatively narrow. Since the basic assumptions underlying policy have changed, you would like to focus in the meeting on discussing whether the basic elements of our strategy are still valid. The tactics will have to be left to the State Department, but it does seem worthwhile here to discuss basic objectives.
You would like, therefore, to aim at some sort of statement of what it is we are and are not trying to achieve in Greece.
You would like to divide the discussion into two parts:
  • —the question of our general posture toward the military government;
  • —the question of our posture toward King Constantine.

General US Posture Toward Greece

Background. The IG paper does not really distinguish clearly between the two main options that it suggests. Option II is what Ambassador Tasca says he is doing now—prodding the regime privately on issues related to return to constitutional government. Option III is what the IG paper says is our current policy—a “passive” policy of prodding only modestly when the opportunity arises. We need to arrive at a fairly precise statement of exactly what is going on and what we will try to do within what limits. The following talking points are suggested:

  • —The IG paper outlines four options, but it points out that only Options II and III represent a real choice. Can we all agree on that?
  • —What is the difference between Options II and III? The IG paper describes Option III as our present policy, while Ambassador Tasca has sent in a cable [copy on top of the IG paper]7 saying that Option II reflects accurately the policy he has been following. Can someone [Page 772] describe exactly what it is we are doing now and what the real distinction between these two options is?
  • —Can any amount of US prodding really change the pace of the regimeʼs movement toward constitutional government? If the answer is that our influence is marginal, then why should we keep prodding?
  • —If our influence is marginal, is there some distinction to be made between pretending that we can achieve real progress and simply trying to change the regimeʼs behavior on those smaller tactical questions which affect its image abroad?
  • —If our influence is marginal, are there strong arguments against dropping back entirely into a passive mood of showing no concern whatsoever for the state of government in Greece?
  • —Is it fair to summarize what we want to do as follows: We do not expect to be able to change the pace of events in Greece. We will do enough prodding to keep the regime aware of our concern for progress toward constitutional government but not enough to jeopardize our interests. If this is a description of our policy, then is it correct to say that we are really choosing Option II rather than Option III?
  • —If we are choosing Option II, then this raises such questions as whether the President should write a letter to the Prime Minister or whether we should more actively pursue the King. Letʼs move on to the question of the Kingʼs role.

The Role of the King

Background. The IG paper ends up with at least the State Department favoring having Ambassador Tasca not only pay a courtesy call on King Constantine but discussing with him ways to mend his fences and improve his position in Greece. The issue, therefore, is not so much whether the Ambassador pays a courtesy call on the King—most ambassadors accredited to Athens have—but what he says if he does. The following talking points are suggested:

  • —Is is absolutely essential that the Ambassador call on King Constantine? Is it simply a matter of courtesy?
  • —If it is a matter of courtesy, can the Ambassador restrict himself to a discussion of developments in Greece without getting into the business of talking about the Kingʼs improvement of his position in Greece and his potential return to Greece?
  • —The IG paper characterizes the King as very ineffective. Why should we want to stick our necks out to help him return to Greece? Do we really want to create any implication that we are encouraging him to go back?
  • —Can we agree that if Ambassador Tasca calls on the King he should limit himself to a survey of developments and stay away from the subject of the Kingʼs return? Are there arguments to the contrary?

[Page 773]


The ideal would be to have something like the following consensus expressed:

We will continue to pursue a relatively low level Option II strategy. This will be limited by the judgment that we do not feel we will be able to change the course of events but that there is some value in continuing to encourage the regime to improve its image in the US and in Western Europe.
The US cannot say definitively now that it has an interest in the return of King Constantine to Greece. Therefore, the US should not now get into the business of encouraging his return.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Senior Review Group Files, Meeting of March 19, 1971. Secret; Nodis. Sent for information. For the minutes of the Senior Review Group meeting, see Document 310.
  2. See Documents 301 and 306.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 301.
  4. Attached but not printed.
  5. Telegram 1280 from Athens, March 18, is not attached. A copy is in National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 594, Country Files—Middle East, Greece, Vol. II 1 Nov 1970–31 Dec 1971.
  6. See footnote 4, Document 303.
  7. Brackets in the original.