309. Editorial Note

On March 25, 1971, President Richard Nixon held a wide-ranging discussion of domestic and international affairs with Attorney General John Mitchell and Greek-American businessman Tom Pappas. According to a transcript of the conversation prepared by the editors specifically for this volume, after a discussion concerning the naming of a new Ambassador to Italy, in which Pappas proposed Henry Tasca, the discussion turned to Greece:

Pappas: “Nobody could save Greece but Tasca. He says I know what the President wants, he says, and Iʼm going to do it. And I donʼt give a damn what the State Department or anyone else says. [unclear] lose Italy. I donʼt like it, but youʼve got to live with it. You got the generals or the Commies.

Nixon: “Listen, Iʼm with you all the way, and incidentally, I must say, you know, Iʼm watching the Spain situation very closely.

Pappas: “And it needs watching desperately.”

After a discussion of Spain, the conversation returned to Greece:

Pappas: “I know what these people promised. I believe that they feel embarrassed. I believe that by 1972 they will have set up their affairs so that they can start parliamentary procedures. I think that by the end of the year an announcement of some kind, I have no authority on that. Nobody told me that they were going to do that.

Nixon: “That would be very helpful if they would.

Pappas: “Yes.

Nixon: “You see, look, I am the best friend they got.

Pappas: “I know that.

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Nixon: “And, if I had not been in this office, theyʼd be put right down the tubes.

Pappas: “Right.

Nixon: “Now, Iʼve defended and John knows all this and the NSC and all the rest, everybody wants to kick the Greek around. And they said, ‘Well, the Danes.’ And I said—

Pappas: “Who are the Danes.

Nixon: “What are you going to do—exchange one battalion for 20 divisions?

Pappas: “20 divisions.

Nixon: “Or whatever it is, 15? Weʼre with them, but they donʼt make it any easier for us.

Pappas: “I know, I told them that.

Nixon: “Well, keep on telling ʼem.”

The President then outlined a scenario for an approach to the junta.

Nixon: “We understand what they have to do. Make it appear something else. See. You tell ʼem strong. Take a look here, boys, we, you have American politics, you know theyʼve got a very good friend here, but theyʼre hanging all this up.

Pappas: “Iʼm going to tell them in no uncertain terms. Iʼm going to tell them in a nice way. Because Iʼve tried my best to guide them, to do everything I possibly could. And I said to [unclear] the strongest of martial law, but donʼt call it martial law, you canʼt have that, martial law. And I think that Tascaʼs done a good job. Now, Greece is going along well, and I think things can go along the road to a semblance of [unclear]. I think by 1972 they will have parliamentary program. Of course, the Kingʼs not helping them either, unfortunately.

Nixon: “We havenʼt done anything about that. Iʼm sorry about that, heʼs a nice fellow.

Pappas: “Heʼs a nice, young—

Nixon: “But you think he should stay out of it?

Pappas: “Oh, absolutely.

Nixon: “Canʼt come back?

Pappas: “I believe—

Nixon: “He canʼt come back?

Pappas: “Not now. Not now. Not now. Heʼll be against his own image.

Nixon: “Yeah.”

The conversation then turned to Yugoslavia and Turkey. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Recording of Conversation Among Nixon, Mitchell, and Pappas, March 25, 1971. Oval Office, Conversation No. 473–10)