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

1920. For the Secretary.

Recently I have taken a major initiative to move the Papadopoulos regime along toward full implementation of the 1968 Constitution. Papadopoulos is influenced by the opinions of leading businessmen [Page 779] and I have found it especially effective to use carefully selected industrialists as part of that effort.
Greek industrialist Athanassiadis-Bodossakis, whose mining and industrial projects are doing very well and earning Greece substantial amounts of foreign exchange, enjoys a strong position with Prime Minister George Papadopoulos. He was not been demanding economic concessions from Government and, on the contrary, has willed considerable personal property—including his own residence—to the state on his death.
With the above in mind, early in April I secured his confidential cooperation to help this initiative and briefed him on the considerations which argue for progress toward elections. Thereafter he sought a discreet meeting with the Prime Minister.
Just before Greek Easter, Bodossakis gave me a summary of his private talk with Papadopoulos. After noting the improvement in GOG relations with the USG, he warned Prime Minister that the US administration faced strong criticism of its policy toward Greece in the US press and Congress. Such criticism would persist until elections were held in Greece.
Prime Minister replied that he appreciated Bodossakisʼ arguments, and that, if progress continued to be made in country and if everyone “remained in his place,” he hoped to be able to make the key decision no later than the fall of 1972.
Bodossakis also told Prime Minister that he had sounded out various army unit commanders in Greece on the subject of political evolution and found them sharing his views. Comment: This opinion is somewhat more optimistic than Embassyʼs present assessment. We believe Papadopoulos enjoys wide support among the officers but that among the younger revolutionary officers the slogan persists of “No King, no elections.”
Bodossakis told me that, in his view, the further relaxation of martial law at Easter was another step in the right direction.2 He himself felt elections would be held in 1972. He also noted that the issue of King Constantine remained very sensitive and USG should deal with it warily. Constantine is highly mistrusted by Papadopoulos and his intimates. Bodossakis, therefore, speculates that the Prime Minister may decide to hold national elections and then follow up with a plebiscite on the return of Constantine. A plebiscite would go against Constantine and perhaps lead to a further regency. Constantineʼs son, Prince Paul, might be retained, but this was by no means certain as [Page 780] with the passage of time and further erosion of the institution of the monarchy, he might also be dispensed with.
The Prime Ministerʼs apparent consideration of elections in 1972 represents a welcome and we believe significant reading of his present intentions. It is the first time we have seen him discuss the touchy question of a date for elections. It also highlights the high value he puts on actions needed to improve his governmentʼs relations with USG. We believe he faces strong resistance to elections from within his regime, but he is proving to be an able maneuverer in coping with his colleagues on political problems. We will continue our private pressures, but clearly the whole effort could be torpedoed by premature publicity which would put Papadopoulos on the defensive. Hence my desire to restrict severely knowledge of the above initiative and its progress.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 594, Country Files—Middle East, Greece, Vol. II 1 Nov 1970–31 Dec 1971. Secret; Nodis.
  2. Apparent reference to Papadopoulosʼs decision to permit some 250 political figures to return to Greece.