314. National Intelligence Estimate1

NIE 29.1/71

[Omitted here are a table of contents and picture of key junta leaders.]



The military junta appears firmly in control. The leaders show great cohesion; opposition groups are weak and fragmented. The juntaʼs decisive base of power lies in the Greek Armed Forces, purged of potential opponents and awarded new perquisites.
The regime claims that its mission is to purify the nationʼs political and social life. But its reforms have been few, and it remains a military dictatorship, though a more permissive one than in its early days.
The government has promulgated a new constitution, but refuses to put into effect such key provisions as parliamentary elections and guarantees of civil liberties. Partly in response to foreign pressures, the leaders are likely, over time, to decree new measures giving the appearance of greater liberalization. They will probably not, however, do anything which they believe might lead to their loss of their ultimate political authority.
Thanks both to favorable outside developments and to reasonably good domestic management, the Greek economy is booming. Formerly difficult balance of payments problems have been eased; foreign investment, tourism, and exports increased.
Sporadically attempting to mollify its foreign critics, the regime still seeks the best possible working relations with its NATO allies, and especially with the US. Foreign criticism continues, though it appears at the moment to have lost momentum. The regimeʼs leaders calculate that the US and NATO need Greece as much as Greece needs them, and probably see their present relations with the US and the larger NATO powers as satisfactory.
Despite the regimeʼs several strengths, certain contingencies could weaken or even topple it—among them a falling out within the junta, a serious setback in a conflict with the Turks over Cyprus, or the economic repercussions of a recession in Europe.


I. The Junta

A. Who They Are

1. On 21 April 1967 a group of Greek Army officers staged a surprise coup; the same group has since ruled the country. They had originally drawn up plans for a takeover a decade or so earlier, and finally carried it out in a period of political uncertainty when many feared the possibility of a communist-influenced government coming to power. There were probably several hundred officers involved, mostly majors and colonels.

2. Of these, a dozen or so members of the so-called Revolutionary Council (RC) rank as the most important. The RCʼs leading figures are Prime Minister Papadopoulos, Deputy Prime Minister Pattakos, Coordination Minister Makarezos, and (a more recent and very important addition to the top group) General Angelis, the present Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. Most of the remaining RC members have become civilian Secretaries-General, i.e., supervisors or watchdogs in various government ministries.

3. At the time of the coup the Prime Minister was, with Pattakos and Makarezos, one of a triumvirate. Since then, Papadopoulosʼ stature and power have increased very considerably and his colleaguesʼ relative stature has declined, though his authority over his RC colleagues is far from absolute. Moreover, after ruling Greece for four years, Papadopoulos remains a somewhat enigmatic figure; he has shown himself to be tenacious of purpose, but he is regarded by many Greeks as “complex” or even “devious.”

4. The colonelsʼ origins and background give some clues as to the type of rule they favor. They come from small towns, are mostly from the lower middle class, and are generally unsophisticated. All graduated from the Greek military academy in the early 1940s and have had little education or experience outside the army. They believe in the firm hand of traditionalism, in authority and obedience; they are horrified by the antics and styles of much of the youth in Western Europe and the US. Not for them the permissiveness which they feel leads to radicalism. Accompanying this attitude is a militant anticommunism which is in part the product of their participation in the bloody Greek civil war of 1946–1949.

5. Beyond this, their political outlook and biases are less precise. Self-proclaimed “revolutionaries,” their announced mission is to pu [Page 785] rify Greek political life, to instill new standards of morality and social responsibility in the Greek people. But in four years their actual reforms have been rather few in number. They have purged the church of some unsavory clerics and have made efforts to improve the educational system, especially through rural school construction and expanding technical and vocational training. They have cracked down on tax evasion, formerly a Greek national pastime. But for the most part the juntaʼs efforts have been hortatory; in public speeches, news releases, new textbooks, and the like, the colonels continue to urge the people of Greece to reform themselves and adopt new high moral standards. They have sought no significant changes in Greeceʼs social or class structure. The established economic community continues to enjoy official favor and to thrive. The regime also favors international capitalists such as Onassis and Tom Pappas.

6. Their regime remains an authoritarian one, despite some changes in the nature of their rule since seizing power. The most notable change has been the promulgation of a new constitution. Though somewhat less liberal than the preceding one, it nonetheless provides for a basically democratic form of government, albeit with much stronger executive powers. The constitution reflects in part an effort to mollify the regimeʼs foreign critics, but its most important provisions go into effect only when decreed by the government.

7. The regime shows extreme reluctance to issue some of these decrees. Several critically important sections of the constitution remain in limbo, notably those calling for free parliamentary elections and those protecting civil liberties. Some of the latter provisions have been activated through implementing legislation, but their effect has been vitiated since martial law remains in force. Greece is still a military dictatorship, though a somewhat more permissive one than in the early days of the regime. Thus it has permitted some of its less hostile critics to speak out, but it shows no signs of softness towards those it thinks dangerous. Precensorship of the press has been abolished, and a few newspapers have been openly critical of some aspects of the regime. However, severe penalties are still inflicted on journalists who write something the military rulers consider subversive. The detention camps were closed in April 1971, and almost all the political prisoners held there were released. However, the regime continues to arrest political critics on various charges.

8. We can make no precise assessment of how much popular support the regime has; free elections and public opinion polls are not permitted in Greece. The government is almost certainly less popular in the cities than in the more conservative rural areas from which the colonels come and where they have sharply increased government development spending. In the 3 years following the coup the investment budget increased by 79 percent as compared to 33 percent in the 3 years [Page 786] prior to it. Whether the bulk of the Greeks are enthusiastic or not about the ruling regime, they accept their government; they have no choice. Further it has benefited a large number; for example through the cancellation of farmersʼ debts. The groups whose interests have directly suffered, such as former politicians and some journalists, form a relatively small proportion of the total populace. In any case, Papadopoulosʼ decisive base of power lies in support from the military—purged of dissenters and awarded attractive new perquisites—and in the efficient activity of the police and the security services.

9. There is evidence of some disagreements among the RC members, though reports of such are generally fragmentary. A group of more puritanical, hard-line officers seems strongly to oppose liberalizing the political system, releasing political prisoners, allowing greater public freedom of expression, preparing for the Kingʼs return, or setting a date for general elections. We do not know the exact lineup in the RC on these matters, though Papadopoulos is often alleged to be in conflict with the hard-liners. But it is far from clear that Papadopoulos himself is as determined an advocate of liberalization as he wants to appear. The principal differences in the RC may well center around personal rivalries and involve conflicting personal ambitions. Nonetheless, it remains true that the military officers who seized power have so far shown great cohesion, with no major splits, purges or arrests—in distinct contrast to most comparable groups which have seized power elsewhere.

B. Their Strengths

10. The military rulers of Greece have a fair amount going for them. Their claims with respect to the corruption, unpopularity, irresponsibility, and ineffectiveness of the preceding Greek governments, though exaggerated, are not unfounded. Many Greeks who would vote against the regime in free balloting probably appreciate the relative stability and peace and quiet which prevails in the country. The turbulence in neighboring Turkey as compared to the quiet in Greece is seen to justify the juntaʼs firm rule. However much publicity they receive abroad, opposition and resistance groups are small, ineffective, poorly organized, and mostly in exile. Despite recurring terrorist threats and bombings, the regime appears to have the internal security situation under control. The favored armed forces, the police, and the purged and intimidated civil service show no signs of transferring their loyalties. In the eyes of the Greek people, the regime has at least the passive backing and probably the active support of the US. This is a matter of great importance, since the “American factor” is still regarded in Greece as a potent determinant in the countryʼs political life.

11. Further, Greece is now enjoying considerable economic prosperity, owing in part to the stability prevailing under the regime and [Page 787] to economic policies followed by Coordination Minister Makarezos. In April 1967, Greece was in the midst of a recession, which had been brought on in part by political uncertainties and a series of strikes. By 1969, Greece had fully recovered. Gross national product at constant prices rose over eight percent in that year and only slightly less than that in 1970. Prices have remained relatively stable.

12. In part this improved situation—particularly in the balance of payments—resulted from developments outside the control of any Greek government. West Germany has recovered from a mild recession, permitting a large number of Greek workers to find jobs there in the last two or three years, and to send home substantial remittances, amounting to $343 million in 1970. Greeceʼs booming tourist trade—amounting to $194 million in 1970—has been little affected of late by the bad publicity given the junta in North America and Western Europe. The closure of the Suez Canal and the world-wide shortage of tankers have boosted revenues earned by Greeceʼs large shipping fleet—though this may have been offset by losses sustained by ship repair and bunkering facilities. In any case, foreign exchange reserves are now 14 percent higher than the pre-coup level.

13. But economic recovery has been due to more than fortuitous circumstances. Another important factor in easing Greeceʼs balance of payments problem has been a sharp rise in exports, resulting partly from new government policies designed to make Greek goods competitive on the world market, and to prepare the country over the long term for entry into the European Common Market. In agriculture, the regime has encouraged increased exports of such profitable crops as fruit and vegetables in place of wheat and tobacco. Financial incentives have been provided to export industries, and industrial policy has encouraged the inflow of foreign capital.2 Fiscal incentives and other forms of support have been given to encourage further growth in tourist facilities and in the shipping industry.

14. The regime has followed basic policies favorable to economic growth: a) reliance on free enterprise; b) observance of their agreements for adherence to the Common Market; c) use of normal monetary and fiscal controls rather than more direct intervention in the economy; d) removal of balance of payments restraints on growth through borrowing. Since early 1968, the regime has been implementing, as a guideline, a five year plan based on that of Andreas Papandreou, with such ambitious long-term goals as raising income levels to those of advanced countries, improving income distribution, and increasing social services.

[Page 788]

15. On more specific structural problems of the Greek economy, the regime is making more headway than any government since the Karamanlis era, but is still hampered by such traditional obstructions as bureaucratic inertia, shortages of trained personnel, and vested interest groups. These basic problems include fragmentation and small size of land holdings, rapid displacement of the rural population to the cities and related regional imbalances, and a distorted investment pattern. Success in the economic field does not of course automatically bring about political popularity. Nonetheless, the current economic boom has made the regime more palatable even to those Greeks who wish a return to parliamentary rule.

C. Their Weaknesses

16. The regime remains vulnerable in many respects. Though it has showered the Greek people with considerable laudatory propaganda about itself, it does not appear to have acquired a mass following; the public appearances of the leaders inspire little enthusiasm. Most of the old regime politicians continue to shun them. The cooperative relationships with the principal business leaders are probably based on expediency rather than on any deep-seated identification with or loyalty to the present government. Indeed their ties with figures like Onassis have probably alienated many smaller businessmen, particularly those involved in the import-export field. The latter, though sharing in the general prosperity, are relatively less favored than are the tycoons.

17. The juntaʼs stated goal of purifying Greek political life is probably sincerely meant, but it is also unrealistic and utopian. It has made the leaders quite vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy, since the private lives of some of the colonels are anything but models of probity. The means used by the regime to achieve its lofty aims have included, among others, censorship, arbitrary arrest and imprisonment without trial, and—according to its bitterest critics—police torture. In any event, there is a considerable gap between the colonelsʼ words and their performance, a fact frequently pointed out by foreign critics and almost certainly known to most Greeks.

II. The Junta and the World

A. Turkey and the Cyprus Dispute

18. The regimeʼs Cyprus policy has been a cautious one; it has sought no more than to prevent the situation from leading to Greek-Turkish hostilities. Thus it acceded to Turkish demands that most regular Greek troops be removed from the island, and forbade anti-Turkish propaganda in the Greek media. But the situation on Cyprus remains volatile; no real reconciliation between the Greek and Turkish communities there is in sight, and major trouble is always a danger. [Page 789] The new Erim government in Turkey has taken a hard line—particularly on the subject of intercommunal talks—which may raise the level of tensions considerably. Were the situation to heat up, there is very little that the Athens Government could do alone to restrain Archbishop Makarios and his Greek Cypriot followers. However, Athens has about 1,700 military personnel on the island, including 950 in the Hellenic Army contingent and some 600 officers and non-commissioned officers serving with the Greek Cypriot National Guard. They could play an important role under certain circumstances, such as providing a measure of control in the event of Makariosʼ assassination.

19. There are periodic talks between the Greek and Turkish Governments on the Cyprus issue. Both Athens and Ankara would of course find it difficult to arrive at a mutually acceptable formula, and even more difficult to impose it on unwilling Cypriots. This would be particularly the case with the Greeks, who would almost certainly have to make unpalatable and hitherto unacceptable concessions to the Turks, perhaps even an agreement to partition the island between the two countries. Such a solution would not be popular in Greece, where the goal of union of the whole island with the mother country (“enosis”) still has strong emotional appeal, but the junta probably has enough strength to repress any public protests over the issue in Greece.

20. Athens has apparently not worked out a modus vivendi with Ankara to insure an untroubled succession to the 86-year old Athenagoras, the Ecumenical Patriarch resident in Istanbul, in case of his death or resignation. The prestige of Greece is intimately tied to the Patriarchate, and Turkish authorities hold a virtual veto over the succession election. If controversy should attend the first patriarchal succession in more than 23 years, relations between the two governments could be seriously worsened, even to the point of jeopardizing the continued residence of the 20,000 Greek citizens in Istanbul.

B. Europe, NATO, and the United States

21. From the first, the conduct of foreign affairs has been a vexing task for the junta. Most Greeks place a very high premium on maintaining good relations with the US and with West European states. They also want to maintain an honored place in NATO and other West European multinational organizations. The colonels were probably surprised as well as chagrined at the hostile reactions in the Western World to their seizure of power. The temporary suspension of some US military aid, the harsh criticism (particularly by The Netherlands, Norway and Denmark) in NATO meetings and other European bodies, the sequence of events which finally led Greece to walk out of the Council of Europe, the denunciation of the junta by much of the press and many prominent political figures in both Europe and the US have seriously disturbed the regimeʼs leaders. Such protests, and the pressures they [Page 790] have generated, have been one (though not the only) cause of the steps taken towards the restoration of constitutional government. At least for the moment such criticism appears to have lost momentum, although attitudes, especially in the more liberal circles of Europe, remain basically unchanged.

22. Athens is sensitive to outside criticism, and has made some concessions to it. But it is not likely to make any fundamental shifts in domestic policy in response to such attitudes. Its leaders probably calculate that there are limits, with respect to actions against them, that their NATO allies would choose to take, and that the latter need Greece as much as Greece needs them. With the US and NATO bases already in Greece, the inhospitable attitudes of the other states in the eastern Mediterranean to US use of facilities, and the rising Soviet air and naval strength there, the government believes that Greece is an area of primary strategic importance for NATO and US forces, including the Sixth Fleet.

23. Though Athens has sought to normalize and improve its generally cool relationships with Eastern Europe and the USSR, it has not threatened to turn Eastward if ties with the West were loosened. In bargaining with the US, the junta has not used threats—say to close the airfields or to shut certain installations. While resisting US pressures toward political liberalization, the government has not responded by suggesting possibly harmful moves against Washington. Rather the leaders seem to share the sentiments of many of their countrymen and feel there is a special tie—cemented by the large and sometimes prominent community of Greek descent in the US—between the two countries. Thus while continued frictions and difficulties will manifest themselves, a rupture of Greek-American relations is unlikely.

24. At the same time, the colonels will seek to retain the best possible relations with France and West Germany, both as shields against criticism from some of the smaller NATO powers, and as alternative sources of military supplies were US equipment to become unavailable or too expensive.3 While the present Greek regime would probably walk out of NATO altogether rather than accede to political pressures stimulated by its critics in NATO, there now appears no serious likelihood of its being forced to do so. At least for the present the junta probably views relations with the US and most other NATO countries as on the whole satisfactory and sees no need to change its present course.

[Page 791]

The Arab World and Africa

25. Impelled by such factors as the need to broaden diplomatic support for Greece and concern for Greeks living abroad, the junta has made efforts during the past two years to improve its standing with Arab and sub-Sahara African governments. Greece has entered a supply and training agreement with the Libyan Air Force and has exchanged high-level visits with several West African countries.

III. Prospects and Contingencies

26. In more than four years of power, the leaders have shown themselves adept in maintaining their control. Their prospects for continuing to do so now appear good. Such factors as their own cohesiveness, a passive populace, a contented army, an efficient police, no strong foreign pressures for change, and a booming economy all point towards their continued survival. But any of these and other favorable ones could change unexpectedly, bringing on a new situation. Some combination of internal failures, outside developments, and foreign pressures could cause serious trouble for the leadership; it is even conceivable that the entire military regime might be ousted altogether. For example:

The cohesiveness that has characterized the military leadership since the 1967 coup could erode in time or fracture suddenly over some major issue. In such circumstances Papadopoulos might be replaced by another member of the junta or by another secret army clique; or the present system might give way to some form of “collective” leadership with no single individual exercising much influence over events. b. If over time resistance groups in exile and the traditional party politicians now inactive were able to coordinate their efforts and organize popular support, they might pose a threat to the junta, encourage divisions between it and the armed forces, or at least constitute a source of serious harassment, possibly by terrorist tactics.
The Greek economy and political system will remain heavily dependent on developments taking place outside the country or over which its government has no control. For example, a serious setback in a conflict with the Turks over Cyprus could lead to the juntaʼs downfall. A serious recession in Europe would sharply reduce worker remittances from West Germany, cut tourist revenues, contract a principal market for exports, and bring on depressed economic conditions in Greece, with consequent trouble for its rulers.
In addition, the regime—already an international pariah in the eyes of some groups and smaller countries in Europe—would be vulnerable were it to face concerted opposition from the principal European powers. It would be very much more so were it to encounter active hostility from the US Government as well. In such circumstances the juntaʼs survival could be seriously threatened.

[Page 792]

27. Over time, the junta will probably seek to increase at least the appearance of greater popular support. To this end it might ordain the establishment of one or more political parties, perhaps including a putative opposition one. It may permit the election of a new parliament. Such measures would offer many advantages; Papadopoulos could hope, in so doing, actually to broaden his base of public backing at home and to spike the guns of his critics abroad.

28. But such measures would more likely be tokens of the governmentʼs good intentions than an actual turnover of power to a civilian government. Thus any new political parties would probably be tame affairs, manned by politicians pledged to the continuation of the “revolution” and to the primacy of the colonels. Similarly a new parliament would probably be designed to provide the regime with little more than a constitutional facade.

29. Another kind of move—less likely—would be to seek some kind of rapprochement with exiled King Constantine, even allowing him to return. The King is, to the regime, a known and distrusted quantity. The junta seized power without his prior knowledge and against his wishes. After several months of wary coexistence, the King (who had formerly played a very active political role in his own right and who would probably seek to do so again) tried to throw them out; his counter-coup failed and he was exiled, though Greece officially remains a monarchy. Whatever Constantine were to promise as a price for his return, in the juntaʼs mind there would always be a danger that he would begin demanding a truly free press or elections, or start soliciting support from civilians and military men of prominence. This would pose a real threat, a fact which makes his return at the regimeʼs behest doubtful.4

30. In any case, the leaders will probably be guided in their decisions principally by concern for their continued tenure in office. While taking any number of measures to enhance their public image or to pursue specific political or economic policies, they will be highly unlikely, on their own, to do anything which they thought could lead to their loss of ultimate authority over Greek political life.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1265, Saunders Subject Files, Greece, 9/1/71–12/31/71. Secret. The CIA and the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State and Defense, and the NSA prepared this estimate. All members of the USIB concurred with it with the exception of the representatives of the AEC and FBI who abstained on the grounds that it was outside their jurisdiction.
  2. In 1970, some $51 million came in under the investment law. This compares with about $48 million in 1966, the last year before the coup. [Footnote in the original.]
  3. Most equipment in the Greek Armed Forces is of US origin, and Athens, knowing the logistical problems of servicing equipment from different sources, would like to keep it that way. Nonetheless, the Greeks are mindful of the previous partial cut-off of arms supplies, of the reduction of US grant aid programs, and of the competitive prices being quoted by European arms manufacturers. [Footnote in the original.]
  4. The 1968 constitution provides for the monarchʼs return after elections are held. A possible resolution of the problem would be the deposition of Constantine and the recognition of his young son as King. [Footnote in the original.]