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

5705. Subject: Initial Assessment of Greek Withdrawal from NATO. Ref: (a) Athens 5653 (NOTAL); (b) Athens 5665.2

Summary: GOG decision to withdraw from NATO probably taken without full realization of its impact. Earlier experience, however, suggests that GOG contemplates a relationship with other NATO countries like that of France but a base-rights relationship with USG similar to Spanish example. Since GOG has not thought through impact of withdrawal, we can only estimate impact on US security interests in Greece. End Summary.

Action taken by GOG August 14 to withdraw from North Atlantic Treaty Organization, while continuing to adhere to the North Atlantic Treaty, clearly has far-reaching implications. We attempt in this cable to give initial assessment of meaning of Greek action and its implications for US-Greek security relationship. As situation matures, we will have further comments.
Following commentary is based on assumption that any clash between Greece and Turkey would be confined for all essential purposes to Cyprus and that it would be brief, leaving mistrust and unhappiness between two countries but without legacy of hatred toward each other and bitterness toward bystanders which full-scale war would engender. Latter eventuality would require considerable reevaluation of US position in Greece.
We believe this decision, like the January 1973 decision to forgo further grant military assistance,3 was taken without adequate thought to ramifications for Greece’s future security needs. We doubt that impact of decision on NATO infrastructure program or implications for [Page 84] future operations of NAMFI, Souda Bay or NAWTC at Timbakion, for example, were fully taken into account. We assume that as a minimum, GOG intends to withdraw Greek military personnel from NATO commands in Brussels, Naples and Izmir; to cease participating in various NATO committees, etc. involved in military activities; and to align Greece’s defense activities with its own concept of Greece’s national interests and not necessarily in accordance with NATO plans. Whether withdrawal would go beyond this is matter we doubt GOG has thought through and might in any event depend upon outcome of current events.
Whether or not Greece’s decision is irrevocable, and speed and extent to which it is implemented, clearly depend on our ability to defuse the Cyprus crisis and formulate a settlement that Greeks can live with. Should Greece contemplate re-integration, we do not believe that assignment of Greeks to NATO headquarters on Turkish soil would be possible for the foreseeable future. Thus, reintegration might be accomplished in headquarters in Naples or Brussels but not in Izmir.
For Greece (as for Turkey) NATO has always meant a multilateralized relationship with the United States. There is considerable reason to think that Greece intends by its withdrawal action to put pressure on alliance but not to give up the central relationship with the United States. In this scheme of things, GOG doubtless believes that Greece’s strategic position is such that USG will wish to continue close security relationship within or without NATO, and we presume that this Greek judgment is not wide of the mark. Question then is what kind of relationship would GOG envision and how would this accord with United States view of USG-Greek security relationship under North Atlantic Treaty but outside NATO?
Our experience in negotiating with GOG on base rights and related issues is that GOG feels that fundamental changes are overdue. Although this feeling manifested itself under two authoritarian regimes which preceded current government, it evidently developed from Greek perceptions which are not necessarily dependent upon shared views on best means of governing Greece. They seem to be held both by Greek military leaders and Foreign Ministry. Salient features of these changes, as predicted by our recent experiences, would include:
Existing as well as additional US facilities and other manifestations of US presence should not result in any cost to GOG. This conviction results from reappraisal by Greeks of advantages and disadvantages for Greece of Alliance relationship, stimulated basically by unfortunate 10% local currency deposit requirement and imminent expiration of grant military assistance which together prompted Greece early in 1973 pre-emptively to announce renunciation of further grant aid. We have sensed and experienced results of this in several contexts, [Page 85] but in future would expect further GOG demands to restore what it perceives as financial balance.
Restoration of balance might be expected to take form of quid pro quo for US use of Greek facilities which would put Greece in category of base rights countries. Spain is model GOG probably has in mind and Spanish experience might be quite relevant in our future security relationship with Greece.
NATO SOFA and bilateral US-Greek implementing agreement concerning jurisdiction over US military personnel might well be challenged, with elimination of latter as first objective. Since other provisions of NATO SOFA have proven to be troublesome in GOG’s views, its general applicability might also well be challenged and a superseding bilateral more favorable to Greece demanded.
Assertion of close Greek control over unilateral US activities, such as special reconnaissance missions, might also be anticipated. A heightened desire to avoid irritating Arab countries could well emerge from a Greek attempt to broaden its foreign policy base in wake of withdrawal decision and humiliation on Cyprus, making reconnaissance missions particularly vulnerable.
Greece’s withdrawal from NATO also could have implications in following areas, and probably in other ways not immediately called to mind:
[11 lines not declassified]
US Sixth Fleet visits to Greek ports might be less welcome in the short term but their basic acceptability from Greek point of view should not lessen significantly in longer term. Dormant Phase II of homeporting would probably be far less acceptable to GOG in aftermath of likely unhappy resolution of Cyprus problem. Presence of Sixth Fleet in eastern Mediterranean will still be seen as important to Greece’s defense against threat from north, but it will take some time for Sixth Fleet to get rid of onus for failure to intervene to stop Turkish invasion of Cyprus, however unrealistic or unfair we know that Greek view to be.
Future of multilaterally-used NATO installations on Greek soil, NAMFI and NAWTC, is very uncertain. It is difficult to envision continued functioning of these installations with Greece outside of NATO, yet considerable value they have for integrated training argues in favor of their continued operation. If this could be accomplished, it would keep Greeks engaged with NATO in meaningful fashion and thereby make possible reintegration decision that much easier.
Impact on NATO infrastructure program is not clear to us. We presume infrastructure funds could not be utilized to maintain the many Greek facilities erected through this program. Any construction USG might normally wish to have funded through infrastructure presumably would have to be unilaterally funded now.
Greek participation in NATO exercises would again seem to be excluded for foreseeable future, but slack might be taken up to great extent expanded program of bilateral exercises with US Navy, or even multilateral exercises (excluding Turkish units) without NATO identification.
Status of JUSMAGG should not be altered so long as Greece continues its extensive weapons modernization program. JUSMAGG’s charter predates Greece’s original entry into NATO, and it plays a significant role in assisting Hellenic Armed Forces modernization effort, so it should not suffer as result of recent withdrawal decision.
As indicated above, as GOG assesses meaning of its own decision and we are able to discuss matter with contacts at various levels, we shall refine this analysis.
  1. Source: Department of State, RG 84, Athens Embassy Files: Lot 96 F 335, Box 1, DEF 4–6 1974, Greek Withdrawal. Secret; NIACT Immediate. Drafted by Robert Pugh (POL/MIL), approved by Monteagle Stearns (DCM), and cleared in draft by General Burke (JUSMAGG) and Elizabeth Brown (POL). Repeated Immediate to the Secretary of Defense, Ankara, Nicosia, London, Thessaloniki, USNATO, JCS, USNMR SHAPE, USCINCEUR, CINCUSNAVEUR, CINCUSAFE, CINCUSAREUR, USDOCOSOUTH, and COMSIXTHFLT.
  2. In telegram 5653, August 14, Tasca reported that the Greek Foreign Ministry would announce Greece’s withdrawal from NATO, but that it would remain an alliance member for political purposes. (Ibid.) Regarding telegram 5665, see footnote 2, Document 20.
  3. See Document 1.