22. Paper Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1
ATHENS’ FRUSTRATIONS WITH THE US AND THE PROSPECTS FOR THE GREEK LEFT
The Greek Popular Mood
The Greeks are angry at the US because the alternatives are either very frustrating or very unpalatable. They should be angry at the Turks, and they are, but they cannot affort to respond militarily to the Turks because they know they probably could not win.
The other obvious alternative, blaming themselves, for the Cyprus disaster is also distasteful. Even though the Karamanlis government was not involved in the decision to oust Makarios, it would not be politic to overly chastise those who were at a time when Karamanlis is attempting to develop widespread support.[Page 87]
But someone has to be blamed for the humiliation Greeks have suffered over events in Cyprus in the past six weeks. The US became a likely target because of the alleged US “tilt” toward Turkey over the Cyprus issue. This allegation fell on fertile ground in Greece. Not only did the sense of national frustration have to be relieved in some fashion, but there is an underlying tendency among Greeks to believe that the “American factor” is the principal determinant of events in their area. This notion derives from a long history of great power involvement in Greek politics.
Karamanlis does not share the average Greek citizen’s view about the extent of US responsibility for Greek reverses on Cyprus. Nevertheless, Karamanlis probably felt obliged to make some dramatic gesture to placate public opinion, and his actions against NATO and the US are designed, in part, to relieve this frustration.
By adopting an anti-US attitude and dangling the prospect that it could get worse, Athens no doubt hopes that Washington will be encouraged to influence the Turks to moderate their position. This type of diplomatic brinkmanship has limitations, however, and Athens has already shown signs of wanting to avoid irreparable damage to Greece’s relations with the US and NATO. Great fanfare has been given to Athens’ intention to withdraw from NATO, for example, but Greek officers have not yet been ordered to leave their posts at various NATO commands, and the Greek government is considering ways of maintaining various connections with NATO even as it indicates its intention to formally withdraw.
Finally, Karamanlis’ step is of great importance to his political position. The moves against the US and NATO pre-empt, at least temporarily, the primary issue on which his government would be vulnerable to attack from the Greek left. This is not to say that Karamanlis has adopted an anti-US policy simply to secure a domestic political advantage. He is genuinely upset with US Cyprus policy, but he also recognizes that the anti-US gestures he has been making are popular and will give him time to consolidate his own political position.
Position of the Left
For the moment, the left is at a disadvantage because it is badly disorganized and divided into separate factions. There are several communist groups, but most appear to have grown more conservative during their years of political exile and are probably willing to limit their contest with Karamanlis to the ballot box.
The reported plans of maverick leftist Andreas Papandreou are less reassuring. Although he has reportedly cautioned his followers to avoid provocative actions in the near future, Papandreou plans to [Page 88] resume his “unrelenting struggle” once the Cyprus issue subsides. According to a reliable source, this will entail a campaign of demonstrations and public disorders designed to topple the Karamanlis government and catapult Papandreou to power.
Karamanlis appears to have two principal options in dealing with excesses by Papandreou-led leftists. He could place severe limitations on leftist political expression and participation as he did during his previous administration. Such a policy would strengthen his position with the right, but it also could rally the left around Papandreou who might then be in a position to seriously challenge the government.
Alternately, Karamanlis may seek to coopt some of the left’s program and even some of its more moderate leaders in an effort to keep it divided and Papandreou isolated. This option could create some disaffection among Karamanlis’ supporters on the right, but he probably could convince them of the possible long run advantage of such a policy, particularly as it pertains to Papandreou.
Karamanlis’ performance to date, particularly his threat to leave NATO, suggests he favors courting the left. He has already included several representatives of the center and some moderate leftists in his cabinet. He has also toyed with the idea of offering a cabinet post to well-known leftist composer Mikis Theodorakis who could be expected to attract many youthful supporters away from Papandreou. He reportedly is considering legalizing the Moscow-backed communist party, particularly if he receives some sign that it might abandon its present close relationship with Papandreou.
The more moderate United Democratic Left is also showing signs of distancing itself from Papandreou. Ilias Iliou, its principal spokesman, reportedly believes Papandreou’s expected extremist tactics will hurt the left and intends to make every effort to isolate him. Shorn of support from the other leftist groups, most of which have considerable organizational experience, Papandreou’s loosely organized, amorphous movement could probably be contained by the Karamanlis government.
Karamanlis’ efforts to contain the left and deal with Papandreou could, however, be jeopardized either by a humiliating Cyprus settlement or successful Turkish encroachments in the Aegean. Such reverses would almost certainly strengthen the left, which would blame Karamanlis’ continued association with the west for any losses to Turkey. In such a situation, the left’s chances of assuming power would be enhanced.
Prospects for Relations with the US
If a Cyprus settlement that preserves Greek dignity can be negotiated and further troubles in the Aegean avoided, US-Greek relations [Page 89] may improve. At best, however, they would likely be less cordial and more businesslike than they were during Karamanlis’ first term. According to a senior Greek foreign ministry official, Karamanlis does not want to “dismantle” Greece’s cooperation with the US but he is inclined to “restructure it.” This will reportedly involve, in the coming weeks and months, a renegotiation of the “modalities” of many of Greece’s agreements with the US. The US sixth fleet homeporting agreement is a likely candidate for revision. The official emphasized, however, that Greece had no desire to abandon its place in the western camp or have the US relinquish its role as Greece’s closest friend.
This view is probably shared by most members of the military who, until the present disillusion with the US role in the Cyprus issue, have been western oriented and very pro-American. The military reportedly viewed Karamanlis’ moves against the US and NATO as regrettable but necessary given the US failure to give more support to the Greek case on Cyprus. This appears, however, to have been an emotional reaction and most military men would probably not want to pursue such moves any further and might even prefer they be rescinded once emotions are cooled. The armed forces high command, for example, has concluded [less than 1 line not declassified] that Greece’s withdrawal from NATO would create havoc in its defense establishment and leave it incapable of defending itself. Moreover, the military and probably Karamanlis recognize that too hostile a policy against the US could cause it to “tilt” even closer to Turkey. Consequently, Karamanlis will probably be aiming to limit the damage to Greek relations with the US and NATO arising from the Cyprus problem, and not exacerbate it.
At the same time, Karamanlis is looking forward to a closer relationship with Europe. He is motivated in this direction by the political and economic benefits of closer integration into the European Economic Community and related institutions. He is also looking for an alternate arms supplier because he believes US and Greek interests do not coincide in the revived Greco-Turkish rivalry to the extent they do vis-à-vis the threat from the Soviet bloc.
The French are the obvious candidate for the Greeks to look to for assistance because they are the world’s third largest arm supplier, because of their own loose relationship with NATO and because Karamanlis has established pro-French sentiments during his eleven years of exile in Paris. The French, meanwhile, are anxious to accommodate the Greeks for the same reasons and because they are concerned over what they see as the vulnerability of the Karamanlis government to a challenge from the Greek left.
France and the other European states also have appeared anxious to encourage the trend toward democratization in Greece and prevent [Page 90] a drift toward neutralism. They have been receptive to the Greek initiative for closer ties and are expected soon to unfreeze Greece’s association with the EC and readmit her to the Council of Europe.
If Things Turned Really Sour….
Should Greece be forced to accept a humiliating settlement over Cyprus or if it does not receive what it considers adequate US backing in the Aegean controversy, the Karamanlis government would be under severe pressure to eliminate the US presence in Greece. This pressure would emerge from the left but it would probably encompass most, if not all, Greek political groupings and would even receive support among substantial segments of the military, particularly the junior officer corps. In such a situation, Karamanlis would probably terminate all bilateral agreements with the US and either swing completely toward Europe or adopt a neutralist posture.
Should Karamanlis fail to take severe action in such circumstances, his government would either be voted out of office or overthrown by a coalition of leftists, both in and out of the military. A new government, which would almost certainly have a leftist or at least neutralist orientation, would probably sever remaining ties between Greece and the US.
- Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Executive Registry, Job 80–M01048A, Box 3, Greece, Folder 17. Secret; No Foreign Dissem; No Dissem Abroad; Background Use Only; Controlled Dissem. The paper was prepared in response to Kissinger’s request for an assessment of current Greek resentment of the United States and was transmitted by a covering memorandum from Acting DCI Vernon Walters on August 29.↩