23. Telegram From the Department of State to the Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization1

191420. Subject: Greece and NATO. Ref:USNATO 4524; Athens 6210.2

Letter from PM Caramanlis to President Ford (Athens 6210), which UK also has received and which Embassy Athens assumes has been delivered to other allies, indicates that “Greece shall recover forthwith over her entire territory, airspace and territorial waters full exercise of her sovereignty which was heretofore limited on account of her [Page 91] participation in NATO and as a result of the permanent presence on Greek soil of foreign military installations and facilities or of the regular use of Greek airspace and territorial waters by foreign military aircraft and naval vessels. Greece is willing to examine with her allies the practical measures called for by the implementation of these decisions.” The allies thus face the need to begin considering approaches to be taken in dealing with GOG, based on careful consideration of implications of full or partial Greek withdrawal from NATO’s integrated military structure, as well as possible steps to encourage Greece to reconsider its position. (We are considering implications for US facilities in Greece and will provide further guidance as appropriate on this aspect.)
Accordingly, you should initiate informal bilateral discussions with SYG Luns and selected allies (UK, FRG, Italy and Belgium or Netherlands) on implications of Greek decision. Our initial thinking is that France should be excluded from this circle since France is not a member of the DPC, though we would welcome your views on holding talks also with French at NATO. For the present, and in order to avoid any indications to Greece that other allies are acting precipitately, all discussions should be conducted on a highly confidential basis. In initiating discussions, we believe USNATO could draw appropriately on the excellent analysis contained USNATO 4524, identifying it as Mission analysis.
A principal objective of consultations would be to consider with key allies development of a common “damage assessment,” outlining the impact on the NATO and Greek defense postures of Greek withdrawal and defining the magnitude of increased tasks which will have to be shared to close resulting defense gap. In the course of such a study, it may also be possible to identify “pressure points” to be used in discussions between the other DPC allies and Greece on the shape of future defense cooperation in the event of Greek withdrawal. We see as the benefit of this the development of a heightened awareness on the part of other allies of the potential implications of Greek withdrawal and of coordinated tactics aimed at promoting Greek reconsideration of their decision.
In the course of discussions, you may draw as appropriate on the following additional considerations.
France’s withdrawal from NATO followed several years of signaled French dissatisfaction and partial withdrawals of French forces (i.e., naval) from participation in NATO activities. Postulated on a calculated Gaullist policy, France sought and gained greater “independence,” and expanded its global as well as European influence at least partially because of its break with NATO. Greece’s proposed withdrawal, however, appears based almost entirely on a desire to find a [Page 92] public scapegoat for its humiliation by Turkey. This suggests that basically cosmetic face-saving devices (e.g., restructuring of subordinate AFSOUTH commands to separate Greek and Turkish forces) could, after Cyprus tempers cool, greatly help Greek leadership rationalize a reconsideration to their public. We strongly hope the Greek leadership over time may conclude that withdrawal from NATO’s military structure would not only expose Greece to greater pressures from the Warsaw Pact, but also weaken it further in relation to Turkey which already has shown an interest in assuming some of Greece’s former NATO military responsibilities in the Eastern Mediterranean. These factors would likely add to other pressures on the Greek Government to find ways over time of perpetuating as many links as possible with the alliance, in contrast to the French position.
Even if it withdrew from integrated military activities, Greece would remain bound by the provisions of the North Atlantic Treaty and would sit in the NAC. However, it would be reasonable to assume that, as principal gestures of disengagement, Greece, like France, would not continue to sit in the Defense Planning Committee (DPC), nor would it assign officers except in a liaison capacity to the NATO military headquarters. We assume, too, that absence from the DPC would also entail Greek non-participation in NDAC and the NPG. [1 line not declassified]
Beyond this, we agree with the view expressed in USNATO 4524 that, because of its economic weakness and exposed military position, Greece may seek to engage itself more fully than France in other institutions and activities associated with the integrated military structure of the alliance. Greece may judge that, by staying somehow linked in bilateral military arrangements with the US it is preserving a central element of its security policy, [4½ lines not declassified].
For both military and financial reasons, we suspect that Greece is likely to seek continued involvement in NADGE, NATO’s air defense, early warning and other communications systems and NATO weapons research and development. It would also clearly be in Greece’s interest to continue to participate in the infrastructure program, now paying for military construction in Greece at the rate of about $15 million per quarter. However, it is difficult to see how Greece could continue to benefit from the infrastructure program as long as Greece refused to be part of the NATO integrated military structure, a prerequisite to having facilities qualify under NATO infrastructure criteria. Greece would also likely be interested in continued participation in NATO military exercises, and in maintaining the closest possible liaison with NATO military authorities charged with developing integrated defense plans for southern Europe. Such arrangements are conceivable, though they would complicate planning and implementation [Page 93] and, in any event, Turkey would remain in a position to constantly exercise a check on the quality and quantity of Greek participation.
It is also possible that Greece would agree that the NATO air weapons training center and NATO missile firing installations could be made available on some reimbursable basis to NATO forces. Similarly, it might be prepared to continue operation on NATO’s behalf of naval communications facilities. Too, the Greeks like France likely will be prepared to provide overflight rights. However, the Greeks cannot undercut the alliance military posture to the extent the French could (and still can) by prohibiting such flights.
While recognizing the possibility of creating a unique relationship tailored for Greece, and willing to carefully consider any Greek proposal, the risks of encouraging Greece to assume it will continue to have all of its previous benefits without past costs is that it would set an example for other allies, and thus over the longer term could lead to a serious degradation of NATO’s military structure. Thus, it would seem preferable to leave Greece in the position of demandeur, should it withdraw, and to deal with Greek requests for continued military cooperation in a way that would lead Greece back to full military integration. As the Secretary stated on August 19: “… we assume that all of our allies, including Greece, join in collective defense in their own interests. We are willing to strengthen these common alliance ties and to help the Greek Government in any way possible. We will not be pressured by threat of withdrawal from the alliance….”
Insofar as work of the alliance at NATO headquarters and elsewhere is concerned, we believe that it should move forward, insofar as possible on a “business as usual” basis. As issues arise, we would be prepared to deal with them as required. Moreover, we recognize, for example, that military exercises may have to be altered or cancelled, and we are already dealing with these case by case.
In sum, it should be up to the Greek Government to take the initiative to alter its relationships with its allies; we must avoid even the suggestion of making GOG take undesirable decisions because of perceived pressures by her NATO allies. Finally, it will be in our interest to extend as long as possible discussions with Greece on its future NATO role in order to give time for tempers to cool and to avoid prematurely closing doors to Greek participation.
  1. Source: Department of State, RG 84, Athens Embassy Files: Lot 96 F 335, Greece, Box 1, DEF 4–6 1974, Greek Withdrawal. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Repeated to all NATO capitals, USCINCEUR, USLOSACLANT, USNMR SHAPE, and USDOCOSOUTH.
  2. Telegram 4524 from USNATO, August 22, and telegram 6210 from Athens, August 29, are ibid.