26. Intelligence Memorandum1
IMPLICATIONS OF THE GREEK WITHDRAWAL FROM MILITARY
PARTICIPATION IN NATO
The decision of Greece to withdraw from military participation in NATO could have important consequences for the defense of the Alliance’s southern flank. How significant they will be depends on how the Greek government decides to implement its decision in practical terms.
- —The decision to withdraw was probably taken without full consideration of its consequences for Greece. As these consequences become more clearly understood, the Greeks may develop second thoughts on the subject.
- —Although the Greeks probably had the French example in mind when they made their decision, it is unlikely that they will attempt to follow the French precedent closely. Unlike France at the time of its withdrawal, Greece possesses no nuclear weapons and all of its contiguous neighbors are potentially hostile.
- —The leaders of the Greek armed forces have concluded that military withdrawal from NATO would seriously weaken the country’s defense. They will probably attempt to keep the Greek position as vague and tentative as possible and may eventually press for a return to the NATO military structure.
- —In the event of a Warsaw Pact attack in the southern region, Greece probably would enter the war in its own interests, regardless of whether formal NATO treaty obligations existed. Greek capabilities in such a case would, however, be degraded if, in the years prior to the [Page 98] attack, there had been no joint military planning or exercises with other NATO states.
The future relationship of Greece to NATO—including decisions on the questions of maintaining [less than 1 line not declassified] foreign bases in Greece, and continuing joint planning and exercises—will be determined primarily by the outcome of the Cyprus crisis and other issues outstanding with Turkey. If the Cyprus affair can be settled without further damage to Greek dignity and no new crisis develops in the Aegean, relations between Greece and NATO will improve, but the Greeks’ bitter memories of the crisis would make it unlikely that relations with NATO could ever be restored to pre-Cyprus terms.
Implications of the Greek Withdrawal From Military
Participation in NATO
The decision of Greece to withdraw from military participation in NATO could have important consequences for the defense of the Alliance’s southern flank. How significant they will be depends on how the Greek government decides to implement its decision in practical terms. NATO’s experience with France has shown that such a withdrawal does not preclude the continuation of some measures of military cooperation.
Greece probably will decide, as did France, that it is expedient in terms of national interests to maintain some military ties with other NATO members, though they may be informal and unacknowledged. This is especially likely because of the problems Greece has traditionally experienced with its neighbors. The Greek military in particular will continue to be concerned about a possible threat emanating from neighboring Communist states, especially in view of the uncertainty surrounding future developments in Yugoslavia. The future development of Greek relations with NATO, however, will be determined by a number of factors, notably the outcome of the Cyprus crisis and the domestic political situation, which cannot be predicted on the basis of current information.
The decision to withdraw from military participation in NATO was probably taken without full consideration of its possible consequences for Greece. It stemmed from frustration over the inability or unwillingness of the US and other NATO allies to persuade Turkey to exercise restraint in its Cyprus policy, rather than from a calculation that such an action would be of positive advantage. A strong tide of popular emotion made it necessary for the Karamanlis regime to make some dramatic gesture, and the decision to withdraw bolstered his domestic position. While the Greeks probably hoped that such a gesture would cause NATO to put pressure on Turkey to moderate its position, Athens evidently did not study how it would implement [Page 99] its decision or consider the practical consequences for the Greek armed forces.
Steps to Withdrawal
The possibility of Greek withdrawal from NATO had emerged in July during the first phase of the Cyprus crisis. After the Turkish invasion the Ioannides regime issued an order recalling Greek officers from Brussels and other NATO headquarters, although this was later modified to a notice of possible recall as part of the country’s general mobilization. The Greeks did withdraw their personnel from the NATO regional headquarters in Izmir, Turkey, and discontinued cooperation with Turkey in the areas of NATO communications and joint planning.
The 14 August announcement by the Karamanlis government concerning Greece’s withdrawal from NATO offered few details. It stated that, in view of the Alliance’s inability “to stem Turkey from creating a situation of conflict between two allies,” Greek forces would be withdrawn from NATO and that Greece would only participate in the political activities of the Alliance. Since that announcement, some government spokesmen have maintained that the decision is irrevocable, while others have hinted that it might be reconsidered. Athens has been proceeding, however, as if it intended to carry through.
Prime Minister Karamanlis’ letter to NATO heads of government in late August left little doubt that Greek forces had been placed under national command. Subsequently, official notice was given to NATO by the Greek commander in chief that Greek forces were no longer NATO assigned or earmarked. Greece has also announced its intention to cease sending representatives to the Defense Planning Committee, the Defense Review Committee, the Executive Working Group, and the Nuclear Planning Group. The Greeks plan to continue to participate in the Military Committee (composed of the chiefs of staff of all member countries except France and Iceland) during the withdrawal period.
The withdrawal steps taken by the Greeks so far could be reversed merely by an announcement to that effect. In addition, Athens has not removed its officers assigned to the various NATO headquarters (with the exception of Izmir). The other NATO members, while still hoping for an eventual Greek return to full participation, have nevertheless begun to prepare for negotiations with the Greeks on the withdrawal.
The French Example
The Greeks probably had the French example in mind when they made their decision and may attempt to follow at least the general outlines of that precedent as they implement their withdrawal. The Greeks almost certainly recognize, however, that there are differences between their situation and that of France at the time of its withdrawal from [Page 100] military participation in NATO in 1966. The significance of these differences for the Greek position is striking:
- —France was already a nuclear power, with both warheads and the means of delivering them; [11/2 lines not declassified].
- —France had an independent arms industry and was in fact a major exporter of weapons; Greece is heavily dependent on other countries for major weapon systems and even for many smaller weapons.
- —France was capable of fulfilling its force goals without foreign assistance; Greece has traditionally relied on such assistance.
- —France did not perceive any military threat from her neighbors; all four of Greece’s contiguous neighbors are potentially hostile.
In view of such important differences, it appears unlikely that the Greeks will attempt to follow the French precedent blindly, but they may adapt it to their special circumstances.
Protecting the Southern Flank
One major implication of the Greek decision is that the Greek government, like the French, would no longer consider its armed forces under any obligation to assist militarily a fellow NATO member that became the victim of Warsaw Pact aggression. In theory this would have some potential consequences for NATO’s defense of northern or central Europe. If the Pact were planning an attack on these regions, any concern by the Soviets about a NATO response on their southern flank might be lessened if Greece were not a military member of the Alliance. In fact, however, Greece’s primary mission in NATO war plans does not involve her forces in any other capacity than to counter a Pact attack in the southern region. This mission would call for Greek forces both to engage directly in combat operations and to provide support for other NATO units reinforcing the area.
Were such an attack to occur, the danger to Greek interests would be such that, formal NATO treaty obligations or not, Greece probably would feel compelled to enter the war in its own interests, although its reaction would depend on an assessment of the purpose and aims of the Pact attack and its prospects for success. Greek capabilities in such a case would, however, undoubtedly be degraded if, in the years prior to the attack, there had been no joint planning of military activities with other NATO states, especially the US and Turkey. The Greek forces would be at a disadvantage if they had not been taking part in peacetime military exercises with such states.
[Omitted here is a map of Europe and the Mediterranean area showing the NATO members.]
An important question for the future, therefore, is whether Greece will be willing to continue such exercises and joint planning for the use of its armed forces in wartime, despite the lack of a treaty commitment to military cooperation or a formal integrated military structure. [Page 101] The Greek armed forces probably will favor the continuation of such activities, and liaison may be maintained with such NATO military organs as the Defense Planning Committee and Nuclear Defense Affairs Committee even if Greece is no longer formally a member of them.
Another question is how the acquisition of modern weapons and equipment by the Greek armed forces will be affected by their withdrawal from the NATO system. Traditionally Greece has received NATO guidance in the formulation of its force goals and has been heavily dependent on foreign military assistance for the fulfillment of these goals. If such assistance does not continue, the effect on Greek military capabilities will certainly be adverse, although the Greeks probably will try to compensate for this by increasing their own military expenditures and by efforts to obtain support from other states, particularly France. Even if NATO assistance does continue, it is probable that Greece will try to avoid relying on it exclusively and will attempt to establish ties with other states.
The French have indicated a willingness generally to support Greece in its new policy course. The nature of such support will apparently include the supplying of advanced weapon systems, possibly on easy credit terms; political support for the Greek effort to move closer to the European community; and advice concerning various legal and technical aspects of its new relationship with NATO. The French will probably provide as much support as they can along these lines, but a French spokesman has acknowledged the dissimilarities between the Greek situation and that of France at the time of its withdrawal.
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Bases in Greece
Another question is whether Greece, like France, will demand the closure of foreign military bases on its soil. Some of these bases are NATO installations, but most are the result of bilateral agreements between Greece and the US. Of particular interest:
- —US facilities, actual and projected, for the support of Sixth Fleet units. The loss of these facilities would be an inconvenience and would make it more difficult to counter Soviet naval activities in the Mediterranean, but would not constitute an insurmountable obstacle to Sixth Fleet operations. There have been some indications that Greece will eventually terminate the agreement whereby a US destroyer squadron is home-ported there, but no definite steps have yet been taken.
- —NATO training facilities on the island of Crete. These are used by Alliance members primarily for training air and air defense crews. Such training cannot be conveniently conducted in the crowded confines of central Europe; other training facilities would have to be [Page 102] found, resulting in increased expenditures and disruption of training plans.
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- —US and NATO communications facilities. Loss of these facilities would significantly reduce the capability to communicate with Turkey and US naval units in the eastern Mediterranean. Some communications to Turkey have already been blocked by the Greeks.
- —US air facilities. Loss of these facilities, plus those maintained by the Greek air force, would reduce NATO’s capability to augment its forces in the southern region, as well as the US capability to support operations in the Middle East. Some restrictions have already been placed on US use of these installations. In the event that US air facilities were to be closed down entirely, however, the Greeks would probably favor some contingency planning, either with the US or with NATO, for their use in a crisis.
It should also be noted that Greek air defense installations operate as part of the NATO integrated system. A refusal to continue cooperation in this system would reduce NATO early warning radar coverage of the sector encompassing the Balkans and the adjoining seas. Greece has already stopped passing early warning information to the NATO net, but has made no formal decision to end this cooperation. NATO’s experience with France has shown that a country can continue to participate in the air defense system even after other measures of military cooperation are terminated.
Maintaining a Tentative Position
How Greece will decide such questions remains unclear. The leaders of the armed forces have concluded that military withdrawal from NATO would seriously weaken the country’s defense. They recognize that Karamanlis’ decision was probably necessary under the circumstances, but will attempt to minimize its impact on the relationship of the armed forces to other NATO forces, especially those of the US. If the Cyprus question can be resolved on terms satisfactory to Greece, the armed forces may eventually press for a return to the NATO military structure. However, such pressure is highly unlikely in the near future. The main effort of the military leadership will probably be confined to keeping the Greek position as vague and tentative as possible.
Premier Karamanlis will be generally sympathetic to the military’s arguments. However, he is also aware that popular emotions are running strongly against continued ties with the US and NATO and that his decision to withdraw Greek forces from the alliance has deprived the left of a powerful weapon it might have used against his government. Thus far, Karamanlis has been successful in his efforts to neutralize the left on this issue without actually getting into the practical details. Sooner or later, however, he will have to make more definite decisions on the questions of [less than 1 line not declassified] bases, joint planning, exercises, and so forth.[Page 103]
Outlook for NATO
Karamanlis’ decisions will be determined not only by the domestic situation but by the outcome of the Cyprus crisis and other issues outstanding with Turkey. A Cyprus settlement humiliating to Greece or successful Turkish encroachments in the Aegean (involving, for example, the exploitation of oil deposits) would strengthen the Greek tendency to blame NATO and the US for Greek failures. In such a situation any Greek government would probably break completely with NATO militarily and possibly even politically.
If the Cyprus affair can be settled without further damage to Greek dignity and no new crisis develops in the Aegean, relations between Greece and NATO will improve, but the Greeks’ bitter memories of the crisis would make it unlikely that relations with NATO could ever be restored to pre-Cyprus terms. At the very best NATO will have to cope with a situation in which there is little or no cooperation between the two alliance members in the eastern Mediterranean. Additional restrictions will probably be placed on the use of US and NATO installations, even if such installations are not actually reduced, and any plans for future installations—for example, to home-port a carrier—will be impractical.
More generally, current Greek behavior may encourage other NATO members to contemplate a similar policy. Several members, [1 line not declassified] have recently experienced difficulties with their military role in the Alliance. Although their problems are very different from those of Greece, they might be tempted to use the French and Greek precedents to justify some attempts at disassociation, thus creating a centrifugal tendency that could seriously weaken NATO.
- Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DDI Files, Job 99–T01488R, Box 19, Folder 18, CIA/OSR IM 68–1/IM 75–03. Secret; No Foreign Dissem; No Dissem Abroad; Controlled Dissem; Background Use Only. This memorandum was prepared in the Theater Forces Division of the Office of Strategic Research of the Central Intelligence Agency in consultation with analysts of the Defense Intelligence Agency.↩