38. Telegram From the Department of State to the Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Embassy in Greece 1

58882. Subject: Greece and NATO.

At present, the allies are in a “holding pattern” on the Greek/ NATO relationship, with the US and most other allies endorsing the view that the initiative on clarifying this relationship should be left to Greece. Greece appears to want to delay NATO negotiations until the US-Greek negotiations have moved further, or indeed been completed. We have come to the view, however, that it is appropriate to begin to move now to start the process of clarifying the Greek role in NATO, for the following reasons. [Page 136]
  • —US/Greek bilateral negotiations can make some progress, but are limited by the interconnection between the US bilateral role in Greece, and Greece’s NATO ties. [10 lines not declassified] The alternative to recommitment of forces to NATO, bilateral US-Greek arrangements not tied to NATO, would pose serious problems with Congress, and would have global implications as a precedent. A second complex problem is posed by the fact that the NATO infrastructure program in Greece overlaps with US use of facilities there, as, for example, at the Souda Bay airfield, which is built with NATO funds. In sum, the bilateral negotiations with Greece can make progress on certain issues, but cannot be wrapped up completely unless and until the Greek NATO role is clarified.
  • —There is also the broad question of the type of bilateral arrangements we want in Greece, and the value we attach to US facilities there under various circumstances: if Greece is in NATO’s military structure, or if it has withdrawn, or is in some intermediate category. We can only approach this question in more specific terms as we have more appreciation for the likely future Greek role in NATO.
  • —The major question of a new Greek relationship with NATO as a precedent for other allies.
In addition, there are internal pressures within the NATO context that are at work because of the ambiguous Greek role, including:
  • —Infrastructure—new projects for Greece are frozen and work on previously approved projects is being disputed by Turkey. More generally, the issue of existing infrastructure facilities in Greece will need resolution, and NATO claims against Greece are a possibility if a satisfactory resolution to the question of Greece’s force commitment to NATO does not emerge.
  • —Turkey’s concerns over its communications and radar/early warning links with NATO, which are subject to interruption by Greece. Turkey has asked for development of alternative channels, a costly and complex process.
  • —Allied command arrangements for southeastern Europe. The ambiguity concerning the Greek role was one factor in Turkey’s decision to opt out of Wintex 75; the whole question is a central one for NATO military planners in planning southern flank defense.
  • —Overflight rights, including over the Aegean.

Approach to Greek/NATO negotiations.

Our approach to these negotiations would be to encourage Greece ultimately to resume the fullest possible role in NATO, at the same time seeking to avoid backing Greece prematurely into a corner that would make it formalize, under pressure, a low degree of participation, closing the door on further integration into NATO. The central issue in negotiations is likely to be the nature of the Greek force commitment to [Page 137] NATO. The present NATO categories of “assignment” and “earmarking” involve, for Greece, some forces under NATO command, and some other forces earmarked to be placed under NATO commanders in certain contingency situations. We would of course prefer to see Greece come to restore its commitment under these categories. We recognize, however, that this may pose political problems for the Greek Government since Caramanlis has renounced precisely these categories. In this regard, the redefinition of force commitment categories currently under study in NATO may be helpful to the GOG. We will need a closer reading over time of the possibilities this recategorization exercise provides, as well as the effect of possible Greek force.

Commitments as a precedent for other allies. We will wish to impress, with other allies, on Greece the need for a satisfactory resolution to this question.


Timing considerations.

Greek domestic politics, Greece’s relations with Turkey, and the Cyprus issue interact to place limits on how fast, and perhaps how far, Greece may be able to move in defining its role in NATO in the direction we desire. An acceptable new Greece/NATO relationship will not quickly be defined; we should be prepared for a slow, possibly groping process. During this period, for the reasons stated above, it may not be possible to bring our bilateral negotiations with Greece to a formal conclusion, although we would seek to make tangible progress on individual issues.

For USNATO: You should approach Luns, and drawing on paras 1, 2, 3, and 4 above, explain that we believe it time to move to clarification of the Greek role in NATO, making clear that we do not seek an adversary or unduly hasty process. You should indicate that we prefer that Greece take the initiative, though we believe that the process should be launched in any case in the next few weeks. You should also outline the idea of initial discussions between Greece and a small group of allies which Luns might convoke, pointing out that we recognize that a larger group, including Turkey and all other DPC members, would eventually have to take part in any decisions.
You are then authorized to approach, at your discretion, UK, FRG and Italian PermReps, as well as PermRep Dean De Staercke along the same lines indicating our preference for a small, informal meeting in the weeks ahead and suggesting that this idea by raised with Greeks by one or more of these PermReps.
Once the approaches in paras 5 and 6 have been undertaken, you should approach Greek PermRep Theodoropoulos along the following lines:
  • We are interested in progress in US-Greek negotiations which began in February, and will continue to approach them with this goal.

    [Page 138]

    However, we are increasingly aware that the interconnection between the Greek role in NATO and US-Greek bilateral defense arrangements is complex and pervasive. Thus, we cannot view the bilateral negotiations wholly in isolation from the Greek/NATO relationship, which in our view needs further clarification.

  • —Various aspects of US activities in Greece are tied in with activities funded by NATO infrastructure. It may be difficult to envisage new bilateral agreements or arrangements relating to NATO-funded facilities when the status of these is uncertain in NATO.
  • —[9 lines not declassified]
  • —More generally, we will be in a better position to evaluate the scope and nature of our bilateral defense ties with Greece when we have a clearer view of Greece’s role in NATO. We cannot view our bilateral relationship with Greece or any other ally in isolation.
  • —We thus believe it is necessary to move toward clarifying the Greek role in NATO. We would prefer for Greece to take the initiative in this regard. We suggest, as earlier, that initial discussions could take place with Greece and a small group of allies—perhaps the UK, US, FRG, Italy, the Dean of PermReps, and Luns—so that they could be on an informal basis without commitment.
For Athens: You are authorized to make parallel presentation to GOG at level you deem appropriate once USNATO has undertaken approach to Theodoropoulos.
  1. Source: Department of State, Athens Embassy Files: Lot 96 F 335, Box 1, DEF 4–6, 1975 Greek Withdrawal. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Also sent Priority to London, Bonn, and USNMR SHAPE.