40. Paper Prepared by the National Security Council Staff1


Response to NSSM 215—“U.S. Security Policy Toward Greece”

I. Introduction and Background

On August 14, 1974, the new Greek government under the leadership of Prime Minister Constantine Caramanlis announced its withdrawal from NATO’s integrated military structure.2 This decision, which was taken at the height of the Cyprus crisis, reflected the frustration of the newly installed Greek government and the people of Greece over being unable to assist militarily their brethren on the island and in seeing their NATO allies, particularly the United States, fail to forestall the Turkish action. In subsequent statements, the Greeks referred to a “new relationship with NATO” and the fact that the status of U.S. and NATO bases on Greek soil would have to be revised.

[Page 141]

At the request of the Greek government, a preliminary round of talks on the future of the US-Greek security relationship was held in Athens during the week of February 10–14.3 The second round in the consultations is scheduled to begin in Athens on April 7.

NSSM 2154 directed that a comprehensive review of U.S. security policy towards Greece be undertaken to identify U.S. interests and offer recommendations for U.S. policy aimed at their protection, particularly in the context of future US-Greek negotiations on U.S. bases and facilities. [2 lines not declassified] A study has been completed by an ad hoc interagency group chaired by State. The study is summarized below with NSC staff comments in parentheses. Formal agency comments/recommendations were submitted separately and are incorporated in this summary.5

In format, the study is introduced by a brief overview of the development of our bilateral security relationship with Greece, together with an analytical discussion of Greece’s decision to withdraw from NATO’s military arm and a brief look at the various factors expected to influence Greece’s approach to negotiations (pp 1–5). [6 lines not declassified]. Greece’s security relationship with NATO is examined in detail, including the legal and institutional aspects of Greece’s withdrawal decision and the value of Greece and NATO of the Greece-NATO association (pp 19–25 and Annex H). Finally, the study takes up the legal problems relating to U.S. facilities and forces, specifically the bilateral Status of Forces Agreement which regulates our day-to-day relations with the Greeks on most military matters (pp 25–28 and Annexes D and E).

Against this background, the study lists some six likely assumptions underlying Greece’s approach to negotiations both with the United States and Greece. These assumptions can be summarized as follows: 1) to reduce the American military profile in Greece; 2) [1 line not declassified]; 3) to update, consolidate and tighten current bilateral agreements, and; 4) to assert Greek sovereignty by monitoring and controlling more directly U.S. military activities in Greece (pp 29–31). The study then identifies U.S. policy objectives in the US-Greek and Greek-NATO negotiations: 1) preservation of the fundamentals of the US-Greek security relationship intact; 2) [less than 1 line not declassified]; 3) return of Greece to full participation in NATO’s integrated military structure, and; 4) as a concessionary measure if raised first by the Greek side, reduction or consolidation of certain bases/facilities identified in the study [Page 142] as least essential to retain (pp 32–33). Policy options to attain these objectives are presented on pages 34–41; [1 line not declassified].

(Our security relationship with Greece is of relatively longstanding, dating from March 1947 when the Truman Doctrine was promulgated and when the U.S. began to take over from the UK the responsibility for protecting and preserving Western interests in Greece. Since that time, the U.S. has invested nearly $4 billion in economic and military assistance to the Greek government.)

(Though the Communist guerrilla war ended in 1949, the Soviet-bloc threat to Greece’s independence remained, and in 1952 we led the way for the admission of Greece to NATO. Under the NATO aegis, we subsequently concluded agreements providing for the establishment of both U.S. and NATO security facilities in Greece.)

The study specifically identifies U.S. security interests in some five major bilateral bases/facilities, as well as three major NATO installations where there is a significant U.S. stake.

(The study points out (correctly, we believe) that in the past decade, for a number of reasons, the Greeks have come to believe that foreign bases/facilities on their soil serve US/NATO rather than Greek defense interests. More than any other factor in recent years, the Greek military junta’s strong support of United States and NATO security interests in the Eastern Mediterranean has worked to produce a change in the Greek attitude towards the US/NATO presence in their country. Thus, the study points out that even if the events of last summer had not occurred on Cyprus, it seems likely that the Greeks would have eventually sought to alter the nature of their security relationship with both the United States and NATO.)

II. Likely Assumptions Underlying Greece’s Approach to Negotiations With the U.S. and NATO

Greece has asked for negotiations to revise the US-Greek security relationship. A preliminary round of talks on this subject was held in Athens during the week of February 10–14; the second round will open on April 7. The study makes six basic assumptions—generally borne out by the first round of talks—about the Greek approach to the negotiations:

  • —First, the Greek Government is firmly committed to a policy of close alliance with the West, particularly the United States.
  • —Second, the Greeks will seek an overall reduction both in the number of U.S. military personnel stationed in Greece and in the number of facilities.
  • —Third, the Greeks will also seek to alter the general agreements under which the United States operates in Greece, specifically, the Military Facilities Agreement of 1953 and the bilateral Status of Forces Agreement of 1956.
  • —Fourth, the Greeks will endeavor to ensure that all American bases/facilities in Greece be clearly seen by the public as serving the defense needs of both Greece and the United States.
  • —Fifth, the Greeks will move cautiously on the NATO front in the next few months, and that the outcome of the bilateral talks will shape their approach to NATO.
  • —[2 lines not declassified].

The study provides a detailed discussion of factors which might have an influence on the outcome of the negotiations. These include domestic pressures on Prime Minister Caramanlis, the Cyprus situation, Greek-Turkish relations in general, future levels of U.S. economic and military assistance, and the attitude of NATO nations (some of which are anxious to clarify Greece’s status in the Alliance), and Congressional reactions.

III. U.S. Objectives and Alternatives Approaches to the Negotiations

U.S. objectives in the US-Greek and Greek-NATO negotiations are necessarily conservative. We will want to conduct the negotiations in such a way as to help the Greek Government handle its perceived domestic problem while preserving the fundamentals of the US-Greek security relationship and while encouraging Greece’s return to full participation in NATO. We will want to regain full effective use of the facilities we consider most important, and we will want to consider consolidating or reducing facilities we consider least essential to retain.

The study presents five alternative approaches to the negotiations:

  • One would be a reactive, time-buying approach which would allow the Greeks to set the pace in the negotiations and which would hopefully lead them to see the advantages in maintaining the status quo in their relations with the U.S. and NATO. Under this option, we would (a) play for time on any Greek request for a reduction in the number of U.S. facilities, (b) be willing to make concessions on the status of forces issue, but maintain the NATO SOFA as the baseline below which we would not go, and (c) [1 line not declassified].
  • A second would involve the U.S. taking the initiative by offering to cede at an early stage homeporting and other non-essential activities and to propose a memorandum of understanding incorporating changes desired by the Greeks in our Status of Forces Agreement.
  • A third approach, essentially time-buying, would entail trying to deflect the negotiations away from discussion of specific U.S. facilities directly into status of forces issues.
  • A fourth alternative [2 lines not declassified].
  • A fifth alternative [1 line not declassified].

Defense believes that the study adequately addresses U.S. policy and policy options with regard to Greece with the exception of the fourth and fifth alternatives listed above [12 lines not declassified]

[1 paragraph (5 lines) not declassified]

[Page 144]

IV. [less than 1 line not declassified]

[9 paragraphs (531/2 lines) not declassified]

It is for the above reasons that we are now pressing for the beginning of discussions between Greece and NATO on the nature of the future relationship.

V. [1 line not declassified]

The study divides U.S. and NATO facilities in Greece into three basic categories:

  • —most essential to retain;
  • —desirable to retain; and
  • —least essential to retain.

Those in the first category include Athenai AFB near Athens; the Souda Bay complex in Crete; [1 line not declassified]; and the NATO Missile Firing Installation on Crete. In the second category are the NATO Air Weapons Training Center at Timbakum, Crete; personnel support activities at Athenai AFB; and air facilities at Larissa. The last category includes homeporting and various communications sites throughout Crete.

VI. Greece and NATO

A central issue in Greece-NATO negotiations will be whether Greece participates in NATO’s integrated military structure and if so the nature of its force commitment to NATO.

Based on its statements and pattern of participation in NATO to date, Greece probably expects to be able to tailor a relationship with NATO in which it retains major benefits of membership but refrains from official commitment of its forces to NATO, possibly eliminates or alters the status of certain NATO-funded facilities, and calls into question the NATO Status of Forces Agreement governing Greece as well as other Allies.

The study points out that Athens may well wish to see how bilateral negotiations with the U.S. go before making decisions on its strategy for dealing with NATO. Thus the outcome of the US-Greek bilateral consultations will likely shape the results of the Greece-NATO negotiations.

Among NATO-related arrangements and facilities, the study indicates that Greece places importance on the following:

  • —[1 line not declassified];
  • —participation in the NATO intelligence and communication system;
  • —continued participation in NATO’s infrastructure program;
  • —membership in the NATO Military Committee;
  • —participation in the full range of NATO planning; and
  • —retention of specific facilities such as airfields, naval bases, command and control facilities, and certain NATO training sites.

The paper provides a complete discussion of the legal and institutional arrangements governing Greece’s participation in NATO, as well as an analysis of contrasting Allied views on Greece’s continued participation in NATO military/defense activities.

  1. Source: Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box H–58, NSDM 291. Secret. Regarding the complete NSSM response, see footnote 3, Document 39.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 20.
  3. See Documents 35 and 36.
  4. Document 33.
  5. See footnote 4, Document 39.