8. Telegram From the Embassy in Greece to the Department of State1

8297. Subject: Greece’s Apparent New Master: Demetrios Ioannides; Some Fears.

As the reporting has indicated, Brigadier General Ioannides not only has masterminded the entire new coup2 but remains without question the dominant figure. Our intelligence reveals that the new President3 has had an undistinguished career, is not considered to have been a strong military commander, and in general is likely to be completely subject to General Ioannides’ objectives and desires. As for the new Prime Minister, Androutsopoulos, I have known him quite well over the years I have been here. I consider him honest and incorruptible but on the timid side. Here again, I believe he will knuckle down to whatever General Ioannides tells him to do.
General Ioannides’ record has been that of a persistent tough critic of Papadopoulos, a hardliner, and the Chief of the Military Police, which is reputed to have been largely responsible for maltreatment of political prisoners. He is a puritan at heart and in action. His behavior as recently recounted by Isouderos and Palamas would tend to indicate clearly that it is only matter of time before he may decide to push himself to the fore to become the outward expressed symbol of Greek political power. I would not be surprised if he were to replace Ghizikis as President. There is no reason to think he believes in democracy. Perhaps he does but the declaration of the armed forces yesterday morning tends to make clear that if he does believe in democracy, it will probably be of a type unacceptable to public opinion of Western Europe and the United States.
Because of the background of its principal members, this regime can be characterized as likely to be pro-American. However, I think we should accept this conclusion with at least one grain of salt since their puritanism on internal matters may become of such overriding importance to them as to affect adversely their external interests. This could affect our security relations. This does not mean they would not [Page 23] seek accommodation with the U.S., but they are likely to be tough in their bargaining and on some points even intractable.
Even more significant, in my view, will be the danger that a leader like Ioannides will polarize divisively the country’s political forces. The proponents of a united front from Karamanlis over to the left, including the EDA and even the Communist left, both internal dissidents and external, will be greatly encouraged. The possibility of organized violence on the part of such a group, already strongly promoted by Andreas Papandreou, will become greatly increased. Further repression will increase polarization and could easily lead to a serious division in the armed forces which might lead eventually to conflict and great political instability. I do not believe that U.S. interests would gain in this process. This process would be greatly facilitated by the likely inability of the new regime to deal successfully with the many problems facing them and which, if not properly tended to, will increase political tension and polarization. What the country needs is not more repression and more control, but more freedom and more self expression, politically organized. The problems facing Greece, such as inflation, Cyprus, students, bureaucratic modernization, etc. will need broad popular support if these are to be dealt with not only effectively but with a minimum of reaction to some of the tough measures required.
It is of course possible that none of this will happen. Some in Athens even believe that rapprochement may be in course between Karamanlis and the new regime. But based purely on the record I am not optimistic on this point. I find the manner in which Ioannides was able to cut across command channels and have discharged or released from service a number of officers senior to himself without commitment to any political program highly disquieting for the future. I also believe that even those Greeks who are presently in somewhat of a state of euphoria because of their glee with the disappearance of Papadopoulos, may find the gray “morning after” grim, dismal and depressing. There is some real indication that some of the military may already be concerned about where they are going. The Greek military are now engaged in what could be a disastrous operation of political intervention. This inevitably involves them in the divisiveness of internal Greek politics. Thus, instead of restoring their function as an independent defense force dedicated only to serving the country’s defense and security needs, they are becoming entrenched as masters of the people.
It is within the foregoing context that I think the U.S. should consider what its posture should be toward General Ioannides and his efforts at this time.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 594, Country Files, Middle East, Greece, Vol. IV. Secret; Exdis.
  2. As reported in telegrams 8232 and 8233, November 25, and telegram 8473, December 3, all from Athens, and telegram 236011 to Athens, December 1, the Greek army ousted Papadopoulos in a bloodless coup on November 25. (Ibid.)
  3. Phaidon Gizikis.