171. Memorandum From Gregory F. Treverton of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Greece and NATO

You asked what should be done about reintegrating Greece into the NATO command structure.2 The brief answer, I fear, is that not very much can be done now on the narrow question. The pace of Greece reintegration is likely to depend much more on a general easing of tensions over Cyprus and the Aegean. Once there is progress there we could turn more directly to the NATO issue.

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Current Situation

The Greeks did not withdraw to the same extent as did France; they still participate on several military committees of NATO (much to the annoyance of the Turks who argue, not without cause, that Greece continues to enjoy the benefit of NATO without bearing its share of the burden). Athens submitted a paper to NATO which in effect asks for a special relationship: the central element is that Greece would not commit its forces to NATO as a general matter but would do so only in dire emergencies, as determined by Athens itself. Naturally Turkey will have none of that arrangement; neither will we or most of the other Allies. Negotiations between NATO and Greece continue (within an Ad Hoc Committee of the DPC), but those negotiations are addressing minor technical issues, with participants unwilling to face the row that would arise if the Greek paper were taken up directly.

Over the past months there have been some advances. Greece agreed, for instance, to re-commit almost all of its nuclear capable aircraft. Within the Greek military the desire to remain in NATO is strong, and Greece has participated quietly in some NATO activities over the past few months.

U.S. Policy

We need to continue something like our current line of policy: enough pressure on Greece to move toward NATO where it can, but enough patience—especially in public—not to further politicize the issue in Greece, coupled with a focus on the process of easing Greek-Turkish tensions. Caramanlis has said that Greece cannot return fully until the Cyprus problem is resolved. The electoral showing of Papandreou, a committed NATO-phobe, may further complicate the Greek politics of the issue, although he may be chastened by the knowledge that if he is ever to come to power he must first make his peace with a Greek military in which pro-NATO sentiments remain strong.3 Here is a possible scenario, incorporating comments by Henze:

—keep the NATO issue publicly in the background, while taking advantage of any opportunity to associate the Greek military with NATO activities. Make clear that we oppose any special relationship but discourage the Turks from making too much of a fuss about the Greeks and NATO;

—press the Greeks to sign the DCA;

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—concentrate on working with both countries toward resolving the Cyprus and Aegean problems;

—if and when there is progress, and once both DCAs are signed and ratified, then address directly the question of bringing Greece back into full participation. (The command change that General Haig has proposed might help Greece return to NATO, by giving Caramanlis something to buttress the argument that he is not moving toward NATO on the same terms as before.)4

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Country Chron File, Box 16, Greece: 1977. Confidential. Sent for information.
  2. Brzezinski posed this question in a November 28 memorandum to Robert Hunter: “One of our objectives for 1978 is to reintegrate Greece into the NATO command structure. What should we do about it.?” (Ibid.)
  3. Karamanlis won the election in November 1977, although Papandreou made a strong showing at the polls, effectively becoming the major opposition leader in Greece. During the campaign Papandreou called for a complete withdrawal of Greece from NATO.
  4. In telegram 303919 to USNMR SHAPE, December 21, the Department reported General Haig’s plan to place NATO Headquarters at Izmir under the control of Turkish commanders with U.S. deputies, effective by mid-1978. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770476–0907) Prior to 1974, NATO Headquarters at Izmir was composed of Greek and Turkish soldiers under U.S. command. Following the Cyprus conflict Greek forces left Izmir, at which point Turkey expressed dissatisfaction that an exclusively Turkish force was commanded by Americans.