176. Memorandum From the Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Department of State (Bowdler) to the Counselor of the Department of State (Nimetz)1

SUBJECT

  • Caramanlis’ Probable Reaction To Lifting US Arms Restrictions on Turkey

You asked for our assessment of the possibility that Caramanlis might resign if the US lifted the Turkish arms embargo. Our conclusions are:

Caramanlis’ public and private responses are consistent in indicating that he does not plan any major reaction to Congressional repeal of US arms limitations on Turkey. On this basis, we can conclude with confidence that his answer to lifting the embargo on Turkey will be largely vocal. However, if the reaction within Greece proves to be stronger than we have any evidence he anticipates, he might place temporary restrictions on US official activities in Greece. But it is highly unlikely that he would close US facilities; there is virtually no chance that he would step down from the Premiership in protest.

Government Reaction to Date

Official Greek reaction to the announcement of the Administration’s decision to press for lifting arms restrictions on Turkey has been restrained. Caramanlis initially issued a moderate and dispassionate statement. He noted that the US Government was “entitled to determine its relations with Turkey according to its judgment,” but he added that “in any case, and regardless of the way in which the US Government will shape its policy, Greece is determined and able to [Page 544]protect her national interests.”2 Over the past two months, moreover, the Greek Government has maintained a low profile in handling this issue. It has been careful not to inflame Greek public opinion.

We have much clandestine evidence that, privately, Caramanlis is thoroughly resigned to the lifting of arms restrictions on Turkey. Initially, he was angry, but now he is no longer greatly concerned over the issue. He is reported to believe that placing US military assistance to Turkey on an annual basis, rather than on the multiyear basis provided in the US-Turkish Defense Cooperation Agreement, would permit suitably close Congressional oversight of Turkey’s foreign policy behavior. Clandestine sources report that Caramanlis agrees that there is even a chance that the US is correct in asserting that lifting the embargo would produce greater Turkish flexibility on Cyprus.

Factors Influencing Caramanlis’ Ultimate Reaction

In determining his reaction Caramanlis will clearly be constrained by his calculations of external and domestic political factors. He does not want to set in motion a groundswell of antipathy toward the US that could weaken Greek ties to the West. He sees Greek salvation in a closer relationship with the EC in particular and with Greece’s traditional allies in general. Moreover, he does not want to isolate Greece within NATO by putting it at odds with other allies who are concerned at the deterioration of Turkish military capability. In short, as a sincere Greek patriot, he would be highly reluctant to do anything that would jeopardize Greece’s position in the Western Alliance.

Of course, Caramanlis would face countervailing pressures at home. Greek emotionalism would be stirred by the lifting of the embargo. Andreas Papandreou would step up his calls for whole-sale retaliation against the US. Other opposition figures would also join in the chorus, but the Center would almost certainly be more measured in its appeals.

Greek army officers, on the other hand, would probably be quite restrained in their reaction. Clandestine sources already indicate that many officers are resigned to the lifting of the arms restrictions on Turkey. One report cites a growing sentiment within the Greek military that the successful procurement and modernization program since [Page 545]1974 (combined with concurrent deterioration of Turkish forces) now put the Greek armed forces in stronger position than the Turks. Greek air force officers are reportedly convinced that lifting the embargo would probably have minimal effect on the present balance between the two states.

Caramanlis’ Option

Given Caramanlis’ strong image of himself as Greece’s modern savior, he is almost certain to make his ultimate decision on the basis of his vision of Greece’s larger interests. He has the parliamentary backing to carry out whatever response he chooses. Greek public opinion already has had much of the shock taken away by the lengthy lead time from the first announcement of the US Administration’s intent to future Congressional action.

Caramanlis will certainly complain publicly if Congress lifts the embargo. He would probably direct much of his attention to trying to calm Greek fears that the country was being abandoned by its friends in the West. And he would likely try to put Turkey on notice that this action required suitable concessions on its part in respect to Cypriot issues.

Beyond this point, Caramanlis is unlikely to go unless he perceives far more intense reaction in Greece than we have any evidence he anticipates. To head off what he considered a dangerous amount of opposition to continuing close cooperation with the US, he pulled Greece partly out of the military wing of NATO in 1974. This example probably indicates the ultimate limit of the measures that he could be driven to in the present event. On this basis, we judge that he could be brought unwillingly to place some restrictions on US installations and personnel in Greece. These would probably be of a temporary nature and would, most likely, be designed not to damage our more important activities. He would not want to take any steps that could undermine Greece’s long-term relationship with the West.

As for personal gestures of protest, we doubt that he sees much scope for action. Caramanlis has long felt that US policy made his own role in Greece more difficult. Yet it is not in his character to resign at a time when he is convinced that the fate of Greece rests on his shoulders. While he has begun to make preparations against the day when he would be gone, by bringing Mitsotakis into the Cabinet, these plans would be jeopardized by too early an exit. At the moment, to leave would be to risk handing Greece over to Andreas Papandreou. Caramanlis could never assent to that.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Europe, USSR, and East/West, Brement Subject File, Box 64, Greece-Turkey: 6/78–1/79. Secret; Noforn; Nocontract; Orcon. Drafted by S. Snow and G.S. Harris in INR/RWE.
  2. The Department of State released a statement on April 4 announcing that the U.S.-Turkish Defense Cooperation Agreement signed in March 1976 but never approved would be renegotiated and that President Carter would ask Congress to lift the embargo and to authorize $175 million in FMS credits for Turkey. (Department of State Bulletin, May 1978, p. 34) The quotation is probably from telegram 2927 from Athens, April 8, in which the Embassy reported Karamanlis’ first public statement the previous day in response to the Carter administration’s decision to lift the arms embargo against Turkey. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780152–0515)