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

9329. Military addressees treat as Specat Exclusive. Subject: Deputy Secretary’s Visit—Taking Stock.

1. In the wake of the visit of the Deputy Secretary to Athens we believe it is useful to take stock of Greek Government positions and to assess what they imply for the United States Government.

2. The Deputy Secretary’s talks with the Prime Minister and his leading associates, plus some of the background maneuvering of the Greek Government provide some telling insights into current GOG assumptions, policies and objectives in dealing with the United States.2

—A dependent relationship with the United States remains at the epicenter of Greek foreign policy. The Prime Minister and his colleagues made it clear that they harbor affection for the United States and look to the United States for leadership. They also underlined that they desire United States support on matters they consider of vital importance to Greece and displayed an exaggerated confidence that the United States can impose its will on others, particularly on Turkey.

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—Our responsiveness to Greece’s obsessive concern for security from the Turks has now explicitly become the yardstick by which the GOG measures Greek-American relations. Karamanlis put it best when he told the Deputy Secretary in effect: “Guarantee our security and everything else loses importance.” By explicitly placing the Turkish threat to Greece at the center of Greek-American relations, the Greek Government has completed an important transition. Cyprus has now been clearly relegated to a secondary position. Given the long standing Greek fear of Turkey, this change is mostly presentational and is a reflection of the lifting of the embargo.

—In a remarkable switch, the Greek Government has moved from reluctance to rejoin NATO to anxiety because it cannot quickly rejoin the Alliance on terms acceptable to it. Privately, this new line began to emerge last January, but now the Greek public has been informed and there has been no great outcry against the GOG’s posture, though for three years Greek leaders insisted that Greek public opinion would never tolerate a return to NATO absent a Cyprus settlement.

—On “balance” the GOG officials listened and did not dispute the Deputy Secretary’s presentations. However, it also seems clear that they did not abandon a much more restrictive interpretation of what constitutes balance and we can expect that each time they learn of U.S. assistance to Turkey they will seek “balancing” assistance to Greece.

—The Greek Government is convinced that the United States bowed to Turkish “blackmail” in lifting the embargo. Accordingly it has adopted a very tough position on NATO reintegration, privately threatening to abort the reintegration process and to review their existing military cooperation with NATO as well as the status of U.S. military facilities in Greece if the HaigDavos Arrangement does not prevail. GOG spokesmen have obviously backgrounded this position to the press.

—The Greek Government accepted in principle the possibility of divorcing political from military considerations on the reintegration question. Prime Minister Karamanlis confirmed that Greece could undertake not to use NATO command arrangements in the bilateral dispute with Turkey. At present we suspect that while the GOG will continue to insist on returning to NATO under pre-1974 terms, they could be persuaded not to use such an arrangement in their bilateral dispute with Turkey and to say so to Turkey if Turkey would make the same commitment.

—Its actions clearly indicated that the Greek Government is not ready to do very much, if anything, to improve the public atmosphere in which the two nations conduct their relations. This posture was reflected in the GOG’s decision not to have a prepared toast at the Ambassador’s dinner; in the cold, tough first draft of the joint statement [Page 568] they presented us; and the Foreign Ministry’s disinterest, even resistance, to expanding Greek-American cooperation in the non-security areas.

—Among the technocrats in the GOG there is a broad and deep desire to strengthen non-security cooperation between the two countries. This pressure from within the Greek bureaucracy was spontaneous and probably embarrassed Greece’s foreign policy managers who attempted to belittle and diminish this aspect of the Deputy Secretary’s visit. This negative attitude by foreign policymakers reflected also their fear that non-security cooperation would divert attention from our uneasy political and security cooperation, the last thing that Karamanlis and his advisers want to happen.

3. If our analysis above is correct we believe that it implies certain conclusions for the U.S. Government.

—Obviously we can expect another difficult period in our relations with Greece. Reintegration and “balance” will be the rings in which these difficulties are manifest, but Greek security concerns in the Aegean will underlie these issues.

—The GOG will continue the pressure on the United States to help it meet the “Turkish threat” in the Aegean. Particularly, as the Prime Minister so clearly suggested, the GOG will seek a more concrete, explicit “guarantee”. With the relative downgrading of Cyprus as an ingredient in Greek-American relations this Greek demand will probably be more insistent and more difficult to deal with. In addition, it behooves the U.S. Government to develop for its own internal use a better sense of what we mean by such words as “unequivocally and actively oppose the use of force” should we one day face a situation in which Turkish or Greek actions call our hand. We note that even simple repetition of our standard “guarantee” formulation tends to give it concrete political form even though it continues to lack any binding legal content.

—We are going to have to take seriously Greek threats on aborting the NATO reintegration process and reviewing the status of U.S. bases should the Haig-Davos Arrangement be modified or abandoned. We continue to believe that there is some bluster and bluff in their words—the Greeks know as well as we the costs to themselves if they ever had to follow through on these words. And Karamanlis has taken a somewhat softer public stance—on October 21 he talked about Greece not being in a hurry and said Turkey would bear responsibility for the prolongation of the present situation.3 However, the GOG has probably [Page 569] not thought out very well what it would do should Haig-Davos Arrangements be watered down. We can expect at least a hiatus in progress towards reintegration and perhaps worse, should the GOG react emotionally rather than thoughtfully to being offered less than what it hoped. It behooves us in the coming weeks to keep in close touch with the GOG on this matter, not as a negotiator but to counsel against the possibility of self-injury.

—We should quickly mobilize ourselves to follow through on the non-security non-political aspects of Greek-American cooperation, taking advantage of the Greek technical agencies’ interest.

—We might ask the GOG how it thinks we can together deal with anti-American sentiments in Greece—perhaps exploring Averoff’s suggestion (one he has been making for some time and which we believe is a personal one) that we seek greater opportunity to rebut popular beliefs that we installed the Junta and encouraged the Turkish venture in Cyprus. We should be careful not to fuel anti-Americanism through our words or deeds, but we also should not let ourselves be bullied by the GOG over threatened anti-Americanism and its impact on Greek-American relations.

—We should keep mindful that however friendly to the United States, this is a fearful nation which seeks to compensate for its weakness by looking to us. Our patience will be tried but so will our ability to understand the fears and the needs of our weak and vulnerable ally.

  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; Immediate; Exdis. Sent for information to Ankara, Nicosia, USNATO, USNMR SHAPE, USDELMC Brussels, and USDOCOSouth.
  2. See Document 184.
  3. Karamanlis’ October 21 statement was reported in telegram 9182 from Athens, October 21. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780432–0172)