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

5024. Miladdees handle as Specat Exclusive. Subject: (S) Foreign Relations: Discussion With Molyviatis on NATO Reintegration and U.S.-Greek Bilateral Affairs.

1. (S-entire text)

2. Summary: While the GOG is preparing to reject SACEUR’s latest proposal on NATO reintegration, it has yet to conclude what course to take beyond this.2 At the same time it remains obsessed with the notion that the USG has failed to use its influence to resolve this issue and, because our inclination is to favor Turkey, we are party to its irresolution. As a consequence, our bilateral relations with Greece become contaminated and further on our base rights may stand in jeopardy. End summary.

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3. The foregoing emerged during the course of a long and at times disagreeable conversation with Prime Minister Karamanlis’ principal aide Petros Molyviatis on June 7. I asked for the meeting in order to have a candid discussion of where our relationships were leading us. There is little to be encouraged about.

4. Introducing my purpose, I said I had become increasingly disturbed by comments we were hearing and reading, the sum of which was that United States policy in the area was taking Greece for granted and that it was measured only by its desire to preserve our interests in Turkey—in a word, that our intentions here were dishonorable. These interpretations were, in turn, leading to stories that our bilateral affairs had become chilled and as a result, there was an “impasse” in our relations. While no such line had been conveyed to me by government officials I had come now to assume that it was being encouraged by officials. If this was not so I would be happy to have something to the contrary because just a few weeks ago Foreign Minister Rallis had described our relationships as “excellent.” I noted that while confirming the story of the VOA negotiations being in suspense last weekend the government spokesman had, in effect, also confirmed that overall we were at an impasse.3 Finally, I said we could not accept being appealed to privately to help with Greece’s regional problems while we were being bullied to such an extent publicly.

5. Without addressing my remarks directly Molyviatis raised the NATO issue and produced a map. Doubtless it was the same one that figured in the Secretary’s meeting with Foreign Minister Rallis May 31 in The Hague.4 Inked lines on the map purport to demonstrate how the recent (leaked) SACEUR proposals would give command and control authority in the Aegean to “others” and hence are “totally unacceptable.” To my question Molyviatis asserted that SACEUR’s “latest” proposals made only “cosmetic changes” and were equally unacceptable. An official reply to this effect was in preparation and would be forwarded to Brussels soon.

6. In further discussion of this I sought to disabuse Molyviatis of his assumption that the USG has—if not authored the proposals—at the least inspired them. (Comment: His skepticism on this important point says something about the mindset we encounter here.) He was contending that the juxtaposition of the Deputy Secretary’s remarks May 15 describing Turkey’s attitude toward the dispute (on which Molyviatis put a higher gloss) and the existence (before being leaked) [Page 584] of SACEUR’s paper was confirmation that we had underwritten it.5 He allowed he was “reassured” with my saying that our wish was that the parties find a mutually agreeable resolution, that we would use our influence toward that end but that we had not attempted to design the formula for getting there. Molyviatis registered some disbelief when I added that at given times we were uninformed about the state of play. (Comment: Obviously as a result of this conversation, MFA Director General Tzounis called in DCM this morning to show him the latest Haig proposal and to explain in great and emotional detail why GOG could “never” accept it. His arguments, which are being reported separately, boiled down to Greek unwillingness “under any peacetime conditions” to have Turkey responsible for defending any part of Greek airspace or even to have Turkish military planes flying through it.)6

7. About where to go from here, Molyviatis described the GOG as facing three alternatives: allow NATO’s efforts to continue although he couldn’t see how it would ensue “since General Haig has torn to shreds” the arrangements the GOG could support; freeze the issue for an indefinite period; withdraw their initiative and seek a role for themselves along the “model” of the French.

8. Reminding Molyviatis that the USG was being subjected to unjustifiable blame for Greece’s real and imagined difficulties led us into an unprofitable exchange on the problem of leaks. (I confess to having felt slightly vulnerable with our deplorable record over the last year.) Beyond the misfortune of these disclosures some of which I was confident came from Greek sources, I said I was more irritated presently by a combination of stories and rumorings that I had to assume emanated from government sources; that our official relations were stalemated; that an inevitable consequence would be a denial of base rights. On the latter Molyviatis restated that our military presence is contingent on Greece’s NATO membership while acknowledging my point that they serve common purpose. On the broader question he excused the government from any control over the press and demurred at my saying we knew that government sources were impugning our motives toward Greece. He professed to be unaware that the government spokesman had linked suspension of the VOA negotiations with other outstanding matters including our draft agreement on other non-security issues.

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9. Toward the end I emphasized that we remained willing to assist Greece and that our intentions were affirmatively more honorable than we were being given credit for in and out of government in Athens. To be accused of working against the interests of Greece was unjustified and inaccurate and unworthy of a mature relationship. We would continue to help with Greece’s aspirations in its international affairs as well as in bilateral objectives and that our record to date has been creditable.

10. Comment: Once again it is clear that the NATO issue is at the center of Greek frustrations and is infecting our relationships. Our objectives here I’m afraid will remain hostage to its continued irresolution.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Office of the Deputy Secretary Warren Christopher, 1977–1980, Lot 81D113, Box 9, Memos From WMC to Offices/Bureaus—1979. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Sent for information Immediate to USNMR SHAPE; to Ankara, Bonn, Nicosia, USNATO, USDOCOSouth, and USDELMC. In an attached handwritten note dated June 11, Christopher instructed Vest: “Let’s discuss where to go from here—now that Haig’s time apparently has run out.”
  2. On May 3, The New York Times reported on Haig’s “all-out effort” to seek a compromise between Greece and Turkey regarding the terms of Greek re-entry to NATO before his planned resignation as Supreme Allied Commander Europe in early June. At that juncture, the main stumbling block for negotiations was the issue of control over Aegean airspace. Turkey wanted to control airspace at 30 miles beyond its Aegean border; Greece rejected this area as too large. (“Greece’s Re-Entry into NATO Snagged,” May 3, 1979, p. A7)
  3. In telegram 4622 from Athens, May 29, the Embassy reported that Greek officials had decided to suspend negotiations for Voice of America transmissions. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840133–2577)
  4. See Document 189.
  5. Reference is to Christopher’s May 15 appearance before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Christopher appeared before the committee in order to justify proposed economic and military aid packages for Turkey.
  6. The Embassy reported the Greek position as explained by Tzounis in telegram 5126 from Athens, June 12. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790266–0253)