203. Telegram From the Embassy in Greece to the Department of State and Secretary of State Muskie1

6327. Miladdees handle as Specat Exclusive. Subj: Discussion With Foreign Minister Mitsotakis, June 23, 1980.

1. (S-entire text)

2. Summary. In businesslike manner, Mitsotakis strongly supported Greece’s return to NATO at a time when Western cohesion is needed and asked that SACEUR accelerate and intensify as soon as possible his effort to find a military solution to Greek reintegration. He called attention to approaching Greek elections and stressed that favorable conditions for reentry might not exist much longer.2 The Foreign Minister did not, however, miss the opportunity to hold Turkey at fault [Page 619] and to reiterate that “Haig-Davos” should be “enforced.” Mitsotakis also linked conclusion of a new U.S.-Greek DCA to successful reintegration but, from the options Nimetz offered, chose to agree that preliminary DCA discussions could in the meantime proceed. No connection was drawn to the Turkish DECA, and only passing reference was made in another context to the question of Aegean balance. Mitsotakis reaffirmed the GOG’s desire to work with Turkey for the reduction of mutual distrust, and expressed his appreciation for the USG’s positive role in counseling the avoidance of the use of force to settle disputes in the area. On Cyprus, both sides acknowledged that recent developments were disappointing. The GOG agreed to stay in contact with the USG and to continue to support intercommunal talks under UN auspices. End summary.

3. Nimetz opened with a description of visit as helpful prelude to June 24 bilateral with Secretary in Ankara3 and expressed his desire to explore ways of strengthening US relationship with the new Greek Government. Nimetz said US recognized two countries had some differing perceptions about problems in the area, but hoped both sides could look for creative solutions. He observed that the US has the political will to work for solutions; he hoped Greece also has that desire. He noted the Secretary would brief Mitsotakis on the Venice meeting and pointed to fact that we are at a significant juncture, that the next five to six years will be difficult, that the West needs to stand together to preserve peace and security, and that strong Greek-US relations are in both our interests. For these reasons, Nimetz said the US wants reintegration to proceed and wants the bilateral relationship put in a satisfactory, permanent state. To the extent that this can strengthen the political relationship, so much the better.

4. Mitsotakis replied that he would meet the Secretary, who is a politician and a statesman, in the spirit of sincerity and desiring to seek solutions to problems. The new GOG would spare no effort to reestablish traditional friendly relations with the US. Greek assessment of the international situation is the same as the US and Greece will do its best with its limited capability. Mitsotakis then turned to the question of Greek reintegration into NATO and said the Greek request to return serves all countries concerned. He pointed out that the decision in 1974 to withdraw was influenced by the “justified” reaction of the Greek people to the Turkish invasion of Cyprus and that the Greek Government had submitted its reintegration request without any change in the [Page 620] situation in Cyprus. The GOG and the Greek people cannot, he said, understand how Turkey can prevent reintegration which harms both Greece and the Alliance and Turkey. He asked why the Alliance could not explain to Turkey that such a policy is “irrational.” He noted there are technical problems and questions that have been pending since before 1974 which have to be discussed, but Greece cannot accept reintegration under conditions worse than when it left—Greek public opinion is “rightly sensitive” on this matter. Mitsotakis observed that it is surprising how well Greek public opinion has reacted to the GOG application for reentry and said the GOG is in a position to bring Greece back without facing too dangerous a local reaction. But, he emphasized, these favorable conditions will not continue much longer. Deadlines are becoming shorter and it will not be possible for this government to go to, or to win, elections next year with this question still open. Indeed, there very probably will be political changes in Greece next year.

5. Mitsotakis then raised the question of American bases in Greece which is “closely associated” with reintegration.4 This was not blackmail, just cold analysis. If there is no reintegration then negotiations, possible agreement, and acceptance by the GOG and Greek people will be “very, very difficult.” Public opinion has been surprisingly receptive to reintegration, but would react differently if reintegration is rejected. Personally, he said, a DCA would then be “impossible—well, very difficult.”

6. A third problem he cited, which was linked in a “vicious circle” with reintegration and the bases, was Greek-Turkish differences. A solution must be found or the situation will unavoidably deteriorate. Reintegration would certainly make a bases agreement easier and could also improve prospects for relations between Greece and Turkey, which are marked by “fundamental mutual distrust.” As an example, he mentioned the 1978 lifting of the embargo. At that time, it was clearly stated to Greece that Turkey would be more likely to make good will gestures when not under such pressure; this belief was mistaken and a bad psychological climate has been created. Greece, he said, had no objection to seeing Turkey helped in its present crisis, but an effort should be made to let Turkey know that at least “a small gesture” must be made by them. This is the right time for reintegration to be solved. If it is not done now, he said, he did not think it would ever be done.

7. Nimetz in reply said he agreed in most respects with the foregoing analysis. On a bilateral base agreement, he said it wouldn’t be difficult if all the other problems were solved first. From an operational [Page 621] point of view the US is quite satisfied with the present arrangements, but it understands the need politically to have a new agreement and defers to the GOG on how to move ahead in that regard. Either the two sides can wait for the situation to evolve or they can begin negotiations with the understanding that no agreement would be finalized until reintegration looks as if it will be resolved. Nimetz noted that the GOG has the Turkish DECA and offered any further information or briefings Greek experts might request. He also said the US is ready for preliminary talks on what a Greek agreement would look like, but that the US would not pressure Greece to proceed.

8. Reintegration, Nimetz said, was much more difficult for the US because it was not something the US controlled. Nimetz pointed to the problem of labeling solutions “better” or “worse.” This transforms military arrangements into political issues when the real question to military experts is how can the Alliance best cooperate for the security of the region. The US understands that military solutions have political implications and therefore a method must be devised to work out reintegration in a militarily sound manner that is not disadvantageous for any country. Especially in an alliance where each member must be satisfied, the whole system would fall apart if better-or-worse for a particular member-state were the only criterion. SACEUR thus was given an Alliance mandate to work on a military technical level; political approval would follow. The US continues to hope that the SACEUR effort can be successful and wants to know whether the GOG believes that General Rogers should speed up his effort and aim for a breakthrough. Nimetz agreed time is getting short and that with elections coming in Greece and in the US progress must be made soon. No one, he said, wants to have the matter brought to the point that Greece desires to withdraw its application, but it should be remembered that the US does not have the same decision-making authority in reintegration as it does with a DCA. All governments involved have to be reasonably satisfied.

9. Turkey, he said, has given the US assurance that it does not oppose and would welcome Greek reintegration. Turkey has its own views as an Aegean nation on what its role should be in regional security. NATO also sees such a role for Turkey. The US believes it is not inconsistent with Greek security, with Greece’s defense of its national territory, and with its historical position for there to be a solution that contains such a role.

10. Mitsotakis agreed that preliminary discussions on a DCA could proceed, but no final agreement would be possible without reintegration. The bases are accepted now, he said, but if reintegration fails, the question of the bases “will be raised.”

11. On reintegration, the GOG’s firm view is that “Haig-Davos” should be “enforced.” This would bring a military solution that Greece [Page 622] wants. The political aspect was introduced by Turkey. Greece, he said, does not think Turkey should not play an Aegean defense role, but he stressed again that Greece cannot accept a solution from which Turkey would benefit and therefore gain in bilateral differences over the Aegean. The GOG was not opposed to “provisional arrangements” or to leaving “some things” to be finalized later and, therefore, he wished to see SACEUR continue his effort as soon as possible and “intensify it.”

12. Nimetz thanked Mitsotakis for his positive view on the acceleration of SACEUR’s effort. On Greek-Turkish issues, he acknowledged that they are deep with a long history and noted the US tries scrupulously to maintain good relations with both countries and not involve itself in the substance of such bilateral problems. While not commenting on their substance, the US does give its views on the use of force to solve such problems. He recalled the Clifford visit when the US relayed from Greece to Turkey concerns about the risks of heightened tension.5 Then, the US believed it had played a positive role. Nimetz hoped steps will be taken to dispel mutual distrust and noted that the reciprocal withdrawal of Turkish and Greek NOTAMs blocking the Aegean had been positive.

13. On Cyprus, Nimetz observed the US was distressed that more progress had not been made and was not optimistic about short term prospects. He mentioned the USG and GOG have had constructive talks and should stay in contact because problems of the area require it. The US will do what it can toward a solution.

14. Mitsotakis acknowledged the positive US role in avoiding the use of force in the area, but claimed that the fact that force was used against Cyprus and Cyprus is still a victim cannot be forgotten. In this respect, he mentioned the GOG is sensitive to the balance in the Aegean, a balance that needs to be maintained for reasons of security. He also saw no real hope of a Cyprus solution given the Turkish position. The GOG would continue to support intercommunal talks under UN auspices so as to avoid any further deterioration until a solution can be found.

15. Mitsotakis and Nimetz agreed that the above discussion would be characterized for the press as “useful and sincere.”

16. Participants: Foreign Minister Mitsotakis, MFA Deputy Secretary General Roussos, notetaker (Stoforopoulos); Under Secretary Nimetz, Ambassador McCloskey, notetaker (Dworken).

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Under Secretary for Security Assistance, Portions of 1980 Security Assistance Subject and Country Files, Lot 82D197, Box 2, S.A. 80 Nimetz Trip—London, Athens, Ankara. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Sent for information Immediate to Ankara and USNMR SHAPE; Priority to Nicosia, USNATO, USDOCOSouth Naples, and USDELMC. Muskie was in Italy June 19–24 accompanying President Carter at the Economic Summit in Venice.
  2. No date for future elections had yet been set.
  3. Telegram Secto 4049 from Ankara, June 25, described the meeting. Mitsotakis informed Muskie that a U.S.-Greek Defense Cooperation Agreement and continued use of U.S. bases in Greece would be unlikely without Greek reintegration in the NATO military command structure. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800307–0207)
  4. See footnote 7, Document 173.
  5. See Document 8.