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204. Letter From Greek Prime Minister Rallis to President Carter 1

Dear Mr. President,

I take the opportunity of Mr. C. Mitsotakis’ visit to the United States for the U.N. General Assembly session, to communicate with you on two critical issues: Greece’s relinkage to the military structure of NATO and the future of the American bases in Greece.2 They are both critical not only because of their importance but also on account of their urgency. Furthermore, in the light of present political realities in Greece they are interconnected.

With regard to NATO, General B. Rogers is actively pursuing the mission entrusted to him by the Secretary General. Some progress has been registered. There remain, however, a number of outstanding points. This is due to a difference of approach between Greece and Turkey. Whilst Greece is ready to return to the integrated Command under conditions prevailing in 1974, in conformity with NATO decisions and procedures then and still in force, Turkey is striving to brush them aside. A new situation with regard to command and control responsibilities favouring Turkish political and military aims, in breach of existing NATO regulations—or at the very least by letting them fall into abeyance—would be the price to be exacted from Greece for Turkish acquiescence. This is a price no Greek Government is disposed to pay. For no Greek Government would accept an infringement of its national rights or an impairment of its recognized responsibilities within the Alliance. NATO is a living Organisation and as such there is room in it for gradual readjustment and improvement. But these should be worked out in accordance with the spirit and the letter of its texts and in conformity with established procedures, and not by way of a reintegration fee to be paid in advance.

Besides this substantive consideration, any departure from valid texts and practice would create a novel situation unacceptable not only [Page 624]to the Government but also to the Greek people and Parliament whose ratification would then be legally required.

I come now to the American bases and I shall use the language of candour and sincerity that befits the relationship between old friends and allies. Foreign bases are not nowadays a popular issue, unless they operate in active partnership with the host country, in the context of an Allied military structure and in pursuit of common defence aims. Greek public opinion would hardly tolerate the continued operation of the American bases if the rift in NATO’s southern flank is allowed to continue. It is the role of a Government to enlighten and to lead but it is also its democratic duty to heed the will of the people. For on the will of the people rests its survival.

Moreover what would be the practical value of military bases on foreign land if surrounded by a resentful and hostile local population?

I tried, Mr. President, to give a short and factual description of the situation. The connection between the issues of Greece’s return to the military structure of NATO and the maintenance of the American bases in Greece is dictated by hard facts and it is not made for tactical reasons. This is easily discernible to anyone with even little grasp of the present political trends in Greece.

Not only that. Time is fast running short for the settlement of these twin issues. In a few months time we shall be holding general elections. No Government is prepared to submit to the people’s verdict whilst such emotional issues remain pending. They will have to be disposed of, in time, one way or another.

I thought it my duty to send you this message not only for the sake of the record, but also because I am convinced that Turkey, whose veto perpetuates the present split in the southern flank of the Alliance, has many good reasons to be grateful to the United States and to other NATO Allies. The new Government of Turkey is presented with an excellent opportunity to put in practice its professions of faith to the Alliance.

Yours sincerely,
George J. Rallis
  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 4, Greece Vol. II (S.A. 1980) 7–1–80 Thru. No classification marking. In a September 27 covering memorandum to the Executive Secretariat, Ewing noted that Mitsotakis gave Muskie the letter during their meeting in New York the previous day. Ewing suggested handling the letter “Secret/Exdis.” (Ibid.) For Muskie’s meeting, see footnote 3, Document 205.
  2. The New York Times reported on September 16 that Ambassador McCloskey delivered a plan to Foreign Minister Mitsotakis the previous day for the continued use of U.S. bases. Mitsotakis issed a public statement linking an agreement on the bases with Greece’s reintegration into NATO. (“Greece, Given U.S. Plan on Bases, Repeats Warn-ing,” The New York Times, September 16, 1980, p. A6)