206. Letter From the Greek Minister of National Defense (Averoff) to Secretary of Defense Brown1
From our occasional meetings, in our present capacities I was left with a lasting impression: Your devotion to the ideals of the Western Alliance and your unstinted efforts for the strengthening of its defences. It is this impression that impels me to appeal to you on the question of Greece’s return to the military structure of NATO.
I do not intend to elaborate on the causes which led Greece, in August 1974, to withdraw from the Integrated Command or on the condition—still unfulfilled—that was then set for its return. Suffice it to recall that on Greek initiative, in January 1977, a process for relinking Greece to NATO’s Integrated Command was set in motion.
In the spring 1978 an understanding, based on the Greek responses to the Open Ended Group issues, was reached between General A. Haig and J. Davos, the then Saceur and Chief of the Hellenic Defence Staff respectively. This understanding considered by General Haig as an appropriate framework for Greece’s reintegration was aborted owing to the opposition of one member of the Alliance.
As you are aware, General B. Rogers, the new Saceur, is currently carrying out a mission of clarification on contentious issues, at the request of the Secretary General of NATO. This mission despite some progress recorded still lingers on. The reason for it, as I see it, is a conceptual difference in approach. Greece is ready to return to the military structure of the Alliance with rights, duties and responsibilities deriving from NATO decisions, documents and procedures in force in 1974 and still valid to-day. On the other side Turkey seems to approach the problem of command and control responsibilities by making short shrift of these fundamental and binding instruments. The creation of a new situation to suit the political and military aims of that member-state or, at best, the creation of a legal vacuum, seems to be set as a prior condition for lifting the Turkish veto.
No Greek Government can accept to pay a price which amounts to forsaking legal rights or relinquishing acknowledged responsibilities [Page 627] under valid NATO regulations and procedures. Needless to add that NATO as a living Organisation is open to adaptation and development. But these could be brought about only in conformity with existing texts and practice, and not by way of a re-entry fee to be exacted in advance.
The time factor is also of the essence. Relinkage to the military structure of NATO, does not command, as it is to be expected approval throughout the political spectrum in Greece. Even among staunch supporters—and this is the disquieting element in the equation—there are many who consider national dignity hurt, after being left to cool our heels for four years. As the time for the next general election is approaching, it becomes more and more imperative that the reintegration endeavour be brought to a conclusion: by agreement, if possible, by abandonment otherwise.
The latter development would be doubly unfortunate since it will inevitably affect the continuance of American bases in Greece. There is a strong feeling in Greek public opinion that these bases can only be maintained in the operational context of an Allied defence structure. And this is a feeling that no democratic Government can ignore.
The United States, Mr. Secretary, has earned in its recent History titles to the gratitude of many countries and Turkey is certainly one of them. Seldom though an individual virtue, gratefulness is even less a collective one. Yet a lingering sense of moral debt could provide leverage for a clearer perception of the situation confronting us. And I am convinced that the healing of the rift in the southern flank of NATO can be perceived as being also in Turkey’s enlightened and long term interest. It is my earnest hope that the new Government of Turkey will rise to the occasion, by translating into facts its proclaimed faith in the Alliance.
Asking you to accept my warmest regards, I remain
- Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–82–0217B, Box 8, Greece 1980. No classification marking. The salutation is handwritten. At the top right-hand corner of the page, Brown wrote, “Make copy for [illegible] asking them how we can use a response to help the solution along. Also put this at Greece-Turkey tab in MBB book. HB.”↩
- Averoff added the last paragraph and closing by hand and signed “E Averoff-Tossizza” above this typed signature.↩