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Greece The United States
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
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    Since World War II, Greece has had an ambivalent attitude toward its most powerful ally of the period, the United States, mostly because of the role the latter played in the years following the war. United States reorganization of and assistance to the Greek armed forces were generally credited with thwarting a communist seizure of power during the Civil War, and United States economic aid provided under the Truman Doctrine proved the major factor in Greece's postwar economic reconstruction (see The Marshall Plan in Greece , ch. 1). Nevertheless, many Greeks felt that the United States acted more in opposition to the expansionist Soviet Union than in support of Greek prosperity. In the 1960s and 1970s, as Turkey became a major issue in Greek-American relations, most Greeks maintained that United States policy toward Greece was only one aspect of a broader strategic policy aimed at the stabilization of NATO's flank in the Eastern Mediterranean.

    Serious strains appeared in Greek-American relations after the 1967 military coup, concentrating the general resentment over Cold War policy on a single issue. Many Greeks believed that a more forceful United States reaction against the colonels' takeover could have prevented the seven years of military dictatorship that followed. Although the United States publicly pressed the colonels to restore democracy and heavy weapons deliveries were halted between 1967 and 1970, no drastic change was made in the execution of United States security policy. The United States continued delivery of light weapons to Greece and advised other Western allies not to impose sanctions on the military regime. Greece's strategic location was a strong influence against destabilizing even a military dictatorship, but Washington's prudence unwittingly deepened the Greek suspicion of United States complicity in the junta rule.

    A second major source of strain was the Cyprus crisis of 1974, whose impact on Greek-American relations was still reverberating in the mid-1990s. Turkey invaded Cyprus, beginning over twenty years of occupation of the northeast part of the island, in response to an abortive coup against the Cypriot government backed by the Greek junta. As in 1967, most Greeks felt that stronger United States pressure would have prevented a major crisis for Greece, in this case by forcing a troop withdrawal, or at least ensuring better treatment for Greek Cypriots caught in the Turkish-occupied zone. Under pressure from the United States Congress, the United States soon stopped supplying arms to Turkey, but relations with Greece had already been damaged.

    Although the United States had welcomed heartily the return of democracy in July 1974, the postjunta government of Karamanlis withdrew from the military wing of NATO to dramatize its displeasure with NATO's response to the Turkish invasion and Greece's financial and military independence from the United States. Shortly thereafter Karamanlis began talks aimed at recovering full sovereignty over the United States bases in Greece.

    A series of bilateral Defense and Economic Cooperation Agreements (DECAs) largely defined relations between the two countries from passage of the first agreement in 1976 until the dismantling of the Soviet empire. Greece withheld approval of the 1976 agreement, however, until it was sure that a defense cooperation pact that the United States had signed with Turkey in the preceding month would not adversely affect the balance of power between Greece and Turkey. When the United States ended its arms embargo on Turkey in 1978, Greece and the United States negotiated an informal understanding that a seven-to-ten ratio would be applied in the United States provision of aid to Greece and Turkey, respectively.

    Although many Greeks continued to believe that the United States favored Turkey over Greece in security matters, relations remained generally cordial under the Karamanlis administration. In 1980 the two countries signed an umbrella agreement for cooperation in the economic, scientific, technological, educational, and cultural fields.

    During the 1980s, PASOK's new foreign policy included opposition to all military blocs and condemnation of United States support of dictatorial militarist and oppressive regimes such as those of Turkey and Latin America. In an apparent gesture of evenhandedness, PASOK also condemned Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. Papandreou also called for the removal of United States bases from Greece and Greek withdrawal from NATO, but not before the Cold War military alliances were phased out.

    In 1983, after resuming negotiations suspended under the previous ND government, the Papandreou government signed a new DECA that provided for the presence of four United States bases through 1988, to be followed by their dismantling some months later. The accord also called for United States assistance in the modernization and maintenance of Greek defense capabilities in such a way as to preserve the military balance between Greece and Turkey using the seven-to-ten formula. The Greeks unilaterally stipulated that Greece had the right to terminate the DECA if in its judgment the United States tilted the balance of power in favor of Turkey. The DECA signatories acknowledged the linkage between national security and economic development, pledging cooperation in economic, industrial, scientific, and technological fields.

    The new world order that emerged after 1989 marked a transition in the relations between Greece and the United States. The tensions caused by constant criticism from Papandreou's government in the mid-1980s began to ease when PASOK rhetoric cooled in 1987. The conservative Mitsotakis quickly began mending fences when he came to power in 1990. In July 1990, Mitsotakis made a courtesy visit to Washington, the first official Greek visit in decades. When the prime minister returned, a new DECA was signed. Then, as a token of its moral support for the Persian Gulf War of early 1991, Greece dispatched a frigate to the scene. According to the 1990 DECA, Greece allows the United States the use of defense facilities at Suda Bay in Crete, a nearby communications network at Heraklion, some secondary communications stations around the Athens area, and facilities on the Ionian island of Leucas. The United States Hellinikon Air Base at Athens's main airport was closed, and its Nea Makri Naval Communications Station near Athens was to be quickly phased out. The treaty also contains numerous economic and administrative provisions related to existing and future installations and personnel.

    The reduction of United States military facilities on Greek soil brought a rather smooth resolution to the friction that had existed between the two allies since the early 1950s (see The Role of the United States , ch. 5). For the United States, a lower profile in Greece was consistent with the general downsizing of United States military installations on foreign soil. For Greece, the agreement achieved two important objectives. First, the reductions satisfied the elements of the Greek public that linked the issue of national sovereignty with the United States military presence in Greece. At the same time, Greece's national defense maintained the benefit of the traditional seven-to-ten aid apportionment ratio between Greece and Turkey. Indeed, it was now possible for Greece to argue that, after the end of the Soviet menace, only Turkish intransigence was responsible for making this ratio necessary. The Greek perception of the United States now changed from a superpower that had aided Greece as a policy instrument against the Soviet Union to a defender of Greece's interests.

    The withdrawal of United States forces was celebrated when President George H.W. Bush visited Crete in 1992 to recognize Greece's symbolic contribution to the allied Persian Gulf War effort. The tension that had persisted since World War II thus came to a gracious conclusion that maintained the dignity of all sides and yielded a new Greek-United States DECA that reaffirmed the existing military assistance formula.

    When PASOK returned to power in October 1993, it was clear that the four-year absence had given the party time to revise its thinking about Greece's long-term interests in the post-Cold War geopolitical context. In fact, PASOK's attitude toward the United States had now turned full circle. Soon after taking power, Papandreou avidly sought support from the administration of President William J. Clinton on the issues of FYROM, Cyprus, and Greek-Turkish relations. In April 1994, a meeting of Papandreou and Clinton in Washington was pronounced a success by both sides, despite the apparent lack of substantive commitments by the United States on the FYROM dispute. In late summer 1994, the United States was actively involved with UN efforts to settle the disputes in Cyprus and FYROM and was also watching closely the disturbing turn of events in the relations between Albania and Greece.

    Data as of December 1994

    NOTE: The information regarding Greece on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Greece The United States information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Greece The United States should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.

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Revised 10-Nov-04
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