Russia’s Missing Peacemakers
Why the Country’s Elites Are Struggling to Break With Putin
There have been three widely separated political Greeces: the ancient city- states, the Byzantine empire and modern Greece, which won its independence from the Turks less than a century and a half ago. In essence, there is little relationship between the governance of these three Greeces but, because of classical influence on contemporary education and because the early Athenians were so gifted in defining and elaborating systems of thought, there is a persistent tendency to regard contemporary Greece in terms of its antique glory. Nowadays above all, when the country is governed by a stolid group of Colonels, it is fashionable to decry dictatorship in the birthplace of democracy.
"Democracy" is, of course, a Greek word and a Greek invention although the democracy made famous in the Athens of the fifth century BC was economically founded on slavery, and Plato's "Republic" is in fact a treatise on elementary fascism. Moreover, one should not forget that "anarchy," "tyranny," "despotism" and, above all, "chaos" are also Greek words, to say nothing of "demagogue." Actually, as Aristotle pointed out: "The forms of government are four-democracy, oligarchy, aristocracy and monarchy; and hence the power that governs and decides in them is always some part or the whole of each."
None of the three stages of Greece-classical, medieval or modern-has been famed for good government, very possibly because the Greeks are too intelligent, too unruly and too self-seeking to submit easily to the dictates of others. Few recent Greek statesmen have qualified as able to produce sustained stability in an inherently unstable nation. It can be argued that Constantine Caramanlis, Prime Minister from 1955 to 1963, headed the most successful modern administration but was too vain to accept political defeat, and instead of leading a parliamentary opposition-as Churchill had done in England-he departed in a huff for voluntary exile.
The disappearance of Caramanlis left no one with the prestige or personality to unite the center and right-wing majority that dominated Greek opinion after the bloody Civil War ended in 1949. George Papandreou, who took over the Prime Ministry after the 1963 elections, sought to capitalize on his popularity and oratorical skill by winning the center to an alliance with liberal opinion and to consolidate his position by social and agricultural reforms which risked the fiscal stability created under Caramanlis. He was a conventional type of Greek politician, a good speaker, a subtle behind-the-scenes operator and, although not above rabble-rousing techniques, an undoubted patriot, a middle-of-the-road man and an anti- communist.
Such moderation was not demonstrated by George Papandreou's son, Andreas, who rose to considerable eminence during the years of his father's Prime Ministry and, as a Minister, put his finger in many other pies including that of KYP, the Central Intelligence Agency, Andreas was not on close terms with his father as a youth; his parents were separated. During the Metaxas dictatorship before the war, when still in his teens, he joined a left-wing student organization, was caught and arrested. According to Constantine Maniadakis, then Minister of the Interior, he informed on his associates. In any case his mother pleaded for his release, which was granted on condition the young man leave the country, A wealthy shipping magnate (father-in-law of Stavros Niarchos) generously paid for Andreas's move to the United States, where he eventually became an economics professor and an American citizen.
Andreas Papandreou returned to Greece under the Caramanlis régime. When the local political picture began to fascinate him, he gave up his American passport and started to display increasing hostility to the United States. Exceedingly ambitious, he seemed to sense that the future might hold promise for any politician seeking to unite a coalition of youth, underground communists, the non-communist left, anti-Americans and the anti- royalists who had always been an important element in recent Greek history.
In July 1965, Andreas told me: "I would like to be Prime Minister, but I won't violate my principles to be one. My father loves me as a son, but my unbending tendencies have caused him trouble. I am a tough nut. He felt I was going overboard. He has not supported me politically as his successor. In fact, he has gone the other way. After George Papandreou, I have the widest popular base in Greece. I do not need George Papandreou."
That summer the King eased the elder Papandreou out of office and installed a succession of weak governments in an effort to disintegrate the Papandreist Center Union majority in Parliament. This tactic did not work well. King Constantine, who was only 23 and had come to the throne suddenly after his father's death, was counseled by close advisers to intervene in the deteriorating political situation. Subtle arguments were adduced for the constitutionality of this intervention and, when the elder Papandreou tried to name himself Minister of Defense as well as Prime Minister (so that he could head an investigation into an army plot to which Andreas allegedly was linked) the King moved in. Andreas seized the opportunity to edge his father increasingly out of the public eye. He helped to foster mass demonstrations in which the communist underground and its permitted locum tenens, a far-left party called EDA, enthusiastically collaborated.
Constantine's intervention was certainly not a success. Greece had originally become a monarchy after shrugging off the Turks "so that all division and rivalry for preference should cease among us." Unfortunately, this form of government, even when mixed according to the Aristotelian formula, failed to pacify the fractious, fickle Greeks. King Othon was expelled in 1862. King George I was assassinated in 1913. King Constantine I was twice deposed-temporarily in 1917 and permanently in 1922. Constantine's son reigned briefly before dying from a monkey bite. George II was unseated in 1924 when a republic was proclaimed. He returned as king in 1935 and reigned with maximum difficulty for twelve years before dying. His brother Paul succeeded but died early, in 1964. Constantine II, the present ruler, was promptly faced with crisis and eventually by the military coup d'état on April 21, 1967. The young King tried to overthrow the consequent dictatorship by his own countercoup eight months later but failed. He flew off to exile in Rome.
The current fashion is to decry the military coup as a rape of democracy. Indeed it was; but democracy in Greece is no virgin. There had already been eight military revolutions or coups d'état since World War I: the revolution of Colonels Plastiras and Gonatas (1922); the abortive counterrevolution of Generals Gargalides and Leonardopoulos in 1923; the coup d'état of General Pangalos In 1925; the coup d'état of General Condylis in 1926; the abortive coup d'état of General Plastiras in 1933; the abortive Venizelist rebellion in 1935; and the dictatorial coup of General Metaxas in 1936. Besides, the last two generations have featured innumerable minor acts of sedition and constant intervention of military juntas in governmental affairs. It seems impossible to keep the Greek army out of politics.
The postwar army had been riddled with secret societies and, although the King sought constantly to keep it on his side, a good deal was going on which even the King's men didn't know. To begin with, there was an extreme right-wing group called Chi, which, as World War II was ending, conducted a murderous vendetta against communists, There was Pericles, another conservative officers' organization; Aspida, a small left-wing army conspiracy; and, the best-known of all, Idea.
Idea stands for ieros (holy), desmos (band), ellinon (Greek), axiomatikon (officers), and was formed among officers who had fled to the Middle East from occupied Greece during World War II. Its creator and chief was Lieutenant General Solon Ghikas, Chief of the Army General Staff at the time of his retirement in 1956. Ghikas, a small, stocky man with shrewd eyes, pointed features and toothbrush mustache, is still alive, 71, active and keenly interested in events. At one time he was a minister in the Caramanlis government. Idea was thoroughly anti-communist, pro-King and basically pro-Caramanlis (although the latter had his own running feud with the Palace). Idea became a kind of holding company for the Greek high command. All Lieutenant Generals (the highest rank except for the honorary title of Field Marshal awarded to Alexander Papagos) were or had been members. Although Idea had faded into inactivity, its fraternal band of Lieutenant Generals on the Supreme Military Council decided in 1967 to "interfere" in the political situation when the King's effort to disintegrate the Papandreists had clearly failed and he had been forced into calling elections in May of that year. It was feared Andreas Papandreou would become a dominant force and lead the country out of NATO toward a neutralist or pro-Soviet posture.
A month prior to the scheduled election, Andreas Papandreou announced a mass meeting in Salonika, and shortly thereafter the Supreme Military Council met under the presidency of General Spandidakis to decide whether to "interfere" before or after the Salonika demonstration, which, it was feared, might lead to a violent leftist take-over. However, while all the Lieutenant Generals agreed that action was necessary, they disagreed on the timing; in the end, a majority voted to move only after the demonstration. General Zoetakis, then commanding the Third Army Corps in Salonika, immediately gave a warning of what was ahead to a secret junta of Colonels who had been conspiring in the shadow of the Generals. Actually they had been planning a coup d'état for at least eleven years.
During this crucial period, few people had any idea that a tightly disciplined handful of Colonels was waiting in the wings to seize the country. Some of them were individually known to diplomats-especially George Papadopoulos, once a key man in Intelligence-and all were of course known to the Generals; but nobody was aware of the extent or effectiveness of their underground organization.
As early as 1956, when General Nicolopoulos headed the Supreme Military Council, he had informed the other Generals that a group of officers was organizing a political plot within the army, and he named as conspirators George Papadopoulos (present Prime Minister), Nicholas Makarezos (one of the top triumvirate) and John Ladas (a security specialist and member of today's 12-man Revolutionary Council). The Generals were skeptical and refused the severe measures proposed by Nicolopoulos, although they did agree to transfer the suspects to positions in which they did not command any units.
In 1958 Nicolopoulos called a special Council meeting with the sole purpose of discussing the same group of field officers whom he accused of "trying to mix the army into a conspiracy." He requested the other Generals to agree to retire the suspects, but the Council again refused, claiming they all had excellent records and the evidence was inconclusive. This was a principal reason for Nicolopoulos's resignation in September 1958. He was succeeded by General Siridakis, who dropped the issue. In 1959 General Kardamakis succeeded as Council president and actually promoted the suspects, making Makarezos chief of his personal staff. After the coup Kardamakis was given a comfortable position as head of the National Power Authority.
When Zoetakis passed down word in April 1967 that the Generals were not going to move immediately, the Colonels decided to strike. Papadopoulos had been their guiding genius from the start, even during earlier days when first General Balas, then General Patilis (now a Deputy Prime Minister) had been formally acknowledged as the Colonels' leader. The operation led by Papadopoulos moved under the code name "Prometheus."
Prometheus, as a matter of fact, was simply the label of a contingency plan prepared in the Athens general headquarters, which Greeks proudly call "the Pentagon." It had been accepted as part of NATO's response in the event of war with a communist country. Prometheus foresaw, in the event of such a war, the need for swiftly rounding up communist leaders and other security suspects, as well as for taking over key points such as radio stations, airfields and communications centers. The purpose of the original plan was, of course, to prevent a coup d'état, not to promote one. But Papadopoulos had seen how easily this purpose could be perverted to his purposes. Two things were necessary: the first was to move enough tanks around Athens to ensure speedy capture of all key points. This was prepared by the plotters' senior officer, Brigadier General Stylianos Pattakos (now first Deputy Prime Minister), who headed the armored training center and commanded the only tanks near Athens (the rest being on guard along the northern borders).
The second was to win the allegiance of a high authority who would issue, over his own name, orders implementing the Prometheus contingency plan. Such became the role of Lieutenant General Gregorios Spandidakis, Chief of Staff, who defected at the last moment from his colleagues on the Supreme Military Council. As the Junta believed Spandidakis could not be relied upon to act without the King's approval, he was informed of the plot only at the very last minute. He was then persuaded to issue orders for Prometheus in order to avoid risk of clashes between army units. Spandidakis was right when he told me just after the operation: "The coup succeeded totally all over Greece, and in three hours, only because orders for executing it had been issued by the Chief of Staff himself." It was not exactly a proud boast. Spandidakis was temporarily rewarded with a Deputy Premiership but now is on the shelf.
When the Colonels struck it was widely assumed that this was another instance of traditional pro-royalist military intervention. It had been known that Constantine was increasingly inclined to listen to those of his generals who urged an army take-over. Even when old George Papandreou was bustled off to arrest, the former Prime Minister was convinced this was a monarchist generals' plot in reaction to his son's excessive activities. That night of April 21-22, he told a friend locked up in the same detention center that he had often warned Andreas to quiet down and couldn't blame the King for his high-handed reaction. Yet Constantine was as surprised as anyone by the Colonels' coup.
At 2:15 a.m., April 22, the King had just dozed off in the country palace at Tatoi, some miles from Athens, when his friend and secretary, Major Arnautis, telephoned: "They are smashing my door with guns." "Who?" the King asked. "I don't know," Arnautis shouted. Constantine said: "Hold on. I am coming to help you." "For God's sake, don't come," screamed Arnautis. "Call the police. Have they announced anything to you? What's the army doing? I am trying to get reinforcements sent up to Tatoi." Before the King knew what was happening the house of his mother, Queen Frederika, had been surrounded by tanks; his supporter, Premier Canellopoulos, had been menaced with tommy-guns; Arnautis was pistol-whipped; and almost all telephones were cut George Rallis, a pro-monarchist Minister, managed to reach Tatoi by telephoning from a suburban police station and the King told him to try to get the army in the North down to Athens. However, within minutes Tatoi was also surrounded by tanks, A short while later Papadopoulos, Makarezos and Pattakos arrived at the Palace to tell young Constantine: "The coup was done in your name in order to save the country." When the furious King demanded: "Where is my Prime Minister? Where is my government?" Pattakos answered: "You have none; we have arrested them all."
Later that morning the King drove to "the Pentagon" and confronted the rebel leaders, demanding the prompt release of Arnautis, Canellopoulos and others. He insisted that civilians be included in any new government and a little-known but esteemed conservative named Kollias was made Prime Minister. When the Colonels initially protested that Washington was on their side, young Constantine rejoined: "Obviously you are mad. Certainly the Americans are not on your side. Remember the case of Argentina? When the army took over there the United States withdrew its ambassador. The way you are going, you are bound to fail and you will isolate Greece from its friends." Constantine cautioned Pattakos, the new Interior Minister: "I hold you personally responsible that no drop of blood shall be shed and no politician shall be harmed." Constantine refused to sign any document legalizing the coup and took special pains to warn against any thought of executing Andreas Papandreou, saying: "No executions. Remember you can't execute politicians." Pattakos replied: "Turks we shall never become."
So much for the legend, assiduously spread by opponents of the United States, especially Andreas Papandreou, that the coup was American-inspired and that both the King and Washington were privy to it. Also, incidentally, Papandreou's life was saved by Constantine's prompt intervention and not, as has been widely affirmed, by the later intervention of foreign liberals. I saw him at the time, in the little hotel at Pikermi where he and about 30 other opponents of the Junta (including prominent communists) were being held under heavy guard, I wrote: "He put on a gallant front but he looked a tiny bit grey around the mouth and couldn't keep his hands still the way it sometimes happens when people are frightened. He admitted that he had been wholly surprised by the coup. He was fast asleep when a ring at the door was followed by the door itself bursting inward. Taken to a military headquarters, he was held there 20 hours. A doctor dressed his injuries (a minor foot cut suffered during arrest). After less than a day he was brought out here and has nothing to complain of-except lack of freedom." Subsequently Andreas was released and allowed to leave Greece; he has since been working hard from abroad to achieve the Junta's overthrow. Cold- shouldered by the exiled leaders gathered around Constantine and Caramanlis, he signed a joint pact with Antonis Brillakis, a communist activist leader who had escaped to Italy.
The next phase of this unpleasant tale was the King's unfortunate countercoup of December 1967. Constantine had no illusions about the Colonels and had been in discreet touch with certain of his generals. General Peridis, principal commander in the North, assured him he could seize Salonika with its key communications and radio station by 11:00 a.m. on December 13, the day selected for the attempt Early that morning Constantine sent his military aide (a stooge of the Colonels) on a phony assignment, summoned Prime Minister Kollias to Tatoi, virtually kidnapped him and his wife's physician (the Queen was pregnant) and flew off to the North. But Peridis had been wrong; Salonika remained in the Colonels' hands; and by late the next day it was evident that the uprising had failed. The King fled to Rome with his family and has lived there ever since.
During the ensuing twenty-two months the situation has stultified. Constantine sought, from Italy, to rally liberal support but he has not been notably successful. He has so far refused to consider returning to Athens, as suggested by some royalists, including Foreign Minister Pipinellis, insisting that first the Colonels must implement their Constitution, restore press freedom and indicate when there will be free parliamentary elections (both of which remain suspended). But all contacts between the King and the Junta (including three talks by the King with Pipinellis last summer) have been fruitless. While most of the Colonels still decorate their offices with portraits of the King and Queen (as well as their Phoenix symbol), they seem in no hurry to bring Constantine back on any terms.
I am reminded that Franco in 1946, thirteen years before he designated Prince Juan Carlos (Constantine's brother-in-law) as his eventual successor, assured me he was a monarchist and implied that he would eventually hand over the reins to Don Juan, Count of Barcelona, the father of the boy-Prince. Franco waited so long that Juan Carlos grew up, became legally eligible and politically tame. This may be the formula the Colonels hope to apply to Constantine and his baby son, Prince Paul.
The Junta, headed by Papadopoulos, who is clearly the boss, has been consolidating its position. Papadopoulos, Pattakos and Makarezos comprise a triumvirate at the top, just under the actual dictatorship of Papadopoulos. The next highest echelon of the Junta is the twelve-man Revolutionary Council. Only three of these twelve remain on active military duty; the rest have retired.
On the whole the Colonels have stuck together remarkably well despite constant rumors of friction. In 1968 two officers named Gadonas and Karydas were supposed to be in the Revolutionary Council and seem to have been dropped. Below the top echelon of the Council itself, it is believed a second group of twelve subordinates exists; and beneath them a less organized body of junior officers, widely known as "the Captains," bringing to about sixty the controlling group of officers, retired and active. No one can be entirely sure of this hierarchical order because Papadopoulos has managed to impress on all his colleagues the need for strict secrecy, an unusual phenomenon among Greeks. The battalion commanders around Athens are proven loyalists.
So far there is no valid hint that Papadopoulos is in the slightest hurry to restore freedom. Once he told me that the régime might be called Guided Democracy. Eventually, he said, Parliament would be brought back, with certain safety features neutralizing weaknesses of the past. But applying the old Aristotelian definition, the régime contains more oligarchy (the New Class of field officers) than aristocracy, monarchy or, above all, democracy. Its administration has been tough, but inefficient and confused. It has not managed to attract many of the nation's élite to help govern.
Greek society has slowly congealed. Public administration and education have deteriorated. The press has been stupidly censored and is now too wary to experiment with a theoretical easement of restrictions. The Constitution exists only in theory; the reality is martial law. Informers and police agents are everywhere. Only by the expedient of expensive short-term borrowing instead of cheap long-term loans have the currency and economy been kept apparently stable. While many businessmen profess content with the absence of strikes, the normally disputatious Greeks are in general sullen and silent. Afraid of the Colonels' policemen or fearful of a return to chaos, many of them refrain from commenting on the régime. This is abnormal in a nation which inherited from Solon a law which ordained that "he shall be disfranchised who, in time of faction, takes neither side."
It is hard to see how the Colonels are going to be ousted unless they fall out among themselves; and there is no evidence yet to signal such a quarrel. Papadopoulos seems to enjoy encouraging rumors of disputes within his Revolutionary Council, primarily in order to use these reports as proof that his colleagues would not tolerate such moves as announcing a date for elections or bringing back the King. Furthermore, the opposition both inside and outside Greece is more divided than it appears. Inside the country only the Center Union element, headed by the relatively conservative Mavros, accepts the national leadership proposed by Caramanlis; abroad, Andreas Papandreou and Brillakis lead a left-wing outflanking movement aimed against both Caramanlis and the King. One prominent politician, the pro-Caramanlis former Foreign Minister, Evangelos Averoff-Tossizza, argues that the only way out is for the opposition to collaborate with the Colonels and arrange a basis for at least a small minority opposition in a future parliament
The Colonels have had several windfalls. The Arab-Israeli war, Soviet naval expansion in the Mediterranean, and the Libyan coup d'état have combined to make the U.S. Sixth Fleet depend more heavily on Greece's harbors and airfields. Spiro Agnew is seen by the Colonels as a pro-Hellenic asset of no mean proportions. And the neo-isolationist mood in America permits the Administration to pursue a passive policy toward Athens despite the exhortations of those who are doves over Viet Nam yet hawks over Greece. The communist underground is playing a cautionary game, leaving bomb- throwing and pamphlet-distributing largely to liberals and conservatives.
Papadopoulos has drastically purged the armed forces of the King's men and, by giving pay raises and other economic favors to loyalist officers and NCOs, has obtained a certain amount of well-positioned personal backing. There is no doubt that his régime is harsh, although most impartial observers do not think that those who are in prison or restricted liberty for political reasons today number more than twice as many as were held under the last George Papandreou government Nor do I believe that torture is official policy, although gendarmes and especially Ioannidis' military police have sometimes been ruthlessly brutal.
Unhappily, Washington is criticized by all sides in this intricate dispute. Andreas Papandreou and the communists claim the Colonels were installed by the CIA and are supported by the White House. Caramanlis and other exiles earnestly insist that if Washington embargoes all arms shipments to Greece- not just heavy weapons-the army will rise up and the government will fall (which I personally do not believe). Even King Constantine felt he was snubbed by President Nixon when he attended Eisenhower's funeral.
It is my own feeling that we must carefully distinguish between military policy toward a member of the NATO alliance and political policy toward Greece as a nation. As we learned to our embarrassment in Portugal, a country can contribute help (in that case the Azores) even if we don't like its ideology. Greece as a key component of NATO's Southeastern Command deserves the weapons available to other allies, including more modern tanks, guns and aircraft now held up by executive decision. An M-48 tank is no more useful against hostile crowds than an M-47, but it is certainly more useful against potential external enemies.
Policy-making is a cold, calculating business. It must be remembered that the best-organized political force in Greece today is, unhappily, Papadopoulos's purged army. If the Junta gets truly disillusioned with Washington, it retains the option of turning toward Moscow. This may sound like nonsense in light of the violently anti-communist professions of the Colonels and their emphasis on Discipline, Order, Nationalism and Christianity. Nevertheless, I remember how hostile Nasser was to Russia in the early 1950s when he held his own Marxists in jail. He told me "all communists are thieves" and stressed his allegiance to Islam which, our experts insisted, could never tolerate accommodation with Marxism. It should not be forgotten that, although the communists inside Greece are today remarkably quiet, and many of their number are locked up, all the communist nations with which Greece had relations before the 1967 coup still have their embassies open and maintain excellent, even cordial, relations.
Nevertheless, apart from the important matter of arms, the United States has every legal right and moral obligation to continue stressing disapproval of the régime and to urge moderation and return to democratic methods. American officers-who are photographed far too often with Junta officials-should be discouraged from going to Greece except when plainly necessary and should be instructed to eschew all political conversations. And every member of the large U.S. embassy staff should be officially ordered to echo Washington's own distaste for dictatorship. Pressure of this sort is legitimate and desirable. The point to emphasize is that promises of reform with no date attached are not acceptable. American policy should take account of the fact that although Papadopoulos was able to seize power and hold it, he still has been unable to demonstrate that he knows what to do with it.