Monday, 27 July 2009

How Karamanlis' 'moderation' did for Cyprus

I was reading on the Ινφογνώμων Πολιτικά website, this confidential conversation that took place on 29 May 1975 between Greece's then prime minister Konstantinos Karamanlis and US president Gerald Ford and his secretary of state Henry Kissinger. The conversation took place at the US embassy in Brussels and was dug up by the Washington-based Cypriot journalist Michalis Ignatiou. Among other things, the conversation deals with the restoration of democracy in Greece and Greek-Turkish relations in the light of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus and Turkish aggression in the Aegean. It is deeply embarrassing to read the egomaniacal Karamanlis praise himself for his role in establishing democracy in Greece after the fall of the junta, explain away his surrender of Cyprus and then plead – like the flunky he was – with the Americans to restrain the Turks, jubilant with their victory in Cyprus and now threatening Greece on all fronts. You can almost hear Ford and Kissinger laughing inside at Karamanlis' bizarre display of vainglory and sycophancy.

Anyway, below is an excerpt of the conversation that I've translated from Ignatiou's Greek translation back into English. The original English transcript of the conversation was available in the Ford archives, but for 'national security' reasons was withdrawn in 2004. In the extract, Karamanlis describes the events, as he experienced them, as they unfolded in Cyprus the previous year. It is a staggering statement of narcissism, cowardice and misjudgement dressed up as 'moderation'. As well as Karamanlis' statement being interesting from a historical point of view, it's also noteworthy because it reeks of the impotence and fear that continues to inform contemporary Greek responses to Turkish aggression. Karamanlis is, of course, bewilderingly and tellingly, something of a revered figure among conservatives in Greece.

Karamanlis [addressing Ford and Kissinger]: Permit me to begin by speaking about recent history. Before I returned to power, there was the junta's coup in Cyprus. Makarios was overthrown. The Turks argued that they acted [in Cyprus] as a guarantor power, something that granted them, they said, the right to restore the legitimate government and protect the Turkish Cypriot population. Their guarantor status explicitly refers to any action being aimed at the restoration of legitimacy in Cyprus and the upholding of the island's territorial integrity. Legality was restored three days after the invasion [23 July]. I returned [from exile in Paris] and took over the government of Greece and Clerides did the same in Cyprus. Turkey had fulfilled its aims as a guarantor. But they are still there. A few weeks after [legality in Greece and Cyprus were restored], Turkey seized 40% of the island.

I remember those days very well, because your secretary of state [i.e. Kissinger] woke me at four in the morning. There was no justification for the second Turkish invasion. No one comes up with strategic plans overnight. Turkey's military operation must have been in the planning for a long time. The occupation of 40% of the island occurred on the basis of a military plan with the codename ATTILA. This indicates premeditation. This move [the second phase of the invasion] created 250,000 refugees. You might say that this is not a large amount; but the population of the island is only half a million. Also, the 40% they seized is the most prosperous and productive part of the island.

On 14 August [the start of the second phase of the invasion], I encountered uproar in the army and among the Greek people. I went to the headquarters of the armed forces and they demanded action. There was pressure for a declaration of war. It was natural that everyone should feel they'd been made fools of. But I decided to choose the path of unpopularity, to tell the people to stay calm and to trust me. I told them we would receive help from our friends to find a solution.

In that dramatic moment, I had three choices. First, to go to war. Second, to resign and again withdraw from political life; and, third, to withdraw [Greece] from the military wing of NATO. I went for the third choice, which I considered to be the least painful and damaging. That is the history of Cyprus. It is difficult to prove something that is self-evident, but the Turks made a mistake. The Greeks showed moderation, despite all that happened to them. They are still showing moderation.


Anonymous said...


John Akritas said...

I agree, anon; and here's the rub. Given all Karamanlis' catastrophic failures, why is he revered among conservatives in Greece, some of whom have the audacity to refer to him as 'ethnarch'? And, secondly; it is usual for countries that have been humiliated and defeated in war – as Greece was in 1974 – to try and learn from its mistakes in order to avoid repeating them. (This happened in Greece after the defeat in 1897, with the result being the extraordinary triumphs of 1912-13). But why has Greece learned nothing from 1974, and why is the country following the same policy of appeasement?

lastgreek said...

Indeed we were humiliated in 1974. But can we say we were "defeated" when there were no battles fought, J?

I believe that if those 12,000 Greek troops on Cyprus had not been withdrawn (Hitchens), the Turkish invasion force would have been routed (if they would had dared to invade in the first place).

Hermes said...

John, a recent film doco about Seferis and his time in Cyprus.

Unfortunately, I still have not bought Waiting for an Angel.

John Akritas said...

LG: For an overview of the battles fought by Greek and Greek Cypriot forces during the Turkish invasion, see here:

although, I agree, if the 10-12,000 Greek troops criminally withdrawn in 1967 by the moron Papadopoulos had been in Cyprus in '74, then the Turks would have thought twice about invading or the outcome of any invasion would have been different.

H: the film looks good. I've never seen anything by Andreas Pantzis – though I'm aware he has a strong reputation as a serious filmmaker. The Seferis biography is well worth reading, as much for Seferis' searing indictment, as revealed through letters and diaries, of the conduct of 20th century Greek politics and politicians, as anything else.

lastgreek said...

Look at those bushy eyebrows---all for naught.

All that fawning by Karamanlis must surely have given Kissinger a chubby.

What a disgrace.


P.S. Thank you for the link, J. I do have some questions about those "battles," though?

John Akritas said...

I know where you're coming from, LG. Those 'battles' weren't really full-scale battles as the Greek military wasn't significantly deployed, so you can say the Greek armed forces weren't defeated in Cyprus – although Greece was defeated in Cyprus in a 100 other ways. In fact, Karamanlis' 'moderation' really amounted to and still amounts to a pervasive 'defeatism'; which regards Greece, the Greek people and the Greek military as incapable and unwilling to pay the price for conflict with Turkey. One of the things I most detest about this 'defeatism' is that it buys into this Turkish myth that its armed forces are matchless. I don't believe this for a minute. The Turks' first invasion of Cyprus was botched and would have failed if there wasn't chaos on our side caused by the coup and the fact that Ioannides and Sampson were running around like headless chickens when they realised that the Americans had double-crossed them and that Turkey was invading Cyprus. Even amid this chaos, it's worth pointing out the extraordinary, Thermopylean resistance of the outgunned, outnumbered and totally abandoned ELDYK and Cypriot forces, which leads me to believe that with better leadership, more men, resolve and co-ordination the Turks could have been thrown into the sea.

Spartan4life said...

Turkey is considered to have the 8th strongest military in the world while Greece is ranked around 26 or 27 if I'm not mistaken. Also Greece has more modern jet-fighters and our air force is considered superior to theirs. They ofcourse strongly outnumber us in terms of infantry.

As John righly states raw numbers alone don't win wars. The correct political will & good strategy can turn the tide of battle in favour of the smaller adversary, we have plenty of examples in our history. It was indeed incredibly humiliating and stupid at what happened to Cyprus in 1974, we need to stand our ground no matter what.

Anonymous said...

" I told them we would receive help from our friends" ; I told them to trust me". " The turks made a mistake", " The Greeks showed moderation ". What jackass pronouncements are these vapid sentences ? What idiots and fools could fall for them ? These are not words of a statesman , but the fevered outburst of a paralytic or the delirious shout of a chronic drunkard. Karamanlis always showed a proclivity to be inebriated with the exhuberance of his own verbosity. " The turks made a mistake" What a lovely mistake they made, hijacking 40% of Cyprus and getting away with it. They must have made the same mistakes in 1922 in the sacking of Smyrna and the rooting out of several centuries of hellenism in what was formerly Byzantium. I wish Karamanlis had made the same " mistake" and ended up with Enosis instead of " relying on his beloved firends". Showing moderation in the face of criminal intent is the byword and password of cowards and traitors. " We would receive help from our friends". What friends ? Was this man on crack cocaine or ecstasy ?. The corollary of the sad episode of the times which led to such a disaster was patently clear when the old dog was resurrected out of his mothballs and brought back into politics.The man was buried in anonymity and wasting his old age in lecherous Paris. He should have stayed there and spend the rest of his life gamboling in the night clubs of Pigalle, instead of carving up Cyprus, an exercise he begun in 1959 when he licked spittle the odious and subhuman Adnan Menderes pair of black Church shoes. That is the trade mark of bankrupt politics, when one recycles and turns over senile farts over and over again a la Karamanlis. I trust the gas bag does not rest in peace in his grave. May he toss over and over and side ways in his coffin and find neither comfort nor tranquility. Now let us wait for " his friends to help us".
Finally the last opprobrium goes to the Greek people, suffused and punch drunk in the " democratic mass orgy " following the passing of the military administration which paved the way for the rise of the fossilized spirit of liberal democracy. It should have been proclaimed that the word Greece-Hellas will prevail over the word " freedom and democracy". It was the other way around, and if we continue on the same trodden path more cataclismic surprises await us. They say , (I don't subscribe to it), that the masses get the government and the leash they deserve; it seems to have been correct in our peculiar Greek experience.

John Akritas said...

S4L: You are right to stress 'political will' in confronting Turkey. It's utterly lacking, presumably for fear of what might happen if things go wrong in any fight with the Turks – those who screwed up in Asia Minor were executed and those deemed guilty of what happened in Cyprus were jailed for life. There's also another point worth making, which second anon touches on in his comment about Karamanlis and is also evident in Karamanlis' statement to Kissinger and Ford; and that is the contempt Karamanlis – and the Greek political class generally – feels for the Greek people, regarding them as backward, immature, nationalistic, irrational, eastern and so on – and who need to be dragged – kicking and screaming and against their will, if necessary – on to the path of 'moderation' so that they can become what Karamanlis considers a modern, European nation.

Anonymous said...

It is not fear of what might happen to them if things go wrong in confronting turkey which prevents our political class from any type of action , other then assume a supine position. By not confronting the turks they already lost everything, and they continue in power. No what is missing is real leadership, genuine men with mental attitudes and the self assurance necessary to man the ship of state. Our political class is obsessed with becoming a modern euroean nation. They have got it all wrong . Europe is on its death bed, demographically, culturally and politically. Our ledership class also want to get into that death bed with the rest of the degenerate and decaying gang of captives in the EU trap. They have achieved their objectives. We are practically an enslaved populace, enmeshed in sportsmania, parties, drug addiction, licentioussness. Our youth is wasted in drinking and nightclubbing and watching the lates football match played by 50% of african priomates. The turks , in the meanwhile, build their military, consolidate and expand their armaments industry, and keep thir army fully " trained" chasing the kurds in skirmishes here and there. What do we do ? we are engaged in building a multicultural tea garden, " internationalizing" Greece. Our army is rusty and sclerotic not having seen any action of any kind since the end of WW2. Our officer class are only good and fit for military parades. We can not bring order to our streets, how are we going to manage a struggle with a foreign predator ? The same way we did in the past.... retreat, retreat and show " moderation". They are rehearsing different invasion scnenarios as routine exercise tasks. Greece has lost the initiative in the eastern aegean. It is more serious than one thinks.