- American Foreign Policy towards the Colonels’ Greece: Uncertain Allies and the 1967 Coup d’État by Neovi M. Karakatsanis, Jonathan Swarts
Contemporary Greek history is replete with controversial moments. Besides the Greek Civil War, 1946–1949, perhaps no issue remains as controversial as the junta’s coup d’état in 1967 and their seven-year rule of the country. Like the civil war, analyses of the junta’s rule are typically tied to contemporary politics, with the United States’ alleged role in establishing the junta used by both leftist and rightist politicians for political gain (1–2). With political parties of all stripes using the perception of American involvement to gain a political edge, critical studies on this subject have largely been lacking. Neovi M. Karakatsanis and Jonathan Swarts in American Foreign Policy towards the Colonels’ Greece: Uncertain Allies and the 1967 Coup d’État address this lacuna in the literature by examining declassified US State Department documents to assess the United States’ role in the junta. In so doing, Swarts and Karakatsanis [End Page 196] provide the foundation for discussion of the subject that will be the standard for years to come.
Structurally, Karakatsanis and Swarts combine thematic and chronological approaches in order to explore the issue of American involvement in the junta. Chapter 1 outlines the importance of the question of American involvement with the Greek junta, both from a historical standpoint and up to contemporary Greek politics. Chapter 2 examines the lead-up to the 21 April 1967 coup, as well as the Americans’ understanding of these developments. The US State Department did not believe that a coup was likely in Greece—and as a result was caught unprepared for it. Chapter 3 examines how the initial American response to the Colonels’ coup was one of confusion and ambivalence, yet at the same time provided the foundation for their policies toward Greece until 1974. Specifically, American foreign policy toward the Greek junta attempted to balance two competing concepts: pressuring the Colonels to undertake democratic reforms, while simultaneously recognizing Greece’s strategic importance to NATO defense strategy (62). Chapters 3–6 approach the issue of American engagement with the junta thematically, delving into matters such as the distinctions between the White House and State Department. In approaching the subject in such a manner, Karakatsanis and Swarts are able to argue persuasively that the United States always maintained the two policy positions established by the State Department early in the regime, with security concerns winning out more as time progressed. In Chapter 7, the authors explore how the Greek junta was able in many instances to dictate terms to the American government. Chapter 8 provides a summation of the authors’ major arguments, as well as providing potential future avenues of research. Karakatsanis and Swarts acknowledge that their conclusions, while passing the test of Occam’s Razor, will not be confirmed until all the Central Intelligence Agency’s records are unsealed (212–216).
The findings of Karakatsanis and Swarts are important in several regards. First, they conclude that, contrary to popular perceptions, the United States was not actively involved in perpetrating the coup. It now seems clear from State Department documents that the United States of America did not engineer the Colonels’ coup in April 1967. The US State Department and its embassy in Athens actively discouraged Greek political actors from undertaking extra-constitutional activities (32–36).
The commonly cited reason for American involvement in the Colonels’ coup d’état is a belief that Andreas Papandreou would turn the country into a communist satellite, but this is not borne out by the historical record. The State Department did not believe that Andreas posed a threat and viewed the left’s [End Page 197] rehabilitation after their marginalization in the 1950s as a positive development toward a functioning polity (28–29). While it is possible that this belief was only dominant in the State Department, the only way the United States may have been...