- Britain and the Greek Colonels: Accommodating the Junta in the Cold War by Alexandros Nafpliotis
Despite the 45 years that have passed since the collapse of the Greek Junta, more questions than answers remain regarding the role of foreign powers in the Colonels' regime. What role did the "Great Powers" play in instigating and supporting the coup (1)? Once in power, how did these governments work with the Colonels to further their own economic, security, and other interests? Many have speculated on answers to these questions. However, only a minority of scholars have systematically studied the role of foreign governments and [End Page 258] international institutions in the Colonels' regime. Important exceptions include the academic research of Louis Klarevas (2004), Konstantina Maragkou (2006, 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2014), Effie Pedaliu (2007, 2011, 2016) and Mogens Pelt (2006), the historical and personal accounts of James Miller (2014) and Robert Keeley (2011), and a few other studies (including my own 2018 book co-authored with Jonathan Swarts). Alexandros Nafpliotis's monograph, Britain and the Greek Colonels: Accommodating the Junta in the Cold War is another notable exception.
In this thoroughly researched monograph, Nafpliotis sets out to provide one of the first accounts of British policy towards the Colonels' Greece from 1966 to 1974. His investigation builds upon and complements the publications of the aforementioned scholars, and uses British, Greek, and American primary (particularly archival) sources, as well as information garnered from personal interviews, to analyze the Wilson and Heath governments' policies towards the regime. Focusing on the diplomatic, economic, and defense relationships that Greece and the UK maintained during this period, Nafpliotis investigates possible foreknowledge and involvement of Britain in the Colonels' coup. His book also offers a thorough analysis of the UK's response to the regime, focusing on important events in Britain and Greece and how those events affected the Anglo-Greek relationship.
Nafpliotis' main hypothesis is that both the Labour (1967–1970 and 1974) and Conservative (1970–1974) governments in Britain were financially and internationally weak and, therefore, were forced to pursue pragmatic policies toward the regime as well as policies intended to prove the UK's subordination to US and NATO interests. Divided into eight chapters and following a chronological approach, the book commences in 1966, when rumors of a military coup began to emerge. Chapter One investigates the preconception held by many Greeks that foreign governments—in this instance, the Wilson government (and, to a lesser extent, the Johnson administration in the US)—had foreknowledge of or involvement in the coup. The chapter also highlights the Wilson government's response to the Colonels once the Junta was firmly ensconced in power. Chapters Two through Eight follow historical events chronologically, including the change of government in London in 1970 and its impact on Anglo-Greek relations, growing concern regarding the concentration of power in the hands of Papadopoulos but also over the possibility of an overthrow of the regime by extremists, the impact on the regime of British membership in the European Economic Community, the Ioannides regime, and the Cyprus crisis.
Several significant contributions stand out in Nafpliotis' study. First, through careful archival research, Nafpliotis counters a long-held misconception [End Page 259] regarding the Colonels' regime: that the coup itself was instigated and supported by foreign powers. The author argues that, on the contrary, in the years preceding the Junta, Britain believed that a right-wing coup was not imminent as long as King Constantine was opposed to it. Nafpliotis also maintains that while Britain's position regarding a possible coup was that of a "neutral observer" (18), the US position was much less neutral, actively warning against a coup and encouraging a democratic course in Athens. However, once the coup occurred and it became clear that the regime was firmly in place, both countries established working relations with it to safeguard their interests. British policy, informed by a Realpolitik focus on international relations, included the fair treatment of British citizens as well as...