A day before a second invasion wave of Turkish forces on Cyprus in 1974, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told President Gerald Ford – in office only four days after Richard Nixon resigned, facing impeachment over Watergate – that if Greece went to war with Turkey that America should back the Turks and that they were entitled to seize part of the island.
A file exempt from declassification, from the National Security Adviser’s Memoranda of Conversation Collection at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, shown on the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC) blog revealed Kissinger’s bias and favoritism toward Turkey, backing up long-held assertions he had implicitly supported Turkey’s invasion although the US was supporting a Greek military dictatorship that collapsed over Cyprus.
Minutes of the meeting showed that Kissinger was becoming anxious during a brief period of internationally-brokered peace talks in Geneva, Switzerland and that the Greeks were playing for time as Turkey was getting antsy.
Ford asked Kissinger, “What we do if the Turks moved?” and was told the US would have to vote against them in the United Nations Security Council.
“We would have our hands full to keep the Greeks from going to war. The Turks right now are extremely nationalistic. For a few years ago, the Turkish tactics are right – grab what they want and then negotiate on the basis of possession,” he said.
Then, he added ominously: “But if the Turks run loose on Cyprus, the Greeks could come unglued. We certainly do not want a war between the two, but if it came to that, Turkey is more important to us and they have a political structure which could produce a Qadhafi,” referring to Libya’s military dictator.
Kissinger said as the Cyprus issue was set to spin out of control that, “We have been trying to bail the Cyprus situation out after it got out of control. The British have made a mess of it,” referring to the island’s former Colonial ruler.
“If the Turks move to take what they want, they will be condemned in the Security Council and the Soviet Union will beat them over the head with it. Some of my colleagues want to cut off assistance to Turkey’ – that would be a disaster,” he said.
Despite Greece having been an ally of the United States in every war, Kissinger said that, “There is no American reason why the Turks ‘should not have one-third of Cyprus. We will make a statement today that will get the New York Times off our back, but we should not twist their arm,” the record showed.
Also present for much the meeting, which also discussed other foreign policy issues including Egypt, Israel, Jordan, the Sinai, West Bank and Soviet Union was Major General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs.
Kissinger also raised what he called the “poppy issue,” with the US wanting to eradicate planting of poppies used to make opium, drawing anger from Turkish growers, with the Secretary of State apparently trying to curry more favor with Turkey.
“The whole poppy situation is a loser. Do you want to have a brawl with the Turks, or should I? Kissinger asked Ford.
The US seemed unprepared for what happened the next day on Aug. 14 after Turkey had taken 3 percent of the northern third of the island before a ceasefire was declared and talks began.
Turkey had invaded Cyprus on July 20, 1974 in response to a Cypriot coup five days earlier. Under Operation Attila, heavily-armed troops landed shortly before dawn at Kyrenia on the northern coast meeting resistance from Greek and Greek-Cypriot forces. Turkey said it was it was invoking its right a a guarantor of security on the island to protect Turkish-Cypriots.
When the Greek junta fell apart on July 23, Greek political leaders in exile started returning and on July 24, Constantine Karamanlis returned from Paris and was sworn in as Prime Minister. He kept Greece from entering the war.
As a second Geneva conference was meeting on Aug. 14, international sympathy that had seemed to be on the side of Turkey swung back to Greece as it was trying to restore democracy.
Turkey demanded the Cypriot government accept its plan for a Federal state, and population transfer but when Acting President Glafcos Clerides asked for 36 to 48 hours to consult with Athens and Greek-Cypriot leaders, the Turkish Foreign Minister rejected it.
Only 90 minutes after the Geneva talks broke up, Turkey launched its second invasion.
Britain’s then Foreign Secretary James Callaghan, who took part in the talks with the United Kingdom and Greece also guarantors of security – and who later became Prime Minister – reportedly said that Kissinger vetoed at least one British military action to pre-empt the Turkish landing and was favoring Turkey over Greece although the ruling junta that had wanted to annex the island was gone.
Kissinger’s bias in favor of Turkey was apparently even stronger, according to RAW STORY, which in 2007 wrote that Kissinger had abetted illegal financial aid and arms support to Turkey for its 1974 Cyprus invasion.
Some Greek Cypriots believed that the invasion was a deliberate plot on the part of Britain and the US to maintain their influence on the island, which was particularly important as a listening post in the Eastern Mediterranean in the wake of the October 1973 War between Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Syria, the news site said.
The late noted columnist Christopher Hitchens, author of the book The Trial of Henry Kissinger, wrote that, “At the time, many Greeks believed that the significant thing was that (Prime Minister Bulent) Ecevit had been a pupil of Kissinger’s at Harvard.”
Several intelligence sources who were not named, told RAW STORY that Kissinger both pushed for the Turkish invasion of Cyprus and allowed arms to be moved to Ankara.
The transition between the two Presidencies was nearly simultaneous with the Cyprus invasion and aftermath.
In his 2004 book on NATO, Lawrence S. Kaplan, who was a professor at State and Georgetown, wrote that, “Kissinger personified in Greek eyes a conspiracy that had been behind the coup on Cyprus and behind the bellicose Turkish response. An articulate and influential Greek lobby in Washington worked to focus American attention on the betrayal of its ally.”
Despite Greece having been a long-time ally, the United States “placed a higher value on the military strength and the seemingly consistent anti-Soviet cast of Turkey,” he said, suggesting other reasons why the US would go against Greece in case of war.
“It was Turkey’s military potential and the strategic location straddling the Dardanelles that made the Turkish partnership more valuable than its Greek rival,” Kaplan wrote.