Saying that his Socialist government would not launch Greece on "an adventure" that would leave it exposed to attack by Turkey, Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou declared today that he will not take any unilateral actions to remove U.S. bases from Greece or to pull out of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
In an interview here, Papandreou tacitly acknowledged that the strategic consideration of defending Greece against its neighboring NATO ally Turkey had led him to put off the implementation of some of the more radical foreign policies he advocated when he was elected to office exactly a year ago.
Insisting that at least in terms of "ideological orientation" his views had not mellowed, the 63-year-old Socialist leader made it clear that his past advocacy of pulling Greece out of NATO and insistence on an immediate U.S. withdrawal from its military bases here had taken a second place to the issue of national defense -- in which both NATO and the United States could be helpful to Greece.
"We are not prepared to, nor shall we, take any step in terms of foreign policy, which broadly speaking includes the bases issue, that would put the territorial integrity of the country in danger," said the Harvard-educated Papandreou.
"In whatever we do, keeping in mind our targets and visions, we have to take account of this" danger, he said, emphasizing why in his first year in office he had not implemented the foreign policies that would have alienated him from both Washington and NATO. "We don't have the right as a government to send Greece into an adventure. That is why I am talking against unilateral moves, surprises, acts that are hostile. We are not foolish."
Papandreou was speaking on the eve of nationwide municipal elections that may give the first public indication of how this new moderation is viewed by an electorate that swept him into office a year ago in part because of his radical proposals. He eschewed the fiery rhetoric that had characterized his rise to power in favor of a calm pragmatism in keeping with the image of the responsible West European statesman he now projects.
The former head of the economics department of the University of California at Berkeley, interviewed at a luxury seaside hotel where he often works, seemed unruffled by a flurry of local criticism -- more from his radical leftist supporters than his old rightist antagonists -- that his promises of a brave new world for Greece have so far not materialized.
He blamed the poor state of the economy he inherited in the midst of a world economic crisis for the slowness of his "socialization" of Greece and the strategic realities he has found in the Mediterranean for the cautious diplomacy he has ended up pursuing.
"I think this is the responsibility and function of government," he said when asked about this new moderation. "That shouldn't be a surprise because when one is not in government one is entitled to present the ideological makeup of the party, its broad visions and orientations, without having to solve day-to-day problems. It is not as imperative in opposition to deal with given conditions and specific conjuctures in which a government must operate."
Papandreou did mention his fear that Turkey had designs on Greek territory to explain why he had not taken Greece at least out of NATO's military structure.
"We are convinced that there is a real threat to the territorial integrity of Greece coming from Turkey," he said.
Papandreou said he first sought to get a NATO guarantee that Greece's borders, or those of any other state in the alliance, would be defended by its allies in case of attack, "no matter where it came from."
"Fundamentally what we finally arrived at was the need to have our own adequate defense," he said. "And this means the United States and West Germany, as they are the only two countries in the alliance that give military aid."
Papandreou said that in looking to these countries for military help he was interested in the supply of armaments that they could provide to establish some sort of "equilibrium" with better-armed Turkey, as well as the economic terms for their purchase that would "not be more favorable for Turkey than they are for us."
The Greek armed forces are already shopping around for 100 to 130 new sophisticated fighter planes and have been weighing whether to go for U.S. F16s, French Mirage 2000s, or some other European-made fighter craft. Western diplomats believe that Papandreou is waiting until the opening of negotiations Oct. 27 on the renewal of the agreement for four U.S. military bases to see what terms of aid Washington might offer.
Stating that only he, his foreign minister and President Constantine Karamanlis knew the terms of his negotiating position on the four bases -- two naval and two Air Force -- the prime minister refused to discuss what his specific demands would be. He reiterated, however, that he was primarily concerned with the length of the agreement and some Greek control over the uses the bases are put to.
Specifically, he said, he wanted enough control, or review, of the U.S. bases to guarantee that no information concerning Greek national security is passed on to Turkey and that no activities are conducted from the bases that are "hostile to third countries which Greece either has, or wishes to maintain, good relations with."
Papandreou said he has not asked the United States to curb any of its operations at the bases so far, not even its electronic eavesdropping on Libya. He indicated that despite his past antagonism to the bases, he was prepared to "accept some kind of facilities" under certain unspecified conditions that he said will be presented to Washington.
He insisted, however, that this did not mean he had changed his mind about foreign bases in Greece, because "we are against bases since they limit national independence."
"No, we don't have any illusions or misunderstanding about the structure of power nor do we ignore the fact that America as a country has strategic objectives in this region," he said.
In the past, Papandreou, who was a U.S. citizen for 20 years before returning to his native Greece to enter politics, has been virulently critical of U.S. policy toward Greece. Today, however, he was upbeat about his relations with a nation he had accused of supporting the colonels' dictatorship here between 1967 and 1974.
"I have the discreet feeling that the dialogue is a very different type of dialogue than we had in the past," he said. "I have no complaints."
As to the slowness of his efforts to implement his view of socialism in Greece's backward economy and society, the prime minister sounded as realistic about his domestic challenges as he was about those from abroad.
Underlining the economic crisis that has limited his ambitious plans, but insisting on the importance of social reforms he has begun, such as the introduction of civil marriage and the reform of the trade unions, Papandreou spoke about having to be satisfied with the possible.
"We as a government have to think in terms of the feasible and not visions," he said quietly as he tugged at his ever-present pipe and gazed out the hotel window at the sparkling Mediterranean Sea. "The visions are always for some date far in the future."