The Pentagon, concerned by Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou's criticism of the United States, is making contingency plans to remove U.S. military bases from Greece in 1988, but administration sources said yesterday that the Defense and State departments disagree about how far to push U.S. disputes with Papandreou.
The sources said there is general agreement within the administration about the prudence of being prepared to pull out of Greece if Papandreou wins a new four-year term in this year's Greek elections and adheres to his public stance that the four bases are to be closed in 1988.
If that happens, the United States would have serious problems in maintaining its strategic posture in Greece, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's southern anchor in the Mediterranean. The Greek bases, two air force and two naval, provide port and anchorage facilities for the U.S. 6th Fleet and also are used for surveillance and reconnaissance missions over the Middle East and the Soviet bloc.
However, the sources added, the State Department believes it would be tactically wiser to keep the planning on what one source called "a low-level, long-range and quiet contingency basis." By contrast, the sources continued, Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger and Pentagon planners appear to favor a high-level public statement of U.S. determination to reassess the relationship if the Papandreou government continues to be hostile.
Specifically, the sources said, Pentagon officials are debating whether Weinberger should do that when he testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Committee next Thursday. Weinberger already has told the House Armed Services Committee, during a hearing Feb. 5, that anti-American sentiment aroused by Papandreou was partly responsible for a Feb. 2 terrorist bombing that injured 57 Americans at a bar near the U.S. Air Force installations at Hellenikon south of Athens.
The sources said no decision has been made about a Weinberger warning about the bases. They added that if he does issue a warning, he probably will respond to questions by saying that the administration must reconsider whether Papandreou's interpretation of the 1983 base renewal agreement means that the United States must think seriously about relocating the bases in another country.
The sources were unable to say how specific Weinberger might be in spelling out relocation plans. But they noted that one obvious option would be to seek a base agreement with Turkey, which the Papandreou government's official defense policy has identified as Greece's most likely potential enemy.
The 1983 agreement extended U.S. base rights for five years. The English text states that either party may submit written notice to terminate the accord five months before its expiration. In the absence of such notice, the agreement would run indefinitely.
Papandreou has said repeatedly that he regards the agreement as a timetable for terminating the bases in 1988. Initially, U.S. officials tended to discount such statements as intended for domestic Greek consumption, and they predicted that the bases would remain after 1988.
More recently, however, the administration has become dismayed by such Papandreou actions as his pursuit of agreements with his communist neighbors -- Albania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia -- without consulting NATO, his courting of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and his increased criticism of the United States, including the charge that the South Korean airliner shot down by Soviet aircraft in September 1983 was on a U.S. spy mission.
In addition to the air base at Hellenikon, the most important installation is the Souda Bay naval complex on Crete. There is also an air base at Gournies, which monitors Soviet activity in the eastern Mediterranean, a base at Nea Makri, north of Athens, which is part of the U.S. global communications network, and about 20 smaller installations scattered through the country. About 4,000 U.S. military personnel and an equal number of dependents are at these installations.