New light shed on Greece after World War II

«It is often said that history is the one guide to the future, and I couldn’t agree more. Despite very serious losses and tremendous destruction during WWII, Greece stood firmly with the allied cause in a way of life that refused to accept totalitarianism.» With these words in a speech yesterday at the Greek Foreign Ministry, US Ambassador to Greece Thomas Miller expressed his admiration of the achievements made by Greece in the past 50 years, during a presentation of the ministry’s most recent publications on Greece in the post-WWII era. The three-book series, titled «Greece on the Verge of a New World: The Cold War – The Truman Doctrine – The Marshall Plan,» was presented during a ceremony attended by President Costis Stephanopoulos and Foreign Minister George Papandreou. «After three years’ work, the time it took to collect the more than 3,000 documents used, we present this three-book series and pave the way for academic research and interpretation into this traumatic experience in our modern history which was marked by the period after the Second World War and the post-civil war course of the country up to the colonels’ junta,» announced Foteini Tomai-Constantopoulou, head of the Diplomatic Service and Historic Archives, who led the research team. The series contains 180 documents, including eight from the American government, reprinted in cooperation with US Embassy in Athens. The documents describe, among other things, Greek government requests for supplies of military equipment, food and economic assistance in the period 1943-46; reactions in Europe to the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine; the speech given by George Marshall at Harvard University; the stance of Russia; the USA’s response, as well as information on the economic, political and defense situation in Greece at the time. «When one speaks of the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine, one probably has two images in mind: One of them certainly symbolizes the great effort toward the reconstruction of Europe which was decimated by WWII, the enormous destruction, the human misery, but also the economic slump and poverty,» Foreign Minister George Papandreou noted. «And perhaps the publishing of these important archives symbolizes, if you like, the closure of a period, the psychological closure of that period.» The foreign minister seized the opportunity to stress how a country’s past is reflected in its future, and how the lessons of the past can become a tool for future crises. «The Marshall Plan,» Papandreou remarked, «has not just been imprinted on the generations who lived through those events, as even today, for example, we talk about a Marshall Plan for the Balkans. Today, we talk about a possible Marshall Plan for the Middle East. So, it is imprinted, rather, on the consciousness of the international community.» US Ambassador Thomas Miller followed up on these remarks by noting the impressive recovery of the country after WWII, and its achieving membership in the European Union and NATO. «I was just a small boy, a very small boy, at the time of the Marshall Plan,» Miller said, stressing how impressed he is «with what you all have done over the last 40 to 50 years. Looking at the prosperous country that Greece has become today, it’s very difficult for someone like myself to imagine how things were back then. We Americans are very proud to call Greece a good friend, we are very proud of all that you have accomplished in the last 50 years.» The foreign minister noted that after the end of the Cold War, Greece faces new challenges with economic globalization, the power of the mass media, the information society, biotechnology and terrorism, and that Athens and Washington have goals of expanding their cooperation in those areas. «We are living in an era of great decisions and new challenges, among which exists a new phenomenon that threatens to undermine democratic institutions, to split humanity in the name of old-fashioned beliefs; this is the phenomenon of international terrorism,» Papandreou said. «On all levels, we have developed a new working relationship with the United States, and for this we are particularly grateful for the contribution and work of US Ambassador Thomas Miller.» The American diplomat, in turn, underlined the strong bond of partnership that Greece and the USA have shared over the last half-century, and which is strengthened each time one of them is in need. This, he said, is even more true after last year’s terrorist attacks in the USA. «In the wake of the September 11 attacks, we asked our allies to stand with us in a fight that once again threatened the way of life that we all hold dear. I am proud, I am honored, I am pleased that Greece, along with many other European countries, was by our side as we try to fight this latest challenge of terrorism together,» Miller said. «Fifty years ago we came to this country with the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine, and now you have Greek pilots manning AWAC (electronic radar) planes that are flying protective cover over the United States. This is an alliance of equals, this is an alliance where we help each other when the other is in need, this is an alliance that works both ways, and for this, as the American representative to this country, we are very grateful.» Making a reference to a statement that George Marshall made 50 years ago, Miller told the audience that «America stands with you. We will not walk away.» «I am very pleased that what General Marshall said 50 years ago is still true today, and it goes both ways,» he said. «In our time of need, you didn’t walk away from us. For that, I thank you very, very much.»

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