Greece/Stay Behind

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Group.png Greece/Stay Behind
(Stay Behind)Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png 5
Parent organizationOperation Gladio
Membership• Alexandros Papagos
• Konstantinos Plevris
NATO's stay behind which were involved in several assassinations and the 1967 coup.

The Stay Behind network in Greece was known as the Red Sheep (Κόκκινη Προβιά). It kept the political situation in Greece under its direct control, intervening whenever there was a need, even in the electoral process.

Identifying their choices with the national interest and the CIA interest with Greek patriotism, operations it was involved in include the assassination of the independent Left MP Grigoris Lambraki in 1963, the deadly bombing on the Gorgopotamos bridge in 1964 (in which thirteen people died), the bombings in Athens and Thessaloniki in 1966 and 1967. It was central in the coup and military dictatorship in 1967.[1]

Established by Britain and the United States

NATO's influence in Greece began even before the creation of the alliance itself, that is, from 1944, immediately after the withdrawal of the German occupying troops. Winston Churchill, seeing the resistance movement EAM forces gaining dangerously large support and in an effort to prevent the left from winning the election, ordered the establishment of a far-right secret army in the country.[2]

According to journalist Peter Merto, the secret army was a "new unit of the Greek army, which became known by many names, such as the Hellenic Mountain Brigade, the Hellenic Expeditionary Force or the LOC", which excluded "almost all those from moderate conservatives to far-left beliefs. "Under the supervision of the British army and with the explicit orders of Churchill, the unit was filled with royals and fascists" (i.e. former collaborators with the Germans). The first commander of the newly formed Greek Expeditionary Forces was the general and later prime minister of Greece, Alexandros Papagos.[2]

On November 14, 1990, Andreas Papandreou made the following statement to the Associated Press: "The Red Sheep paramilitary organization was created in 1955, as a result of a secret part of the agreement regarding the American bases in Greece".[3] Neither of the parties ND nor PASOK have ever made public this "secret part of the agreement" for the installation of American bases in Greece, which means that what was agreed then still governs the terms of operation of the bases, 70 years later.

The 1944 Massacre

Full article: Dekemvriana

On December 3, 1944, just six weeks after the expulsion of German troops from Greece, a large demonstration took place in the center of Athens over Britain's decision to disarm all resistance groups not loyal to itself. The organizers had stated that the demonstration would be followed by a general strike, but it would be completely peaceful. Groups of gunmen, police and British soldiers placed on the roofs of buildings in the center of the capital, began firing on the crowd without warning. It is probable that there were members of the future Greek Special Forces (EDK) (Ειδικές Δυνάμει) among the militants, something which, to date, has not been officially examined. The Greek civil war started informally that day.[2]

NATO bases

Until the end of the civil war, in 1949, the secret anti-communist EDK army was fully equipped by American forces. Greece joined NATO in 1952, becoming a very trusted ally of the United States and fully integrated into the NATO system. The CIA cooperated closely with the army and the government of Greece in the equipment and training of the secret forces, something that became known to the Greek public only in 1990, with the publication of secret documents. Among other things, there was a document on the EDK, dated March 25, 1955, and the signatures of US General Lucian Truscott, Chief of General Staff General Konstantinos Dovas, and Prime Minister Alexandros Papagos. These three parties reaffirmed the agreement on the secret army on May 3, 1960.[2]

Coup of April 21, 1967

Throughout the 1960s, the CIA and NATO's covert Red Sheep kept the political situation in Greece under its direct control, intervening whenever there was a need, even in the electoral process.

In July 1965, King Constantine, in collaboration with army and CIA officers, ousted Prime Minister George Papandreou, using his royal prerogative. At the same time, the Red Sheep, under the leadership of KYP officer Konstantinos Plevris, embarked on a covert struggle to manipulate the political climate, with the support of Washington and US President Lyndon B. Johnson.[2]

The coup of April 21, 1967 came as a natural end to two decades of instability and had its fount in the EDK, which implemented the Prometheus Plan, a plan drawn up by NATO in the event of a communist uprising. The EDKs were the ones who took over the Ministry of Defense at midnight on April 20th to 21st.[2]


Revelations about Red Sheep came to light in the 1990s. On October 30, 1990, Andreas Papandreou stated that in 1984, as prime minister, he discovered a NATO army in Greece and ordered its disbandment. Former Defense Minister Nikos Kouris confirmed that the secret army was active throughout the Cold War.

In the 1990s, there were strong calls from the opposition to conduct a parliamentary inquiry into the secret army, but these were rejected by the then ND government. The Minister of Defense, Ioannis Varvitsiotis, was forced to confirm before the Parliament that the information given by Papandreou was correct and that indeed the CIA and the local commandos had set up a secret network, an operation codenamed Provia, which, as he claimed was "dissolved in 1988".[2]

Personally, I doubt whether these things were known to democratic governments, even to the Chiefs of General Staff. I am sure, for example, that Admiral Augeris in the short time he remained as Chief of the General Staff, had no idea of ​​this system. The Greek Parliament certainly did not have it, the prime ministers, even the right-wing ones, certainly did not have it.

Nikolaos Kouris

Former General Nikolaos Kouris, who was responsible for the dismantling of the Red Sheep in 1987, gave an interview after he had retired from active politics. Kouris was former Commander of the Air Force, Chief of General Staff and Deputy Minister of National Defense for a number of years under PASOK.

He stated: "The government, the governments probably, of that time, of the dictatorship I mean, probably had the impression that these collaborations took place within the framework of NATO. While the agreements were made outside NATO. .. There were (…) agreements and even strange ones, between an intelligence service of a state and a part of the armed forces of the country, the special forces....It was known only to certain executives, who had special relations with the United States.[4]


In December 2005, Kleanthis Grivas published an article in To Proto Thema, a Greek Sunday newspaper. He claimed that Red Sheep also possibly had carried out the assassination of CIA station chief Richard Welch in Athens in 1975, the kiling of MP Pavlos Bakoyannis in 1989, and also the assassination of British Brigadier General and diplomat Stephen Saunders in year 2000 more than a decade after the Cold War ended. The US State Department went out with a denial of these charges.[5]

Grivas wrote "Understandably, no "democracy" could withstand a systematic investigation into this subject. For this reason, the investigation was simply announced (and for the press, the Mitsotakis government [1990-93] assigned the relevant investigation to General Sundias, a member of Stay Behind). Therefore, no research has been done and will never be done."


5star.png 10 October 2021 Terje