US Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. can find some consolation in his sweetening of the atmosphere between Greece and Turkey after his unsuccessful mediation efforts on the Falklands crisis.
After visiting Ankara and Athens on NATO's troubled southern flank last weekend, Mr. Haig apparently paved the way for the US to reopen negotiations with Greece about the latter's future relations with NATO on terms that are not offensive to Turkish sensitivities.
These negotiations can hardly proceed in isolation from two other contentious issues between Greece and Turkey: Cyprus and rights in the airspace over and on the seabed under the Aegean Sea.
Mr. Haig's success in Athens is perhaps more surprising than his achievements in Ankara. The military men running Turkey appreciate that the Reagan administration is well-disposed toward them. They know that Mr. Haig, as a former NATO supreme commander, recognizes the importance of Turkish real estate and military potential in US strategic planning in the context of both NATO and the Rapid Deployment Force for the Middle East.
They have seen, too, that the Reagan administration is prepared to seek for them just about as much military aid as the US Congress will allow.
But in Greece there is a new Socialist prime minister in the person of Andreas Papandreou, who was elected last fall on what appeared to many as an anti-American, even neutralist, platform and a commitment to close US bases on Greek territory. In addition, Mr. Papandreou seemed more militantly anti-Turkish than his conservative predecessors in the premiership.
First, allowance must be made that Mr. Papandreou's early dramatic, rhetorical stances were no more than the staking out of an opening negotiating position by a bargainer in the Byzantine tradition.
Second, Mr. Papandreou has discovered since acceding to the premiership that his apparently neutralist leanings have not won him any points with the pro-Moscow Communists. The latter seem to be intent on playing hardball with him , perhaps in a calculated move to rob him of his position as spokesman of the Greek left.
Third, he has learned that the hostility of the US would only compound his economic problems as he seeks to implement at least some of the Socialist programs at home to which he committed himself during his election campaign.
The evolution of communist hostility to Mr. Papandreou is the most significant of these developments. In last October's election, the pro-Moscow Communist Party of Greece-Exterior won 13 seats in the 300-seat Parliament, with 10.87 percent of the vote. Mr. Papandreou's Panhellenic Socialist Movement won 174 seats, with 48.06 percent of the vote. Yet it was not in Greece itself but in Cyprus that the Communists began to show their hand.
There last month, the pro-Moscow Cypriot Communist Party (AKEL), made a deal with Greek Cypriot President Kyprianou that in effect threw a wrench into Mr. Papandreou's apparent plan to provoke a crisis over Cyprus to give him leverage with the US. The Greek premier had been maneuvering to co-opt Mr. Kyprianou in this plan.
Mr. Papandreou's immediate aim had been to establish that long-drawn-out talks between Greek and Turkish Cypriots under UN auspices were deadlocked and that some other route must be taken to resolve the problems produced by Turkey's invasion of the island in 1974.
But the Cypriot Communists are in favor of continuing the talks and have persuaded President Kyprianou to support their approach, not Mr. Papandreou's. In return, the Cypriot Communists have promised Mr. Kyprianou their backing in his bid for a further term in the presidency in the election that must be held by next February.
In Greece itself last weekend, the pro-Moscow Communists were waiting to demonstrate in protest as soon as it became known that Mr. Papandreou was ready to compromise with the US on both US bases and NATO membership.
What has the US offered Mr. Papandreou as the American contribution to the compromise?
Reportedly a sympathetic response to the Greek premier's request that:
* Greece be given a guarantee within NATO -- albeit in general terms inoffensive to fellow NATO-member Turkey -- against any Turkish aggression.
* US military aid to Greece and Turkey continue on the basis of the 7-to-10 ratio that has prevailed hitherto. As an earnest of its intent, Washington has announced this month the sale of 32 Harpoon sea missiles and 58 sophisticated artillery pieces to Greece.
* US bases in Greece be operated with due regard for Greek sovereignty and in no way likely to prejudice Greek relations with the Arabs or reveal Greek secrets to Turkey.
* Greece's operational responsibilities in the Aegean under NATO be not significantly diminished in favor of Turkey.
What is awaited now is the fixing of a date for opening the US-Greek talks where these issues will be taken up.