500.A15a3/1286: Telegram

The Chairman of the American Delegation on the Preparatory Commission (Gibson) to the Secretary of State


58. Owing to illness of both Craigie and Rosso, the French-Italian naval discussions have been delayed and are now definitely adjourned [Page 182] while the French Cabinet is being reconstituted. In conversation today, Rosso brought the matter up to date.

A messenger was sent to Rome to explain Craigie’s latest proposal and to recommend on Rosso’s behalf that the Italian Government accept it as a basis for discussion. Some days ago a reply was received to the effect that Italy would accept the proposal as a basis for discussion, provided that France also accepted it in its present form.

Rosso has analyzed Craigie’s proposal and has picked out certain points which, unless they are altered, present insuperable obstacles for Italy. Reducing proposal to figures, Rosso finds that it works approximately as follows:

8-inch cruisers. France and Italy 70,000 tons each.
6-inch cruisers and destroyers. France, 199,000 tons; and Italy, 157,000 tons.
Submarines. France, 77,000 tons; and Italy, 44,000 tons.

For technical reasons, Rosso said, a navy can keep on effective service only one submarine out of three; for this reason, the Italian Admiralty is definitely opposed to accepting any figure lower than 52,700 tons while French figures remain at something over 77,000 tons. Rosso is also of the opinion that the 1930 program must be considered as a program of replacement for which obsolete tonnage, if any, is to be scrapped, not as additional program which is to be added on to existing fleet.

Rosso has drawn up the following formula with these two considerations in mind:

No further construction of 8-inch cruisers after completion of the 1930 program;

Completion of the 1930 program for 6-inch cruisers and destroyers, and construction for replacement of over-age vessels after January 1, 1930 (on being replaced, vessels are to be scrapped, except certain surface craft of more than 3,000-ton displacement, which will be kept as “special”);

No further construction of submarines except for replacement when the total tonnage is below 52,700 tons, after completion of the 1930 program, when the tonnage passes this figure, over-age vessels will be scrapped.

The auxiliary fleets reduced to tonnage of 1936 will reach the following levels: (a) Both France and Italy will have 70,000 tons for 8-inch cruisers; (b) France will have 187,352 tons for 6-inch cruisers and destroyers, and Italy will have 155,309 tons; (c) France will have 77,541 tons for submarines, and Italy will have 52,700 tons.

Rosso proposes to discuss this formula with Craigie this afternoon. He believes he can obtain his Government’s consent for these figures, although the formula is his own personal proposal. Due to the French Cabinet crisis, this will probably be the last important discussion of [Page 183] this matter. Rosso does not think that his Government will make an insuperable obstacle of conceding additional small amounts of tonnage. He called attention to his statement of acceptance applying to 6-inch cruisers and destroyers which is as follows:75

“With the exception of (blank) number of pre-Washington light surface craft of more than 3,000 tons displacement which may be retained as ‘special vessels’”.

He explained that this clause was intended to make acceptance easier for France by permitting them to keep certain old cruisers for colonial use.

Desire to discuss building of auxiliary ships along with discussion of building of capital ships has been indicated by the French. Their intention is to build pari passu with Germany in capital ships and they wanted to have an understanding with Italy on construction to be done by latter. Italy replied stating willingness to talk matters over in friendly spirit, but that it was Italy’s feeling that no agreement involving a limitation of their indubitable rights under the Washington Treaty could be undertaken before a satisfactory agreement had been reached regarding auxiliaries.

Rosso invited our attention to the fact that in the past 6 years the French and Italian Navies had each built 197,000 tons. In another 10 years of construction, if this pace were continued, they would reach real parity. Naturally Rosso recognized that the French had money and that the Italians had not, and that that was one of the real reasons why the Italians saw definite advantage to their accepting some formula even though it did not accord them satisfaction in matter of recognition of parity.

  1. Quotation not paraphrased.