033.6511 Grandi, Dino/99

Memorandum by the Under Secretary of State (Castle) of a Conversation With the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs (Grandi), November 16, 1931

Grandi and [I] talked for two hours or more on the way from New York. He showed me the hand-out he had for the press after his call at the White House. It was good, and especially so since it tied up his visit with that of Laval, as “forging another link in the [Page 646] chain of international understanding.” I told him I thought it would make a good impression here and particularly, which was of more importance, in France. Grandi admitted that really good relations between Italy and France were important, that there were many minor trouble-making questions, but that the only real cause of difference was on armament and what should be done about it. Such a question as that of the Italian Colonies he said he would guarantee to settle with two hours talk with Laval. As to armament, he thinks that Italy is distinctly more menaced than before the War because there is France on one side and the Little Entente on the other. France does not need so much in the way of armament as she now has and France is unreasonable in her demands for the price of reduction. “France wants security, absolute security; but absolute security for France means there must also be absolute security for every other nation. And how is this to be achieved?” Of course, this will make things next year at Geneva difficult—this and many other things—and one of Grandi’s main reasons for coming to Washington is to find out just exactly how far we want to go at the Conference.34 He says Italy will go as far as we do, but does not want to go further; neither does he think we ought to push for too much or else we shall fail altogether. He thinks that if we can get a 10% or 15% reduction we shall be doing well and that all we can hope for is to make a first step. He talks very sensibly on the subject. I told him the Secretary feels that there is little hope of any success unless first the political questions of Europe can be settled, beginning with the Polish corridor. Grandi said that a real settlement of the corridor question would be one of the greatest safeguards to peace and good understanding, but agreed with me that it could not possibly be settled now without war. It is an infinitely complex question in any case, he said, because the population is undeniably Polish and yet this corridor cuts off an equally undeniably German East Prussia. He thinks the only real settlement can be the eventual annexation to Poland of Lithuania, but he agrees also that this could not possibly be done today without war, in which Russia might well be included. He said that Italy, of course, stands for the revision of the Treaties, but that this is in theory, and something to be looked for in the future—not necessarily the immediate future. This he tried to impress on Bruening35 when in Berlin a fortnight ago, tried to make him promise that he would enter into an engagement with France not to raise any of these questions for the next few years. Bruening said he could enter into no engagement in the matter as his Government would instantly fall, but that if no [Page 647] publicity were attached he could pretty well stop the talk about these hoped-for revisions. Grandi thinks that probably this is a correct statement of the case. He likes Bruening, but doubts whether he can last long, is inclined to agree with the French that perhaps it might be just as well to have the Nazis in for a time as they would not dare, in his opinion, seriously to change the German foreign policy and if the rest of Germany saw that even they would have to appeal for outside help the people might settle down and try to make the best of things. (At this point he took occasion to say that it annoyed the regime in Italy to have the Hitlerites call themselves fascists as they had nothing in common with fascism.)

So far as Russia is concerned, Grandi says that the relations are purely commercial. Italy is an island in the Mediterranean so far as trade is concerned, must look both eastward and westward. The Black Sea region must furnish grain and oil to Italy, but beyond these commercial relations Italy will not go with Russia; since no two nations have such utterly conflicting ideals of government. Grandi feels strongly that the world must trade with Russia and would like to see France and Germany together make an effort to open up the country. He wants this because it will be good for Europe, but primarily because as Germany and France work together along one line they will be likely to work together along others and the great world problem today is to get these two nations, which are out of step with the rest, which are both “bad” nations from the international point of view, really thinking and acting together. Italy wants to help in this as Grandi is sure we all do.

As to the question of debts and reparations, Grandi says that if the United States will scale down the debts Italy will join with other European nations in scaling down the reparations. I said that in this case it seemed to me that he had hold of the wrong end of the animal, that actually it was now up to Europe to act, to cut down on the reparations to a point where Germany might be able to pay and that if this were done I had no doubt that the United States would be generous to its debtors. I reminded him, however, that we had never admitted any connection between reparations and war debts. Grandi said that Italy had accepted enthusiastically the President’s proposal of last June for the cancellation of inter-governmental debts,36 not really for one year but for all time—that it seemed to Italy that the old situation could never be resumed, that it meant a real sacrifice for Italy since there was a large balance of in-payments over out-payments, but that Italy had felt it must make this sacrifice for the general good. [Page 648] I reminded him that actually the proposal was for one year only, that, although it was probably true that the old order of payments might never be resumed, this plan had saved a momentary situation and had given time to work out some more permanent solution. He said that what had pleased the Italians most was to see the United States taking the lead in international affairs. He hoped we would not renounce this lead. I said that the plan had given an opportunity to Europe to get its house in order and an atmosphere in which definite solutions could be worked out; that we were waiting to see whether Europe would take advantage of this and do something for itself.

W[illiam] R. C[astle, Jr.]
  1. The World Disarmament Conference scheduled for Geneva, February 1932; for correspondence regarding preparations for the conference, see vol. i, pp. 471 ff.
  2. Heinrich Bruening, German Chancellor.
  3. For correspondence on this subject, see vol. i, pp. 1 ff.; for the Italian acceptance of the proposal, see ibid., pp. 219 ff.