Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State (Rogers) of a Conversation With the Italian Ambassador (De Martino)
The Italian Ambassador, after talking about Sino-Japanese events, asked whether we would take any part in connection with the plan for a confederation of the five Danube states and read me a statement issued by Grandi as to the Italian attitude. The statement, part of which was published this morning in the papers, said the Italians reserved judgment and had doubts particularly as respects whether or not a customs union of the Danube states would not affect commercial relations with other states. The Ambassador said that this was an obvious warning that Italy was on her guard, but the real preoccupation was a political one. The move was an effort of France to strengthen the Little Entente by adding the other three states to the Czechoslovakian and Rumanian combination. England had joined with France from economic and financial motives. Germany was not a party to the plan, but would be expected to resist the drawing away of Austria from her. Hungary and Czechoslovakia were too bitter enemies to successfully combine. I gathered that Italy was keenly concerned by the prospect of a political union under French auspices and would resist.
The Ambassador asked whether we would take any active steps to preserve our commercial and trade rights. I said we would watch them carefully, but we would not take any part in any European political problem. He said that he felt we had some sympathy with the necessity of breaking down the trade barriers in eastern Europe. [Page 850] I said we had, but it would not develop into any policy which would affect the situation.
He said Italy also had sympathy with the economic difficulties of the new small countries and was willing to make concessions in that direction.
I gathered that Italy was alarmed at the growth of the project, expected to fight it, and was wondering whether we would take any part. Indeed, the Ambassador suggested that our substantial interests would be affected.