Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Western European Affairs (Moffat)

The Italian Ambassador26a called this morning to read me, under instructions from Rome, the correspondence recently exchanged with the British Government regarding the desire of Germany to purchase military airplanes for police purposes. On two separate occasions, the British asked the Italians to give an assurance that they would not sell Germany such planes, setting forth the reasons which Mr. Osborne had explained to Mr. Phillips when he informally broached the same subject with us. The Italian Government finally replied agreeing in principle to join with the other countries in preventing such sales, but added that in its opinion this move on the part of Germany was closely related to its demand for equality of rights which had been admitted in principle at Geneva. The Italians accordingly informed the British that the Germans would probably raise the question at Geneva on a broader basis and felt that the British should be prepared to discuss it when and if raised. I asked Mr. Rosso if that meant that the Italians might take the initiative [Page 488] in bringing the question up at Geneva. He said definitely that this was not the case, but that he was convinced that the subject would be raised by Germany.

I then told him, in strict confidence, of the position of this Government in the matter, from the point of view of law and of policy. In particular, I told him of the assurance that we had confidentially given Mr. Osborne to the effect that although we could not legally prevent the export of such military planes, yet we could, as a matter of practice, probably accomplish the purpose we desired by stating that the Government viewed such export with extreme disfavor.

Pierrepont Moffat
  1. Augusto Rosso.