Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. William Phillips, Special Assistant to the Secretary of State
The Italian Ambassador left with me this morning four communications:84
- With regard to Italy’s credits and to the fact that some important items in which Italy is desperately in need and which were originally attributed to the military program are no longer to be procured. This memorandum was accompanied by a personal letter to me85 in which the Ambassador points out the difficulties confronting Italy in providing the necessary funds in order to finance her essential import program.
- With regard to the withdrawal of French troops from Italian territory.86 The memorandum points out that this continued occupation by French troops seriously hinders that understanding between the two countries which is one of the aims of Italian policy. The Italian Government, however, has “restrained itself from issuing any public statement in this regard for the purpose of avoiding, on its part, any worsening in the situation.”
- Requesting that we use our influence with the Spanish Government with a view to lifting of the discriminatory measures taken against Italian properties and assets in Spain. The Italian Embassy at Madrid will give the American and British Embassies all the necessary information about the institutions and properties which have been frozen.
- This memorandum points out that the Embassy has been unable to get any replies from this Government with regard to the Italian appeal for the use of certain ships to be placed at Italy’s disposal and used solely for the transportation of essential supplies to the Italian population. A second memorandum on this point deals with the Italian negotiation with the Argentine Government in connection with supplies of frozen meat which are hampered by the transportation difficulties.
The Ambassador talked at length about the Italian domestic situation. Today the Bonomi Government would resign. The Socialist and Communist parties might try to form a Government with Nenni, [Page 1261] whom the Ambassador said he had known for twenty years. Nenni was not a statesman. He was intensely excitable and would lean strongly towards the left. The Social Democrats might possibly try to form a government through De Gasperi and it was possible also that Bonomi might be persuaded to continue in office and form a new government. The attitude of the Allies would have, of course, considerable influence in the choice.
The Ambassador talked at length about the dangers which were increasing day by day to the whole European situation as a result of the growing Soviet influence. Italy was not in a strong position to resist this movement towards the left because the Italian people were beginning to feel that the Anglo-Saxon powers were no longer deeply concerned with Italy’s welfare. He cited the fact that the Allies continued to place Italy in the category of a former enemy state. For example, there was nothing which the Italian Government could do in the conduct of its foreign relations without the consent of the Allied Control. This fact merely tended to increase the feelings of unrest and dissatisfaction with the Western Powers. The Ambassador wondered whether some statement, presumably by the American and British Governments, might be issued to counteract this growing tendency. He realized that the United States Government was very sympathetic and had done a great deal to be of assistance, but he appreciated also that the British Government did not see eye to eye with the American Government in this respect and continued to dominate the policy of holding Italy down and under the control of the Allies. Summing up, it was his fear that a situation was developing rapidly in Italy which might prejudice the whole European situation. If Italy should come under the domination of the Soviets the Allies would have no real friend left in Europe. France under its present government could not be counted upon in that sense. Italy’s strong desire was to remain not only the friend but closely associated with the Allies, But the danger, as he saw it, lay in the increasing fear of the Italian people that the Allied Nations were not disposed to regard Italy in the category of a friend.