740.00119 E.W. 1939/1–1945

The British Embassy to the Department of State 66

Preliminary peace with Italy

Summary of telegram from Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs67

The Prime Minister68 and I have carefully considered the United States proposals for a partial peace treaty with Italy.69 As we understand the position the United States Government wish to terminate the state of war and to replace the instrument of surrender by negotiated agreements with the Italian Government. These agreements would reserve for later decision those questions such as frontiers which would fall to be dealt with under the final peace settlement and would make provision for military requirements of the Allies for their operations conducted or based upon Italy, as well as covering any special rights which the Allies might require in certain disputed territories. Pending the conclusion of such agreements the Allied authorities would reserve their rights under the armistice but subject to overriding military needs and to the requirements of Italian campaign these rights would be held largely in reserve.

In our view there would be no merit in making an early arrangement with the Italian Government which merely terminated the state of war and did not cover questions relating to the post-war settlement. When we first put forward the idea we were influenced by our desire to strengthen the position of the Badoglio70 Government in the eyes of the Italian people and also to encourage the Government themselves by not adopting a negative attitude towards their repeated request [Page 993] for an improvement in their international status. At the same time we had in mind to include stern but necessary conditions regarding colonies and frontiers which will doubtless be confirmed by the Allies in the final peace settlement. On the other hand our intention was only to inform them that we would be prepared to conclude such a treaty as soon as we were satisfied that the military position permitted and that the Italian Government has sufficient authority to speak on behalf of the whole Italian people and not merely that part of it at that time under their administration. We did not in fact proceed with this idea and we do not now propose to revive it.

In the present circumstances we cannot see our way to accepting a suggestion which in our view may gratify but not strengthen the Italian Government who cannot claim to represent the whole of Italy, but which will bring no substantial advantage to the Governments of the United Nations. The measures on which we and the United States Government are now in general agreement for implementing the joint statement of the Prime Minister and the President71 should be of great assistance to the Italian Government and represent the furthest extent of concessions which we are now prepared to make. This is a matter on which we and no doubt certain other Allied Governments feel strongly. We think that the fact that the Commonwealth has borne by far the greater share of the burden of the Italian war entitles us to ask that our views be respected.

On the other hand we are prepared as soon as the war with Germany is over and as soon as Italy is freed and our military operations in Italy are brought to an end, to consider making peace with Italy ahead of any settlement with Germany. By Making this separate arrangement with Italy we should be showing that we regard the association of Germany and Italy as finally terminated. This is a point on which the Italian amour propre is particularly sensitive and we think the United States Government would look with favour on this suggestion which is put forward in the desire not to return a wholly negative reply to their proposals.

  1. Handed to the Director of the Office of European Affairs (Matthews) by the British Minister (Makins), January 19, 1945.
  2. Anthony Eden.
  3. Winston S. Churchill.
  4. For an explanation of the United States proposals, see memorandum by the Assistant Chief of the Division of Southern European Affairs, January 23, infra.
  5. Pietro Badoglio, Head of the Italian Government after the fall of Benito Mussolini.
  6. Released to the press September 26, 1944; for text, see telegram 205, September 27, 1944, to Rome, Foreign Relations, 1944, vol. iii, p. 1153.