800.4S FRP/12–647: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Embassy in Italy

us urgent

2556. For the Ambassador. As you know, we have been concerned for some time over Ital cereals supply situation. On basis present US availabilities and assumption Argentine shipments will not be increased any appreciable extent, cut in Ital bread and pasta ration appears inevitable; question for debate is when and how much reduction must be made.

While it is anticipated substitute foods will be provided to extent possible under pending interim aid legislation (Deptel 2492 Dec 1) political implications bread ration cut are appreciated, and we feel question shd be discussed with De Gasperi in order minimize repercussions and avoid if possible furnishing issue of high propaganda and political value for extreme left campaign against Ital Govt.

In this connection, it would seem important that before ration is cut, Ital Govt shd have made endeavor to obtain wheat from USSR. In our opinion, it would be preferable for Ital Govt to inquire in Moscow whether 500,000 tons wheat (approximately amount needed beyond present availabilities to maintain ration through June) could be obtained from Sov Union and if so upon what terms. This approach shd be announced by Ital Govt immediately, and could then be followed up by US inquiry at Moscow, in which it could be pointed out US is supplying large part Ital cereal requirements without payment1 and hope expressed Sov Govt might do likewise. US approach would also be given appropriate publicity.

It seems most likely Sov Govt would offer Ital small amt wheat on terms similar those offered France. In this case it would be readily [Page 738] apparent Ital people that quantity supplied out of large Soviet surplus of grain is inadequate for maintenance Ital ration.

On other hand, it is conceivable Sov Govt might offer requested quantity or sizeable amt wheat on terms similar those incorporated in US post-UNRRA relief act and pending interim aid program, i.e. observation and publicity. We slid not dislike offer this nature, as it would demonstrate inconsistency present Soviet attitude towards US assistance generally, and make it difficult for Soviet propaganda to continue insist upon “imperialist” aims of US assistance if Soviet aid offered on same terms.

Moreover, while Soviet attitude might arouse gratitude on part Ital people, it seems to us it would reflect even greater credit upon US assistance, given over longer period and in greater volume.

Finally, it might be that Sov Govt would reject Ital request on political and other grounds. In this event, onus of difficult Ital cereals situation would rest squarely upon USSR.

In your discretion, you may discuss this matter with De Gasperi (prior discussions other Ital officials might appear inappropriate in view gravity of political aspects) and inform him Dept desires his views re above suggestion. Dept also desires your comments in light present Ital conditions.

  1. Statistics of the aid provided to Italy in the period October 1–December 31, 1047, under Public Law 84 (see Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. iii, footnote 1, p. 874) are to be found in President Truman’s Second Report to Congress on the United States Foreign Relief Program, for the quarter ended December 31, 1947, Department of State Publication 3101 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1948)