800.48 FRP/12–947: Telegram

The Ambassador in Italy (Dunn) to the Secretary of State

top secret

3972. I fully agree that political implications bread ration cut should be discussed with De Gasperi prior to any action in that regard. Before taking this matter up with him as instructed in Deptel 2550, December 7 [6], I would like to have opportunity to study figures in Deptel 2492, December 1 which was delayed in transmission and has just come to me. It may be that Italian Govt might be able to make some readjustments in distribution of different kinds of foodstuffs in various parts of country by sending available cereals to points where most needed in manner which would possibly avoid actual announced cut in rations.

In response to request for my comments in light of present Italian conditions I submit following considerations:

Any cut in Italian bread ration at this time or during next critical months will of course greatly imperil success of our whole Italian policy and future possibility of free and democratic govt in this [Page 741] country. It will be heavy blow to personal prestige of Prime Minister whose entire program of saving Italy from Communism is based on sufficient assistance from US to prevent anger [hunger?] It is particularly tragic that this step should be considered now. Prime Minister has burned his bridges as far as Communists are concerned and whole trend of public opinion is now going in his favor. Please see mytels 3851, November 28,1 3918, December 5 and 3957 December 7.

If Prime Minister is obliged to go hat in hand to Soviet to ask for bread because American assistance is not enough, will not Soviet Government be in position to stipulate their assistance must be to an Italian Government “friendly” to Soviet Union; and surely one in which members of Communist Party in Italy are not excluded? Furthermore will De Gasperi be in position before Italian people to refuse assistance should it be obtainable on such a basis? Communist Party in Italy cannot but profit from such a move.

Any such assistance now might very easily be used to overthrow present non-Communist government and prepare way for introduction of Communist or Communist-controlled agents into Italian Government.

As regards any recommendation that present government appeal to Soviet Union it is my considered opinion we should go very carefully indeed and any mention of such a proposal on my part should be exploratory in strictest sense merely for purpose of obtaining preliminary reaction from Prime Minister.

May I urge as of utmost importance that a further effort be made to find some way of meeting Italian bread ration requirement other than by Italian recourse to Soviet Union and that conclusion of NSC 1–1 paragraph 8(1) approved by President be carried out.

Furthermore purely from political aspects of matter of timing it would be extremely inadvisable to make any approach to Italian Government on this subject before end of month at which time it is expected Constituent Assembly wall have been dissolved and govt then will be in control of situation without having to refer to that body. It would be most unfortunate if a debate were to occur in Assembly concerning cut in bread rations and result might be so embarrassing to govt as to bring about its resignation which would of course be a triumph for Communists.

I notice in Deptel 2556, reference to gap of 500,000 tons as approximate amount needed beyond present availability through next June. It seems to me that we should deal at this time with a period from now through April or at least until elections which may be sometime in March and having that period in mind for obvious political reasons we [Page 742] should make every effort to see that no cut be put into effect prior to elections whether in March or April.

We must also keep in mind that we are trying to instill into present govt a feeling of self-confidence and strength with view to have them take whatever measures are necessary to preserve freedom and democracy in Italy in event of display of force by Communists with a view to taking over control. It seems very hard on a man who is carrying responsibilities present Prime Minister has assumed to suggest that he be firm in resisting Communist insurrectionist activities and at same time take away from him support he has more or less counted on in being able to maintain at least meager bread ration this govt has undertaken to preserve.

If we are to earn’ through our program of trying to have Italy maintain and preserve its independence and liberty we must not reduce the bread ration.

  1. Not printed.