S/S–NSC Files, Lot 63 D 351, NSC 1 Series1

Report by the National Security Council 2

top secret

(NSC 1/2)

The Position of the United States With Respect to Italy

the problem

1. To assess and appraise the position of the United States with respect to Italy, taking into consideration the security interests of the United States in the Mediterranean and Near East Areas.

[Page 766]


2. The basic objective of the United States in Italy is to establish and maintain in that key country conditions favorable to our national security. Current US policies toward Italy include measures intended to preserve Italy as an independent, democratic state, friendly to the United States, and capable of effective participation in the resistance to Communist expansion.

3. The National Security Council has concurred in the following:

“… The security of the Eastern Mediterranean and of the Middle East is vital to the security of the United States.… The security of the whole Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East would be jeopardized if the Soviet Union should succeed in its efforts to obtain control of any one of the following countries: Italy, Greece, Turkey, or Iran. In view of the foregoing, it should be the policy of the United States, in accordance with the principles and in the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations, to support the security of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. As a corollary of this policy the United States should assist in maintaining the territorial integrity and political independence of Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Iran. In carrying out this policy the United States should be prepared to make full use of its political, economic, and if necessary, military power in such manner as may be found most effective.… It would be unrealistic for the United States to undertake to carry out such a policy unless the British maintain their strong strategic political and economic position in the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean, and unless they and ourselves follow parallel policies in that area.…”

4. The majority of the Italian people and the present Government of Italy are ideologically inclined toward the Western democracies, friendly to the United States and conscious of the fact that US aid is vital to Italian recovery. The Government is now under strong and persistent Communist attack aimed ultimately at the creation of a Communist dictatorship subservient to Moscow. The political position of the Communist party is stronger in Italy than in any other country outside the Soviet orbit. This strength stems primarily from the prevailing economic distress which is conducive to agitation and unrest, and secondarily from Communist success in obtaining election support from other left-wing parties through formation of a “People’s Bloc.”

5. The current Communist campaign of strikes and political agitation appears to be the preliminary phase of a major effort to take over the Government either by winning the national elections now scheduled for April, by use of the general strike to create chaos, or by armed insurrection. However, the Communists will probably not resort to the general strike or armed insurrection until the elections are over, possibly not until the US Congress has acted on the European Recovery [Page 767] Program. If ERP is not implemented before expiration of US interim aid on March 31, or if rations are further reduced, the “People’s Bloc” will be stronger in the April elections and may win participation in the government. If the Communists fail to gain admission to the government and if ERP is implemented, the Kremlin may then order armed insurrection in a final effort to prevent Italian recovery under a Western-oriented regime.3

At present a Rightist threat to democratic government in Italy is too remote to require consideration.

6. The Italian armed forces, although numerically adequate, require additional modern equipment in order to enhance their ability to cope with a general Communist armed insurrection. Under present circumstances, the Communists—with an estimated para-military organization of 70,000—are believed to have the military capability of gaining initial control of northern Italy. If the Communists should receive material covert assistance from Yugoslavia and/or France, and the insurrections should be widely dispersed throughout the country, the Italian Government would probably require foreign aid to regain control of the area.

7. Italy’s position in the Mediterranean dominates the lines of communication to the Near East and flanks the Balkan countries. From bases located in Italy, it is possible for the power holding them to control Mediterranean traffic between Gibraltar and Suez, and to apply substantial air force against any point in the Balkans or the surrounding area.

conclusions 4

8. The United States should make full use of its political, economic and, if necessary, military power in such manner as may be found most effective to assist in preventing Italy from falling under the domination of the USSR either through external armed attack or through Soviet-dominated Communist movements within Italy, so long as the legally elected Government of Italy evidences a determination to oppose such Communist aggression.

9. So long as the present or any other satisfactory successive Italian Government remains in power, the United States should maintain its policy of: [Page 768]

Giving full support to the Italian Government by measures such us the following:
Shipment of wheat and other essential commodities under the interim program of aid to Europe, one objective being the maintenance of the current bread ration at least until after the election in April.
Extension of economic aid to Italy by means of favorable US foreign trade policies.
Further assistance by all feasible means to the Italian armed forces in the form of equipment, supplies and technical advice to increase their capacity to deal with threats to Italian internal security and territorial integrity.
Continuing the display, with the concurrence of the Italian government in each case, of military forces in Italian waters and airspace.
Pressing for the relaxation of unduly onerous terms in the Italian Peace Treaty, and meanwhile interpret these terms liberally.
Continuing to support acceptance of Italy as a member of the United Nations.
Actively combatting Communist propaganda in Italy by an effective US information program and by all other practicable means.…
Vigorously seeking through diplomatic channels to bring about a more favorable attitude toward Italy on the part of the British and French Governments and to enlist their active support of our aims.
Making known the intention of the United States to insist upon compliance with treaty terms from all signatories and the determination of the United States to utilize to the full the machinery provided by the treaty itself, as well as procedures implicit in the Charter of the UN, in cases of violation of the treaty.
Urgently adopting and executing the European Recovery Program (ERP); and morally and materially encouraging effective Italian participation in this program.

10. US armed forces should not participate in a civil conflict of an internal nature in Italy; except as provided in paragraph 11 g.

11. In the event that a portion of Italy falls under Communist domination by armed insurrection or other illegal means, the United States should:

Suspend aid to Communist-dominated areas.
Continue to support the legal government and increase aid for areas under its jurisdiction.
Reconsider its position particularly as affected by the Italian Governments’ ability to carry out the terms of the Peace Treaty.
Take measures to strengthen the potential of the U.S. National Military Establishment.
Strengthen its military forces in the Mediterranean area outside of Italy at such places and in such manner as would be deemed most effective.
Be prepared, upon request of the legal Italian government and [Page 769] after consultation with the British, to deploy forces to government-controlled sections of peninsular Italy as a show of force in support of the legal government.
Deploy forces to Sicily or Sardinia or both, with the consent of the legal Italian government and after consultation with the British, in strength sufficient to occupy those islands against indigenous Communist opposition as soon as the position of the Communists in Italy indicates that an illegal Communist-dominated government will control all of the peninsula of Italy. Such deployment will be subject to the determination at the time by the Joint Chiefs of Staff that in the prevailing situation it is militarily sound. Such action would require partial mobilization.

12. A supplement to this paper, assessing the position of the United States with respect to Italy in the event that the Communists gain control in Italy by legal means, will be submitted as a separate paper at an early date.5 The National Security Council Staff will also in the near future prepare a report on the position of the United States with respect to the former Italian colonies.6

  1. Serial master file of National Security Council documents and correspondence and related Department of State memoranda for the years 1947–1961, as maintained by the Executive Secretariat.
  2. NSC 1/2 is a revision of NSC 1/1, p. 724. In approving NSC 1/1 the National Security Council agreed that the report be revised no less than 45 days before the elections in Italy in the light of the political situation at that time.
  3. For documentation, on ERP, see pp. 352 ff., “The Diplomacy of the European Recovery Program: The OEEC Level”.
  4. In a memorandum dated March 16 for the National Security Council the Executive Secretary stated that on March 15 the President approved the conclusions of NSC 1/2 and directed that they be implemented. At the same time the President approved the conclusions of NSC 1/3 for which see p. 775.
  5. Post, p. 775.
  6. See pp. 891.