865.014/3–448: Telegram

The Ambassador in France ( Caffery ) to the Secretary of State

us urgent

1167. As pointed out in my 1159 March 4,1 Bidault2 is very seriously worried about the situation in Italy. While he agrees completely with the views set forth in the Department’s 663 March 2,3 and said that France would do all in its power to bolster Gasperi4 government, said he disagrees with our present stand on the colonial problem and thinks that we are being “very unrealistic”. He said that he is convinced that some form of combined US, UK and French support of the Italian thesis5 on the colonies is more important than anything else to bolster the Gasperi government and disarm Communist propaganda in vital pre-election period. He went on to say, “if time were not of the essence and if the question were largely intellectual and theoretical he would agree with your position that until the four-power study on the Italian colonies has been completed the US, Britain and France should not express an opinion. However, the problem is not theoretical but very real. In the first place the Communists are launching a major assault on Italy, and despite the fact that the four-power study is not complete the Soviets have already come out in favor of the Italian thesis, thus putting the rest of us on the spot. Every day that we permit the Communists, through their powerful propaganda machine, to continue to hammer away on the Italian people that it is the US and Britain which wish to deprive Italy of her colonies whereas Soviet Russia wishes to hand them back, that many more votes will be lost. The time has come when in my opinion it is essential that US, UK and France find a suitable formula on the colonial issue which will take us off the spot.” He said, “When your next door neighbor lives in an adjoining house and his quarters catch on fire there are two courses of action: one is to aid him to put out the fire with any means at your disposal, in the certain knowledge that your dwelling will go up in flames with his. The other course of action is to hold that you do not have proper firefighting equipment and do not know how and that it is the proper function of the municipal fire brigade to put out the fire since nothing can be done until the firemen arrive. Your position, that no formula can be found on the Italian colonial problem before the [Page 903] completion of the four-power study, appears to me to be similar to the second course of action outlined above.”

Sent Department as 1167, repeated London as 150, Rome as 98, Moscow as 74 and Berlin as 83.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Georges Bidault, French Minister of Foreign Affairs.
  3. Not printed; it stated that the United States shared the concern of the French Government over the Italian elections and desired a concerted action to aid the De Gasperi government (865.00/3–248).
  4. Alcide de Gasperi, Italian Prime Minister.
  5. The Italian thesis was that all the colonies should be returned to Italy as trusteeships.