865.30/7–948: Telegram

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

top secret

2934. Guidotti (new director political affairs) called on us yesterday regarding recent note verbale from Four-Power Naval Commission transmitting French and Soviet requests for transfer (see my 2763, [Page 980] June 24) naval vessels without refit. Guidotti expressed great concern which he said was shared throughout the whole government over this development. He said the communication had come as somewhat of a surprise because Italian negotiations with the French were proceeding most satisfactorily and it was hoped that they would reach mutual agreement within next few days whereby French would renounce about twenty-three units and accept balance! without refit by a specified date.1 During these negotiations French, according to Guidotti, had told Italians that they would not have to push claims of the others if agreement with the Italians on part of the French could be reached. Moreover Italians had been counting on American and British insistence on simultaneous return of US and British vessels held by Soviets. We pointed out that Soviets had now agreed to satisfactory arrangements for return of US and British vessels. Guidotti emphasized tremendous furor would arise throughout country over the sending to Russia of 33 Italian naval vessels and said the government would be severely criticized and attacked on all sides. He inquired whether there was any way at all US could help to postpone this issue. He said there was a large clement in the government who were utterly opposed to giving any ships to Russia under any circumstances. We said that we did not see how we or the other two powers as signatories of the treaty could avoid concurrence with the Soviet request as it came clearly within stipulations of the treaty (a course which we could not support) or a serious effort to reach agreement with the Russians and their demands based on treaty. We pointed out that at least Russians had now finally agreed to accept major portion of their vessels without refit.

Guidotti then referred to a telegram which the Italian Ambassador in Ankara had sent Foreign Office to effect that Turkish Government was greatly concerned over prospect of transfer of these 33 naval vessels to Odessa and their effect on balance of naval power in Black Sea. According to Guidotti the Turks claimed that if these 33 vessels were in fact handed over to Soviets then Turks would have to request United States for 33 naval vessels for defense of Turkey.

[Page 981]

In conclusion Guidotti asked whether United States would be disposed to make some official statement of approval at time of successful conclusion of their negotiations with France. He submitted the following for possible consideration:

“Allied peace treaty with Italy provides for the handing-over of a certain number of units of the Italian Navy to France. While considering the feelings of the Italians the USA well understands the reasons why France could not renounce, as we did, all the Italian ships allotted to her. Therefore an agreement signed by the two countries is cordially welcome here.

“The Italian people are also aware that according to Article 46 of the peace treaty, as soon as their country joins UNO—and certainly the USA cannot be held responsible if this has not already taken place in agreement with the Security Council, consideration may be given, to revision of the military limitations set forth in the treaty. On that, occasion the USA not having forgotten indeed the gallant contributions of the Italian Navy to the common cause, shall be ready to consider with sympathy such demands concerning her needs that Italy might then put forward.”2

We replied that we were not, of course, in a position to make any comment but would transmit Foreign Office suggestion to Department for its consideration. We are aware that second paragraph in Italian proposed statement may be untimely but venture to suggest that some consideration might well be given to a modification of it somewhat along the lines of my 19303 of April 24. In any event immediately after French-Italian agreement is made public a statement by a responsible official of US welcoming that French and Italians have gotten together amicably on this naval question and reached a solution satisfactory to both sides could not but be helpful here. Still more helpful to government would be an expression on our part of a desire to see further revisions amicably agreed to by the powers directly concerned.

  1. In telegram 2961 of July 11, 1948, not printed, Dunn reported that on the evening of July 10 he had received a copy of the text of the Italo–French agreement providing for final settlement of French claims under the treaty, to be published on July 17. The French renounced the cruiser Pompeo Magno, two submarines, a tanker and 19 smaller units. (865.30/7–1148)
  2. In telegram 1870 of July 13, 1948, not printed, the Department instructed Dunn that it considered a U.S. statement on the purely Franco–Italian matter inappropriate, but that after publication of that agreement, some spokesman of the Department might observe that the U.S. Government was pleased to see an amicable and generous settlement of the problem (805.30/7–948).
  3. In this telegram, not printed, Dunn mentioned that the question of Italy’s relationship to Western Union would now come up, since those responsible for leadership of the government were inclined toward entry into the Western European group, and he mentioned several facets of the problem (840.00/4–2448).