760H.6527/3–1648: Telegram

The Civil Air Attaché in Switzerland (Deak) to the Aviation Division of the Department of State


311. Whatever date Italians chose for preliminary talks with Yugoslavs1 it would seem better part of wisdom on their part to let Yugoslavs show their hands by leaving it to them to propose draft. Since Yugoslavs took initiative this appears proper procedure and Italians have no reason to prejudge their bargaining position by unnecessarily laying cards on table. Even though inadvisable this late to suggest Italians interim arrangement in lieu Bermuda type agreement (Rome’s 1127, March 15 to Department repeated as 20 to Bern).2 It still may be feasible to bring home to Italians speeding by their own action air agreements with satellites on threshold of elections3 hardly in their interest, on contrary every factor indicates advisability of stalling. CSA operations to Villanova4 under flimsy pretext hauling lumber (Department’s 671, March 12 to Rome, Rome’s 1141, March 15 to Department5) constitutes adequate warning should one be needed.

Neither would opening door at present in Italy or elsewhere seem to be in interest of western world. Analysis of traffic potential leads to conclusion that establishment of air services would not contribute tangibly to ERP success by restoring normal east-west communications and that no material benefit could at present accrue from it to Italy or any western country including US. Eastbound passenger traffic has been largely limited to government officials and their movement is likely to be impeded even more in future. Westbound passengers confined almost exclusively to trusted party members whose travel we surely do not wish to expedite. Even if efforts to restore trade successful, air transport would not materially facilitate exchange of goods mostly unsuited for air cargo.

It should be remembered initiative and pressure for opening air routes came recently from satellite quarters, beyond doubt to serve some USSR interest which is not economic but political and/or military. Soviets never considered air transport as economic matter but as instrument of political power. Merely because we do not yet know precise objective in allowing their satellites to pay relatively small price for freedom of air over western Europe we should not allow [Page 441] ourselves and our friends to lend Soviet Russia a hand in her imperialistic designs.

In exchanging air rights with satellites at present juncture we and those in our camp are bound to lose more than gain unless operations under strict control, unrelenting surveillance and immediately terminable.6

Sent Department 311, repeated Rome 6, London 14, Paris 15, Belgrade 9, Bucharest 6, Praha 6.

  1. In late February 1948, the Italian Government informally agreed to a Yugoslav proposal to begin discussions regarding a bilateral Italian-Yugoslav civil aviation agreement.
  2. Not printed.
  3. April 18–19, 1948.
  4. Villanova d’Albenga, on the Mediterranean coast south of Genoa.
  5. Neither printed.
  6. In telegram 716, March 17, to Rome, not printed, the Department commented in part as follows:

    “Depts conclusions re Ital negotiations satellites (Deptel 94, Jan 14, not printed, but see footnote 2, p. 437), which are believed equally appropriate today, were not intended convey US considers it desirable encourage development air traffic between Italy and Yugo. Such conclusions were intended express Depts belief that if Ital evaluation various considerations, potential dangers of which to Itals were clearly outlined, resulted in Ital conclusion its political, economic and aviation interests would be well served in proposed satellite agreement, US considered such conclusions outweighed advantages containing satellite airlines insofar as latters’ operations between Eastern and Western Europe were concerned. Emphasis was not upon encouragement Ital negotiations but upon US unwillingness interfere such negotiations if Itals after full consideration of risks involved were satisfied sufficient net advantages to Itals would be realized.” (760H.6527/3–1647)