750G.00/1–2650: Telegram

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


308. Deptel 213 January 20, repeated Belgrade 41, Trieste 37, London 267.1 As we see it proposal for approach is predicated on four assumptions all of which we question. Assumptions seem to be:

Our national interest in peace and security would not be prejudiced by withdrawal troops from Trieste.
“Settlement of Trieste problem” would result from agreement between Italian and Yugoslav Govts.
Italian Govt wants compromise settlement now.
Yugoslavia wants agreement so badly that it will settle on terms reasonably acceptable to Italian Govt.

Our comments on these assumptions are:

Immense strides have been made in past two years in restoring confidence, economy, health and internal governmental stability in West Europe and in laying groundwork for establishing balance of power between West and East Europe, but that balance is as yet essentially unchanged and heavily against us. We believe that presence of troops in FTT is therefore just as important now as a stabilizing element as it was six months ago (Deptel 1343 June 29).2 Department can best estimate psychological effect withdrawal on rest of West Europe. We are inclined to think it would be adverse, particularly in its coincidence with initiation MDAP.3 This would certainly [Page 1308] be case in Italy where misgivings re our intent and ability to establish defensive lines including Italy have not been entirely allayed. As long as Italian people believe they will eventually get FTT back, we believe they would prefer to postpone negotiation involving compromise and thus assure retention our troops on that part of their frontier. Trieste is not a “sore spot” as long as our troops are there, but it certainly would become one if troops left, particularly if Tito should be overthrown and a new government should repudiate his compromise settlement.
If we desire forestall charges treaty violation—not only on grounds general policy but also at time when treaty structure scarcely begun and when issue satellite compliance is before international court—assent of 21 signatories would presumably be necessary to whatever “agreement” Italy and Yugoslavia could reach. British telegram does not mention this point. If future course has not been carefully charted in consultation with legal experts of both countries, should not this be done before we go any further? If bilateral agreement reached Soviets would then, it seems to us, have three choices: (a) assent, (b) counter with acceptance March 20 declaration, or (c) insist on strict construction of treaty terms, (a) would be most agreeable and advantageous to US, UK, Italian and Yugoslav Govts; such considerations do not increase its chances; (b): although remote, would be most embarrassing to us since it would give Soviets opportunity to appear more zealous in behalf of Italian interests than Italian Govt or West powers. We feel Soviets most probably would adhere as before to (c). Unless we can formulate with precision acceptable procedure from this point on, we wonder whether situation which by that time would have been created would improve our own position in either Italy or Yugoslavia. In Italy we would have reneged on our former declaration and would have obliged Italian Govt to take unpopular political position. In Yugoslavia we would have demonstrated at least our impotence to carry through a program against Soviet obduracy. It seems to us questionable practice to endorse a project, success of which may depend so largely on Soviet congeniality.
Apparent discrepancy between statement attributed by British to Sforza and statement made to me by Secretary General (Embtel 2846 September 1)4 need not suggest degree of bad faith imputed in Belgrade’s 86 January 20.5 Sforza may well have been speculating in expansive conversation on future settlement, without any intention of implying that Italian Govt was suggesting such a solution for near future. Statements attributed to him do in fact represent his views as to nature ultimate settlement and these views are shared by many responsible Italians inside and outside Foreign Office. I believe, however, that Italian Govt does not contemplate final settlement now on compromise terms. Advantage of having our troops on their east frontier and unwillingness to concede anything in that area beyond small area of Yugoslav zone FTT (settlement which we very much doubt would suit Tito) probably incline Italian Govt to favor continuance [Page 1309] status quo. Reasons which British propose for our use in showing Italians that settlement is in their interest would not help much in persuading them. We believe Italian interest is in postponement final settlement and that they would therefore not respond to type of approach proposed. We would have to bring very heavy pressure and this would not only go against March 20 statement, with all disadvantages implicit in such action, but it would be contrary to our own interests in Italy to force Italian Govt to acceptance solution contrary to what they believe to be their own present interests.
From information we have it is hard to estimate how badly Yugoslav Govt wants settlement, or why British seem to be satisfied with argument that Yugoslavia “thinks settlement important” but our own interests are at stake and, with our experience of perverted reasoning of Communist mind, we are entitled to form our own judgment on basis of much more detailed explanation from Yugoslav Govt itself of their reasons for wanting settle Trieste now (Belief expressed by Bebler to Perkins on November 25 that opinions of Togliatti6 and Nenni7 in 1946 are guide to views of Italian Govt and people today suggest something is wrong, at least with Bebler’s thinking processes). We doubt whether Yugoslav Govt is really thinking of kind of settlement which Italians would deem reasonable, and they may be taking advantage of what they believe to be their political bargaining power with us or with British to overstate urgency of settlement in hopes of getting cheap victory. We appreciate that such victory would contribute in some measure to Tito’s popular support, but surely he can gain just as much if not more popular support by continuance present line.

As to British reasons for démarche we have following additional comments on reasons numbered b, c, d and e in Foreign Office’s telegram 131, January 10: On British point (b), some Italians believe we are already going too fast in improving Yugoslavia’s relations with West; in any case basic purpose our Yugoslav policy is to keep Tito as corrosive threat to Soviets; as to British point (c), concern that “our troops will have to remain indefinitely” may suggest that British desire for settlement is administration’s impatience at continuance of occupation. This is incidental factor which should not bear on decision unless morale of troops were very bad or troops were needed urgently elsewhere; as to British point (d), a summary of past year in USPolAd Trieste despatch 3898 November 13 does not support conclusion that internal tensions and difficulties and independence sentiment have reached proportion suggested. As to (e), we wonder whether implications Soviet adherence to March 20 declaration out of clear sky are in fact sufficiently disadvantageous to require embarking on proposed project.

My conclusion from foregoing discussion is that in present circumstances our interest lies in continuation present situation and I believe we should hold to views expressed by Perkins to Bebler on November [Page 1310] 25. Original encouragement given by Peake (Belgrade’s 6029 June 21) without prior consultation of his government with ours, confirms impression advanced by Dept in its 213 January 20 to Rome10 that British have gone into this question more deeply and perhaps with other reasons than they have yet advanced. Reasons they have advanced do not seem to be convincing. Entire question should perhaps therefore be subject of exhaustive discussion with British in Washington if further action is contemplated. (As signatory March 20 declaration French might feel they should be included). If thereafter Dept reaches conclusion that withdrawal troops not contrary our interests and that Soviets likely concur in treaty revision, I suggest next step would be very careful exploration by US and UK Ambassadors in Belgrade of reasons for Yugoslav desire for settlement and kind of settlement they have in mind. At same time British Ambassador here and I could make initial approach to Foreign Minister with suggestion that in view of Bebler’s approach to Perkins Italians might indicate readiness to give consideration to Yugoslav approach. I believe any approach in either capital should be made by both Ambassadors (acting separately) in order to preclude any possibility of further misunderstanding.

Sent Department 308; repeated Belgrade 4, Trieste 9, London 30.

  1. Ante, p. 1304.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Military Defense Assistance Program.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Presumably Belgrade’s telegram 86 of January 24, 1950, to the Secretary of State, supra.
  6. Palmiro Togliatti, Secretary-General of the Italian Communist Party.
  7. Pietro Nenni, Secretary of the Italian Socialist Party.
  8. Not printed.
  9. For text, see Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. iv, p. 508.
  10. Ante, p. 1304.