S/S–NSC Files: Lot 63 D 351: NSC 67 Series

Report by the National Security Council 1

top secret

NSC 67/1

The Position of the United States With Respect to Communism in Italy

the problem

1. To assess and appraise the position of the United States with respect to the communist threat to Italy.


2. The objective of the United States with respect to the communist threat in Italy is to prevent in that key country conditions unfavorable to our national security. It is approved governmental policy that “communism is inherently opposed to the fundamental principles underlying our form of government and any communist regime is therefore inimical to the United States”. The integrity and security of Italy are inseparable from the security of the North Atlantic area, as recognized by Italy’s participation in the North Atlantic Treaty. It is also approved governmental policy that:

“The security of the Eastern Mediterranean and of the Middle East is vital to the security of the United States.…2 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 [Page 1487] 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.”3

3. Italy’s position in the Mediterranean dominates the lines of communication to the Near East and flanks the Balkan countries. A major power operating from bases in Italy could dominate the Western Mediterranean and could apply substantial military power against the Balkans and Western Europe.

4. Current United States 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. These policies include inter alia:

Giving full support to the Italian Government by such measures as:
Assistance through the Mutual Defense Assistance Program (MDAP) in the form of equipment, materials and services to increase the Italian Government’s capacity to deal with threats to internal security and territorial integrity.
Provision of aid under the ERP,4 in accordance with the Economic Cooperation Act as amended.
Inclusion of Italy in negotiations for the liberalization of international trade, including trade with the United States.
Assistance by all feasible means to Italian measures directed toward Italy’s integration in political, economic, and military arrangements with the other European and Atlantic nations which are committed to the promotion of their collective security and independence.
Without interfering in Italy’s internal affairs, encouraging the Italian Government to undertake the basic economic and social reforms which can, without threatening internal stability, remove chronic distress.
Continuing the display, with the concurrence of the Italian Government in each case, of United States military forces in Italian waters and airspace.
Insofar as our responsibilities under the Italian Peace Treaty are concerned, interpreting the terms thereof as liberally as may be [Page 1488] legally possible, and pressing for similar interpretations on the part of other signatories.

Continuing to support acceptance of Italy as a member of the United Nations and of appropriate specialized agencies thereof.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Where Italy’s relations with countries friendly to the United States are involved, encouraging and assisting the conduct of those relations on the basis of friendship and equality; and where Italy’s relations with countries unfriendly to the United States are involved, seeking actively to support Italy’s legitimate policies and objectives.

5. In the political field, both the majority of the Italian people and the present government are ideologically inclined toward the Western democracies, are friendly to the United States, and are conscious that United States aid is a basic factor in Italian recovery. All Italian political leaders, as well as informed members of the Italian population, likewise are conscious that United States aid, within the framework of the agreements for the regional security of Western Europe, is a basic factor in Italian security. The anti-communist leaders recognize that the maintenance of an independent and free Italy requires full cooperation with the Western states. They are consequently making continuous efforts to counteract the considerable popular appeal of the isolationist theory that Italy must remain neutral in the struggle between East and West. Similarly, they are alert to the threat of communism and recognize the constant danger which the strength of the Italian Communist Party provides to the maintenance of free institutions and government.

6. Despite the factors in the Italian political situation favorable to a Western orientation, the Italian Government is under strong and persistent communist attack. The ultimate communist objective is 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 chronic economic distress which is fertile ground for the agitation and propaganda in which communist leaders have shown themselves to be adept, particularly in the utilization of “mass” organizations of labor, peasants, and other distressed people. The communist para-military organization is now understood to comprise 75,000 men, of whom 63 per cent are in the eight northern regions of Italy.

7. United States policy must take into account the possibilities of external and internal aggression by the communists against the Italian Government. Communist aggressive action may be expected generally along the following lines:

Attempts at infiltration into the government with a view to obtaining control of key ministries and assuming power by legal means. [Page 1489] The success of the communists would endanger United States security interests by making ineffective Italian participation in the North Atlantic Treaty and by jeopardizing East-West communications through the Mediterranean.
Seizure of substantial areas by communists. Action of this type would weaken the Italian Government, thus threatening our security interests, and would require that assistance be given to the legal government to reestablish its authority and control of all Italy.
An insurrection by the communists to overthrow the Italian Government by violence. Such action would constitute a direct threat to our security interests and the Italian Government would require assistance to meet such a threat.

8. So long as the present democratic Government continues to resist the pressure of the communists for admission to the Government coalition, achievement of the communist objective of seizing control of Italy through infiltration will be prevented. It is possible that the communists will adopt illegal or insurrectional measures for the achievement of their objective. The communists will in any event continue agitation, propaganda and subversion, coordinated with similar activity by communist parties in other countries. The communists will seek to capitalize the reluctance of the Italian people to engage in another conflict and will appeal to “national interest” in advocating neutrality. Italy’s continued acceptance of the responsibilities of membership in the community of free nations would go far in offsetting the appeal of neutrality. The communists will seek to intensify chronic economic distress in an effort to increase dissatisfaction, chaos and confusion and popular resentment against the Government. The communists will attempt to discredit the Government in every possible way, to impede that Government’s measures to relieve distress and to promote recovery and to make ineffective Italy’s participation in measures for collective security. The success to date of the democratic parties associated in the Government in counteracting these communist tactics, and thus in offsetting dangers to Italy’s independence and security, has been and will continue to be due in considerable part to the moral and material assistance of the United States. This assistance will be required to assure the continuation of present Italian policy.

9. The Italian armed forces and policy [police?] are numerically adequate and have sufficient equipment to cope with a general communist armed insurrection within Italy which does not receive assistance from outside Italy. However, the Italian Government would require assistance to put down a communist insurrection in Italy supported by assistance from outside the country. In the latter circumstance, Italy may be expected to invoke the appropriate provisions of the North Atlantic Treaty.

[Page 1490]


10. The United States should:

Continue to make full use of its political and economic resources, and such use of its military power as it may agree to be necessary in accordance with the purposes and provisions of the North Atlantic Treaty or other international agreement, to assist in preventing Italy from falling under the domination of the USSR either through external attack or through communist movements within Italy and should continue to assist the Italian Government in meeting the communist threat so long as that Government evidences a determination to oppose communism.
Seek to prevent acceptance by Italy of a position of neutrality by promoting continuation of Italy’s anti-communist attitude.
Continue the display, with the concurrence of the Italian Government in each case, of United States military forces in Italian waters and airspace.

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.
Strengthen its support of the legal government and increase aid for areas under the latter’s jurisdiction.
To the extent required by the situation, take measures to strengthen the military power in being of the United States.
In consonance with over-all strategic plans, plan and be prepared for the following steps, any one of which might require partial mobilization: [Any governmental decision for any actual commitment of United States armed forces to the Italian area will be considered at such time in the light of the recommendations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at that time.]
Strengthening United States military forces in the Mediterranean area outside of Italy at such places and in such manner as may be most effective.
Upon request of the legal Italian Government and after consultation with the British and other NAT countries, deploying forces to Government controlled sections of peninsular Italy as a show of force in support of the legal Government.
Deploying forces to Sicily or Sardinia or both, with the consent of the legal Italian Government and after consultation with the British and other NAT countries, in strength sufficient to occupy these islands against indigenous communist opposition.

12. In the event that the communists gain participation in the Italian Government by legal means and threaten to achieve control of the Italian Government, or in the event that that Government ceases to evidence a determination to oppose communist internal or external threats, the United States should be prepared to initiate measures designed [Page 1491] to prevent communist domination and to revive Italian determination to oppose communism. Further, the United States should take military measures in collaboration with other North Atlantic Treaty nations to counter communist actions which would threaten the strategic position of the United States in the Mediterranean.

13. Any commitment of United States armed forces to the Italian area [beyond that contemplated in paragraph 10.c. above] will be considered in the light of recommendations by the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time.

  1. NSC 67, dated April 12, 1950, was prepared by the NSC Staff on the basis of an initial Department of State draft with the advice and assistance of representatives of the Secretaries of State and Defense, the Acting Chairman, National Security Resources Board, and the Director of Central Intelligence. It was submitted to the National Security Council for consideration as a new statement of policy to supersede NSC 1/2 and NSC 1/3.

    At the 55th meeting of the National Security Council on April 20, the Council adopted the report subject to an amendment of paragraph 13 proposed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and to a clarification in the language of paragraph 11 agreed upon by the Secretaries of State and Defense. The Council agreed to revise NSC 67 in light of these recommendations and then to submit the revised form to the President for approval. The Conclusions of NSC 67/1 were approved by the President on April 24.

    The approved changes in NSC 67 are indicated by the brackets in paragraphs 11 and 13. NSC 1/2, February 10, 1948, is printed in Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. iii, p. 765. For documentation concerning the various revisions of NSC 67, see the S/S–NSC Files: Lot 63 D 351: NSC 67 Series. Lot 63 D 351 is a 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 of the Department of State.

  2. Ellipses appear in the source text.
  3. This statement was formulated during the so-called “Pentagon Talks” of 1947. The full text of the statement is presented in the undated “American Paper” in Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. v, p. 575. For information with respect to the approval of the policy by the President, see footnotes 1 and 2, ibid., p. 623.
  4. European Recovery Program. For documentation with respect to the European Recovery Program and U.S. policies regarding economic integration in Europe, see pp. 611 ff.