Memorandum of Conversation, by the Director of the Office of Western European Affairs (Achilles)

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Participants: Mr. Bernard Burrows, Counselor, British Embassy
T. C. Achilles, WE

Sir Derek Hoyer Millar1 and Mr. Burrows left the attached telegram on Friday2 and said they would like some indication of our views today, if possible. Since it had not been possible for Mr. Rusk3 and Mr. Perkins4 to discuss it with the Little Chiefs5 this morning, I told Mr. Burrows when he called this afternoon that it had not been possible to check with the military and that accordingly what I was telling him was merely an off-hand State Department reaction.

I said that as far as we could see there was no possibility of securing modification of the military clauses of the Italian peace treaty. In the event of an armed attack against Italy by any other party to the Treaty, its provisions would presumably automatically go by the board. Planning against the contingency of such an attack was clearly necessary. It must, however, be on the basis that Italy could meet the initial shock only with the forces and equipment authorized by the Treaty. Planning must be done on this basis and should be directed toward (1) most effective utilization of authorized forces and equipment and (2) increasing Italy’s military potential as rapidly as possible thereafter if the initial shock could be withstood.

I promised to let him know if the military had any different ideas.

T. C. A[chilles]

Excerpt From a Telegram From the British Foreign Office to the British Embassy in the United States

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As you know, the North Atlantic Treaty Standing Group have asked Regional Planning Groups for Strategic Concepts and outline defence plans for their regions by 15th February.

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2. In considering this request a point of some importance has arisen in connection with the Southern European Western Mediterranean Region.

3. It is evident that a proper plan to defend Italy will need more forces than Italy at present possesses. It is also clear that other Atlantic powers cannot detach troops for the defence of Italy. Italy can no doubt raise the necessary manpower but anything other than a very small increase of her present forces will overstep the limits imposed upon her by the Peace Treaty.

4. In effect therefore no adequate plan for the defence of Italy can be made except on the assumption that the Peace Treaty limits on the size of the Italian armed forces will not apply. If United Kingdom and French representatives take part in planning in the Southern European Western Mediterranean Group on this assumption they will be opening the door to Italian pressure for revision of the Peace Treaty6 or for neglecting its terms. We do not think that this difficulty would be materially lessened even if the UK representative was instructed to make clear that in taking part in such planning he did not commit His Majesty’s Government to any decision which would allow the plan to be implemented. The Italians would naturally realise that the plans were in fact a commitment and that it was in the interests of the Atlantic powers as a whole to allow them to be implemented.

5. Whatever our views may be as to the likelihood of our being ultimately compelled by Soviet action to ignore the provisions of the Peace Treaty, it seems clear to us that some planning will have to proceed on the assumption that the provisions of the Peace Treaty may have to be ignored. In any case a decision must be reached in the next few days on the attitude which we should adopt in the Southern European Western Mediterranean Regional Planning Group and before taking it, we must, if possible, know the views of the Americans.

6. Will you therefore please put the problem informally to the State Department and obtain their views. You will no doubt wish to consult B.J.S.M. before approaching the State Department as the B.J.S.M. may have information bearing on this issue which is not available here.

7. We should be grateful for at least a preliminary reply by Tuesday 17th January.

  1. The British Minister at Washington.
  2. January 13, 1950.
  3. Dean Rusk, Deputy Under Secretary of State.
  4. George W. Perkins, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs.
  5. Presumably the Operations Deputies of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  6. The Treaty of Peace with Italy; dated at Paris, February 10, 1947. For the text of the treaty, see Department of State, Treaties and Other International Acts Series (TIAS) No. 1648, or 61 Stat. (pt. 2) 1245.