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

top secret

Subject: Limitations in Military Clauses of the Italian Peace Treaty.

Participants: Mr. Burrows, Counselor, British Embassy
Mr. Boyd, Second Secretary, British Embassy
WE—Mr. Byington
WE—Mr. Greene
WE—Mr. Hilton

Mr. Burrows and Mr. Boyd called at their request to leave a copy of an informal working paper setting forth “notes for discussions [Page 1513] with the United States authorities on the coordination of policy toward the Italian Peace Treaty”. A copy of this paper is attached.1

After reading the paper I said that it would require considerable study before the Department would be in a position to have any official reaction. Mr. Burrows said that he was presenting this informally to us as there was some indication that Mr. Bevin might wish to raise this problem with the Secretary.2 He felt that it was desirable that we be informed of the lines along which the British Government was thinking. He emphasized, however, that the position expressed in the paper was not firm and that any general agreements reached in discussion with representatives of the United States would be subject to Ministerial approval in the British Government.

Mr. Burrows then referred to a request by the British Admiralty Office for Foreign Office concurrence to the program for supplying a limited number of assault landing craft for the Italian Navy. According to the plans of the Southern European regional planning group of the NATO, the Italian Navy had been assigned the responsibility for the Adriatic area and the British Admiralty is prepared to furnish a number of such craft for training purposes for the Italian Navy. The Foreign Office would like to know whether the United States has any objection.

It was pointed out that this specific request emphasized the difficulties inherent in this problem. As assault landing craft were specifically prohibited to the Italians by the provisions of the Italian Peace Treaty, the supplying of such craft to the Italian Navy would involve the United Kingdom in a direct violation of the Treaty. The same situation would undoubtedly be true also of other countries with respect to other items to be supplied to Italy or produced in Italy in accordance with NATO plans.

Under the circumstances serious consideration had to be given to the whole problem before embarking on such a course. An alternative which might also be considered would be for the United States and the United Kingdom, and the associated nations in the NATO, to follow a procedure such as that taken with regard to Trieste, on the grounds that developments, unforeseen during the negotiation of the Italian Peace Treaty, had occurred which necessitated the modification of some of the terms. The Peace Treaty was negotiated on the assumption that the United Nations, in which Italy would be accepted as a [Page 1514] full member, would assure lasting peace. As Italy has been prevented by Soviet veto from becoming a member, it is incumbent upon the signatories to give Italy the right provided members of the UN to organize its defense both individually and collectively. The fact that the Soviet satellites, with the concurrence of the USSR, are violating their Peace Treaties provides further reason for such action in the case of Italy.

I specifically emphasized that the Department had not yet considered this or other alternatives and therefore had no views other than the established policy of adherence to the Treaty limitations. Mr. Burrows agreed that all possible courses of action would have to be considered before any decision could be taken by either Government. He felt that the problem as regards a declaration was primarily one of timing. He indicated that at his own initiative and without reference to views expressed here, he would query London for further comment as to possibilities of a solution which could be recommended to Mr. Bevin.

Mr. Burrows then asked whether it would be desirable for the British Military Mission to engage in direct discussions with U.S. military authorities on the military aspects of this problem concurrent with discussions with the Department on the policy aspects. I suggested that the British Military Mission might in the initial stages discuss the problems with U.S. military authorities, but pointed out that the decision was primarily political and that until the political decision had been taken there was little that could be done on the military phases of the problem other than to express the military view concerning the need for Italian rearmament in excess of the Treaty provisions in order to participate in European defense.

  1. Not printed; it listed a series of questions that the British wished to discuss with the Department of State concerning limitations on Italian armed forces, possible approaches to Italian officials, and bringing the Italian army to maximum efficiency.
  2. Ernest Bevin, British Foreign Secretary, was coming to New York for meetings of the Foreign Ministers, September 12–19. For documentation on these meetings, see pp. 1108 ff.