Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Howard J. Hilton of the Office of Western European Affairs


Subject: Limitations in Military Clauses of Italian Peace Treaty.

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

This informal meeting was held pursuant to the meeting held September 11 during which Mr. Burrows and Mr. Boyd left a copy of the informal working paper setting forth “notes of discussions with US authorities on the coordination of policy toward the Italian Peace [Page 1515] Treaty”. In opening the meeting Mr. Byington permitted Mr. Burrows and Mr. Boyd to read a copy of a paper entitled “Limitations in Military Clauses of the Italian Peace Treaty”, which had been prepared in WE. A copy is attached to the original of this memorandum. He emphasized that this paper did not represent the views of the Department and that he, likewise, was merely expressing the views of EUR and was not speaking for the Department.

Mr. Burrows in reply stated that the views which he expressed had not been fully considered by the British Government and represented only the thinking of senior officials in the Foreign Office.

After reading the paper Mr. Burrows expressed his agreement with the necessity for setting forth in detail the revisions which would be necessary to permit Italy to carry out the tasks assigned by the NATO. Once this exercise had been completed, it would be possible to determine the procedure by which the Treaty could be revised. He felt that it might be possible to follow the course suggested in the original working paper which he had submitted, namely, ignore the Treaty in minor respects, which would, for example, permit the supplying to Italy of a few assault landing craft, or of planes slightly in excess of the stipulated amount; then when a major step, clearly violating the Treaty, would be contemplated, action could be taken to make a public declaration that the Treaty would no longer be considered as limiting, in certain respects, Italian participation in NATO.

Mr. Byington in reply stated that it would be essential to have such a declaration of intention made by the US in order that the US position would be publicly known and would, therefore, answer any charges of connivance in violations of the Italian Peace Treaty. Mr. Burrows pointed out that an analysis of the probable positions which various signatories might take on the question of a declaration involving changes in military clauses of the Italian Peace Treaty indicated only 11 of the signatories as probably being favorable with 5 opposed and 4 doubtful. Taking the adherents there would be an additional 3 in favor and 1 opposed. The probable division on this basis would be as follows:

[Page 1516]
In favor Opposed Doubtful
Signatories: Signatories: Signatories:
United Kingdom USSR China
United States Byelorussia Ethiopia
France Czechoslovakia Greece
Australia Poland Yugoslavia
Belgium Ukraine
Brazil Adherents:
Canada Albania
New Zealand
South Africa

It was agreed that Mr. Burrows would endeavor to obtain a definitive statement of the necessary revisions of the military clauses of the Italian Peace Treaty required to permit Italy to carry out the tasks assigned by the NATO in accordance with the medium-term plan. Mr. Byington indicated that the Department would also endeavor to secure a similar statement and a subsequent meeting would be held to consider further action which might be taken.


Memorandum by Mr. Howard J. Hilton of the Office of Western European Affairs


Limitations in Military Clauses of the Italian Peace Treaty

necessity for action

The military provisions of the Italian Peace Treaty were drafted on the assumption that the United Nations, in which Italy would be accepted as a full member, would assure lasting peace. The Soviet Union has effectively destroyed the basis for this assumption. Communist aggression in Korea and increasing world tension resulting from Soviet policies and initiative have increased the urgency of prompt and effective action to permit Italy to participate to the fullest extent of its capabilities in the common defense of Western Europe. It cannot now do this because of the limitations imposed by the military clauses of the Peace Treaty.

From a military viewpoint, the restrictions imposed by certain of the military clauses of the Peace Treaty are inimical to the objectives of NATO. It is apparent from studies now in advanced stages of completion within NATO that the successful defense of Western Europe will require a greater contribution of military manpower by Italy than is permitted by the terms of the Peace Treaty. These studies indicate that Italy, with the forces at present allowed under the Peace Treaty, could not be in a position to defend her northern frontiers in the event of an attack.

Apart from the question of an increase in the strength of the Italian armed forces beyond the limits imposed by the Treaty, there is, in addition, the question of the possible relaxation of certain specific restrictions included in the Treaty. For example, the Treaty places [Page 1517] strict limitations upon the type and quantity of weapons and material which the Italian armed forces may possess.

With regard to the question of Italian arms production, Italy is bound by Article 53 of the Peace Treaty not to manufacture or possess more war material than is needed for her own forces under the Treaty. The Italian representative on the Military Production and Supply Board has produced a paper giving impressive figures on Italian surplus productive capacity. In addition, the Italian representative on the Defense Financial and Economic Committee, some months ago, raised the matter of fuller employment of Italian manpower in North Atlantic defense production. A greater exploitation of Italian productive capacity and of Italian technical skill than is now possible under the terms of the Peace Treaty would contribute materially to the defense of Western Europe.

Concerning the foregoing three general criteria of restrictions on the military activities of Italy the question arises as to the timing of the lifting of these restrictions. The current over-all efficiency of the existing Italian armed forces can be improved considerably. A particular deficiency is the lack of a competent corps of non-commissioned officers and technicians. Therefore, even if current NATO planning results in the establishment of a firm requirement for Italian armed forces in excess of Treaty limitations it would be militarily unsound to permit the Italians to expand their armed forces until the existing forces achieve a higher degree of efficiency. On the other hand, in the military production field Italy could now exceed the levels prescribed by the Treaty and thereby contribute more than is now possible to the accelerated NATO production program. As regards the limitations on weapons and other implements of war which the Italian armed forces may possess, the armed forces as now constituted could profitably employ certain types of such equipment in quantities in excess of Treaty limitations.

Using the above considerations as a basis for analyzing the military articles of the Peace Treaty, it is apparent that the military interest of NATO would be furthered by the immediate revision or rescinding of the following articles:

Article 52 (Acquisition of German war material)—Italy should be in a position to participate in any program wherein Germany supplies war material to NATO nations.

Article 53 (Manufacture or possession of war material in excess of own requirements)—Italy’s surplus military productive capacity should be utilized to the benefit of NATO nations.

It would be desirable, but it is not immediately mandatory, that the following articles of the Treaty be amended in order to increase the capabilities of the Italian armed forces at their present strength:

Article 54 (Limits tanks to 200)

[Page 1518]

Article 56 (Limits size of Italian Fleet)

Article 59 (Limits types of vessels in, and tonnage of, the Italian Navy)

Article 64 (Limits Italian Air Force to 350 aircraft by type).

At such time as it is determined that the Italian armed forces, at Peace Treaty strength, have attained an acceptable degree of efficiency, it is militarily desirable that the following articles of the Peace Treaty be revised to permit Italian armed forces to carry out the roles and missions assigned them by NATO:

Article 60 (Limits personnel of Italian Navy)

Article 61 (Limits personnel of Italian Army and Carabinieri)

Article 65 (Limits personnel of Italian Air Force).

possible positions

There are a number of possible positions which might be taken by the United States and other Governments with respect to the military clauses of the Italian Peace Treaty:

The word and intention of the Peace Treaty could be accepted as constituting binding obligations, the fulfillment of which would be the primary consideration even in the face of Soviet aggression. This position might well place the defense of Western Europe in jeopardy. It would be small consolation if Soviet Forces were to advance across Europe to know that the Italian Treaty limitations had been faithfully honored by the Western Powers. This is particularly true when viewed in the light of the substantial contribution which Italian production and manpower could make to the NATO defense.
The possibility of achieving the desired result by a liberal legal interpretation, while maintaining the intention of honoring the Treaty, has been explored. Such a position does not, however, achieve the desired result of assuring Italian defense nor its participation in the full defense production effort being developed by NATO.
As a similarly undesirable position, the United States and other principal signatories of the Peace Treaty might inform the Italian Government that they would raise no objection to violations of certain clauses of the Peace Treaty leaving the matter of violation solely to the Italians. While this might accomplish the purpose of permitting Italy to strengthen its defense and to make the maximum contribution to the Western European defense effort, it would certainly weaken the US position in support of the principle of rule of law. It would also encourage the Italians to violate other provisions of the Peace Treaty, the complete fulfillment of which is desired by the United States and other countries.
The position might also be taken that the military clauses of the Peace Treaty should be revised, but only in accordance with procedures established in the Treaty, to permit the Italians to participate to the fullest extent of its capabilities in the defense of Western Europe. The Treaty provides that the military provisions may be revised by agreement between the Allied and Associated Powers and Italy or by agreement between the Security Council and Italy. As the use of the veto by [Page 1519] the Soviet Union has prevented Italy from becoming a member of the United Nations it is not within the realm of practicality that the Soviet Union as long as it continues in the Security Council would permit a revision of the military clauses of the Italian Peace Treaty. As the time for action is so short, it is likewise unreasonable to delay action pending another Soviet boycott of the Security Council, at which time the Western Powers might act in respect of the Italian Peace Treaty.
The preferable position would appear to be the revision of the military provisions of the Italian Peace Treaty in accordance with international practice justified on the basis of developments unforeseen during the negotiation of the Italian Peace Treaty. The Italian Peace Treaty was negotiated on the assumption that the United Nations in which Italy would be accepted as a full member would assure conditions of a lasting peace. To this end it was necessary that the ex-enemy countries be severely limited in their capacity for aggressive warfare, and, as peace was to be assured by the establishment of the United Nations, only a minimum of defensive capability need be permitted. An aggressive, totalitarian power with subversion and force as its instruments now threatens not only certain of the Allied and Associated Powers, but also some of the ex-enemy countries which have established democratic governments and are conducting themselves in accordance with democratic tradition. The aggression in Korea is the brutal manifestation of the type of aggression faced by the free world which must, therefore, undertake to prepare its defenses.

The Charter of the United Nations in Article 51 specifically recognizes “the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations”. Article 4 furthermore provides that “Membership in the United Nations is open to all other peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations”. The majority of the countries concerned have on several occasions determined that Italy meets all of the requirements for membership, and its participation in nearly all international organizations carrying out the aims of the Charter gives further justification for its admission, which has been repeatedly denied by Soviet veto. The very power that has denied Italy the rights and privileges of a member of the United Nations is the one that, by its hostile posture and menacing words, has forced the nations of the Atlantic community including Italy to organize their collective self-defense under the North Atlantic Treaty. Because of these developments Italy, as a free, democratic and peace-loving country, should be given the right as recognized in the Charter of the United Nations to develop its military strength for its own defense and for participation in the collective defense of the Atlantic community.

The limitations contained in the military provisions of the Italian Peace Treaty are effectively preventing Italy from carrying out a [Page 1520] program for its defense and for its full participation in the NATO defense effort. As these are aims authorized by the United Nations Charter, the signatories of the Italian Peace Treaty should now agree to the removal of these limitations. If all signatories were to agree, such action would be in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty. Even though the Soviet Union and its satellites were to oppose such action, as might be expected, the approval of such revision by the majority of the signatories would be sufficient to permit Italy to take the necessary action.


Because of the special position established by the Italian Peace Treaty for the United States, United Kingdom, France and the Soviet Union it is desirable that informal discussions be undertaken between U.S. and British representatives, and then the subject should be further explored with the French in order that the principal Western Powers may have a firm agreed position, along the lines of the fifth possibility suggested above, on the action to be taken to remove the limitations contained in the military clauses of the Italian Peace Treaty. This position might then be submitted to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization for appropriate documentation and support of the NATO. The signatories to the Italian Peace Treaty in that organization could then by formal communication and with appropriate justification call upon all other signatories of the Peace Treaty including the Soviet Union and its satellites to become associated with the proposed revision of the Italian Peace Treaty. As the intent of the action would be to give Italy the right of defense recognized in the United Nations Charter, the anticipated Soviet propaganda could be countered. Such a declaration of interest, if accepted by most of the signatories other than the Soviet Union and its satellites, would serve to permit Italy to develop its military strength in accordance with the agreed revisions.