No. 259


Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs ( Perkins )


Subject: U.S. Assistance for the Italian Rearmament Program.

Participants: Italian Ambassador
Mr. Perkins, EUR
Mr. Greene, WE

The Ambassador said that he had had a long discussion with Mr. Foster at ECA this morning about the negotiations going on in Rome for U.S. assistance to the Italian rearmament effort. He said that in view of the political importance of the matter in Italy, he wanted also to discuss it with me. He mentioned that the Italian Prime Minister’s position is difficult on the eve of a vote in Parliament on the Government’s bill appropriating 250 billion lire for the Italian program, because no definite amount of U.S. aid has yet been set. This gives the opposition the opportunity to charge in debate that the Government has been remiss in placing faith in the U.S. and has nothing to show for it while Italy is being asked to rearm. The Ambassador deplored the circumstance that discussions have been going on in Rome for some 3 months and produced little more than talk. The Ambassador alluded to the difficulties Prime [Page 580] Minister De Gasperi has had in his own Party1 and commented that the Italian Government has thus far been one of the stablest in Western Europe.

In addition to the political difficulties for the Italian Government, the dangers of the present world situation make it extremely important that the Western nations act while there is still time.

I observed that on our side of this matter, not only in Italy, but in all the Western European countries, we must consider both what we can do, and what our partners are doing, in specific terms. We cannot simply say that if the Italian Government is going to put 250 billion lire into Italy’s defense effort, we will put in say, 100 million dollars; we must know what the money is to be spent for, so that we could determine whether or not we could provide assistance and if so, whether or not we should.

George W. Perkins
  1. In telegram 3772 from Rome, March 1, Dunn reported that the government suffered its first defeat since April 18, 1948, when an amendment was passed against its will on February 28 in the Chamber. De Gasperi threatened to resign immediately but later changed his mind. (865.00/3–151)