Memorandum of Conversation, by the Director of the Office of Western European Affairs (Byington)
Subject: Italian Peace Treaty
|Mr. Horace Smith—H|
|Mr. Homer M. Byington, Jr.—WE|
Senator Pastore said that he had talked with Senator Lodge with regard to the Italian Peace Treaty. He said that he himself was of Italian extraction, but that he viewed this subject as an American citizen. He mentioned that some 15 percent of his constituents were of Italian origin and there was the greatest interest all along the Atlantic Coast States in the amendment of the Italian Peace Treaty. His own views were that if we modify the military, air and naval clauses of the Treaty to permit adequate Italian defense we were helping the United States as much as we were helping Italy. He thought that if we waited for Russian agreement nothing would ever be done. He had been told by Senator Lodge that the Department was concerning itself with this matter and intended to do something about it but he wondered whether we did not need some sort of additional impetus, possibly from him. Certainly, he needed information in order to talk to the many leaders of organizations who came to see him in regard to this matter.
I asked the Senator’s permission to speak in confidence on this question. I said that there was absolutely no difference as regards the objective. The Department of State was just as anxious to see the Treaty modified to permit an increase in Italian defense possibilities as was he. The question to be resolved was one of method. I pointed out that the Treaty had many signatories and by far the most desirable method would be one in which the British and French agreed with us. I said, for his confidential information, we had reason to believe that preliminary agreement with the British and French would not be an impossibility and that it was our intention to work in that direction. The Italian Government had approached us at a very low level and from everything that we understood here the Italian Government was quite understanding of the need for immediate delay and subsequent caution in handling this problem. I pointed out that during the present talks in Paris with the Russians with regard to the agenda for a meeting of Foreign Ministers, the question was constantly arising of our view that [Page 585] the Soviets had violated the Peace Treaties with the satellite nations and that undoubtedly this question would come to the fore should there be a meeting of Foreign Ministers. It would hardly seem an appropriate moment to bring up at the same time our intention to change the terms of the Italian Peace Treaty with regard to Italy’s rearmament. On the other hand, once present negotiations with the Russians had been resolved or abandoned the violation of the satellite treaties would provide a good basis for proceeding further with the Italian question. I said that the Italian Government understood this, as well as the British and French, and that that was why the Italian Government was not pushing the matter any further than it was forced to because of Italian public opinion. The Senator confirmed this by saying that he had had informal word from the Italian Embassy that they were not anxious for action at this time. (Mr. Sensi had informed me of this action by the Italian Embassy a few days ago.)1
I pointed out to the Senator that every time there were speeches made in the Senate on this subject it created an immediate flare-up of public opinion in Italy with a hue and cry against the de Gasperi government asking why it didn’t do something about it. The de Gasperi government, of course, wanted to do something about it but certainly appreciated the reasons why nothing could be done at the moment. I said as a result Senate emphasis on the Peace Treaty places the Italian Government in a difficult position and the cause of peace treaty revision is hindered, rather than helped. A little while later at an appropriate time those same speeches in the Senate might be very helpful indeed in bringing the facts home to the American people what we wanted to do. I emphasized that for the present Italy’s defense effort was not being limited by the Treaty.
The Senator thanked me for coming to see him and said that he felt the interview had been useful and that he understood the matter more completely than previously. He said that it would be very helpful to him as guidance in talking to leaders of groups who came to see him on this subject.
- A memorandum of this conversation on March 9 is in file 665.001/3–951.↩