Memorandum by the Director of the Office of Western European Affairs (Byington) to the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Perkins)1
Subject: Italian Peace Treaty[Page 590]
A number of developments lead me to suggest that the political situation on the Italian Peace Treaty problem threatens to outrun us and that accordingly we would do well to reexamine our decision not to go forward with working-level discussions at least with the British.
- Congressional interest is mounting. Several resolutions have been introduced in Congress calling on the President to revise or scrap the Peace Treaty. The most recent, and most specific as it affects Italy’s military strength, is that introduced by Senator Lodge on March 20. The Department has been called on to comment on this and one of the general resolutions, and has had to respond to queries from members who have been urged by constituents to support the movement to revise the Treaty. We continue to say only that we have under study the political and legal problems confronting the U.S. and other signatories.
- Hearings on the U.S. aid program will begin shortly. In view of Congressional demands for assurance that European countries are giving their all, and in view of the tendency in some quarters of the Senate to try to tell the President how to conduct foreign relations, it seems inevitable that the Peace Treaty as a limitation on Italy’s effort will come up in the aid hearings. We risk attack for having nothing to show for the continuous study that we will have been referring to for some two months, for failing to try to clear up an anomaly in Western defense planning, and for an apparently unfriendly attitude to one of our Allies.
- Although the Peace Treaty is not, as we tell inquirers, materially limiting Italian rearmament, it will do so as soon as Italy gets under way on an effort of the size we will use as illustration in the aid hearings. Meantime the Treaty does constitute a psychological hurdle to Italy’s effort, and the more talk there is here about the Treaty, the more the Italian Government feels under pressure to do something about it. Last week, press reports here and in Italy had it that the Italian Government had approached the British. French, and ourselves, and the Yugoslavs, to draw attention to Balkan satellite rearmament and its effect on Italy’s position under the Italian Treaty. Although the reports were substantially correct, we have declined to confirm or deny them.
- The British are awaiting our response to their written proposals on dealing with the Treaty problem; these proposals, which do not have British Cabinet endorsement, are so far from the ideas we have developed that it may well take some time to reconcile our views.
To avert our being forced into a defensive attitude, I suggest that we be authorized to convey our reply to the British now, on the understanding that we want to keep the effort to reach agreement secret, informal, and low-level at least until Four Power relationships are clearer.
- Drafted by Greene of WE. Attached to the source text was a memorandum by Bonbright to Perkins, March 27, which stated that it was unclear how a secret approach to the British would in any way help the Department of State in handling the public and Congressional problem outlined in Byington’s memorandum. Instead Bonbright suggested that the Department tell interested Senators and Representatives that the United States hoped to attack the Russians on violations of satellite treaties at any meeting of the Foreign Ministers and that the U.S. position would be damaged if before that time any action were taken to change the Italian Treaty. Perkins noted his concurrence on the source text and added that the information to Congressional inquiries should only be given orally.↩