Foreign Relations of the United States, 1951, Europe: Political and Economic Developments, Volume IV, Part 1
The Italian Foreign Minister (Sforza) to the Secretary of State
My Dear Secretary Acheson: We all agree that we must orient our thinking towards the problem of regaining the initiative on the world political and propaganda levels, while standing firm and going full speed ahead with our program of Atlantic rearmament.
In this connection, and for the purpose of doing something to strike a blow at Communist propaganda and to try to give some contribution to the necessary activities aimed at recovering the initiative also in the psychological sphere, I have outlined a very general plan of a move which might fulfill these requirements. Of course, it is a plan which should be thoroughly studied in all its details in order to weigh its positive and negative facets. I have, however, deemed it advisable to forward this plan to you in a most personal manner, so that you may examine it and let me know your opinion.
In this spirit I beg you to take under consideration the attached memorandum which I must add I recommended solely to your judgment.
Your first reaction may be perhaps one of perplexity. I must admit with you that more than once I felt the same way. However, when I think of the advantages which we could secure through the disorientation and surprise which would result at Moscow, I am convinced that the matter is really worthy of consideration. What else could we do in the field of psychological war? I do not see.
That is why I venture to entrust to you—before anybody else—the scheme to which I gave my thoughts.
Draft Proposal for a Nonaggression Pact
1. It is advantageous to recognize that, in this latest period, the initiative on the threefold level, military, diplomatic and psychological-propagandistic appears to be in the hands of the USSR. The Atlantic Powers have so far concentrated on the adoption of countermeasures aimed at replying to Moscow’s moves, with the consequences that:
- a) the choice of the moment and of the object of the various developments seems to be in the opponent’s hands;
- b) during the more or less short periods during which the countermeasures are worked out, prepared and enacted, difficult moments of inferiority are experienced;
- c) it is necessary to make, in a short time, an exhausting effort, relatively greater than the opponent’s, in order to restore the balance.
Hence, the advisability of wresting from the USSR the advantages of the initiative by some sudden and unexpected move calculated to reverse the present situation.
2. While the rearmament programs of the Atlantic Community represent the only countermeasure which it is possible to take in order to restore the balance on the military level, much is still to be done on the diplomatic and propagandistic planes which, although interdependent with the military factor, may present lesser difficulties of a material character and permit quicker results. On the propaganda level, the approach is solely to refute the arguments of the so-called “partisans of the peace” who charge the members of the Atlantic Alliance in general and the United States of America in particular with having aggressive aims and of stiffly maintaining dangerous war-furthering positions, whereas they really aim at wrecking the collective effort for the rearmament of the West, at creating perplexity in a part of continental Europe’s public opinions and at arousing bones-of-contention among the various Allied Governments. It must not be forgotten that the campaigns for peace and against the atomic bomb, although they have not had the effects which the communist promoters desired, have not failed to make some inroad on European public opinion. Also, the slogan continually confirmed by communist propaganda, that the Atlantic Pact is an offensive means of aggression and that the United States particularly are not adverse, in the end, to bring about deliberately an armed conflict, exercises some attraction also in some non-communist circles. It must also be kept in mind that now and then the rumour (perhaps purposely circulated by communist [Page 593] elements) is heard that the USSR, in order to affirm her will to peace, has the intention to offer non-aggression pacts to some members of the Atlantic community.
What can be opposed to this propaganda? Is it possible to recover the psychological initiative from the hands of the communists in the same way as the United Nations succeeded during the last war in maintaining a constant advantage over Nazi propaganda?
3. Among the various moves which could be made in order to counter Communist propaganda and possibly to restore the initiative to the Democratic world, the following plan is submitted, which, embracing at once the diplomatic and the psychological fields, seems to offer good prospects. This plan concerns the advisability of an offer by the Atlantic Alliance of a non-aggression pact to the USSR and to the communist States.
4. Before proceeding to a critical assessment of the positive and, possibly, negative elements to be found in the plan, it is well to attempt summarily to outline what could be the contents of such an offer the terms of which, once the general idea had been accepted, should be more thoroughly examined and therefore are here formulated merely in an indicative way. The text might run as follows:
- a) Preamble—A re-statement of the desire for peace and international collaboration on the part of the propounders, with an express reference to the Charter of San Francisco.
- b) Contracting Parties— On one part all the States which are members of the Atlantic Alliance and, on the other, the USSR and all the other communist Powers.
- c) Contents—A definition of the aggressor based upon, and improving, the doctrinal discussions and the subsequent experiences, of that which was inserted in the collective agreements of London of 1933 (Litvinoff formula).
- The mutual undertaking: not to carry out any acts of aggression; not to interfere in internal affairs; to respect territorial integrity and national independence; not to try to modify the limits of the occupation zones of the territories of the former enemy States, which were established at the end of the second World War.
- An undertaking not to give any assistance whatsoever to an aggressor.
- The validity of all pre-existing public agreements which are declared as not (??)1 incompatible.
- The immediate and collective denunciation of the Pact in case of acts of aggression accomplished even by only one of the contracting parties against any State, even if it should not be a signatory of the agreement.
- d) Duration—This might, for instance, be made to coincide with that of the Atlantic Pact.
5. The advantages of such a move should be examined in connection with the following four possibilities:
- a) a simple refusal on the part of the USSR and of the other communist States;
- b) an acceptance-in-principle and the beginning of laborious and inconclusive negotiations;
- c) an acceptance-in-principle and the conclusion of the agreement;
- d) the conclusion of the agreement and its subsequent violation on the part of the USSR.
A) In the case of a simple refusal on the part of the USSR, the advantages which would follow are obvious. The public opinions of the various countries which entered into the Atlantic Pact would see in the rejected offer of a non-aggression pact an extreme attempt at pacification; the confirmation of the pacific intentions of their own Governments and the revelation of Moscow’s aggressive designs with the consequent debunking of her propaganda for peace and against the Atlantic Pact; the necessity of maintaining and accelerating the sacrifices which must be made in order quickly to carry out the rearmament programs which, in any case, must remain unaltered.
In case of a refusal, each Government of the Atlantic Community could therefore expect a greater internal and international compactness, a factor not to be disregarded, which would be the result of the psychological effects of the showdown. On the diplomatic plane, in addition to recovering the initiative, they would immediately gain a valuable element for the assessment—including also the possibility of military action—of Moscow’s immediate intentions. In effect the Soviet Union would, in all probability, take such a stand only in view of a short-term aggressive plan.
B) In the event of an acceptance-in-principle followed by inconclusive negotiations, it would be easy to maintain the internal propaganda initiative which has been set forth above, as the impellent of the negotiations would be an Allied proposal. It should not even be difficult to attribute the responsibility of a failure of the negotiations to the opponent. To the aforesaid advantages another should be added: the valuable time gained in furthering the military Atlantic preparation. The plan should, moreover, be formulated in such terms as—without compromising its propagandists effects—would not be easily acceptable to the USSR, owing to their binding character (the introduction of a clause on the supervision of armaments perhaps would do). The Soviet Union would thus be made to face the dilemma of losing the cold war or giving some concrete guarantees.
C) The conclusion of the proposed pact would undoubtedly result in a more or less long period of relaxation of internal and international tension, which, apart from the possible positive developments which it is not possible to foresee now, would add the following benefits to those which have been already set forth above; the acknowledgment on the part of the USSR of the non-aggressive character of the Atlantic Pact with the consequent crumbling of the greater part of the present hostile propaganda structure; the [Page 595] creation, for what value it may have juridically, of a supplementary undertaking, not to be disregarded for its moral effects, on the part of the USSR and of her satellites, not to undertake any acts of aggression even against a third Power; an easier fulfillment, in the new atmosphere, of the present unaltered rearmament program and—consequently—an easier reestablishment of the international military balance. Furthermore, there would result a clear definition of the aggressor and a more precise undertaking to abstain from interfering in the internal political life of any State.
D) The fourth possibility, i.e. the conclusion of the pact and a subsequent act of aggression on the part of the USSR, would result, in addition to all the advantages listed above, in producing an easier focussing of the various public opinions, as Russia would, in such action, violate a formal agreement concluded—the first one after the end of the war—with the Atlantic Powers as well as the principles of the San Francisco charter.
6. Apart from the expected difficulties in the formulation of the text of the agreement, the chief objections against such an offer of a non-aggression pact to the USSR could be summarized in the following points:
- a) Preoccupations about the danger of internal and external interpretations to the effect that such an offer is an indication of the weakness of the Atlantic Community. This is a problem of some weight—perhaps not very different from that of stating plainly the low level of our armaments compared with that of the Communist States—but, after a careful examination, it does not seem so great as to nullify the positive aspects of the initiative. The propaganda aspect of the offer should, of course, be well considered, because it would be necessary from the start to express explicitly the will to carry out the rearmament plan integrally. It should also be avoided that one country or another, instead of the whole Atlantic Community, appears as responsible for the initiative or its realization.
- b) Misgivings about a possible weakening of the UNO, inasmuch as the Charter of San Francisco already contains a series of undertakings concerning non-aggression, the respect of the territorial integrity and of the national independence, the non-interference in the internal affairs, etc. As a matter of fact, such misgivings do not appear to have any foundation, just as the Atlantic Pact has not weakened the obligations already undertaken by the contracting parties in the Statute of the UNO as regards sanctions against an aggressor. The new pact would lead to a more exact definition of the aggressor and to a completion of the existing undertakings concerning the safeguarding of the internal affairs of the contracting parties, which comes within the framework of the regional agreements contemplated and advocated in the San Francisco Charter. It is obvious, on the other hand, that, in terms of the propaganda aims which are sought, the offer of a non-aggression pact should only indicate some essential principles, such as those which have been set forth above, leaving a certain margin for the future negotiations. Since no final draft of the agreement would be presented, it appears unlikely to incur any concrete criticism and, much less, [Page 596] contradiction, as a result of a superimposition on the UNO undertakings.
- c) Preoccupations about a possible juridical and political incompatibility of such a pact with the Atlantic Alliance. These, too, appear to be easy to overcome from the juridical standpoint in view of the contents of the pact itself above indicated. The treaties of alliance at present in force between Great Britain and France and the USSR are the witnesses of a positive practice in this connection. From the political point of view, any danger of incompatibility would disappear if the offer were made—as is contemplated—only collectively by all the members of the Atlantic Community which, by acting corporately, would indeed see its own personality reinforced.
- d) Preoccupations concerning possible misgivings or uncertainties in some democratic countries which do not belong to the Atlantic Community. This possibility really exists, especially at the start, but it is just for this that it should be quite explicitly declared from the beginning that the non-aggression pact would be denounced in the case of an aggression against any third Power. On the other hand, different juridical positions already exist between the various Democratic Powers. Therefore this is no new problem, but a solution of the old one should be contemplated, which also takes this fact into account.
7. Notwithstanding all this, it is important to stress once more that the attempt to recover the advantages of the diplomatic and psychological initiative lies at the basis of this proposal. This move, in addition to what has already been pointed out, would also have the merit of dispelling the danger of having at a certain moment to face the serious embarrassment of a similar plan coming from Moscow. In this event, apart from any consideration of merit, all the psychological advantages would automatically go to the USSR, regardless of the reply of the Atlantic Community.
In pursuing our objective this plan has been studied as a contribution to the discussion of the most effective means of blocking the diplomatic and the propaganda action of the Communists. Although it may, at first sight, appear to be a bold and perhaps shocking move, the simple reflection on the disorientation and surprise which this move, having been made by her opponents, could arouse in Moscow, appears to justify thorough examination.
- As in the source text.↩