Italian Desk files, lot 58 D 357, “Trieste September 1953”

No. 108
Memorandum by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Bonbright) to the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Merchant) 1
top secret

Attached is a copy of our draft on a Trieste telegram.2 As you know, we have concluded that the most feasible way of handling this problem is in several stages and the draft reflects that approach.

[Page 269]

We have given careful thought to the President’s suggestion to the Secretary that the matter be settled by arbitration. Our conclusion is that this would probably not work. The following reasons entered into that conclusion.

In our opinion neither the Yugoslav nor the Italian Governments would wish publicly to turn over a problem of such great national interest for decision by third parties, even though they were told secretly in advance what the decision would be.
In view of the Italian peace treaty and our obligations to the Security Council we think the U.S. position would be better if we acquiesced in a de facto situation than if we took it upon ourselves as arbitrators to suggest and support a decision contrary to the treaty.
In view of their public positions we think it would be easier for both the Italian and Yugoslav Governments to work up to a final solution along present zonal boundaries than it would be to go to that solution directly and in one jump so to speak.

Mr. Tate 3 in L is looking at the proposal urgently from the legal angle. This may be full of difficulties and may require at least some senatorial consultation.

A check is also being made with UNA on the section dealing with the Security Council.

Two problems will require Defense clearance: (a) disposition of US and UK troops which will have to be moved from Trieste under our plan, and (b) the implied threat to the Yugoslavs concerning the future of our joint military planning and programming if Tito doesn’t play ball. Perhaps this could be handled by a call from the Secretary to Mr. Wilson and by an approach by Doc4 to the Joint Chiefs.5

The Secretary will undoubtedly wish to apprise the President of our plan and get his approval.

We should get a meeting with the Secretary to discuss the problem at the earliest possible moment, preferably tomorrow.6

  1. A note on the source text indicates that copies were sent to Matthews and MacArthur.
  2. The draft telegram is not printed here, but the text is virtually the same as Document 110.
  3. Jack B. Tate, Deputy Legal Adviser.
  4. H. Freeman Matthews.
  5. The procedure by which the Department of State sought the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on this draft telegram is described in footnote 2, Document 110.
  6. No record of such a meeting has been found in Department of State files.