750G.00/9–953: Telegram

No. 109
The Ambassador in Italy (Luce) to the Department of State1

817. I spoke to Pella at length today giving him substance of Deptel 857, September 8.2 He replied that he listened with hope to assurances US now urgently studying Trieste question and promised that he would maintain strict secrecy.

Concerning troop movements (Embtel 808, September 83) Pella stated that the entire number of Italian soldiers involved was 4,100 belonging to divisions already stationed in Udine or to the east of Udine. Precise units involved are one regiment of cavalry, three companies of Alpini, two battalions of infantry, and two companies of infantry. He did not identify the divisions to which they belonged. Pella said he had already decided to revoke the orders for movements of these units immediately after Tanjug article (Belgrade 243, August 30 to Department4) indicated Tito did not intend to annex Zone B. He could not, however, revoke these orders after Yugoslav note of protest (Embtel 741, September 25), the Belgrade communiqué (Belgrade 289, September 3 to Department6) and Tito’s speech of last Sunday. He characterized these three Yugoslav measures as “aggressive acts” which made it necessary for him to maintain troops in their new locations unless he wished to appear as taking orders from Tito. Pella felt that the small number of troops involved should dissipate any allied concern that Italy harbored aggressive intentions. He hoped that the allied states would not request any public announcement by Italy concerning withdrawal of troops. He was happy that the US had made no such request [Page 271] and he justified his stand by stating that Italy had not announced publicly and officially that the troops had been moved forward. Therefore, it would be unreasonable to expect a public communiqué that they had been withdrawn. He said that the troops would be withdrawn gradually, a company at a time, when it no longer appeared that Tito was giving him order to do so, and as public opinion in Italy calmed down.

Pella said that Italian Government’s reaction to Tito’s speech September 6 was reflected in press and was therefore already known. He was interested, however, in the Allied reaction to Tito’s speech in view of the grave consequences to western policy of Tito’s grandiose claims. He said both he and Italian nation felt profound pain and disappointment in the so-called “impartiality” which the Allied states seemed to be demonstrating in dealing with relations between Rome and Belgrade. Any impartiality shown towards a Communist dictatorship and a democratic fully-participating member of NATO can only be interpreted by the Italian public opinion as partiality for Tito and support of Yugoslav intentions. Pella made the point in this connection that he did not mean that government and public opinion were one and same, but stated that public opinion had to be taken into account at all times. He stressed that if Italian press reaction in the current crisis were carefully analyzed, it would demonstrate a cordial sentiment for the US and would indicate that Italy is still putting her faith in the goodwill of America.

Pella again developed the point, made in every conversation, that a settlement of the Trieste question is necessary for the future of Italy’s Atlantic policy. He said this question must be settled in accordance with premises and principles of the March 20 declaration. He said that he did not want the Allies to request that he negotiate directly with Tito. Three earlier attempts at this method of settlement had failed and the Yugoslav claims were now too excessive for Italy to negotiate on this basis. He would not object to a roundtable conversation of the interested parties provided Italy entered such conference on an equal basis with Yugoslavia. In response to a question concerning participants, Pella merely said that he would reserve his judgment on the circumference of the table. I asked specifically what he meant by “equality.” He replied that Tito implied in speech that he did not differentiate between formal annexation and present occupation of Zone B although the Italian Government will never publicly admit this fact. Pella assured me “equality” would only involve total occupation of Zone A and that it did not mean annexation or any claim that occupation of the Zone was permanent. He stated categorically that occupation must precede any conference.

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I spoke to the Prime Minister about postponement of his speech, as suggested in paragraph 3 Deptel 857. He said this could not possibly be done since it would only bewilder Italian public opinion. He promised to do his best to make his speech accord with the suggestions made in my instructions. He asked what Department meant by “any new step.” I replied that it certainly meant that no further steps would be taken in the forward movement of troops and that his polemics should not create a situation which required a new démarche by Tito. I asked if he would refer to a plebiscite. Pella replied that this solution originated in Trieste and that he and his experts were examining it. He was most anxious to know Washington’s reaction to this possibility as a means of settlement and would appreciate any indication which can be given prior to his speech on Sunday. He stated that it was not impossible that he could agree to a plebiscite at a round-table conference, but he could not accept a plebiscite in the absence of equality with Yugoslavia.

Pella concluded by stating that a solution was a fundamental necessity and quick action must be taken. A delay will involve him in intense political difficulties in Parliament. He said he might, by various parliamentary methods, avoid answering Nenni’s interpellation, but he could not avoid a debate in Senate and Chamber on foreign policy in connection with budget.

I later spoke to Zoppi, who expressed great appreciation for outcome of German elections7 and felt that they should help Pella in forwarding Atlantic policies. Zoppi said, however, that if US thoroughly understood volatile character of Italian people, they would then understand both danger and opportunity of present situation. With Trieste out of way, Pella could lead Italian people forward in a full policy of European integration and support of western objectives. If Trieste is unresolved, “someone else” could plunge emotional Italians into an anti-Allied policy which would vitally affect entire western system.8

  1. Repeated to London, Paris, Belgrade, and Trieste.
  2. Telegram 857 instructed Luce, who had offered to come to Washington to present her views in person, that it was important for her to remain in Rome since she might be urgently needed there to negotiate with Pella. In the meantime, she was authorized to tell Pella that the Department of State was urgently studying the Trieste situation in expectation of further communicating with him and that absolute secrecy was essential since the Department had not yet conferred with the British or French. Luce was also requested to urge Pella to postpone his forthcoming speech. If she were unable to do so, she was asked to suggest that he consider confining his speech to a clear defense of Italian rights and a refutation of Yugoslav arguments “without advocating any new step which might well upset [the] boat and render future moves on our part impossible.” (750G.00/9–553)
  3. Not printed. (750G.00/9–853)
  4. Not printed. (750G.00/8–3053)
  5. Not printed. (750G.00/9–253)
  6. Not printed. (750G.00/9–353) The sequence of events, Aug. 28–Sept. 3, is briefly described in Document 93.
  7. Reference is to the victory of Konrad Adenauer’s coalition earlier in the month.
  8. In telegram 884 to Rome, Sept. 10, designated for the Ambassador, the Department of State reported that a series of steps was being considered designed to accomplish for Italy the “equality” Pella so strongly desired. The Department pointed out that a solution of the Trieste problem would be rendered “quite possibly hopeless” if Pella in his Sept. 13 speech strongly advocated the turning over of Zone A administration to Italy. In light of this, the Department suggested that Luce, at her discretion, discuss in utmost secrecy with Pella the fact that the Department was considering a way in which Italy could be given equality with Yugoslavia in the Trieste matter. The Department also asked Luce not to mention the telegram in further messages given general distribution and to warn Pella that, if a leak occurred, any chance of accomplishing what he wanted would be destroyed. (750G.00/9–1053)