No. 172
The Counselor of Embassy in Yugoslavia (Wallner) to the Chief United States Negotiator in London (Thompson)
top secret

Dear Tommy : The Foreign Secretary gave a party last Friday for Chiefs of Mission which I attended (subbing for Jimmie who is still in Geneva)1 and where I listened at some length to Brilej, Bebler and Djerdja expatiating on the talks in London. In the usual aggressive Yugoslav way they all professed great disappointment at the way the talks were going and discouragement as to the possibility of a settlement emerging. Both I and they carefully avoided getting down to points of substance, but I got plenty of atmosphere.

I opened by complimenting them on the skillful and dispassionate way in which, to judge from your reports, Velebit had presented the Yugoslav case. I am sorry to report they did not return the compliment, charging that you and Harrison had only one touchstone, which was acceptability to the Italians, and practically accusing you of political obtuseness in not understanding that Marshal Tito simply could not accept something which could not be demonstrated as an improvement over the October 8 decision. Brilej said that Tito was particularly indignant that after weeks of conversation you should have calmly proposed Molo Five, which he thought he had convinced the Americans last May was totally unacceptable and which any child could see was much worse than October 8. (There were, of course, overtones here reflecting on my own professional capacity for incompletely or inaccurately reporting their rejection of the May 7 proposal, but I am used to being cudgeled by the Yugoslavs on Trieste and really don’t mind except that I do wish you would stop referring to what happened on May [Page 379] 7 as the “Wallner proposal”.) Bebler’s theme is that whereas Tito must have something better than October 8, the Italians can take something less since there was dancing in the streets of Rome whereas I myself was witness to the angry mobs of Belgrade. This is largely poppycock.

Underneath this clamor I detect worry and a real desire to find a solution, if not at London, at least in the near future. I do not agree with the British that the Yugoslavs are trying to avoid a settlement and keep the question open. It is, of course, most elementary that after defying the United States and Britain in October, Tito cannot accept something that he cannot make look better to party and public opinion than our announcement of the 8th. It is also obvious that the Italians must be able to point to some sort of an improvement, and one, two or three of the Istrian towns would seem to be the key to that. As I implied in a cable the other day, it seems to me that we should be prepared to go to the Italians with not one but perhaps two or three alternatives and let them be responsible for determining the relative cost and value to them of these alternatives. How are you or I to know precisely what Capodistria or Isola or Pirano mean to the Italian parliament, and why should we assume that responsibility, especially in view of the Yugoslav conviction that we do not submit to severe analysis Italian assertions regarding the impact of the Trieste problem on Italian domestic politics? While they are no doubt wrong about our gullibility, they have got to be convinced that the Italians have been pushed back to their last position. Since they cannot be convinced by sitting across the table from the Italians, and are obliged under the present procedure to rely on us as intermediaries, the best we can do is to present more than one alternative. As we discovered last May and last October, “take-it-or-leave-it” didn’t work in Belgrade. Now that we are reversing the process, why assume that take-it-or-leave-it will work in Rome?

I am sending a copy of this to Bob Hooker.2

Best to you,

  1. The party took place on Mar. 5 and Ambassador James Riddleberger did not return to Belgrade until Mar. 8. He had been in Geneva on personal business.
  2. In a letter of Mar. 19 to Hooker, a copy of which he also sent to Wallner, Thompson said that he was very much disturbed by Wallner’s letter of Mar. 9 and by telegram 4586 to London, Mar. 8. (750G.00/3–854) Thompson said that this telegram seemed to reflect the feeling that Thompson was being tougher with Velebit than was justified. He thought that there was no reason for the United States to be defensive since the Yugoslav proposal had been put forward with what had then been “an outrageous list of conditions.” Although Thompson admitted that he was “probably getting unduly touchy as a result of this frustrating business,” he expressed his belief that in the end the negotiations would be successful. (750G.00/3–954)