Luce files, lot 64 F 26, “Letters, 1954”

No. 175
The Ambassador in Italy (Luce) to the Secretary of State1
top secret
eyes only

Dear Foster: When I had the honor and pleasure of seeing the President and you in early January, there seemed much reason to [Page 384] hope that the Trieste question would be settled by this time. But judging by the frustrating news from our team of Trieste experts in London who have been talking with Tito’s Velebit, any hope of a settlement in the near future seems to have gone aglimmering.

Nevertheless, there are appearing in many sections of the American press happy expressions of confidence in the ability of the Scelba government not only to survive, but to retrieve the disaster of the June 7th elections, turn back the constantly rising tide of Communism, and ratify EDC this spring.

As you are aware, in view of the painful status of the Trieste question nothing could be sillier than these rosy expectations.

You will remember that on November 3, 1953, I sent you a memorandum on the Italian situation.2 Its main argument remains valid: in the absence of large U.S. aid programs, the only effective delaying political action we can take to prevent the further disintegration of democratic pro-West forces and the forward march of Communism in Italy is to settle the Trieste question.

If the U.S. fails to take a decision on implementing October 8th, or to come up with a better solution soon, and if the N.S.C. continues to underestimate the increasingly aggravating and melancholy effect this will have on Italian Democracy, then I see little hope of escape from the logic of the following analysis:

This continued failure will once again bring down an Italian government, further weaken the NATO structure, damage the chances of passing EDC beyond repair, and advance the fortunes of the Kremlin Left here.

If this unhappy train of events should be recorded as the actual history of 1954, it will one day be judged to be all the more tragic because it is not necessary. For Italy has resources, political, economic and spiritual which can still be mobilized to make her a firm, strong, even prosperous ally of the West.

Bearing in mind your own and the President’s great and immediate concern with the passage of EDC in Italy, may I describe to you the condition of the present Italian government as I see it, and especially what you may expect of it, in relation to EDC.

Unless Scelba (a) should choose to resort to strong arm measures and engineer himself into a “democratic dictatorship,” or (b) is [Page 385] saved by a favorable Trieste solution, Scelba (like De Gasperi, Pella and Fanfani before him) will sooner or later fall.

The parliamentary majority of Scelba’s “Center” Coalition is perilously slim. The Coalition itself is a mare’s nest of personal political animosities, ambitions and contradictions. Its anti-Communist and economic programs are caught in the riptide of its own left and right currents. Fresh out of large scale U.S. aid, it has neither the public nor party resources to push through large vote-getting economic-reform or welfare programs, and at the same time defend the lira and maintain its NATO goals. It is under unremitting pressure both from within and from without to widen its parliamentary base either in the direction of the Fascist-Monarchist Right or the Pro-Cominform Left. Its leading figures (Pella, Gronchi, Fanfani, Pacciardi, Saragat) tear themselves and one another apart, trying to determine which course presents the lesser risk, and if Scelba falls, who should succeed him. Its old master, De Gasperi, contemplates a third and perhaps even riskier course—to seek new elections this October. Add, that the Christian Democratic Party is under an avalanching public criticism, a snowballing political attack because of the ugly Wilma Montesi “murder-sex-dope ring” scandal which allegedly involves the reputations of its chief of police and several of its ministers, including Mr. Piccioni, the Minister of Foreign Affairs.3

Nevertheless, this damaged, shaky and disunited government shows some intention of trying to introduce and ratify EDC shortly. Will they do so? To a large extent the answer depends on what we now intend to do about Trieste. For Trieste is the one over-arching national issue on which this Government can hope to gain the necessary strength to close its own ranks, to rally public opinion behind it, and to put through any pro-West legislation or decisions.

I assure you, Mr. Secretary, it is quite literally impossible to make the Italian people see that EDC and Trieste should be viewed as separate problems, and that it is not to their best interests to prejudice the whole defense of Europe and the Mediterranean by linking them. They ask, why should they see this, if Tito won’t see it?

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Moreover, the Italians, like Tito, know the truth and the inwardness of the matter: we, not they, will choose for or against EDC, because in the end we must choose to favor Democratic Italy on the Trieste question (and we’ll get EDC here), or we must choose Communist Yugoslavia (and we won’t get it).

May I bluntly say that as I see it, we must also choose, sooner or later, to keep our national word or not to keep it.

The fate of Scelba’s pro-West government rests on our choice. And, inescapably all Italy’s future foreign policy relations with us will understandably enough be colored by it.

What value, for example, should this parliament be expected to attach to U.S. guarantees on troops, during an EDC debate, measuring those “guarantees” against U.S. past performance on the March 24th Declaration,4 and our present one on the October 8th Decision?

Certainly (as our London Trieste team is now well aware), if we urged upon Italy at this time what currently seems to be Tito’s best offers on Trieste, the Italian Government would roundly reject it. To accept it would at once topple Scelba’s government.

Moreover, the London team fully realizes that the mere presentation by our Embassy here of Tito’s best offers would, even if rejected, aggravate our relations with this Government, and so further weaken it.

Any plan such as Tito’s present one, which called not only for Italian sacrifices in Zone A and none by Yugoslavia in Zone B, but also for heavy Italian reparations to a Communist government, plus millions of U.S. dollars to Tito to help him build a railroad and port in competition to Trieste would completely shatter whatever morale the Italian Foreign Office has left. The whole thing would strike the Italians as a most astounding result of “U.S. pressure on Tito.” (And I suspect it would strike many Americans the same way, too.)

Moreover, however secretly the offer were presented, and even if rejected, it would eventually hit the world press. How it would be viewed in France, for example, I cannot judge. But certainly in all Italian eyes it would constitute final proof that against our twice-given word we have chosen for Yugoslavia, either because we actually value Communist Yugoslavia as a more reliable ally than Democratic Italy (which possibly the Pentagon does), or because we are afraid not to yield to Tito’s demands lest he opt to return to the Kremlin orbit (which may indeed be bothering the State Department).

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But true or false, both interpretations will be given here, and both will further undermine the pro-West parties of Italy and build up the prestige of the Fascists and pro-Cominformists who have been able to monopolize increasingly the “patriotic attitude” on the Trieste question, as successive democratic governments have yielded to “pro-West” views on the Trieste question.

Therefore, the immediate result of presenting Tito’s seemingly best offer to the Italian Government at this time would be, in addition to its rejection, that EDC would not be introduced this year, for the simple reason it would not then get the popular support that would produce the margin of votes necessary in the parliament.

I am assuming, however, that we will not urge Tito’s current Trieste solutions on the Italians at this time, and that instead we are inviting the Italians to go through the same “exercise” the Yugoslavs have gone through with our US-UK London team of experts. Certainly these exercises are useful, both in bringing forth all the facts, and in showing US-UK willingness to examine the attitudes of both sides patiently and fairly. But what is the merit of this manoeuvre in relation to EDC? In my opinion, only one, and that of highly dubious value: the October 8th Decision can thus be “kept up in the air,” for the next six weeks or two months, pending the outcome of the promisedEDC debate in the Italian parliament.

It is my personal opinion that if the Italians accept the invitation to talk Trieste in London, and if EDC should then be introduced, the passage of EDC will be kept up in the air just as long as the Trieste question is. And that the end of the matter will be either:

EDC will finally be shelved “owing to the internal political necessity of awaiting the outcome of the London Trieste talks (or “negotiations,” or conference—or whatever other device we can find in future to procrastinate on the October 8th Decision); or
EDC will pass, but only with the attachment of a Trieste protocol, which will probably be “stiffer” for us to implement than the October 8th Decision; or
The Government will finally fall trying either to beat off a Trieste protocol, or pass EDC in the absence of a Trieste solution. It will then take months to form a government even as strong as this one; or
The demonstrations over EDC made in parliament by the Kremlin Left and Fascist Right will be so severe it will become necessary to dissolve parliament, and call for new national elections in October.

If new elections come about, either as a result of the fall of the Scelba government or as a result of the debate on EDC, they will obviously precipitate another great crisis in Italy for pro-West foreign policy. We will then be forced to extend a considerable covert [Page 388] aid program, and possibly an enlarged defense aid program—more off-shore orders, etc. But our best information here is that after a succession of pro-West governments have tumbled, owing in considerable part to the failure of the U.S. and U.K. to sustain them on the Trieste question, no form of U.S. aid will alone be quite enough to beat down the Communists. And certainly a third promise about the FTT will not suffice. We will then have to produce Trieste before Election Day or witness the Center ground down by the Fascist Right and the pro-Cominform Left.

The Italian Communist Party, as you know, has unremittingly taunted De Gasperi’s, Pella’s, Fanfani’s and Scelba’s governments with the prediction that when the inevitable U.S.–U.K. showdown with Tito came we would bend before him and welch on the October 8th Decision as we did on the March 24th Declaration. Unless that prediction can be shown to be false before the next Italian elections, it is certain once again to pay off handsomely for the Kremlin at the ballot box.

Any such eventuality as a great Communist gain in October elections would, of course, be viewed both in Italy and in America as a severe setback for U.S. foreign policy—as indeed it will be. For EDC would then be dead as a duck in Italy and Italian “Democracy” would sooner or later be laid down beside it.

U.S. democrats could and would make the most of such a miserable situation in our own elections in November. I only mention this political consideration in passing. I know that your only and passionate concern in all you do is the safety and security of America. Everything both you and the President said to me in Washington showed your tremendous awareness of how harshly affected U.S. security would be by another triumph for Communism at the polls in Italy. For you realize that if the Communists continue to gain as much in the next two years as they have in the past two years, either the stage will be set for an eventual Communist coup d’état or civil war in Italy.

I know how deeply occupied you are with the cruel problems of Korea, Indo-China, Berlin and France. But when I reflect on where our present Trieste policy may lead us, I can’t help but wonder whether it is not altogether possible that Italy could be the powder keg of World War III. Certainly Mr. Acheson abundantly supplied the powder with his wholesale introduction and induction of the Communist Party into Italy, and Mr. Truman lit the lively fuse when he failed to implement March 24, 1948,5 at a time when it was quite possible to do so. But in all fairness to Mr. Truman and Mr. Acheson, they tried to damp down the powder with a vast [Page 389] direct economic aid program. However badly handled that program was, it did postpone the inevitable day of reckoning on Trieste.

But we have no such vast direct aid programs. And once again, with our failure to implement October 8th, the day of reckoning comes on apace.

Half the Communists in Europe are right here in Italy now. And their numbers are growing.

What are we expected to stop them with here, if not Trieste? This is a question that cannot safely remain unanswered much longer.

If this were not the fact, I would not add this problem to the already crushing load you have been carrying so tirelessly and so skillfully, indeed so nobly.


Clare Boothe Luce
  1. In telegram 2800 from Rome, Mar. 18, eyes only for the Secretary, Luce wrote that in view of rapid developments in the Trieste negotiations in London, she hoped that Dulles would not approve any firm U.S. position until he had a chance to read her personal eyes only letter to him, dated Mar. 18, which she said had left by pouch earlier in the day and would probably reach Dulles by Mar. 22. (750G.00/3–1854) A copy of Luce’s Mar. 18 letter to Dulles was sent to Thompson as an enclosure to a letter from Hooker, Apr. 2. (750G.00/4–254)
  2. For this memorandum, which Luce also sent to President Eisenhower under cover of a letter of Nov. 3, 1953, see vol. VI, Part 2, p. 1631.
  3. On Apr. 11, 1953, a young woman, Wilma Montesi, was found dead under mysterious circumstances on a beach near Ostia. Her death became the object of widespread national attention early in 1954 when charges were made which implicated prominent Italian figures, including the son of Foreign Minister Attilio Piccioni. In March 1954, the parties of the Left called for the resignation of the Scelba government and demanded a parliamentary inquiry into the affair. Scelba responded by appointing the President of the Liberal Party, Raffaelo De Caro, to conduct a special investigation. In telegram 2760 from Rome, Mar. 16, 1953, the Embassy called the Montesi affair “perhaps the greatest political scandal” since the Matteotti affair of 1925. (765.00/3–1654)
  4. Luce was apparently referring to the Mar. 20, 1948, Tripartite Declaration on Trieste.
  5. Apparent reference to the Mar. 20, 1948, Tripartite Declaration on Trieste.