No. 185
The Ambassador in Italy (Luce) to the Secretary of State, at Paris 1
top secret

Dear Foster : Before you see Foreign Minister Attilio Piccioni of Italy, may I urge you to read the enclosed memorandum of a conversation I had on Saturday last with Minister Massimo Magistrati of the Foreign Office. Count Magistrati is accompanying Signor Piccioni to Paris, and I gather will do much of his interpreting for him.

The memorandum may prepare you for some delicate, if not slippery angles on Trieste and EDC that are likely to develop in your meeting with Piccioni.

It seems to me that if a Trieste solution can soon be got, there is no good reason why EDC should not be ratified in Italy before winter.

As I know you are fully aware, regardless of what the Italians may say, they will not pass EDC until the Trieste question is at least within sight of settlement. But it is also well to bear in mind that there is absolutely no sense of urgency about EDC in the Government, as most Italians firmly believe that the USA has no alternative to waiting for it. This gives force to the point raised by the attached memorandum: quite apart from the Trieste question, the Government is capable of postponing EDC ratification, if by so doing it can in any way better its own party position.

I am also sad to report that the brief moment when it looked to me and to Bedell Smith as though the Scelba Government really intended to act vigorously all along the line on Western policy, using the debate on EDC in Italy as the signal for an all out political attack on the Communist problem,2 is past. Unless you can offer a solid Trieste carrot, or raise some more vigorous stick to secure EDC ratification than any we have at hand here, I very much fear that the Scelba pro-EDC and anti-Communist drives will both proceed at the speed of cold molasses.

Piccioni, as you will also see from the enclosed memorandum, may mislead you on all these questions, partly because of his own unfamiliarity with them, and partly because he feels himself unfit [Page 410] by preference, experience, temperament and capacity for his present position. …

But I have watched—as the whole world has watched—with increasing astonishment and boundless admiration the extraordinary and inspired way you have handled the difficult personalities and the portentous questions that have faced you in this crowded and crucial year. I suspect that Signor Piccioni and EDC and the Trieste question will not present you with too difficult a problem.




Memorandum of Conversation, by the Ambassador in Italy (Luce)

Count Magistrati of the Foreign Office called to see me at Villa Taverna at his request. He held forth at considerable length on the following subjects:

The ratification of EDC
The Trieste question

(a) The Ratification of EDC

Magistrati said that the President’s message on U.S. Assurances to the EDC Countries3 had greatly strengthened the chances of EDC ratification in Italy, but that the real danger EDC faced in Italy rose (a) from the internal political situation, and (b) from the status of the Trieste question.

He then described the internal political situation. There is every reason to believe that both the MSI (neo-Fascists) and the PNM (Monarchists) would vote for EDC (if only as an anti-Communist measure) if the issue is presented as an international and national issue, transcending all purely party considerations and polemics—i.e., provided the Scelba Government does not tie up the vote on EDC to a vote of confidence in the Government. Thus, the ratification of EDC by a large majority was a very real possibility, unless the Government itself deliberately used EDC as a political device to force its opposition on the Right (MSI–PNM) into a position where to vote for ratification would also be to vote for maintaining the present Coalition in power. He was plainly worried that Scelba, under the guidance of De Gasperi, intended to do just this. Moreover, [Page 411] there is increasing evidence that Scelba is playing with the idea of winning some Nenni-Socialists support for EDC. I then told him that in my conversation with the Prime Minister on April 16,4 Scelba had clearly indicated as much. Magistrati said this “confirmed his suspicions,” and that in his opinion this was a dangerous and certainly in the end futile game. The Christian Democrats should know this from their experience in trying to woo the Nenni-Socialists to their side on the electoral law issue in 1951–52. There was nothing to be hoped from the Nenni-Socialists on support for pro-West policies.

Magistrati clearly believed that if EDC failed to pass, the fault would be the CD party-leadership’s, for making EDC a partisan rather than a national issue. Moreover, if the government continued to insist on making EDC ratification contingent on a vote of confidence in the Government, EDC would certainly not pass, and the Government would probably fall, as this tactic would make it mandatory for the MSI–PNM right and even for some CD’s to vote against it. It would then be terribly difficult to form a new government, and EDC ratification would not come to pass this year.

I told Magistrati that I had been increasingly aware of this disturbing situation and that my concern about the serious intentions of the Scelba Government re EDC dated from the failure of the Government to introduce EDC as urgency legislation which it could easily have done at the time. I said we were now also convinced that the votes for ratification were there—either by a slim majority with the MSI and PNM opposing, or a large majority with the PNM and even MSI voting for it if the Government was willing to pose the issue without linking it to a vote of confidence. I pointed out that the “excuse” we have been given until very recently was that the absence of a Trieste solution would, in itself, give the MSI, the Monarchists and even some CD’s a plausible if not real reason to vote against it. Magistrati replied that while there certainly was a definite relation between the solution of the Trieste question and the ratification of EDC, Trieste was not as decisive a factor as many in and out of the Government pretended.

He then went on to discuss the Trieste question, beginning with the Secretary’s letter to Scelba.5

(b) The Trieste Question

Two years ago, Magistrati said, it would have been easier for Italy to accept a compromise Trieste solution than now. Then, De Gasperi’s government was strong enough to accept it, and public [Page 412] feeling (in the era of large U.S. aid programs and a relatively weaker Yugoslavia) was not running so high on the issue. The climate for a compromise is much worse now because the Government is much weaker, U.S. aid has dwindled, Yugoslavia has grown stronger and more menacing, and above all, the long delay on the October 8th decision combined with the build up of tension because of Italy’s self-restraint in this period have all made the situation much more difficult. A solution which is not better than October 8th would now be all but impossible for the Government to accept. If it did so, it would fall as a result of it.

Scelba, he said, was greatly disturbed because the Secretary’s letter had made no mention either of the March ’48 Declaration or of the October 8th. He wondered if this meant the October 8th decision had been scrapped. I pointed out that there was no need for the Secretary to mention October 8th, which was viewed even by the Italians as a temporary solution, as the Trieste question now posed itself in the London talks in terms of trying to reach a permanent settlement. Such a solution if found would naturally be preferable to October 8th, and therefore would obviate it. It was not necessary then for the Secretary to raise the question of October 8th in his letter, as he assumed no doubt that Italy understood we were working for a permanent solution. Magistrati indicated that the Foreign Office was greatly afraid that what would come out of the London talks would be “another diktat” like October 8th, but one less favorable to Italy. The optimistic “leaks” from Popovic in Belgrade fed this unhappy suspicion and spread alarm throughout the Foreign Office. I assured him there was no intention of facing Italy with a “diktat” solution. I told him very emphatically that we believed a reasonable solution which Italy would voluntarily accept was altogether possible as well as desirable, and that I hoped Italy would agree this was so, after the projected London meeting. Magistrati then said that the difficult problem was this: a reasonable solution was not necessarily one that Italian public opinion (which was unreasonable—i.e., “emotional and sentimental” about Trieste) could easily accept. For example, he, Magistrati, privately felt that it was a blessing in disguise that Italy had lost its colonies by the peace treaties. When he thought of France’s problems in Indo-China and Morocco, he shuddered to think of the difficulties a poor and weakened postwar Italy might today be facing in Libya, Abyssinia and Eritrea if she still held them. Again, very few Italians had ever been to Trieste, and not one out of a thousand knew where Servola or Zaule were, and cared even less. Nevertheless, the Italian people suffered and continue to suffer a deep wound to their national pride because of the loss of these colonies and the failure to get the FTT back. That is why they now are [Page 413] so emotional about Trieste. The problem, therefore, was not the reasonableness or unreasonableness per se of a Trieste solution, but how to get Italians to accept the last severe wound to their pride that any solution short of the return of the whole FTT would be certain to inflict. The long delay on the October 8th decision had further heightened the emotional tension and aggravated the sense of injured national dignity. Indeed, the successful implementation of October 8th (things going as they have) would be even better from a public opinion point of view than a reasonable solution of Trieste, since this could now be construed as a real victory over Yugoslav diplomacy and intransigence.

Moreover, in the present situation the news out of Ankara about the Turko-Yugoslav pact nations not only made Italians very nervous but “very thoughtful.” What for example would Greece do, or France, if a Yugoslavian-Italian conflict broke out over their frontiers? Who would support whom in such a case where the two warring nations were all tied in criss cross pacts to defend one another within one grand alliance? It was all very confusing to public opinion. Italians, however, were on the record inclined to believe that they would probably get the worst of such a situation even though they were an EDCNATO nation.

Magistrati wondered if, along with a “reasonable Trieste solution” some other compensation might not be simultaneously presented to Italian public opinion. He had no idea of what such compensation might be. For example, if it were possible (which Magistrati realized it was not) to assure Italy’s entrance into the UN at the same time, or say, for Italy to be given some large and significant command in NATO, or some special important role in the EDC–EPO set up, or some special help to and recognition of her air force, or any role of world wide significance—though he could not precisely think what would “do” it, and believed in the final analysis nothing could compensate for the loss of Zone B—still it might be helpful.

The importance of the Trieste question now was that it is being used by Italians and abused by Communists to gauge the value the West attaches to the importance of Italy as an ally. Italian public opinion always saw Italy as thrust into the lackey’s part of the lowly subordinate, the messenger boy, or poor relative of the Big Three, forever “taking orders” from her former conquerers and betters. The Communists, and perhaps not without reason, made much of the inferior colonial status the Big Three always assigned to Italy.

The virtue, Magistrati said, of De Gasperi was that he managed to dramatize the importance of Italy to the West by his early espousal of European integration. He managed to put Italy into a favorable [Page 414] international spotlight, and made a world figure of himself precisely because he could do so. But—Mr. Attilio Piccioni …?6 Magistrati was “very nervous” about the meeting between Dulles and Piccioni in Paris. Piccioni did not have either De Gasperi’s or Pella’s commanding personality, and he certainly did not have De Gasperi’s experience and shrewdness. …

Nevertheless, Magistrati said the meeting between Dulles and Piccioni must be treated importantly, as Italian public opinion would be watching most attentively to see if the new Italian Foreign Minister would be given the same attention always accorded Eden, Bidault and Adenauer. The danger plainly was that Dulles would mistake Piccioni’s ignorance of foreign affairs—especially the Trieste question—for acquiescence in all his (Dulles’) ideas. The result could be unfortunate for all concerned.

It was plain that Magistrati (like the entire Foreign Office) was bitterly regretting the loss of a De Gasperi or Pella, and was facing Paris in a mood of deep uncertainty and discouragement.

Clare Boothe Luce
  1. Dulles was in Paris Apr. 21–24 to attend the Thirteenth Ministerial meeting of the North Atlantic Council; for documentation on this meeting, see vol. V, Part 1, pp. 508 ff.
  2. For correspondence between Luce and Smith on this subject during March and April 1954, see vol. VI, Part 2, pp. 1660 and 1671.
  3. For text of this letter, transmitted in telegram 3394 to Rome, Apr. 15, see Department of State Bulletin, Apr. 26, 1954, pp. 619–620.
  4. This conversation was reported in telegram 3268 from Rome, Apr. 16, printed in Department of State Bulletin, Apr. 26, 1954, pp. 619–620.
  5. Document 182.
  6. Ellipsis in the source text.