Belgrade Embassy files, lot 58 F 35, “Trieste May–June 1954”

No. 190
The Ambassador in Yugoslavia (Riddleberger) to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Bonbright)

Dear Jamie : I have just read the memorandum of April 20 setting forth Luciolli’s bill of complaints1 and I must say I admire your patience. Would it not be possible occasionally to remind the Italians that the present procedure was the result of their refusal to go into a conference? Otherwise, we would all be sitting down together and this impression of chumminess with the Yugoslavs would not exist. I remember when I was in Germany the last time that the Department occasionally instructed us or allowed us to remind the Germans from time to time that there had been a war of aggression in which they had been defeated and that certain consequences flowed therefrom. This sometimes helped when the Germans got too fresh, and perhaps the same sort of reminder to our Roman friends might be salutary.

As to complaints about publicity, of course I get the same thing here from the Yugoslav side about the Italian press and government leaks. And, while I am on the subject, my personal opinion is that it has been a miracle that the whole story has not been spilled to date. Far too many people know the present state of affairs including the Italians, I am persuaded. I should not be the least bit surprised to read an accurate account in the press at any time, particularly after the Secretary’s visit to Milan. I am sure there are many good reasons for this trip of which I am not cognizant, but I confess to an unmitigated astonishment when I read it had been decided as I was sure it would lead to tremendous publicity and speculation on Trieste in the press. I thought this was just what Mrs. Luce wanted to avoid until we were ready in London to approach the Italians and now we bring down this deluge of speculation at this time. So many stories are circulating that someone is certain to get close to the truth sometime soon.2

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If we are going to continue to give economic aid to Yugoslavia, it is a pity we have not been able to juggle the bookkeeping a bit so that I could promise something additional now. I know what problems this presents to the Department and I have every sympathy with them. However, had we been able to do a little more, I am sure I could have buttoned up the package deal with Koca Popovic last week. I dislike intensely giving way to any form of blackmail, be it on this side of the Adriatic or the other and I suppose that everything the Yugoslavs ask for has to be doubled in order to meet the demands that will be forthcoming in Rome. On the other hand, all of this is peanuts in comparison with the military program and I sometimes wonder if the master minding in Washington is being done by some fellow who is fast in his calculations. From my ECA days in Paris, I remember all too well the kind of mathematical manipulation that can be done towards the end of a fiscal year if someone in the right place applies himself to it. You will, no doubt, yourself recall several examples.

Baudet, the French Ambassador here, has just returned from Paris very depressed over EDC prospects. This is too bad and I am not sure that my clients here have helped very much with their kind, if unexpected, words. Something tells me that the French Assembly will not be stirred by Tito’s offer although given the Yugoslav distrust of Germany, and the size of its army, it might help provide a counterweight to German forces.

I saw my first May Day Parade last Saturday and I must say that I was impressed. This, my dear Jamie, is a military country and I speak as one who has spent most of his European days in military countries.3

[Here follow personal remarks.]

As ever,

James W. Riddleberger
  1. Not found in Department of State files.
  2. According to New York Times correspondent Cyrus Sulzberger’s diary entry for May 6, he dined with Ambassador Riddleberger that evening and showed Riddleberger a story he was dispatching “on the new secret formula for Trieste.” Sulzberger stated that Riddleberger confirmed the story entirely and was too discreet to ask where Sulzberger had obtained it. Riddleberger said with delight, “I’ll bet this will send Luce into a tizzy.” These and other comments by Riddleberger regarding Ambassador Luce and Trieste are included in Sulzberger’s A Long Row of Candles, pp. 1005–1006.
  3. This letter was not sent until May 13. Riddleberger added the following postscript, dated May 13:

    “Thanks to the fact that we have only one classified pouch per week, my secretary tells me my letter will only go off today and in rereading it I see it is very much out of date. However, I send it along for what it may be worth and shall not try to bring you up to date here as that has been done in recent telegrams. The Trieste affair is an awful mess at the moment, but perhaps we can straighten it out without too much damage being done. I have now found out that Cy Sulzberger knew the whole story when he arrived in Yugoslavia. This does not excuse Tito, but it does confirm some of the Yugoslavs’ suspicions. Cy told me he had picked up all essential points in Italy and I assume he was determined to use them to obtain confirmation from Tito.”