750G.00/6–654: Telegram

No. 203
The Ambassador in Italy (Luce) to the Department of State1
top secret

3974. Following my talk with Scelba (Embassy telegram 3952 June 42) I had a long conversation with De Gasperi on June 4. (Following report by pouch.3) De Gasperi stressed that unless Trieste settlement was satisfactory to Italian public and parliamentary opinion, government would fall, but would choose another issue for its defeat such as EDC. Said problem of orientation Italian foreign policy much more important than any aid Italy might receive under military facilities agreement. Italians he said, now ask whether Italy is more or less important to West than Balkans. If Trieste question is not solved in satisfactory manner, and if government falls, new elections may be required in autumn. Otherwise result will be a neutralist Italy which does not take sides in world struggle against Communist but will seek attainment its national aspirations by other means. Finally, he said, we cannot expect Scelba to carry out vigorous anti-Communist program in prevailing world state of “relaxation of international tension” and talk of “ten years of peace.”

These conversations provide an indication of an unfavorable trend in Italian foreign policy which is in part result of parliamentary situation created by 1953 elections. Since elections, Italian Governments instead of forcefully advocating broad long range policies have endeavored characteristically to play up foreign issues to gain internal support while opposition increasingly uses unfavorable diplomatic developments to brand current government as incompetent because it has obtained nothing by adhering to pro-Western policy. In this process Trieste and the Balkan Pact have been played up as paramount issues and extreme public positions [Page 447] have been taken which have deeply affected both public opinion and government policy. For these reasons Scelba felt it necessary to outline to me a viewpoint which is inconsistent with previous Italian policy and not designed, in my opinion, to serve long range interests of Italian nation. Any Italian center government at this time is likely to follow such a policy so long as it remains oversensitive to opposition attack. Scelba’s statement may be indication either: (1) that he is establishing a bargaining position with US concerning the London agreement and will use it in an attempt to modify terms in favor Italians or, (2) he is preparing a position for rejection of Trieste settlement as unacceptable. If so, he will make full use of press and public statements to pose as the great protector of Italian interest and as one who refused to accept an imposed solution.

If Scelba is following course (1) we can deal with it by negotiations and appropriate measures provided he does not directly or indirectly make use of the press to defend an extreme position. If he is following course (2) I doubt very much if he realizes that only the Communists and the extreme right will benefit ultimately from such action. Public rejection of Trieste settlement would benefit Scelba momentarily but would provide extremes with excellent opportunity to brand both him and his government as incompetent as association with the West as detrimental to Italian interests. In event Scelba’s position is the latter one, certain steps should be taken now to secure a change in his policies.

Suspension for the time being of facilities negotiations which I have recommended in Embassy telegram 3952 and in accordance with Embassy telegram 3958,4 the Italians are convinced of the military and material value of this agreement but are reluctant to make the political decision to sign it. I am hopeful that suspension of the negotiations will force them to reconsider their current attitude.
To continue as suggested in Embassy telegram 3907, June 1,5 to impress on all Italians the reasonable nature of the London agreement and to urge its acceptance as beneficial to the over-all interests of Italy and the common defense.
To speak frankly and firmly to the Italians on their attitude concerning Balkan Pact which has now become the fuse on the Trieste bomb. We should point out to them the military value of such an alliance and urge a realistic consideration of the problems which it poses. We should urge them to take a broader view of this development, taking into account the nature of the Soviet threat [Page 448] and the minuteness of the Trieste question in terms of general problems.

For next ten days I have asked Tasca to suspend conversations re $20 million defense support aid for FY 1955 on which almost complete agreement has been reached. If after 10 days no change in attitude had been attained we believe that Department and FOA should give serious consideration (a) whether such aid should be made available or (b) whether because of closeness end FY we might not work out an intermediate solution by obligating the funds but withholding availability to Italian Government pending further developments.

I believe that the foregoing program would be helpful in securing a modification of the position which has been outlined to me by Scelba and De Gasperi. I would appreciate the Department’s instructions soonest.

  1. Repeated for information to London for Thompson.
  2. See footnote 3, supra.
  3. A memorandum of Luce’s conversation with De Gasperi on June 4 was sent to the Department of State as an enclosure to despatch 2365 from Rome, June 7. (711.56365/6–754)
  4. In telegram 3958, June 4, Luce recommended, in spite of the Italian Government’s negative attitude toward the facilities negotiations, that plans proceed for deployment of the 629th A.C. & W. Unit to Leghorn. (711.56365/6–454)
  5. Not printed. (750G.00/6–154)