PPS files, lot 65 D 101, “Trieste”

No. 303
Memorandum by John C. Campbell of the Policy Planning Staff to the Director of the Staff (Bowie)


  • Soviet Attitude on Trieste Settlement

1. The Facts

The position of the Soviet Government, in reply both to our 1948 proposal to give the whole FTT to Italy and to our later efforts to work out a compromise partition solution, was consistently to call for implementation of the peace treaty provisions. Moscow specifically denounced any partition as illegal and an attempt by the US and UK to further their own aggressive designs at the expense of the real interests of the people concerned. They made a special effort to appeal to Italian opinion and attack the Italian Government on the issue, and made no attempt to show consideration for Yugoslav interests.

There are indications that the Soviets began to reconsider this position some months ago. Their last official statement on this line was in the Security Council meetings which followed soon after the US–UK announcement of October 8, 1953. Although Moscow knew about the negotiations going on in London, it remained more or less quiet on the issue, both in regard to official statements and propaganda output. However, the Italian Communist Party and the Cominformist Party in the FTT continued to follow the old line.

When the settlement was announced on October 5, the Soviet Government at first said nothing. Then the Soviet Ambassador in Belgrade told the Yugoslav Government that silence was a form of acquiescence. Finally, on October 12, Vishinsky sent a Note to the President of the Security Council stating that since the agreement would promote the establishment of normal relations between Italy and Yugoslavia and contribute to the relaxation of tensions in that part of Europe, the Soviet Government “takes cognizance of the agreement.”

2. Interpretation

The Soviet Government has shown in the past that it will make a 180 degree shift in its position if it concludes that the situation has changed and that its interests are best served by so doing. Joining the League of Nations in 1934, concluding the pact with Nazi Germany in 1939, and abandoning the “Democratic Republic Azerbaijan” in 1946 might be cited as examples. In the case of Trieste [Page 587] also they must have weighed the situation and found the balance in favor of reversal. This seems to show also that if the Western powers go right ahead and take positive action to settle problems where they can, even when Moscow makes great protests and outcries and has some legal basis for them, the Soviet Government may well accept the fait accompli when it finds it can’t do anything about it.

Attempting to assess Soviet motivation in this case is largely guesswork, but the following may be justified:

In regard to Italy, the Soviets suffered a loss in that they embarrassed the Italian Communists by sawing off the limb on which they had been perched and may have lost some fellow-travelling support as a result of the cynicism displayed toward Italian followers. The Italian Communist Party had just denounced the October 5th agreement as a dirty deal and “the most unfavorable treaty that could ever be drawn up,” when it had to turn around and say that it was all right after all. This wasn’t, however, a particularly good issue to stand on indefinitely in Italy, particularly after the settlement. The Italian Communists had not been able to win much support or embarrass the Government by preaching adherence to a peace treaty that the Italians had never liked anyway, and were not likely to gain much by opposing a settlement by which Italy actually got the big prize, the City of Trieste itself. Thus in Italy Moscow did not stand to lose seriously by the shift.
The major reason for it seems to lie in the context of Soviet policy toward Yugoslavia. Shortly after Stalin’s death the Kremlin began the process of “normalization” of relations with Yugoslavia. This process went fairly slowly however. There were no considerable concessions on Moscow’s part except the reestablishment of an Embassy in Belgrade and a slackening off of the pressure of border incidents between Yugoslavia and neighboring satellites. Then in September 1954 the tempo of normalization increased sharply. For the first time the Soviet press and radio quoted Tito approvingly and referred to him as a Head of State rather than a “Fascist lackey” and betrayer of the Communist cause. The Soviet and satellite radio broadcasts, which have since 1949 been denouncing Tito and calling for his overthrow, have now been stopped. The anti-Tito exile organizations and newspapers operating from most of the satellite states are no longer heard from. And a series of trade negotiations by the USSR with Yugoslavia and some of the satellites with Yugoslavia have now resulted in agreement, with more comprehensive trade relations predicted for the future. The total effect of all this is that the whole set of political, psychological and economic pressures which the Soviet bloc had maintained against Yugoslavia is being relaxed. It would be a reasonable guess that some fundamental decision to proceed rapidly in this direction was reached by the Soviet leaders in September or slightly before. Their shift on Trieste seems to fit into this picture. It removes one more item on which they were at loggerheads with Tito; they may well have felt that it made no sense to make their relations with Yugoslavia worse by keeping alive this particular issue which they could not [Page 588] do anything about anyway. The ultimate purpose of their policy of relaxing pressure on Yugoslavia, and the chances for its success, is a much broader question which I think should be given more attention than it has yet been given in the Department.

John C. Campbell