750G.00/9–453: Telegram

No. 96
The Ambassador in Italy (Luce) to the Department of State 1

782. 1. This morning I was urgently called to the Foreign Office by Under Secretary Benvenuti. He showed a copy of Prime Minister Pella’s instructions to Luciolli re representation to the Department on the Secretary’s statement yesterday on the March 20 declaration.2

2. For 20 impassioned minutes Benvenuti dilated on the disastrous effect of the statement in the present context of Trieste tension.

3. He displayed morning Communist papers. Unita headlines were “Sensational Confirmation of Failure of De Gasperi’s Foreign Policy. Foster Dulles Announces that America Reneges on the Tripartite Declaration”. A picture of De Gasperi carried caption “He Worked Against Italy”, and editorial captioned “The Proof of Betrayal” and below “The declaration of Dulles carries for De Gasperi [Page 251] the accusation of betrayal”. Nenni’s Avanti carried headline “Dulles Buries the Tripartite Declaration Announcing ‘New Alternative’ for Trieste”, followed by second headline “Popovic after Interview with USA Secretary Expresses the Satisfaction of Yugoslavia”.

4. Benvenuti said that while Communist interpretation of Dulles’ statement carried the usual elements of falsification, nevertheless the statement left itself open to these interpretations, and that Italian public opinion construed it at worst as complete abandonment of declaration, at best as indication of eventual US intention to do so.

5. He said consequences of statement if unclarified and uncorrected would be as follows: (a) incitement of Tito to proclaim on Sunday he was following realistic lead of USA in making new claims in Trieste question; (b) consequent heightening of Trieste tension; (c) solidifying of anti-American, anti-Western sentiment in Italy, which could result in: (1) abandonment of pro-Western, pro-NATO Italian foreign policy, (2) rapid growth of power of extremist political elements in Italy, (3) fall of Pella Government when Parliament reassembles.

6. He urgently pleaded for immediate favorable clarification by Secretary of his statement, in direction of reiteration of adherence to “spirit of tripartite declaration”, especially fundamental principles concerning ethnical and historical claims of Italy and American guarantees of “human rights” of Italians in area. He reiterated Pella’s proposal for plebiscite solution and/or solution along continuous ethnic line, and also indicated that, while this was Pella’s favored solution, “provisional solution” might be acceptable. He said announcement by Dulles that fundamental principles of tripartite declaration has not been abandoned need not exclude additional statement that Secretary was searching for “practical solution in its spirit” which must be found.

7. He pointed out unfavorable reaction in non-Communist Italy to USA demand for free elections in East Germany when contrasted with USA unwillingness to let FTT freely decide its own fate in plebiscite, and said that to abandon Italians in Zone B to dictatorship of Tito made a mockery of professed Atlantic policy ideals of human dignity and freedom.

8. He said that Pella and De Gasperi were 1000 percent pro-West, but that if Trieste issue were not favorably resolved they might be only two men in Italy who would remain so and that Pella would go as De Gasperi went—broken by his own loyalty to West which had betrayed him.

9. He admitted USA’s, NATO’s and Italy’s need for military strength of Yugoslavia in event of Russian attack but reiterated [Page 252] passionately in closing that regardless of strategic thinking of Pentagon planners, Italian public opinion would never accept US appeasement of Communist dictator Tito at Italy’s expense because to do so would yield Italian soil and human rights to Communism anyway.

Plain fact of matter is that none of above estimate of Italian public reaction is greatly exaggerated and that failure (a) to clarify Secretary’s statement immediately, (b) seek rapid solution of question, will result in great harm to USA–Italian relations and prolong a tension that will endanger not only future of moderate pro-American government in Italy, but might crack wide open NATO system in Europe.

  1. Repeated for information to London, Paris, Belgrade, and Trieste.
  2. For an excerpt from Dulles’ press conference, see Document 94. Under instructions from Pella, Luciolli called on Bonbright and Ridgway B. Knight on Sept. 4 and stated that, although Dulles’ remarks had corresponded to the facts, Pella was concerned by the interpretations which could be placed upon those remarks both in Italy and Yugoslavia. (Memorandum of conversation, Sept. 4; 750G.00/9–453)