284. Memorandum of Conversation0

SUBJECT

  • NATO Strategy

PARTICIPANTS

  • US Side
    • The President
    • The Secretary of State
    • Mr. Nitze, Assistant Secretary of Defense
    • Ambassador Reinhardt
    • Mr. Tyler, Deputy Assistant Secretary
    • Mr. Schlesinger, Special Assistant to the President
  • Italian Side
    • Prime Minister Fanfani1
    • Foreign Minister Segni
    • Ambassador Fenoaltea, Italian Ambassador2
    • Mr. Fornari, Director General of Political Affairs
    • Mr. d’Archirafi, Diplomatic Adviser to the Prime Minister

The President asked the Prime Minister if he was satisfied about the US strategic approach. Fanfani said he had discussed this question at length with Ambassador Harriman3 and Mr. Acheson.4 He approved of our desire to increase conventional weapons. He thought there was some concern lest increasing conventional weapons might mean raising the threshold to a point where this might mean hesitation on the part of the United States in using nuclear weapons. He pointed out that Italy was the only power which had carried out in practice the December 1957 NATO resolution.5 He said that Italy recognizes the difficulty of the problem of command. Fanfani said that Italy was geographically extremely exposed to potential aggression, and was the power which had accepted most risks. This entitled her to be most consulted. The President asked Fanfani whether the US proposals with regard to Polaris [Page 808]were of interest to Italy. Fanfani replied that since mobile bases are now technically possible, the US had been wise in having made the proposal. The President said that he understood the problem of not decreasing Italy’s sense of security. Fanfani asked if Foreign Minister Segni might speak to this point. Segni said that in 1958 Italy had assumed grave responsibilities in having agreed to the installation of IRBMs. Now we have proposed Polaris missiles, which means mobile sea-bases. Italy feels that there should be an appropriate degree of control by the Italian government with regard to the use of these weapons. So far, he said, only two powers have accepted IRBMs, and if this remains the case it should be easy to work out the decision-making process. He said that there was no problem with regard to tactical weapons such as Nike and Honest John, which were merely a form of artillery. These should remain under military command.

The President commented that General de Gaulle was still dissatisfied with NATO and integration of Western defense, and that he may make a proposal this fall or winter for reorganization of NATO. The President said he hoped that it would prove possible to work out something.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 375/6–1261. Secret. Drafted by Tyler. Approved in S on August 4 and the White House on August 11. The meeting was held at the White House.
  2. Fanfani made an informal visit to the United States June 11–16.
  3. The Italian Government announced Fenoaltea’s nomination as Ambassador to the United States on April 28; he presented his credentials to President Kennedy on May 26.
  4. Presumably during Harriman’s March 1961 visit to Rome.
  5. Presumably following Acheson’s April 1961 participation at the Bologna conference on U.S. foreign policy.
  6. For text of this resolution, see Department of State Bulletin, January 6, 1958, pp. 12–15.