285. Memorandum of Conversation0

SUBJECT

  • Economic and Military Aid to the Somali Republic

PARTICIPANTS

  • US Side
    • The President
    • Under Secretary Ball
    • Mr. Schlesinger, Special Assistant to the President
    • G. Frederick Reinhardt, American Ambassador to Rome
    • William R. Tyler, Deputy Assistant Secretary
    • William Witman, Director, AFN
  • Italian Side
    • Prime Minister Fanfani
    • Foreign Minister Segni
    • Amb. Fornari, Director General of Political Affairs
    • Mr. Sensi, Chief of Cabinet to Minister of For. Affairs
    • Mr. Manfredi, Counselor, Italian Embassy
    • Mr. Perrone Capano, Italian Minister
    • Amb. D’Archirafi, Diplomatic Adviser to Prime Minister
    • Amb. Fenoaltea, Italian Ambassador
[Page 809]

The President gave the reasons why we would like to see the Italian Government provide military aid to the Somali Republic.1 He said that it was not something that we were prepared to do because it would create an adverse reaction by Ethiopia and jeopardize retention of our military facilities in Eritrea.

The Prime Minister asked Foreign Minister Segni to comment. He said that Italy had already given substantial financial aid to Somaliland in order to help it to balance its budgets for 1960 and 1961. For the latter year alone Italy was giving the equivalent of 3-1/2 million dollars for budget purposes in addition to 2-1/2 million dollars in aid. The President asked Mr. Witman to present the U.S. view. Mr. Witman pointed out that in spite of the aid which the Italians had given, there would be a deficit of about 2 million dollars, which meant there was a danger of a crisis at the end of this year, and of the Somalis turning to enemy sources for financial aid, unless they received it from the West. The President suggested that a memorandum be drafted setting forth U.S. views on this matter which would be given to the Prime Minister before he leaves. In the ensuing discussion concerning the granting of military aid, Foreign Minister Segni said that Italy could not do it alone, and that the UK contribution had been inadequate. The Prime Minister outlined the Italian arguments in favor of tripartite aid. He stressed the political problem and said that if Ethiopia receives military aid from the U.S. while only Italy and the UK give military aid to the Somali Republic, it would look as though Italy and the UK were championing the Somali Republic while the U.S. was championing Ethiopia. He suggested that the U.S. give consideration to providing some surplus military equipment to enable the Somali Republic to maintain an appropriate force (6 to 7,000 men) to assure internal order. He said that the Italians had given the Somali Republic the equivalent of $22 million in total aid while the UK had provided only about 150,000£. The tensions between the Somali Republic and Ethiopia were great and it was important that nothing be done which might precipitate or encourage clashes. He mentioned that the [Page 810]Somalis had wanted the Italians to supply two patrol boats against contraband activities and arms smuggling. The Italians did not have these and thought the U.S. might be willing to spare two as a sign of friendliness to the Somali Republic. In further explanation of the extent of the Italian sacrifices in favor of the Somalis, the Prime Minister mentioned that the Italians had even trained themselves to eating the inferior bananas of the Somali Republic to help their exports, instead of getting better bananas from elsewhere, including the U.S. Mr. Witman explained that the U.S. was even willing to go to the Ethiopians and tell them (although this would be distasteful to us to have to do) that we hoped they would understand that it was better for the Somalis to be armed to an appropriate degree by the Italians and British than having e.g.: the Chinese Communists supply them with arms. The whole situation was not made easier by the fact that this little Somali Republic was laying claim to approximately one-third of Ethiopian territory.

The Prime Minister said that this was a most difficult situation. He repeated his feeling that if the U.S. refused to share in providing military aid to the Somalis it could not help but be interpreted as an anti-Somali course of action. The President agreed that the problem was an important and difficult one and said there was tripartite interest in this situation. He said that while we could, as appropriate, provide economic assistance and help to a certain extent with the police, we would not give military assistance because of Ethiopian sensitivity. He suggested that Italy and U.K. provide the required military aid and that we continue to see what we could do to help in other fields. Foreign Minister Segni commented that the current total Italian financial contribution to the Somali Republic amounted to $7 million and that there would be difficulties in the Italian Parliament if more aid were requested to cover the financial deficit.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 777.5–MSP/6–1361. Secret. Drafted by Tyler. Approved in B on August 10 and by the White House on August 15. The meeting was held at the White House. The President and Prime Minister also discussed aid to less-developed countries, Soviet oil, Iran, and South Tyrol. Regarding the South Tyrol issue, Segni spoke of the meetings between Italy and Austria and noted that some of the Austrian proposals implied a “considerable weakening of Italy’s northern frontier” with implications for Italy’s and NATO’s security. He felt that Italy might have to turn to the International Court of Justice. (Ibid., 663.65/6–1361)

    The two nations failed to reach agreement, and on July 17 Austria again requested General Assembly discussion of the South Tyrol issue. On November 11 the General Assembly adopted Resolution 1661 (XVI), calling upon Italy and Austria to continue their talks.

  2. Somalia was formed on July 1, I960, by the fusion of colonial territories formerly held by Italy and Great Britian.