288. Telegram From the Embassy in Italy to the Department of State0

160. Embtel 103.1 Fanfani received me last night (July 14) at his home. I reviewed considerations set forth Deptel 53.2 Fanfani said he had given much thought to problem since Horsey saw him on July 8 and rationalized issue under following three headings:

Original Soviet insistence on July 13 date was presumably motivated by desire to confuse parliamentary situation in Italy. This obstacle had now been passed. He had impression Soviets expected him, following their planted story in Paese Sera (Embtel 120),3 to deny to Parliament story of his intention visit Moscow. This he had avoided simply by saying he would not discuss matter in his speech. Communists had subsequently cancelled inscribed speech wherein they had presumably intended to attack him for the expected announcement, since had they done otherwise he would have had them in a box.
For internal political reasons he was convinced, as were other party leaders of the convergence, that he could not refuse invitation. This was true for general reasons, but particularly because of importance that, should Berlin crisis require some degree of mobilization or other emergency measures in Italy, government be in position to insist that it had taken every possible step in interests in peace. Fanfani expounded at length on this point. This consideration he thought would indicate desirability of visit taking place sooner rather than later.
Third element was international psychological factor raised by you. He did not seek to rebut importance of this element, but pointed out that problem for him was relative importance of external and internal considerations. It was his view that Italy’s continuing ability to neutralize its large Communist element was important part of her contribution to NATO defenses.

Another factor uppermost in their minds, Fanfani asserted, was problem of Soviet return of President Gronchi’s visit to Moscow.4 If Prime Minister should visit Moscow it would at least serve purpose of precluding Soviet insistence that in absence Prime Minister’s visit Khrushchev come to Rome. It was Fanfani’s belief that no Christian Democratic government could accept visit of Soviet Prime Minister to Rome, and he recalled Pope’s reaction to Adolf Hitler’s visit.5 Furthermore, he doubted Khrushchev would be satisfied with Italian visit which omitted Rome.

Fanfani said Soviet Ambassador had been pressing to see him for several days, presumably to propose another date. He had been avoiding him and would continue to do so until next week. He expected to be able to postpone date beyond first of August, but might well find it necessary to accept a later date if offered. In any event, he intended to be as dilatory as possible. He promised to keep me informed of developments and, should the Moscow visit be decided upon, he would ask us for all information and advice we wished to provide, commenting that he had never been in the Soviet Union and that present Soviet Ambassador Kozyrev was the first Russian he had ever really talked to.

On July 12 British, French and German Ambassadors were informed by Catani of possibility of visit. Palewski thought visit a poor idea but was particularly incensed that Segni had not raised it with his colleagues during Foreign Ministers’ meeting of Six. I understand German Ambassador thought visit not a bad idea, but am uninformed as yet with respect to British reaction.

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I would assume that matter will now become subject of discussion at Bonn meeting July 18. Department may wish to ascertain what British, French and German reactions are, with a view to using that forum to bring further pressure on Fanfani if you deem it advisable.6

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 033.6561/7–1561. Confidential; Limit Distribution. Also sent to Moscow.
  2. Telegram 103, July 11, reported that Fanfani had “personally” assured Horsey that “no decision yet made on dates of proposed visit to Moscow.” Reinhardt also reported that he had talked about the visit with Foreign Minister Segni the previous evening. Segni “mentioned the proposed Moscow visit in strictly confidential terms and seemed unhappy about it” while confirming that the Italian Government had taken no decision on the dates of a visit. (Ibid., 033.6561/7–1161)
  3. Telegram 53, July 7, expressed Rusk’s concern over the proposed Fanfani visit to Moscow in the face of a renewed Soviet challenge to Berlin and Soviet efforts to create the notion that NATO countries were not united on the Berlin issue. Rusk asked that Reinhardt convey his concerns to Fanfani and ask him to defer his visit until the Berlin question was resolved. (Ibid., 033.6561/7–761)
  4. Telegram 120, July 7, reported that the left wing daily Paese Sera had printed a story that Fanfani would announce a visit to the Soviet Union the following day and that the United States was in agreement with the trip. (Ibid., 033.6561/7–1261)
  5. President Gronchi visited the Soviet Union February 6–11, 1960.
  6. During the 4 days of Hitler’s May 1938 visit to Rome, Pope Pius XI left the city for the papal retreat at Castel Gandolfo and ordered the closure of the Vatican museums.
  7. On July 17 the Department of State replied:

    “Continue believe Fanfani visit Moscow unwise under circumstances. However if PM believes cannot be avoided we are of opinion should occur soonest and be brief as possible. Secretary conveyed this thought to Italian Ambassador seventeenth but you should personally convey it also PM soonest.” (Telegram 154 to Rome; Department of State, Central Files, 033.6561/7–1561)