290. Letter From Prime Minister Fanfani to President Kennedy0

Mr. President: Upon my return from Moscow, I provided you, through diplomatic channels as early as August 5, and then through Mr. Salinger on August 8, and through Secretary of State Mr. Rusk on August 9 with the information I obtained in my talks from August 2 to 5 with Mr. Khrushchev and my evaluation of that information.1

In substance, I considered that (1) Negotiations between the Allies and the U.S.S.R. should be opened as soon as possible, not later than immediately after the West German elections; and that (2) It was necessary to begin at once a confidential exploration of topics, procedure, time, and location of the negotiations.

I pointed out the need for such an immediate exploration not only for the constructive preparation of the negotiations, but also (1) To induce the U.S.S.R. immediately not to initiate avoidable and deplorable political-and-diplomatic castling maneuvers; and (2) To prevent a chain reaction at the end of which, at any unexpected moment, an incident might arise, and from that, a catastrophe might develop.

The deplorable measures adopted and announced by the Communists for Berlin on August 142 and subsequently, the countermeasures that the members of NATO have had to take or announce, confirm the validity of my above-mentioned evaluation.

Therefore, in line with our common political and ideological principles, our joint responsibility for the fate of our people, and our duty to seek, in an atmosphere of peace, to extend free progress throughout the world, I again request you, Mr. President, and your Government to take, and cause to be taken, all appropriate steps to prepare, from now on, to announce as soon as the preparation will give sufficient assurance, and to initiate, possibly immediately after the West German election, constructive and conclusive negotiations.

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To add to the information available to you on the situation, I believe it is my duty to inform you that on the night of August 24 I received a letter from Mr. Khrushchev, dated August 22, confirming my evaluations, as can be set forth at your request.3

I trust that you will consider this letter as an additional evidence of my respect for you and a genuine, friendly contribution to whatever action the special, grave responsibilities we assumed in NATO may compel you to take.

I renew the hope that farsighted action may enable us, for the good of our peoples, to overcome our trials and to be successful in attaining peace, freedom, and security. I beg you to accept the assurances of my very high consideration.4

  1. Source: Italian Foreign Ministry Files. No classification marking. The source text is a 1993 Italian Foreign Ministry translation. A similar Department of State translation is in Department of State, Central Files, 611.65/8–2661.
  2. Prime Minister Fanfani and Foreign Minister Segni visited the Soviet Union August 3–5. Fanfani personally briefed Secretary of State Rusk on the results of his Moscow meetings on August 9 when Rusk visited Rome. A memorandum of their conversation is ibid., 611.61/8–961.
  3. On August 13 the East German Government sealed off its borders with the Federal Republic of Germany and the Soviet Union sealed off its zone from the Western-administered zones of Berlin. For texts of notes exchanged between the Allied powers and the Soviet Union, together with a declaration by the Warsaw Pact, see Department of State Bulletin, September 4, 1961, pp. 395–401; or Documents on Germany, 1944–1985, pp. 773 ff.
  4. According to a September 1 memorandum from Tyler to Rusk Fanfani subsequently forwarded a copy of the Khrushchev message to President Kennedy through a personal emissary. (Department of State, Central Files, 765.00/9–161) No copy of this letter has been found.
  5. Printed from an unsigned copy.