122. Memorandum for the Record1

Ambassador Fenoaltea called on me today to ask our views on the NATO crisis before he returned to Rome.

I marched him through the essential elements of the President’s Polish-American speech.2

He then raised the following matters:

Speaking as a partisan of NATO and the United States and a partisan of moderate political forces in Italy, he urged very strongly that we not slide into a tripartite directorate of U.S., UK and Bonn. Leaving Italy out is dangerous to our common interests. It strengthens both the extreme right in Italy and the extreme left, undercutting the bases for moderate politics. We must never forget that Italy is there and should be treated as a senior partner along with Britain and Germany.

His second point was that if and when the U.S. changes course on a major issue, it is extremely important that the Italian Government [Page 254]be informed in advance. When a change is made (for example the MLF) the best friends of the United States are left out on a limb, having fought a tough political battle at home.

He cited as another example a possible change on China policy.

He then zeroed in on newspaper stories that the President was taking a different position than the State Department in dealing with DeGaulle. He wanted to know if the President was softer on DeGaulle than the State Department and possibly interested in going the route of Senator Church and Senator Fulbright.

I replied that the President was deeply and personally engaged in NATO problems; we are a united Government under a strong President; and Secretary Rusk and the Department of State were the authentic voices of the President’s policies.

He remarked wistfully that it is impossible in Italy to be left of The New York Times; for example, on Viet Nam.

He ended by stating his appreciation for the Polish-American speech which he felt was a lucid and constructive framework for dealing with East-West relations.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Italy, Vol. 4. Secret. Prepared by Walt Rostow.
  2. Reference is to Johnson’s May 3 statement commemorating Poland’s millennium of Christianity and national identity. For text, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1966, Book I, pp. 475-478.