126. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson 1

Mr. President:

You should know that Sergio Fenoaltea came in to make the strongest and most emotional representations that I have received from a diplomat in a long time.

His theme was that if, in addition to the tripartite talks, we were to accept a formula for the NATO nuclear committee which did not grant Italy permanent status, the whole relation of Italy to NATO and, indeed, the stability of Italian domestic politics would be endangered.

He pointed out that Italian support for NATO hinged on its being treated as an equal to the other three European countries of similar size: Britain, France, and Germany. If we built into NATO any arrangement which put the Italians alongside, say, Belgium or The Netherlands, the Italians, a proud people, would go into a violent emotional reaction—whether neutralist or Fascist, no one could say. He had heard that we had given Harlan Cleveland instructions, as a fallback position, to shift in the NATO nuclear committee from 4 permanent and 2 rotating members to a 3-3 formula. In the end, this could only mean that Italy would be odd-man-out.

Basically, Fenoaltea is correct in his judgment of the danger here.

We got with State and received assurances:

  • —that they would stick with the 4-2 formula; and
  • —that there would be no change without the issue coming to your personal attention.

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I wanted you to know of this because the matter could conceivably arise in your discussions tomorrow with George Brown.2

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Italy, Vol. 4. Secret. Copies were sent to Bator, Rusk, Leddy, and McNamara.
  2. The issue was not discussed in the President’s October 14 meeting with Brown. A memorandum of conversation is ibid., United Kingdom, Vol. 9. Leddy raised the question during Brown’s subsequent meeting with Secretary Rusk. According to the October 14 memorandum of conversation: “The Foreign Secretary agreed that it would be necessary to include Italy as a permanent member.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL US-UK)