128. Telegram From the Embassy in Italy to the Department of State 1

5101. Vipto 039. Dept pass info London for Vice President.

Subject: Vice President’s Trip in Europe: Talk With President Saragat. Ref: Rome 50952 on US-Italian Relations and NPT.

Saragat opened by welcoming Vice President as representative of Italy’s greatest ally. US-Italian relations are not only matter of treaty but of far deeper links of blood, tradition, history. Whatever happens, Saragat said, our friendship will remain firm. Italy works for European unity, but always in frame of partnership with US; President Kennedy’s partnership idea is what guides Italian policy. But US-Italian friendship is also not exclusive. It is part of effort to reduce tension throughout world.
Saragat then said that against this background he would like to discuss NPT. He would speak as president of parliamentary republic. As such he is not responsible for policies of govt, but is nevertheless in complete agreement with policies of Moro govt.
Vice President, thanking him for expressing views of US-Italian relations that are exactly like those of US Govt, said his presence in Rome showed that Atlantic partnership is continuing commitment of President Johnson. He agreed also that Atlantic Alliance is what makes approach to East possible. Finally VP emphasized that President Johnson feels strongly that US involvement in Asia in no way lessens interest in Europe, indeed it increases it. US spent 20 years building Alliance in Europe; wants no weakening of it now. US, in its position of world responsibility of chief of state. [sic]
Saragat stated that under Article XI of Italian Constitution, Italy may accept limits on its sovereignty in the interests of peace only if it does so on an equal basis with other countries, and that any treaty which would establish such limitations without such equality would involve Saragat’s personal responsibility for carrying out of Constitution.
Saying he didn’t want to get into details of NPT, he said Italy has always wanted such a treaty knowing well the dangers of nuclear conflict and proliferation.
Italy could speak frankly because it had a clear conscience. Technically and financially, Italy could have a bomb in four years if it started to build one now or could have had one now if it had started earlier. Italy does not want to have a bomb. This was position not only of GOI but of large part of government opposition. Italy doesn’t want to involve itself in a nuclear force and doesn’t want to get into the nuclear club. Hence, Italy doesn’t need reins on it to keep it in line.
Given this situation, Italy wanted a treaty which would not be unfair to countries which do not want their own nuclear arms. Such a treaty should contribute to real relaxation of tension and perhaps to reduction of armaments.
Treaty should also be in harmony with other Italian foreign policies. It should not be an obstacle to European unity or put in danger Italian security.
Hence Italy must ask what other countries would sign. Italy cannot forget the area in which it lives, and doesn’t want to be put into a position of inequality. Italy is a leading industrial power in the Mediterranean basin and cannot accept a position of inferiority to Mediterranean countries of lesser industrial capacity.
Also Italy needs peaceful nuclear energy for its technological development. Lacking in natural resources and with a large and growing population, Italy needs the atom to help it deal with economic problems. The treaty must not block Italy’s industrial development.
In text of proposed treaty Saragat saw points on which Italian position was not fully taken into account. He mentioned the question of control, which also concerns the chief of state because Italy cannot accept juridical discrimination. Nuclear have-nots must have equal rights with nuclear-have countries. Any humiliation or inferiority imposed upon Italy would provoke profound political problems. There were similar problems he thought for Germany, but he would leave that to Germany to discuss.
Answering President Saragat, the Vice President said that in US view there were very few topics of greater importance than proposed NPT. The US considered this to be a priority matter and a definite step to arms control and disarmament. It was essential for peace of world to keep nuclear arms from proliferation. Countries could be [Page 266] militant whether they were large or small, and if they had nuclear arms they could be very dangerous. There were already five fingers on the nuclear trigger, some of them nervous. US wants to limit further proliferation if possible. Question is how. US certainly does not want in any way to infringe upon Italian sovereignty.
Vice President then explained time table US is proposing for the treaty, pointing out that our draft has been under consideration since January and that a series of steps are now proposed for further discussion which we hope may lead to the tabling of draft treaty in May. Even when draft is tabled it will be subject to review and amendments. But US considers it important not to delay longer. Before talking with Soviets again the US will do its utmost to arrive at agreement with its allies on the draft. US has the fullest consideration for rights of other nations.
Then dealing with specific objections that had been raised in various ways, Vice President said there was nothing in the treaty which could stand in the way of a federated Europe or a united Europe having its own nuclear arms. He pointed out the treaty only specifies what cannot be done and does not attempt to specify what can be done.
VP said Italians suggest treaty should be associated with disarmament. US thinks it is, but he agreed with Fanfani who had so stated earlier that this can be stated in preamble and was prepared to consider whether it would be well to place further such reference in an appropriate article. Whether this was done in draft or in Geneva after tabling was matter of tactics. There is merit to coming to table with strong treaty.
Nothing in treaty would impinge upon peaceful nuclear technology. US however knows Italy’s views on control and Euratom, and because of this US will offer revised Article III. This will require much discussion. GOI will soon receive details. US also knows about concern over industrial aspects, especially in Germany. US doesn’t want in any way to impair others’ civilian nuclear technology. This is part of modern industry, and Italy has right to it. US will do all it can to assure this, and will tell Soviets so. This is why such discussion is so helpful.
As for security, VP said of course US wanted no impairment of this. He would add, however, that it would take long time before smaller countries could make bombs. China had done so because it had tested in atmosphere. But UAR and Israel are signatories of Test Ban Treaty and cannot test in air. Also there is very little industrial spin off from military nuclear development. What there is is highly expensive. To have industrial benefits it was necessary to have civilian nuclear program, not military. Finally, VP said Italy’s security and that of US are based in NATO. If any country threatened Italy with nuclear arms, as member of NATO Italy has commitment of US to come to its help, and US has nuclear arms enough for the job.
Partnership is important: US needs Italy, Italy needs the US. US will keep its commitments. That is why US is involved in SEA today—to keep its commitments.
Discussion was interrupted here for luncheon. Saragat asked VP to convey his warmest regards to President Johnson.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Conference Files: Lot 67 D 586, CF 142. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Passed to the White House.
  2. Dated April 1. (Ibid., Central Files 1967-69, POL 7 US HUMPHREY)