129. Telegram From the Embassy in Germany to the Department of State 1

12810. Pass White House.

1. The following is the draft text of a memcon on the April 26 talk between the President and Prime Minister Moro. It was dictated by interpreter de Seabra immediately before his departure. He had no time to review the draft or to bring the typescript with him.

Begin Text

Memorandum of Conversation Between President Johnson and Italian Prime Minister Moro.


  • The President of the United States
  • Secretary of State Dean Rusk
  • Mr. A.J. de Seabra (interpreter)
  • Italian Prime Minister Moro
  • Italian Foreign Minister Fanfani
  • Ambassador Lucilli
  • (There was one more Italian Mr. de Seabra didn’t get.)

Subject: Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Date: April 26, 1967.

Place: Presidential Residence in Bonn.

After an initial exchange of pleasant amenities during which Prime Minister Moro underlined the significance of President Johnson’s presence at the Adenauer funeral, the Italian Prime Minister made a series [Page 268] of comments on the Non-Proliferation Treaty and its importance in terms of European and Atlantic Alliance policies.

Prime Minister Moro said that certain aspects of the Treaty were a source of concern to Italy and in the past the Italians had already made solid observations and presented certain amendments which were being considered by the United States. In view of the fact that the ever greater consolidation of the Atlantic solidarity was a most vital objective, the Prime Minister felt concerned about aspects of the Treaty, namely its structure as well as its contents. As far as Italy was concerned it had no nuclear ambitions. It was also expected that Germany would abide by its unilateral decision. But when it comes to shifting from unilateral decisions to a permanent arrangement regarding nuclear weapons, an arrangement which would overlap to a certain extent the guarantees required by the Atlantic Alliance, certain serious political problems might arise.

Italy understood the intentions of the United States and the concern of the United States in avoiding the proliferation of nuclear weapons and all the dangers contained in such proliferation. It is obvious that any observation made by Italy is based on the assumption that nuclear armaments should be subject to controls. But Italy has some misgivings about the permanent solution as proposed in the Treaty, particularly as regards the clause whereby in theory a country could withdraw. It is difficult for Italy to visualize how a country could renounce armaments without experiencing serious internal difficulties than we are prepared to cope with. Italy felt that the Treaty should be formulated in a provisional or temporary manner, leaving the possibility of renouncing nuclear weapons for a time in the future when there would be greater international solidarity. If this provisional or temporary connotation were to be introduced in the Treaty Italy then would not have any particularly strong objections.

The Prime Minister then expressed some misgivings about the eventual position in Europe of Germany and Italy, as those countries might be squeezed between two nuclear powers such as the Soviet Union and France. If that situation were to develop, there might be an evolution in European political attitudes leading to a weakening of the ties with the United States, and strong ties with the United States was one of the underlying elements of Italian foreign policy. Italy was not at this time defending the German position as the Germans could do that very well on their own. But it was important to mention one significant aspect of the political life of Europe, namely the one of whether Germany was to be brought into the Alliance as a full and equal partner. Italy was concerned that any marked changes in the assurances given to Germany with regards to potential Soviet threats might bring about a strong public opinion reaction in Germany. That in turn could have unfavorable repercussions on public opinion within [Page 269] the Atlantic Alliance since the effect of German participation is of vital importance.

Italy was also seriously concerned about the fact that a Non-Proliferation Treaty which had not been fully thought out might delay or even jeopardize European unity. And even though it was not anticipated that the European nations would join in a closely knit federation in the near future, it was an objective of unity that should be attained, such unity being also one of the basic elements of United States foreign policy.

The Prime Minister pointed out that the Italian observations were already well known by the United States. He wanted to add that this nuclear problem was essentially a political one. He felt that the Treaty in its present form might have very serious repercussions on European politics and furthermore it could have a negative effect on the Atlantic Alliance. That was a matter of great concern for Italy since support of the Alliance was a vital element of Italian foreign policy. And it was because Italy attached such great importance to solidarity within the Alliance that he felt it his duty to call to the attention of his US friends the possible consequences of the Treaty. He then made reference to the MLF which had never come into being, saying that abandoning the idea of multilateral force based on equal participation by European countries and agreeing to an arrangement that would discriminate permanently against certain European countries could have serious consequences as far as democracy in Europe was concerned.

President Johnson said that he had appreciated this opportunity for a frank and candid discussion. He was fully aware of Italy’s concerns with regard to the NPT and wanted to say at the outset that the United States was not contemplating any agreement that would be displeasing to its allies, including the Italians. The United States indeed valued very highly the friendship of Italy which it considered as a very important ally and therefore the United States did give most serious consideration to the observations presented by Italy. He assured the Prime Minister that the United States was aware of the views presented by other nations and he felt that no real progress could be made on the Treaty without the knowledge and consent of other nations, including Italy. He had already listened to the expressions of concern indicated by India, Germany, Italy and other nations and all of those views, on the part of neutrals as well as on the part of our allies would be taken into consideration in the attempt to arrive at some language that would offer the greatest measure of hope. And of the views presented none were more welcome than those of Italy. He then pointed out that of course the United States was not ready to produce a treaty in the next 24 hours and the Prime Minister could be sure that before the United States made up its mind it would explain its position fully. At the same time he thought that there might be some unnecessary concern on the [Page 270] part of such countries as India, Germany and Italy and he wondered whether a greater understanding could be reached by more complete exchanges of views among technicians. As a matter of fact, the United States has already made some substantial adjustments in the proposed treaty as a result of suggestions made by several countries. It was very important for the United States to have the fullest possible understanding on the part of Italy since Italian opinion and support was of the greatest significance.

Secretary Rusk made two brief comments, first mentioning the many difficulties still existing with the Soviets. He pointed out that there was no treaty between Washington and Moscow as well as no treaty in Geneva. Therefore, European unity was not being affected, and European unity was a point on which the United States would not surrender. Then there was the matter of safeguards and in this connection if there was no full understanding among the Alliance there could be no treaty. He felt that all problems within the Alliance could be solved satisfactorily except one, that dealing with the reservations on the option to develop national nuclear power. If the above-mentioned problem could be set aside everything else could be easily solved. He then made a reference to the fact that if the security arrangements of NATO were to disappear, this might lead certain NATO countries to withdraw from the Treaty. He said in conclusion that the NPT might cause problems within the Alliance, however, the proliferation of nuclear weapons would destroy the Alliance.

Prime Minister Moro said that he was concerned about the danger that might be caused by the Treaty in its present form and the possible proliferation. Therefore, all efforts should be made so as to avoid any such danger.

President Johnson stated once more that he had been very glad to hear the views presented by the Italian Prime Minister. He wanted to say that one had not yet reached the stage where there might be cause for alarm. As a matter of fact the discussions had been on problems that may not present themselves anyway. And once more he reiterated the intention of the United States of not taking any steps that might displease our allies.

End Text.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Germany, Adenauer Funeral. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. President Johnson and Prime Minister Moro were in Bonn to attend the funeral of Konrad Adenauer.