142. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The President, Italian Foreign Minister Giuseppe Medici, Ambassador Ortona, Walt Rostow, Ed Fried

Walt Rostow told the President that, while they were waiting, he had described to the Foreign Minister the President’s statement on the NPT. Medici welcomed the statement and stressed his strong personal support of the NPT. He said the Italian Government before Czechoslovakia had authorized signature of the treaty on August 26. Czechoslovakia canceled this.

The President said he was happy to see the Foreign Minister and recalled with warmth the meetings he had had with the Pope, with President Saragat, and former Prime Minister Moro. He took satisfaction in the close relations between Italy and the U.S. Medici replied in kind.

The President asked whether the Italians were as concerned over Czechoslovakia as we were and what they planned to do about it.

Medici said they were very much concerned and were going to do all they had been asked to do. He said he was going over the details of prospective Italian actions to strengthen NATO with Secretary Rusk on Monday. He understood that the meetings in Brussels of the Permanent Representatives had gone well and that the U.S. Representative had been satisfied with Italian actions.

He added that after the explosion of Prague the Italian Government had made a strong statement of condemnation. When he met with Gromyko, he told him that the Czechoslovakian invasion contradicted the language in paragraph 12 of the preamble of the NPT. (“That states must refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”) He told Gromyko that the Russian action had destroyed one of the foundations on which the treaty was based and therefore had called the treaty itself into question.

Continuing on the NPT, he said that the Italians were looking to see what happens in the U.S. Senate. If they see doubt arising about the treaty in the Senate, then they would have doubts about the U.S. [Page 294] interpretations of the treaty. These interpretations are essential to the support the Italian Parliament has given to the treaty.

The Foreign Minister asked about Rumania. He said that the situation there might get out of hand. The President said he believed it was serious and that was why he had made his statement of warning. Medici said the statement had been warmly welcomed in Italy as giving further assurance to their security.

Medici went on to say that the post-war situation represented an entire change in Western Europe. They were more and more becoming tied to an open system and their prosperity was dependent on trade and tourism and capital. The Italians liked peace—perhaps too much.

The President said we would all have to work harder to keep the peace. He felt that it was essential for U.S. troops to remain in Europe and that they could remain in Europe indefinitely if the American people came to believe that the Europeans were doing all they could do and should do in their own defense. That was why European action was so important now. Medici said he understood this and fully agreed.

The President asked how the Russians could have timed their move in Czechoslovakia as badly as they did.

Medici answered that he believed the timing was very bad and that the Russians were now worried. They were pushing hard, for example, on the NPT but they had endangered German, Italian, Japanese and other participation in the treaty, and without their participation the treaty would be too weak and have too little meaning.

In closing the conversation, the President expressed again his warm friendship for Italians and his hope, after he left public life, to have an unhurried visit to Italy.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL IT-US. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Fried.