87. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Johnson1

SIT/PM-1 (Revision 1)


  • Your Meeting with President Segni

Segni cannot speak for the Italian Government, but he will be accompanied by Foreign Minister Saragat, who can. As chief of state Segni has limited substantive responsibilities, but his influence on Italian policies is increased by his leadership of the largest faction of the Christian Democratic party. He obstructed the formation of Italy’s new, center-left government under Prime Minister Aldo Moro because he does not believe the Socialists can yet be trusted in domestic or foreign policy. He could try to influence you to take a very careful attitude toward the new government. He is pro-American and will use his visit to reaffirm Italy’s position in the Atlantic Alliance.

We want to use Segni’s visit to reaffirm U.S.-Italian ties, which have been very close since the war, and to emphasize our identity of views on most world problems. By receiving Segni warmly, we hope to strengthen his friendship for us, since he could be a point of stability should the present government fail. At the same time, we do not want to encourage him in activity that might undermine the government or give the impression that we view current Italian politics entirely as he does.

In view of his constitutional position, the ceremonial aspects of Segni’s visit should be stressed. It will not be necessary or appropriate to consider U.S.-Italian bilateral relations in depth. The major subjects to be covered are:

US-Italy—The high value we place on Italian friendship and our intent to maintain close cooperation. Appreciate cooperation in monetary field and arms purchases. Glad Moro succeeded in forming a government [Page 172] and hope for its success. Need for stable and effective Italian Government in decision-making months ahead.2
General Review of World SituationSegni wants a broad survey. Might summarize your talk with Erhard on East-West relations,3 cover such subjects as Cuba (economic isolation—eliminate Soviets—stop hemispheric subversion—concern over Italian trade), Sino-Soviet dispute (continued deterioration—little sign of solution), Southeast Asia (win in Vietnam—support Thailand—prevent further Communist penetration), Germany (self-determination), and Berlin (access and freedom of West Berlin).

Prospects for Relaxation—No détente, but we shall do all possible to reduce tension and war risk. Not too sanguine on multilateral agreements with Soviets, but continue to probe. Possible progress in US-Soviet bilaterals.

(Segni (a) may be concerned at Soviet exploitation peaceful coexistence to make more difficult combatting communism in Italy, and (b) may ask your commitment to help thwart a possible Communist coup attempt. In reply, (a) relaxation of tensions would make new difficulties but offer new opportunities; basic Communist strength lies in weaknesses of Italian society, which only Italians can correct; and (b) we could not accept Communist takeover in Italy but would decide our actions as we consider appropriate in circumstances.)

MLF —In reaffirming US support indicate appreciation of Italian cooperation and Segni’s personal support. Technical talks in Paris and Washington going well. What is Segni’s judgment on how rapidly Italy can move on project? (Italian Socialists are reluctant on MLF and if pushed too hard might bring down the government, which we would not want. Knowing Socialist reservations, Segni apparently tried to manipulate MLF issue to obstruct formation of the Moro Government.)
Atlantic Partnership—Reaffirm commitment to NATO and working through Alliance, and commitment to defend Europe. Grateful for Italian support for unified Europe in Atlantic partnership, as reiterated by Segni and Moro Government. Essential that EEC Commission have real mandate to negotiate. Support European political unification. Does Segni see movement? Will start Kennedy Round on time and use maximum authority we have. Encourage more aid to LDC’s on better terms.

A briefing book has been prepared, which contains background material on these topics, as well as other subjects that Segni may raise, [Page 173] including the following: 1) disarmament, 2) Khrushchev’s latest proposals on renunciation of force, 3) Soviet relations with Eastern Europe, 4) NATO strategic planning, 5) the NATO Secretary General succession (I expect to talk to Saragat about this), 6) reduction in our forces assigned to SETAF (we see a need for a more equitable sharing of burdens within the Alliance), 7) African disputes.

In his private talk with you, Segni may try to establish a channel of personal communication, possibly without the knowledge of the Italian Government. I recommend that you be noncommittal.

Dean Rusk 4
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Conference Files: Lot 66 D 110, CF 2356. Secret. Drafted by Stout (EUR/WE) and cleared in EUR, STR, AID, RPM, S, RPE, and the Departments of Defense and Treasury. President Segni visited Washington January 13-18.
  2. The following parenthetical sentence was crossed out: “If you approve inviting Moro to Washington next Spring, as we are recommending separately, I suggest you let Segni know.”
  3. See Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XV, Document 250.
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.