178. Telegram From the Embassy in Italy to the Department of State1

474. Subject: Italian China policy.

1. In conversation with Gaja morning January 28, as reported Embtel 473,2 he spoke very frankly and on a personal basis. He is evidently concerned that Foreign Minister Nenni announced so precipitately and without careful advance preparation Italian intention to recognize Communist China. He believes Foreign Minister and his Socialist colleagues see the matter in straightforward, simple terms and have thought about the consequences of this action not at all.

2. Although he did not say so directly, I have the impression Gaja is somewhat surprised by what he considers the relatively mild U.S. reaction. He said the U.S. should be saying this to Italy, not the Italians to the U.S., but he is troubled by possible direct clashes of interest and position between Italy and the U.S. which could flow from Italian recognition of Peking. For example, he is sure Peking will require Italy to break relations with Taipei and that Italy will make this break, thus recognizing Peking as the sole government of China. The next thing he sees is a possible call from Peking to have Italy join in a demand for the withdrawal of all foreign military bases from Chinese territory, a call which will have a strong doctrinaire appeal to the Italian Socialists. Should the U.S. maintain its military connections with Taipei, this could put U.S. and Italian policies at cross purposes.

3. Of greatest concern to Gaja in the long run, is the fear that by taking advantage of Socialist susceptibility and pressing for recognition of Peking and Hanoi, leftist elements really have the ultimate objective of maneuvering Italy into a position where she may be vulnerable at a later date to pressures to recognize East Germany, which would be a fatal blow to Western unity. It is for these, among other reasons, that Gaja is concerned to see Italy start so lightly down this road without adequate study of possible consequences for itself as well as others.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 694, Country Files—Europe, Italy, Vol. I. Secret; Exdis.
  2. Dated January 28. It reported the surprise among Italian diplomats at Nenni’s January 24 announcement that Italy would recognize the Communist Chinese regime. (Ibid.)