184. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1


  • Secretary Rogers’ Talk with Ambassador Ortona; Italian Political Prospects

Bill Rogers sent you a memo on September 2 describing a recent conversation with Ambassador Ortona (Tab A).2 Highlights of Ortona’s comments were:

—Stress on the great responsibility assumed by Rumor in forming the current minority Christian Democratic government, and the possible trials he will face on the labor and student fronts this fall; Rumor is trying hard to reconstitute the center-left coalition government which collapsed in June.

—Interest in a visit by Rumor to the US.

—Assurance that the Italian foreign policy line under Foreign Minister Moro will remain essentially unchanged, although the Italians are not certain how they will handle the Chinese representation issue in the UN.

—Solicitation of US support for an Italian seat on an expanded Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Authority.

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There was little new or exciting in Ortona’s presentation, and of course an invitation to Rumor is already in train. The probability of survival of his minority government through next spring has just been enhanced by the agreement of the socialist parties to a postponement of Italian local elections originally scheduled for November. On balance I expect that Rumor will eventually succeed in forming a new center-left government.

There is some danger, however—which has been underlined by several private Italian visitors to Washington3—that over the next two to three years the Italian Communists may work their way into the government, perhaps in a new Popular Front. Some argue that such a development would be facilitated by the current withdrawal of the Vatican from its former anti-Communist stance in Italian politics.

While this danger can be overstated, I think it would be prudent for us to look into the contingency, and I am asking Elliot Richardson to form an ad hoc group with NSC Staff participation to study the implications for US policy of possible Communist entry of the Italian Government.4

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 694, Country Files—Europe, Italy, Vol. I. Confidential. Sent for information.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Paolo Pisano and Pier Talenti, two Italian-born U.S. citizens residing in Rome, had expressed concern about Communist participation in a future government during visits to Washington. A memorandum of conversation of their July 14 meeting at the Department of State is in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 1 IT. Talenti knew the President personally. His views were sketched in a April 18 memorandum from Rose Mary Woods to Nixon. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 694, Country Files—Europe, Italy, Vol. I)
  4. On October 7, the President wrote “good” under this recommendation. Kissinger added the note: “Hal [Sonnenfeldt]—get started.” A notation in Sonnenfeldt’s hand reads: “done.” On October 6, Kissinger instructed the NSC Under Secretaries Committee to prepare a contingency study of “possible Communist entry of Italian Government.” (Ibid.) A copy of the study, January 22, 1970, is ibid. In a covering memorandum to Kissinger, Richardson wrote: “the actions identified in the paper as open to us are pretty limited in character and marginal in potential effect.”