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

SUBJECT

  • Political Problems in our Relations with Italy

We have encountered serious political problems in our relations with Prime Minister Rumor as a result of his highly critical reaction to our program for reducing personnel at our military installations in Italy. This program, involving a saving of $31 million and a reduction of 1,600 Italian nationals and almost 4,000 US personnel and dependents, was approved by you in May2 as part of the general cost reductions in Europe (REDCOSTE).

When informed of our plans in early September,3 Rumor became highly emotional and appealed for a reconsideration. His point was that there would not only be economic consequences in the affected areas, but psychological and political repercussions in Italy: the Communists would exploit the withdrawals, and the dismissals would cause problems in negotiating new labor union contracts. He was particularly disturbed that the reductions would be in his home constituency.4

State proposed to Defense a compromise to slow down the reductions and dismissals of Italian nationals, but Defense rejected it be cause of budgetary pressures. Rumor was again informed but he appealed for a “moment of reflection” to confer with Moro after his return from Washington. Moro did not raise the question here.5 The Ambassador officially protested to State and the Minister called on a member of my staff.6

State and Defense have again tried to work out a compromise but apparently without success. The Under Secretaries Committee will probably submit the issue to you for resolution.

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The Italian reaction was not foreseen in the case by case review ordered by you last spring. It is clear now, however, that this is a political problem rather than a military-budgetary one. The issue will be what price will we pay in our relations with Rumor, whose political position is quite delicate, if we proceed, and will the economic savings justify the price?7

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 694, Country Files—Europe, Italy, Vol. I. Confidential. Sent for information.
  2. See Document 18.
  3. See Document 183.
  4. The President underlined the words “home constituency” and put two exclamations points after the underlining.
  5. Moro was in Washington October 9. Memoranda of conversation are in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL IT–US.
  6. Documentation reporting the Italian démarches is attached but not printed.
  7. The President underlined the phrase “justify the price” and wrote: “Reevaluate—on this point.” A stamped date, “Nov 18 1969” appears under this notation.