188. Letter From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to the Ambassador to Italy (Martin)1
In mid-November Mr. Robert Murphy was in Rome on a private business trip at Italian invitation. During his visit, he had the opportunity to talk informally with several Italian leaders, and he passed on his observations to us. He regretfully reported that a common refrain in his conversations concerned the ineffectualness of the American Embassy. The President wanted me to ensure that you were made aware of this disturbing development.2 I must hasten to add the obvious: no criticism was directed toward you; indeed, you had arrived in Rome only two weeks prior to Robert Murphy’s conversations.[Page 643]
In order for you to assess these comments, I want to report them to you in the following full detail:
Prime Minister Rumor said there is lack of contact with American representatives, [less than 1 line not declassified] and American propaganda is a fizzle. President Saragat reported that the Embassy for a lengthy period has not been close or effective. The Government is eager for [less than 1 line not declassified] and close association, but the Ambassador did not provide it. Finally, in a discussion with Girolamo Messeri, General Marchese and General Piccardo, all emphasized the need for more effective propaganda by the US. They volunteered that more competent and better qualified representatives at the Embassy are needed to bring home to the Italian public the merits of the US and its value to Italy. Their criticism related also to the American intelligence officers, [less than 1 line not declassified] but not to the military attachés who were considered effective and highly regarded. They pointed out that the Soviet Ambassador and staff are extremely active and effective, and that our Embassy suffers in contrast.
Obviously, I take no pleasure in reporting to you this assessment of the problem which you have inherited. Even if the performance of the Embassy is in fact vastly better than reported, the fact that Italian leaders think our effort is ineffectual is quite serious.
I know that you will treat this information and its source with the confidence it deserves and requires.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 695, Country Files—Europe, Italy, Vol. II. Confidential; Personal. A notation on the letter reads: “Dispatched via sealed envelope thru S/S 22 Jan.”↩
- Kissinger summarized Murphy’s comments for the President in a December 23, 1969, memorandum that forwarded Murphy’s report on his conversations in Rome. The President underlined Kissinger’s summary of the criticisms and annotated: “K: 1. Be sure Martin knows of this. 2. Are we going to try anything new in Italy or let the ‘dust settle’?” The stamped date “December 29, 1969” follows the President’s comments. Immediately under the President’s comments, Kissinger wrote: “Al [Haig]—Let Sonnenefeldt start study on Italy—immediately.” The date “December 29, 1969” is stamped after these comments. A copy of the memorandum and Murphy’s report are ibid.↩