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

SUBJECT

  • Italian Political Situation

Prime Minister Rumor and his all Christian Democrat government formally resigned on January 7. This pre-arranged step is the first in the series of formalities which is expected to lead to the constitution of a new four-party center-left government within a month. Rumor will undoubtedly remain as Prime Minister. The government is expected to last at least until the spring regional and local elections. It is impossible to predict what will happen then. There is a possibility that President Saragat might dissolve Parliament and call for national elections, particularly if he feels the temper of the electorate is moving toward the center. Secretary Rogers has sent you a memorandum reviewing the evolution and prospects on the Italian political scene (Tab A).2

President Saragat fears that Communist influence is being enhanced by the Socialist drift to the left, by a defeatist or neutralist stance on the part of Vatican officials and the more active thrusts of the trade unions.3 You have already seen a report of Saragat’s views by Ambassador Tasca, sent through Pat Buchanan.4 Ambassador Tasca relayed a similar report through Bob Murphy.5 As you requested, I have informed Ambassador Martin and Peter Flanigan of these observations.6 Saragat has also conveyed his depression over the “inevitable” development of cooperation with the Communist Party through Brosio and Bob Ellsworth to you.7 He has hinted that Brosio is available as a com[Page 647]munications link, but it may be best not to open yet another channel at this time.

Prime Minister Rumor recently requested Ambassador Martin to convey his appeal to postpone the effective date of the implementation of our “Redcoste military” reduction program in Italy.8 As you recall, he had a personal dilemma since a good part of the reduction in Italian nationals would take place in his own electoral district (Vicenza/ Verona). More importantly, he fears the Communists will seize on the reductions as evidence of lack of US interest in Italy and the necessity of accelerating Italian accommodation with the Eastern bloc. Ambassador Martin, State and Defense found that to stay within the Defense budget, they could not support cancelling the Redcoste program. Political considerations worked against ramming it through according to schedule. I concurred in their agreed recommendation,9 according to which:

—Italian employees in Rumor’s district will not be dismissed at least until May 1;

—other reductions to proceed on schedule (beginning February 2), but the American departures will be accomplished quietly and as routinely as possible;

—we will urge the Italians to take the initiative within NATO to have the proposed Mediterranean training center located in Italy; and

—to counter the psychological-political problems with Communist propaganda, we shall stress our increased use of Italian facilities as a result of the departure from Wheelus.

I felt that this approach should go a long way toward meeting Rumor’s personal problem, and permitted most of the financial goals of Redcoste to be achieved with the minimum political danger to us. Rumor has indicated his satisfaction with our compromise approach which is now being implemented.

I have dispatched a NSSM (copy at Tab B)10 which reflects your desire to have an early NSC meeting on the Northern Mediterranean and Italy, Greece and Spain in particular. The prime stress will be on Italy, and Ambassador Martin and Tasca are requested to be present at the NSC meeting.11

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 695, Country Files—Europe, Italy, Vol. II. Secret; Nodis. Sent for information. Presumably drafted by Sonnenfeldt; see footnote 5, Document 189.
  2. Not printed.
  3. The President underlined the phrases “Socialist drift to the left” and “defeatist or neutralist stance on the part of Vatican officials.” He wrote in the margin: “K—Lodge must hit this hard. Don’t let him take the ‘opening to left’ line.”
  4. Kissinger sent a summary of the message that Tasca passed to the President in a February 3 memorandum to Flanigan. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 695, Country Files—Europe, Italy, Vol. II)
  5. See footnote 2, Document 188. No information on Tasca’s role in the preparation of the report was found.
  6. See Document 188.
  7. Ellsworth’s January 29 memorandum to Kissinger summarizing his 5 hours of discussions with Saragat is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 694, Country Files—Europe, Italy, Vol. I.
  8. See footnote 2, Document 189.
  9. Document 189.
  10. NSSM 88, printed as Document 30. It was supplemented by NSSM 90, printed as Document 31.
  11. The NSC meeting was held June 17; see Document 43.