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192. Backchannel Message From the Ambassador to Italy (Martin) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

315. [7 lines not declassified] When I last saw you and the President,2 I told you I would approach you directly only when I thought the circumstances compelled it. I had planned on giving a full report and analysis at the end of six months. I have taken a bit longer because there were a few loose ends, the aftermath of the recent crisis, which I wanted to tie up. A long relaxed luncheon with President Saragat last week added bits to the mosaic and a private session with Prime Minister Rumor at his home this Thursday3 should add the final bits of information that will permit me to make firm recommendations on the course we should follow in the near and medium term. I do not believe this meeting will change my present thinking very much and I am therefore summarizing my present conclusions for you and for the President in this message.

I am grateful to the President for conveying through you the information received directly from others and summarized in your letters last winter.4 I think the situation described in those letters has been corrected to the extent that it actually existed and that there is now a different atmosphere regarding the U.S. diplomatic Mission here on the part of all really influential elements, political, diplomatic and military. There will always be complaints from disgruntled elements which, for one reason or another, it is not in our national interest to support.

Out of these six months of intensive observations several conclusions emerge:

1. Whatever the theoretical advantages of the center-left experiment, it has not worked as its sponsors had hoped. Only a fraction of the badly needed reforms have actually been realized. There is little possibility of its survival for very long since the doctrinare compulsions and rigidities of the Socialist left will continue to paralyze any coherent program.

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2. Yet with the present composition of Parliament there is little alternative to stumbling along with this formula until the end of the present Parliamentary term in 1973 or until the situation compels a dissolution of Parliament and early national elections.

3. If dissolution had occurred, or if it does in the fall, even the traditional election time cohesiveness of the Christian Democratic Party would not be sufficient to overcome the present deep factionalism within the party which would prohibit it from doing much more than holding its own in the elections. While they were here, I arranged for Rog Morton and Bob Hitt to see Forlani the CD Secretary General.5 Although impressed by Rumor whom we saw very quickly for an hour as they were going to the airport, I think Rog was appalled at the archaic state of the CD Party machinery revealed by his conversation with Forlani.

4. Nevertheless, the CD Party remains the bulwark of democratic forces in Italy and we must not lose sight of this essential fact which is central to the United States interest. The two strongest leaders, Fanfani and Moro, remain locked in a bitter rivalry to succeed Saragat as President in November of 1971, a goal which for practical purposes, can be achieved only with Communist support. Since both will have this very much in mind, they are going to be looking askance at positions or programs which might alienate this necessary support.

5. There are a host of minor CD figures—Piccoli, Tavianni, Andreotti, Colombo, etc. all hoping to be Prime Minister, even if only for six months. None of them have the stature or the following to do more than a short holding job. The only major CD figure truly representing the considerable center of the party is Rumor, who has the considerable added advantage of the occupancy of the Prime Minister’s chair with its automatic heavy influence on patronage and the other elements of party power. He is acceptable to both Fanfani and Moro, whereas an open protege of either will automatically incur the opposition of the other. This may well give him a longer run as Prime Minister than the current conventional wisdom now contemplates. Even if he would step down, it is quite likely that he would resume the party leadership. Therefore, over the next 18 to 24 months he will continue a key figure in the CD Party.

6. We emerged from the recent crisis with the American position unimpaired by an involvement in support of any CD faction which in the existing circumstances would have been ineffective in any event. I was extremely careful that we remain in a position to assist in mobilizing all the non Communist elements if elections had actually come.

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7. The regional and administrative elections will now occur on June 7. It would have been preferable to have avoided them but all four parties are committed. There is little that we can do to influence their outcome since they will turn on primarily local personalities and local issues. The Communists may come out well in the so-called Red Belt and, with the Socialists (PSI), may win control of three regions, although this is not absolutely certain. While the psychological effects will be mildly adverse it will by no means be a major victory for them. If their percentage can be reduced from the last elections or held constant, which Rumor will try to do, it may be even damaging to them. The regions are largely “paper” units since Parliament will not yet have fixed their actual responsibilities and authorities.

8. Since the regional elections are now committed to be held on June 7, Rumor is now looking ahead to see how they can be turned into an advantage for the Christian Democrats in 1973. In addition to an attempt to reduce the Communist percentage in the “Red Belt,” he is carefully calculating how he can obtain election of local CD candidates throughout Italy who are centrist and who will strengthen the center. These locally elected officials elect the central committee which in turn elects the DC Directorate which governs the party. His goal is to obtain a Central Committee and Directorate which will be cohesive and which will permit the party to go into the 1973 elections with a modernized machinery and with up-dated techniques.

9. The Communist Party is well financed. Saragat told me that the Communists had available about 8 million dollars from within Italy including contributions from such enlightened industrialists as Agnelli, and with an additional 30 million dollars coming through various devices from the Soviet Union. Rumor has quoted figures slightly under these which are more in accord with [less than 1 line not declassified] estimates of overall Communist Party income. This is a hefty figure and beyond the ability of the non-Communist parties to match, particularly since we have eliminated our subsidies to these parties.6

10. It is already certain that we will be hit from all sides for contributions for the forthcoming elections. Fortunately, there is not much expectation that we can be persuaded to resume our previous pattern of support. If that is our decision it will not, therefore, cause too great pain, although some of my unofficial assistants who travel frequently to Italy have given contrary indications in an attempt to increase their own stature and influence. This is annoying but not really serious because it is being increasingly recognized by the Italians that I am the only representative of the President in Italy.

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11. [1 paragraph (6 lines) not declassified]

12. [1 paragraph (17 lines) not declassified]

13. [1 paragraph (7 lines) not declassified]

14. [1 paragraph (10 lines) not declassified]

15. Incidentally, while seeking not to transgress on Peter Flannigan’s preserves I have been quietly working, with some success, on ways to engage the Italian hierarchy for the 1973 elections without compromising the Pope’s desire to retain the appearance of Vatican aloofness to internal Italian politics. I have found His Holiness to be very understanding. In response to one comment of mine he said “The Ambassador is very wise”. Naturally I repeated this to my wife who only said “But of course, he’s infallible.” That was a nice day. I shall welcome Cabot Lodge’s coming.7 It will help considerably by allowing me to concentrate more heavily on the Italian hierarchy.

16. I will be in touch later about the details of a longer range program looking to the 1973 elections. I am not at all pessimistic about the long range prospects. We have a very great deal going for us here. I do not expect all the material resources available to my Soviet colleague, but with a small percentage of what he has available, I am confident, with the President’s continued support, we can keep this country safely on our side.8

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 423, Subject Files, Backchannel Messages Europe, Mideast, Latin America 1970 [1 of 2]. Secret.
  2. Apparently during Moro’s October 1969 visit. No record of the conversation under reference was found.
  3. Martin reported on this discussion in backchannel message 317 from Rome, April 24. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 423, Subject Files, Backchannel Messages Europe, Mideast, Latin America 1970 [1 of 2])
  4. See Document 188. No second letter was found.
  5. No record of this meeting was found. “Rog” Morton was Rogers C.B. Morton, Chairman of the Republican National Committee.
  6. See Document 180.
  7. President Nixon appointed Henry Cabot Lodge as his personal envoy to the Vatican on June 5. This arrangement did not constitute diplomatic relations. Lodge was to serve without diplomatic rank or compensation and would visit the Vatican from time to time to provide greater continuity in informal U.S. contacts with the Holy See.
  8. Martin repeated his request and recommendations in telegram 2397 from Rome, May 12. The telegram was designed for presentation to the 40 Committee meeting of May 25. (Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, Records of the 40 Committee, Minutes)