193. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Hillenbrand) to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Johnson)1


  • Italy: Ambassador Martin Recommends providing [less than 1 line not declassified] to assist moderate Leadership and strengthen Organization of [less than 1 line not declassified] beginning with Regional and Administrative Elections on June 7, 1970

1. Justification of Proposal: Ambassador Graham Martin presented the case for granting [1 line not declassified] of May 12, 1970,2 as summarized below:

A. The Government of Italy is in serious disarray. The Center-Left Coalition has not worked as its sponsors had hoped. Very few of the badly needed reforms have been accomplished. There is very little chance for the survival of a Center-Left Government because the doctrinaire compulsions and rigidities of the Socialist Left will continue to paralyze any coherent program. [6½ lines not declassified] plans to use the regional elections on June 7 to obtain the election of local [less than 1 line not declassified] candidates who are Centrist and will strengthen the Center. These locally-elected officials will elect the Central Committee and Directorate which, [less than 1 line not declassified] hopes, will enable the party to go into the 1973 elections with modernized machinery and updated techniques.

B. [less than 1 line not declassified] told Ambassador Martin that the Communist Party of Italy is well financed, with about $8 million obtained within Italy and about $30 million coming from the Soviet Union. Ambassador Martin recommends that the US avoid involvement in the June 7 elections except for a contribution [12 lines not declassified]

2. Background: Since 1948 United States covert operations in Italy have been designed to strengthen pro-western democratic political and [Page 653] private organizations willing and able to compete with communist organizations and to contribute to the strength of democratic institutions. Over the 20 years from 1948 to 1968 the United States provided nearly [less than 1 line not declassified] in support of political parties, labor unions and various political action programs. [1 line not declassified] The program of covert assistance was phased out entirely in 1968. Since then Italian political leaders concerned have come to realize that annual grants-in-aid cannot be expected from the USG. [1 line not declassified] When American assistance was provided in the past the object was to strengthen the non-communist parties; [7 lines not declassified]

3. Risks: [9 lines not declassified]

We are distinctly cautious in our estimates of the probable efficacy of a project of this nature. The Italian political scene is complex and confused, with a variety of parties and groups, an apathetic and cynical electorate and a tendency to rapidly shifting alliances within and among the parties. We are frankly skeptical about the ability of [less than 1 line not declassified] to attract considerable new strength from the electorate or to create new cadres of effective political supporters.

We continue to believe that the solution to the basic Italian malaise lies in long term political and administrative reforms. The most constructive course of action for the United States is to create a sense of confidence among Italians by underlining the lasting nature of our commitment to our European allies.

The risks must be recognized. We would for the first time be taking sides in an intra-party dispute. [2 lines not declassified] Knowledge of American intervention could be used by the Communists not only in Italy, but throughout Europe to argue that we are again meddling in Europe’s affairs. [2 lines not declassified]

However, on both risks involved and the efficacy of the proposal, serious weight must be given to the on-site appraisal of the Ambassador and the experienced appraisal of the CIA.

EUR notes, however, that the proposed operation seems contrary to the expression of the President’s policy in “U.S. Foreign Policy for the 1970’s”.3 The President said:

“After 20 years, the economic prostration, military weakness, and political instability in postwar Europe that had required a predominant American effort were things of the past. Our common success in rebuilding Western Europe had restored our allies to their proper strength and status. It was time that our own leadership, in its substance and its manner, took account of this fact. . . .

[Page 654]

“But what pattern of relations will serve these objectives best today? There is a natural tendency to prefer the status quo and to support established forms and relationships that have served well in the past. But we can see in 1970 that there is no ‘status quo’—the only constant is the inevitability of change. Evolution within Western Europe has changed the region’s position in the world, and therefore its role in the Western Alliance.”

This question must be addressed in the light of Presidential policy. Should we undertake clandestine intervention in the internal affairs of Italy? We can, and perhaps should, help Italy develop its party system as Rogers Morton has suggested. EUR would be prepared to suggest, as being in accord with the President’s policy, an open program to achieve this objective, best accomplished by openly extended technical assistance in response to open requests. However, we believe that risky clandestine activities are not compatible with what we understand to be the President’s policy.

4. Recommendation:

That we oppose this program as being incompatible with the President’s policy toward Europe.

  1. Source: Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, Records of the 40 Committee, Minutes. Secret; Eyes Only. Cleared in INR and EUR. A note by INR Director Ray Cline stated that his clearance did not extend to the portion of the memorandum that indicated Martin’s recommendation was “incompatible with the President’s policy toward Europe.” A May 13 memorandum from INR, cleared by Cline, however, stated that INR opposed the Martin proposal. (Ibid.) A May 13 memorandum from the Chief of the European Division, CIA, to the Deputy Director for Plans, supported Martin’s proposal. (Central Intelligence Agency, DO/EUR Files, Job 90–01383R)
  2. See footnote 8, Document 192.
  3. See Public Papers: Nixon, 1970, pp. 116–190.