344. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) for the President’s Files1
- Meeting Between President Nixon and Prime Minister Andreotti
- President Nixon
- Henry A. Kissinger
- Neil Seidenman, Interpreter
- Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti
- Ambassador Andrea Cagiati
- Pallo Gesfulo, Interpreter
President Nixon told the Prime Minister that he was sorry this visit had been postponed, but that he was certainly in a position to understand some of the problems he had to face in the legislative area.
The President went on to say that he customarily conducted such meetings in an informal way, and that following this first meeting they would have the opportunity to continue their conversations at the White House dinner the same evening, and then again in their scheduled meeting the following morning. He added that it was a fortunate circumstance to be able to discuss matters as two nations that see the world in such a similar way, and not have to get into the sometimes bitter debates that occasionally arise with other countries.
Premier Andreotti thanked the President for his remarks, and expressed satisfaction with the informal approach the President had indicated. He concurred with the President in that these talks were further proof of the harmony in the two countries’ policies. Over the years Italian governments have been formed under various types of majorities in Parliament, but when it came down to facts no majority ever opposed US-Italian friendship. To be sure, there was opposition [Typeset Page 1057] to it, and particularly on the part of the communists such opposition was strong. But the rest of the Parliament was of one voice in regard to this point. Even the Socialists, with all of their problems, and who are not part of the present government, were loyal in their position toward US-Italian relationships during the time that they (the PSI) were with the government coalition.
Premier Andreotti offered to give the President a résumé of the present political situation in Italy. Following World War II until 1960, Italy was governed by a coalition government, with the PSI, PCI, and MSI in opposition. The government’s majority was not large, however there was not much serious discussion in favor of changing the majority formula. But following this period, it was decided to try working with the PSDI, associated with the Socialist International, in company with Brandt and other European Socialist parties, and with the PSI, under Nenni and De Martino, to form the Center-Left government coalition, which lasted from 1962 until last year’s (1972) elections. Thus, the Center-Left spanned a period of ten years, under the leadership of Aldo Moro, whose premiership was the longest, and of Fanfani, Rumor, and Colombo. However, the relationships among the coalition parties failed to improve over time, and various frictions and contradictions began to arise. In the area of foreign policy, the PSI took a position of loyalty toward the Atlantic Alliance, although not entirely convinced of such a position, and particularly less so in regard to economic policies, as Italy’s economic situation worsened. This gave rise to a reaction in the form of increasing strength on the part of the Neo-Fascist party (MSI), which became a matter of appreciable concern.
For these reasons, in 1972 it was decided to dissolve the Center-Left, and Prime Minister Andreotti was appointed to form a “monocolore” government, composed of an all Christian Democratic cabinet. The government did not get confidence in Parliament, but in the elections that followed the results were good. A new government was then formed under the DC with the PSDI and the Liberals (PLI), which had not participated in the government for ten years. With this cabinet, the government’s majority in the Chamber of Deputies is small, and in the Senate it comes to only four or five, which means that the day-to-day working posture of the government in Parliament is weak. At the same time, the Premier stated that he was certain that until it becomes possible to bring about a change in the PSI’s basic position, it will be better to have a majority that is small, than to have another Center-Left that will lack vitality. There are elements within the ranks of the PSI and also of the DC party who are concerned about the small working majority and therefore want a return to the Center-Left formula. The DC political congress is scheduled for June, 1973. But the Premier stated that, unless there is a substantial change on the part of [Typeset Page 1058] the PSI, they will not allow the PSI to come back into the government. The Premier concluded that he was concerned that, if a new Center-Left were formed without a thorough airing of the basic issues, a new crisis would soon ensue, which would in turn again strengthen the MSI—they have suffered losses recently—and deliver a trump to the hand of the communists, who could say that it was not possible to govern effectively without them.
The President remarked that, while he certainly did not wish to “interfere in Italian politics”, he could not fail to express his admiration for Premier Andreotti’s efforts, even with only a small majority, to have a government that stands for something, rather than accept having perhaps a larger majority, but which would lead to much compromise and really not stand for anything. He understood the Premier’s problems in government with such a small majority, but expressed his certainty that Premier Andreotti, as a leader and as an individual, is able to speak to his people more firmly, decisively, and unequivocally than any previous head of government. The President added that he wished him well.
Premier Andreotti thanked the President for his wishes. He then made reference to the correspondence between the President of Italy and President Nixon with regard to the Middle East.
[Omitted here is discussion of the Middle East, Nixon’s prospective trip to Europe, and the Atlantic Alliance.]
Summary: The memorandum records a discussion among Nixon, Kissinger, and Andreotti on Italian politics.
Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 923, VIP Visits, Italy’s PM Andreotti’s Visit, April 17, 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in the Oval Office from 10:30 a.m. until noon. Andreotti paid an official visit to Washington from April 17 to 18; a record of Nixon’s April 18 conversation with Andreotti, during which they discussed economics, Japan, Argentina, MBFR, and East-West relations, is ibid.↩