369. Memorandum of Conversation1
- The Secretary
- Counselor Helmut Sonnenfeldt
- Asst. Secretary for European Affairs Arthur A. Hartman
- H. Allen Holmes (Notetaker)
- Neil Seidenman (Interpreter)
- Foreign Minister Mariano Rumor
- Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Raimondo Manzini
- Chef du Cabinet Rinaldo Petrignani
Secretary: This is an interesting period in Italy. I notice that the Pope is also getting interested in the elections.
Rumor: I would ask that we consider this part of our conversation confidential. These are the most important elections we have ever faced.
Secretary: If you lose, I will never talk to you again.
Rumor: During the last 15 days I have had the feeling that the situation is getting better. The Italian people now realize that this is a decisive moment. The Democratic Parties are together. We will all work from the same position. The Communists have attempted to divide the government forces but have been pushed back, and now the issues for the elections are very clear-cut. Your messages were received in Italy, Mr. Secretary, but with all respect, and admiration, we believe it would be better if you would say no more . . .
Secretary: I won’t say anything more.
Rumor: Perhaps you could say something positive . . . an expression of appreciation for the majority.
Secretary: This will be done.
Sonnenfeldt: We could do it now.
Secretary: (To Sonnenfeldt) We will have to talk about that.
(To Rumor) We will definitely say something positive.
Rumor: The middle classes were originally attracted to the left, but are now reexamining where their true interests lie.
Secretary: Three leading Democrats in Washington have been advocating the admission of the Communists to the Italian government, and it would have been unfortunate if I had remained silent. I will say no more along this line. I will see if the President can say some positive things.
Rumor: We are seeking the commitment of all economic forces . . . trying to cover all social categories with our electoral lists, including representatives from the trade unions. Even Agnelli will be one of our candidates for the Senate.
Secretary: If you win, we will have to cooperate on some programs for progress.
Rumor: In the short time before the elections, it would help if you could give us a hand in the monetary field. But this is a technical problem . . .
Secretary: I will talk with Arthur Burns about this. There are some who don’t want to help before the elections.[Typeset Page 1126]
Rumor: But the economic situation has great impact.
Secretary: The President, the Vice President and I are in complete agreement. You were very effective with the Vice President.
Rumor: A coalition of parties after 30 years in power has a record of accomplishments and mistakes. It is important to emphasize the accomplishments, the positive aspects.
Secretary: I understand. Our Government has said nothing critical. Our opposition has distinguished itself by criticizing the Communists all over the world, in places where they can’t do anything about it, while advocating the admission of the Communists into the Italian Government. We will have to find a vehicle for the President to make a positive statement—perhaps a letter. I want to think about this. I will be sure to say something.
Rumor: If I had spoken with you 15 days ago, I would have been much more pessimistic than today.
Secretary: I am glad I didn’t speak with you then.
Rumor: The trend is moving in a positive direction. However, the CIA and Lockheed revelations have done great damage, particularly to the ruling classes.
Secretary: It is inexcusable . . . completely out of our control. Lockheed and CIA are explainable to sophisticated people.
[Omitted here is discussion on Malta and Africa.]
Summary: Kissinger and Rumor discussed the Italian political and economic situation.
Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, P820117–2454. Secret; Nodis. Approved by Collums in S on July 12. The meeting took place at the SAS Hotel. Kissinger was in Oslo from May 20 to 22 to attend a NATO ministerial meeting. In Backchannel Message 109 to Kissinger and Scowcroft, May 6, Volpe discussed the effects of the Church subcommittee investigations into the Lockheed affair on the Italian political scene. (Ibid., Records of the Office of the Counselor, Helmut C. Sonnenfeldt, 1955–1977, Entry 5339, Box 7, Southern Europe 1976)↩