24. Memorandum of Conversation1



The Hague, Netherlands, May 12–14, 1964


  • United States
    • The Secretary of State
    • William R. Tyler, Assistant Secretary, EUR
    • Ronald I. Spiers, EUR/RPM
  • Italy
    • Foreign Minister Saragat
    • Secretary-General of Foreign Ministry Cattani
    • Director-General of Political Affairs Fornari
    • Miss Bonaccorsi (interpreter)


  • Atlantic Policies

Mr. Saragat said he could not over-state the importance of the Atlantic Alliance in Italian policy. NATO was more important and necessary than ever. In fact, NATO was more important to Italy than the Common Market. Without the latter Italy could pull through; without NATO it was doubtful that Italy could survive. The Secretary expressed a hope for success in Mr. Saragat’s policy of drawing other coalition members into support of this policy. He noted that in some cases this would be as difficult as docking an ocean liner without tugs.

The Secretary said that he expected to comment on the MLF under Item II of the Agenda. His silence on this subject in his initial statement should not be construed as U.S. lack of interest.2 The US is a strong supporter of the MLF.

Mr. Saragat said that a principal danger on the horizon—which he did not, on the other hand, wish to over-emphasize—was the policy of De Gaulle on the question of NATO and the Atlantic Alliance. He said he had had very frank talks with General De Gaulle. Italy is convinced that De Gaulle will not push so far as to break up NATO, particularly since [Page 54] this would cause a serious rupture with the Germans. This factor sets a fundamental limit on how far De Gaulle can go, but within these limits we can expect many more headaches from the French. He had told De Gaulle that if Moro and the Italian Government were to follow the same policy as he, we would “in six months have handed Italy over to the Communists.” He had the feeling that this was the only thing which he had said which really impressed De Gaulle, who was, he believed, playing the game of the French Communists.

The Secretary said our basic view was that we must find a way to go on with the necessary business of NATO and the Atlantic Alliance, without rancor and without engendering unnecessary passionate argument. He was clear that there was only one issue at the bottom of our troubles with France, namely, Eisenhower’s and Kennedy’s refusal, in 1958 and 1961, to accept De Gaulle’s proposal for a “Directoire,” which meant in essence giving France the ability to speak for Europe without the consent of the others. We should demonstrate patience without being diverted from pursuing policies which were good for the Alliance. We can only hope that, sometime, the situation will improve.

Mr. Saragat repeated that he was convinced De Gaulle would not break up the Alliance. He was, however, somewhat concerned about when Labor in the UK would turn to a more realistic policy on Europe. He was hopeful about this, although he felt that now Labor was “50 years behind the times” in its attempt to develop an “extra-Continental” alliance before getting into Europe. However, this policy is likely to lose us two years, although we can hope that the evolution in Labor’s views will take place in parallel with the evolution in French policy.

The Secretary said he wished to say a word about the US–UK special relationship, which was often more talked about than existing in fact. We assume that to the extent there is a special relationship it will extend to Europe when Britain moves into Europe. We do not want this to be a barrier to the U.K. entering Europe. Mr. Saragat said that a principal problem was convincing Labor that they would not be abandoning this relationship with the US if they shifted their European policy.

The Secretary said that we must always be aware of the tremendous influence and responsibility which could be exercised by an enlarged Europe (with all of the individual connections with other parts of the globe which the British, the French and the Italians have and which they would bring with them into a united Europe), working in partnership with North America. This would constitute a historic development of the center of the free world. The tragedy of the present moment is that this movement has been set back at a time that the Communist world is in disarray. We are foregoing great possibilities and prospects by this fact.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, NATO 3 NETH(TH)). Confidential. Drafted by Spiers on May 13 and approved in S on May 24. The conversation was held at the Princess Juliana Kazerne. The source text is labeled “Part VI of VI.” The Foreign Ministers also discussed Vietnam, selection of the new NATO Secretary General, German reunification, Cyprus, and East-West relations during this conversation. Memoranda are ibid.
  2. Agenda Item II was the Secretary General’s Annual Political Appraisal. Copies of the agenda, the appraisal, and Rusk’s comments on it are ibid., Conference Files: Lot 66 D 110, CF 2396. For text of Rusk’s statement as honorary President of the Council, May 12, see Department of State Bulletin, June 1, 1964, pp. 850–852.