3. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • MLF


  • United States
    • The Secretary
    • Mr. William R. Tyler, EUR
    • Ambassador G. Frederick Reinhardt
    • Mr. Francis E. Meloy, Jr., WE
    • Mr. DeSeabra, Interpreter
  • Italy
    • Foreign Minister Giuseppe Saragat
    • Ambassador Attilio Cattani, Foreign Ministry
    • Ambassador Mario Toscano, Foreign Ministry
    • Minister Franco Malfatti di Montetretto, Chief of Cabinet
    • Ambassador Angelo Corrias, Chief of Diplomatic Protocol
    • Ambassador Sergio Fenoaltea, Italian Embassy
    • Minister Gian Luigi Milesi Ferretti, Italian Embassy
    • Miss Bonaccorsi, Interpreter

Foreign Minister Saragat said that for Italy the problem of the MLF was one of timing and principally timing affecting the Italian Socialist Party (PSI). The Foreign Minister had talked to Nenni on several occasions recently and has found Nenni personally favorably disposed to the MLF. The problem of time, however, is unavoidable and cannot be telescoped. Nenni told the Foreign Minister he must have time to prepare his party. He does not need a long time—only four or five months, perhaps. Foreign Minister Saragat said it is important to note Nenni has undertaken a commitment to prepare his party for the decision.

The Foreign Minister said that the attitude of the UK is an important one and will have great influence in Italy whatever the results of the UK elections. Anything that the U.S. can do to bring about a more favorable attitude by the UK would be helpful in Italy.

Foreign Minister Saragat said he has accepted British Foreign Minister Butler’s request that he prolong his stay by a few days during his forthcoming visit to the UK. He plans to use this time to talk to Labor [Page 6] Party leaders. He will ask them not to do anything which would make the Italian problem more difficult. He will also tell them of the Italian position on MLF.

Saragat continued that despite the Italian commitment in principle to the MLF and the favorable disposition of many groups, some obstacles remain and must be removed before final and formal acceptance of the MLF by Italy.

The Secretary thanked the Foreign Minister for his views. He did not see any contradiction between what the Foreign Minister had been saying and the need to move along with the MLF. If we have a MLF report by the first of March we can then move on to draft an agreement. Meanwhile the multilaterally manned ship experiment can go forward. The Secretary emphasized that it was important not to lose forward movement.

With regard to the UK, the Secretary said the Foreign Minister may find during his visit to the UK that there are differences of opinion there. It should also be noted that there are differences between what the British of both parties say now and what they are likely to say or be able to say after the election. The Foreign Minister will need to feel his way to see what the real UK position is. The Secretary emphasized that in any event he wished to assure the Foreign Minister the US is not pulling away from the MLF. We feel that the MLF is of great importance.

Foreign Minister Saragat reiterated that the Italian decision has been made in principle. The Prime Minister is convinced on the subject of MLF as is the Vice Prime Minister (Nenni). The only thing that is required is a little more time. Ambassador Reinhardt knows the situation very well and can confirm this.

The Secretary said that the Foreign Minister in a previous conversation in the day had said something important about his visit to London.2 He had said the decision with regard to the MLF would be an Italian decision made in Italy’s own interest and would not be determined by what was said to him in London.

The Secretary continued that the British lack interest in the MLF for two reasons: (1) they already have a nuclear force of their own and therefore lack political motivation; and (2) the British Military feel they will not be able to have other things they want if they are obliged to make the financial effort required by participation in the MLF. The Secretary said that on a personal basis he felt that the UK will not be able to stay out of the MLF in the long run if the momentum of the MLF is maintained. He believes the UK will come in if they see the rest of us going ahead.

Foreign Minister Saragat said that the opposition from the right in Italy is attempting to overthrow the coalition government. The U.S. must [Page 7] be careful not to give them an opportunity by pressing Italy for too early a decision on the MLF. The Foreign Minister said that when he talked with Nenni regarding the experimental MLF ship, Nenni had seemed very understanding. The problem therefore was not connected with the matter of final acceptance of the MLF but was instead one of time. Nenni could have created difficulties over the ship experiment but did not do so.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, DEF (MLF). Secret. Drafted by Meloy and approved in S on January 27. The conversation was held at the White House. The source text is labeled “Part I of II.” While the Secretary of State and the Italian Foreign Minister were discussing the MLF, President Johnson and President Segni also talked about the question. A 4-paragraph memorandum of their conversation is ibid. A memorandum of the Presidents’ discussion of U.S. interest in the Atlantic Alliance, European unity, and the Kennedy Round is ibid., POL EUR W.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 2.