• U.S.

We Can’t Act Like Sheep

2 minute read

In an interview with TIME Correspondent Barry Kalb, Italy’s President Pertini stressed his country’s commitment to the U.S. and to the Atlantic Alliance, while strongly criticizing the attitude of some of his Western European colleagues. Excerpts:

On nuclear missiles in Europe. The defense of one’s own homeland, before being a right, is a duty. We can’t act like sheep when facing him who intends to remain a wolf. I am against war, but if my country is being attacked, it is my duty, not my right, to repel the attack. I see the [nuclear] rearming that they are carrying out in the Soviet Union. It would be an act of weakness for NATO to disarm itself while leaving the Soviet Union armed.

On the Western response to the Polish crisis. There must not be any weakness in the face of those who suppress the Polish people. There are leaders in Europe—I won’t mention their names—who, while Afghanistan was being occupied, met with Brezhnev in Warsaw [former French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing] or Moscow [West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt], This, to me, was an act of weakness.

On the choice, as In El Salvador, between a right-wing dictatorship and a Marxist dictatorship. I would fight both. Dictatorship is dictatorship, independent of its color.

On U.S.-ltalian relations. We have never forgotten that the U.S. has disembarked in Europe twice to prevent dictatorial regimes from installing themselves. The Americans did not come to conquer territory; they came to aid European democracy. And we in Italy cannot forget that in the U.S. there are 25 million Italian Americans. That is half the population of Italy. How many antifascists, how many Jews, how many persecuted people have saluted the Statue of Liberty with tears in their eyes, knowing they were entering a country that would give them hospitality and political asylum? How many peasants from southern Italy have gone to the U.S. because in Italy they did not have the wherewithal to live, while in America they found a place to work, a job? All this ties us to the U.S., ties us not only on political grounds but on the grounds of affection and friendship.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com