Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Robert E. Barbour
BARBOUR: It was a concern then and within the next couple of years it became a much greater, and more pressing concern. But there was corruption in the sense of not payoffs and things like that although everybody knew about, gave them an envelope and that took care of it. We did not know the extent to which that was being engaged in as a macro level by the party secretaries. There were always rumors of this. Of course, every party had its payoff. [A payoff] was the Socialist bank according to them, and other main and major banks who were tied in with the Christian Democrats, they each had its television channel. It was a kind of apportioning of the publicly controlled entities among the parties, more from the Socialists than into the right. We didn't know the communists were officially and structurally part of that as well. But it was always a problem with Italy, and of course we wanted to be nice to the Italians. They are and always have been very faithful allies, but sometimes we felt there were a lot of things we could not give them, participation support, etc. So it was always this kind of very friendly relationship, with a certain amount of game playing on their part, and our trying more or less to be responsive on our side. The big factor was that the then ambassador, Volpe, enjoyed the favor of Henry Kissinger who was Secretary of State, was very close to him.
Q: Who was the ambassador?
BARBOUR: John A. Volpe, he then had his residence on Sixteenth Street, across from Spanish embassy. Kissinger liked him and the relationship was good. Of course, that made life much easier at the desk level. The French ambassador, who did not have the personality of some of his predecessors, and therefore didn't use his job the way some of his predecessors had, didn't have the access of some of his predecessors. But relations were reasonably tranquil, and it was just a tremendous job of managing the conduct of business, the day-to-day business with those countries with whom the volume of business was enormous.