Breach of Faith? Italian-Soviet Cold War Trading and ENI's 'International Oil Scandal'

Roberto Cantoni


By the late-1950s, Soviet oil exports to Western Europe caused widespread concern in a number of Western countries as these feared that Moscow could use oil to weaken their economic interests. At the same time though, other Western countries had no hesitation in developing trade relations with the Soviets, seeing this as a good commercial opportunity. The paramount example of such political nonchalance was Italy’s oil company, ENI. In 1960, ENI signed a barter contract with the Soviets, causing a scandal in the Western oil world: the Italian company’s act was seen as a serious breach of faith by its international allies. As a consequence, ENI’s contract became a serious bone of contention in the country’s bilateral and international relations. This paper analyzes the origins and development of the ENI-Soviet deal, and focuses on the reactions of Italy’s Western allies and the debate it generated at the European Economic Community.


Cold War; EEC; East-West trade; oil; USSR; Italy.


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