500.A15 Arms Truce/9: Telegram
The Ambassador in France (Edge) to the Secretary of State
[Received September 11—2:21 p.m.52]
575. Grandi’s plea for an arms truce is received here with frank misgiving and open animosity. On the hypothesis that it is American inspired, British and German backed and aimed squarely at France, most observers conclude that potential dangers of the holiday vastly outweigh its questionable value.
Believing that the Grandi proposal is an attempt to undermine the French theory of security before disarmament and is part of a general plan to isolate or encircle France in advance of the General Disarmament Conference, French commentators reject the suggested arms truce on the grounds: (1) that to implement it will require the convocation of an international arms conference—5 months before the appointed date; (2) that a truce in land armaments is superfluous so far as France is concerned since it has reduced and is still reducing its military establishment below the pre-war level; (3) that if it is intended to apply to army reorganization of the French Army it is unacceptable since the reorganization of the French Army begun 2 years ago is still incomplete and in any event is merely the perfecting of an existing instrument, not the creation of new military strength; (4) that under no circumstances will France consent to suspend the preparation and concentration of war stocks, and, (5) that France cannot admit the work on the frontier fortifications to international discussion.
With regard to naval armaments, most observers concur with Admiral Docteur of the Matin who asserted that the Grandi initiative signalized the breakdown of the Franco-Italian naval conversations.53 It is, he said, incompatible with the proposal for a naval modus vivendi to compel a Franco-Italian accord outlined in the French armaments [Page 444] memorandum to the League of Nations. To accept a holiday without further negotiation on the basis of the present relative naval strength of France and Italy would amount for France to “an abdication confirming Italy’s naval superiority in the Mediterranean”, Docteur declared and referred as proof of his point to Italy’s heavy construction in cruisers over the last 3 years and to its reserve fleet of ships building for at least one smaller powers [sic]. Italy has a fleet of new modern ships while France is carrying a heavy burden of over age vessels. France must receive satisfaction on this point before a truce is negotiated and, furthermore, it must be made clear whether the truce is to apply to ships already laid down as well as to new construction.
Further discussion, all critical, deals with Great Britain’s acceptance of the “American” theory of the interdependence of international finance and disarmament especially with Grandi’s support [of?] what is also termed an American theory that disarmament must be the prelude to, not the consequence of, internal indebtedness reduction and the organization of security. The consensus in the words of Pertinax is that “Signor Grandi is fully aware that France cannot accept this proposal: it is obviously nothing more than a trial balloon released to win the favor of the British and American publics; in fact it might be that Signor Grandi borrowed his idea from Mr. Stimson”.