500.A15A4 Steering Committee/56
Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Western European Affairs (Moffat)
The French Chargé d’Affaires called on the Secretary of State this morning to discuss with him the situation which has arisen from the German démarche on equality of arms. The Secretary asked Mr. Moffat to be present.
Mr. Henry told the Secretary that in spite of the conciliatory nature of the French reply to the German note, the German Government had decided not to be present at the meeting of the Bureau in Geneva next week, although it would continue to watch the efforts of the Disarmament Conference. In the circumstances the British Government was anxious to postpone the meeting of the Bureau. This the French Government could not consent to for reasons given in a memorandum, copy of which is attached. He added that Mr. Massigli had had a talk the day before with Mr. Marriner, who indicated that the American viewpoint was that it would be better for the meeting of the Bureau to be held (see Paris telegram No. 352 ).77 The Secretary replied that he personally would regard it as unfortunate if the meeting did not take place on the scheduled day. On points of immediate procedure, therefore, the two Governments agreed.
Mr. Henry then went on to say that as the French interpreted the German note, it was an insistence that the Allied Powers come down in the first disarmament convention to the level of Germany. If [Page 330]they only came down part way, then Germany would be free to come up to their level. The Secretary remarked that he did not feel that the text of the German note went as far as this. Mr. Henry replied that the French interpretation was based not only on the text of the note, but on the speeches of von Papen and von Schleicher and on the oral statements of Foreign Minister von Neurath to the French Ambassador at Berlin, François-Poncet.
Mr. Henry then asked what would be the attitude of the American Government if the French interpretation of German intentions was correct and she would proceed to rearm up to the level to which the other Powers had reduced. The Secretary replied that this was a question which he could not well answer. He said it was the type of question which an Anglo-Saxon instinctively avoided. It implied settling in advance action under different contingencies and he saw no profit or advantage in so doing. What he would say to Mr. Henry was that we were exceedingly concerned with the situation brought about by the German démarche. It ran the risk of resulting either in a rearmament by Germany or in an interruption in the process of disarmament by others. We felt that we were in the midst of practical negotiations at Geneva. We would not admit that the conference was a failure, but felt that concrete results might be forthcoming. We agreed with the French that disarmament must be a gradual affair, marking, step by step, the progressive reduction of armaments. We felt that Germany’s activities, even the withdrawal of her cooperation at the conference, should not prevent the continuation of its work. We regarded the French note as conciliatory in tone and hoped that it would be possible, in spite of the difficulties that beset us, to work out some practical solution which would reduce armaments in the world.
Mr. Henry said that he entirely understood the Secretary’s point of view and felt that the French and American attitudes were not so far apart. Later in the day, Mr. Henry remarked confidentially to Mr. Moffat that he was thinking of sending a personal message to Mr. Herriot to the effect that if France supported the American thesis concerning Manchuria at the League of Nations, he thought it would influence Mr. Stimson in viewing the French viewpoint with full sympathy.