500.A15A4/1592: Telegram

The American Delegate (Wilson) to the Secretary of State

430. In accordance with statement in Davis’ 427, November 1, 8 p.m.,4 he and I had a long conversation with Aubert in the course of which we learned certain additional facts regarding the new French plan.

The plan is elastic and will not be presented on a take it or leave it basis. It is recognized that many of the details must be adjusted. The plan is however designed both to ease the situation as far as Germany is concerned and to be complementary to President Hoover’s plan. Whereas, the President’s plan contemplates the diminution of the power of offense in relation to defense in material, the French plan in addition contemplates the reduction of offensive power in relation to defense in the question of effectives.

1. Effectives. In proposing the change of professional continental armies into compulsory militia systems the French envisage the necessity of this being done by stages during which the Reichswehr as well as the professional portions of the metropolitan forces of other continental armies will be gradually abolished and replaced (if replacement) by conscripts of short period training. The length of training and the number of conscripts to be called under the colors will be subject of negotiation.

At the same time it is envisaged that a certain number of divisions of the professional forces highly equipped will remain in existence scattered among the various states. These forces would be put at the disposal of the League of Nations for action when determined by the Council. No one state will have a sufficient force of professional soldiers in its metropolitan area to menace its neighbor but the combined force to be at the disposal of the League would be sufficiently powerful to give pause to an aggressor. This would necessarily involve undertakings by the various states to give free passage across their territory, et cetera, when a decision has been taken by the Council. We raised the thorny point of the retention by France of [Page 357]a highly developed professional striking force in the colonies and the concern that this gives Italy whose metropolitan area is so near to North Africa. Aubert was not entirely clear as to how this problem could be solved but referred again to the necessity of negotiation on this point. He also stated that colonial troops could not be used for a knockout blow and could only be brought over after a war begins and that in the case of Italy it could make the transport of French troops most difficult.

2. Land material. The French envisage that the “militia armies” of the Continent will not be equipped with the heavier types of artillery and tanks. They hope to provide that present stocks of these weapons above sizes to be specified will be stored (place not specified) at the disposition of the League of Nations and for use in the event that the Council so ordains. Aubert envisages the possibility of undertakings not to replace this heavier type of material thus allowing it gradually to become obsolescent.

3. Air. According to Aubert the plan does not involve any radical change of French point of view on this subject.

4. Navies. Aubert offered nothing on this subject beyond the fact that the French maintain their thesis of the interdependability of armament.

5. Political. The French plan will apparently accord equality of legal status to Germany. This does not mean that Germany will have of immediate right to all of the same types of armament as other nations but that theoretically such right will exist and that Germany will voluntarily restrict itself to certain types of material. The full realization of equality would only be reached after a period of years.

Aubert then touched on questions relating to the United States and seemed to believe that in some way the obligation for consultation envisaged in Secretary Stimson’s speech of August 8th should be formalized. We pointed out in this connection that events had moved in such a way in the United States as to establish for our country a strong unilateral obligation in this direction and that it might be unwise to endeavor to force a formalization of such a situation through multilateral agreement. Aubert, however, was insistent on the necessity of some such action.

As to the reference in the French plan to the reenforcement of article 16,5 Aubert pointed out that recent interpretation of this article, especially on the part of Great Britain, had somewhat detracted from the meaning of its actual wording. They desire to reenforce this and whereas the United States a non-member state would not be expected to take any positive obligation under article 16, it was hoped that there could be incorporated in the treaty at least a negative commitment on the part of our Government not to [Page 358]obstruct the action of the other states in case the Council found it essential to invoke article 16 against either aggressor.

We told him this raised a very difficult question and that we thought it inadvisable to make a plan which gave such promise contingent upon getting Great Britain to increase her present commitment under article 16 which she would probably refuse to do and upon getting us to do something which would be difficult if not impossible.

Wilson
  1. Post, p. 472.
  2. Of the Treaty of Versailles, Treaties, Conventions, etc., 1910–1923, vol. iii, pp. 3329, 3341.