763.72119 Military Clauses/3: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Edge) to the Secretary of State

502. For the Secretary and Under-Secretary. With reference to the Department’s telegram to Berlin No. 97, August 17, 5 p.m.; and to Berlin’s reply No. 162, August 18, 5 p.m., I learn from the Foreign [Page 418]Office that the conversations in question will probably begin within the next day or two. These conversations are being held on the insistence of the German Government. Leger, the official at the Foreign Office with whom we spoke, feels that the German Government will, in order to obtain acceptance of its demands, use the threat not to attend the sessions of the Disarmament Bureau42 commencing at Geneva on September 20th next unless they are acceded to. He feels that the German reason for opening these discussions at this time is twofold: not only as stated in order to be able to use the threat not to attend further disarmament discussions unless complied with but to see how far the Allied Governments are still preserving a common front on such questions. Leger states that unfortunately it is perhaps true that the Germans may be able to count on Italy’s support as the latter, since the Lausanne and Geneva conferences, have shown a very intransigent attitude. As to the British he would like to feel that the French can count on them as supporting their position but I judge that thus far they have no definite assurance to this effect. They would also like to feel that they can count on our collaboration and moral support which they realize is all we can possibly give them. France, Leger states, is ready as they have already stated officially to grant Germany equality of rights, adding that she would have this in signing the disarmament treaty on an equal basis with the other powers but is absolutely unwilling to concede either equality in fact or even such increases and changes as the Germans are now demanding. His arguments were along these lines: the nations of the world have met at Geneva to try to evolve a formula for drastic reductions in armaments. France has hitherto not been able to go as far as she would have wished and other nations would wish because of her feeling of insecurity largely due to the uncertain attitude and state of mind in Germany today. With this uncertainty daily increasing Leger asks is it fair to ask France not only to agree to further disarmament but to make concessions to Germany to enable her to increase her own armaments and effectives. He admitted that while the German demands might not on first examination seem to be very drastic (he said they had every reason to believe that their information as to what would be asked was, reduction in the term of service of the Reichswehr from 12 to 6 years, the building of a certain number of military planes, heavy tanks, et cetera) it was perhaps more the principle involved as well as the fact that they would then have the models ready so that they could be duplicated in large numbers on short notice that determined France’s position.

Leger indicated that the French Government considers this test one [Page 419]of the most critical that has arisen since the war. If the other powers signatory to the treaty accede to the German demands the French Government will be forced to face the issue alone in which case he feels it will be difficult to foresee the extent of the consequences on disarmament and other questions.

Herriot left for the Island of Jersey yesterday where he is to meet Sir Herbert Samuel and it seems very probable that he will there attempt to obtain British support of the French position.

If you feel that the French position is a reasonable one and are inclined, as Leger indicated they hoped would be the case, to give them your moral support, would you consider the possibility of authorizing me to see Herriot and convey some informal message from you to him. I am emboldened to make this suggestion in view of the conversation you had on July 25 last with the German Ambassador a memorandum of which you were kind enough to forward me under cover of your strictly confidential despatch No. 1249 of August 4th last.43 My particular reason for making this suggestion is that if we do feel that the French position on this matter is reasonable a word to this effect to the French at this time might be extremely helpful in other directions.

  1. See pp. 322 ff.
  2. Not printed.