740.0011 Four Power Pact/42

Memorandum by the Under Secretary of State (Phillips)

The French Ambassador left with me this morning the accompanying memorandum and “projet” in connection with the proposed Mussolini Four Power Pact; he said that the views of the French Government had been presented confidentially a few days ago to the British and Italian Governments and he was very happy to place them now confidentially before this Government; he felt that, in doing so, it was a token of “confidence” on the part of his Government and a desire to keep the United States in touch with the developments in connection with this proposal.

(After translation, I should be very glad to have these papers returned to me.)

William Phillips
[Page 405]


The French Government appreciates fully the importance of the proposal initiated by the Chief of the Italian Government on the 18th of March. It recognizes the value that the closer cooperation of the four neighboring powers may have for peace and the fact that their character as permanent members of the Council confers upon them peculiar responsibilities toward the League of Nations and its members and those who have jointly signed the Locarno agreements. Having made the reinforcement of the peace of Europe the unalterable goal of its policy, the Government of the Republic is ready, in a spirit of well-disposed frankness, to associate itself actively with every effort which it may legitimately be hoped will contribute effectively to this result.

Such an effort must necessarily take place within the frame-work which the engagements assumed by the four powers have provided for their policies; the Locarno agreement; the pact of Paris; the declaration of non-recourse to force proposed by the declaration of December 11, 1932, and accepted by the political commission of the Disarmament Conference on March 2nd; finally, and at the foundation of all engagements, the covenant of the League of Nations.

If the strict observance of the covenant is a duty of all the members of the League, it is applicable with peculiar force to the powers who are permanent members of the Council; there can, therefore, be no question of those powers detracting in any way whatever from the methods or the procedures provided for by the charter of the League.

The latter guarantees to all states that no decision concerning them can be taken unless they accept it. There could not be any question of the four powers arriving at decisions which they might subsequently seek to impose upon others. There can only be question of arriving at decisions concerning themselves alone or of seeking in a general manner procedures, improvements, or more exact interpretations (précisions) concerning one or other article of the covenant for submission subsequently to the regular organs of the League of Nations.

Besides, there cannot be question of an arbitrary choice between articles. The bond which unites them cannot be separated. Article 19 offers the legal means, exclusive of recourse to force, of adapting existing treaties to international situations, the maintenance of which may be demonstrated as imperilling the peace of the world. This [Page 406] article and these possibilities cannot be contested. But other principles which yield nothing to this one in importance are affirmed by other articles. For example, article 10 stipulates the obligation of maintaining the territorial integrity of the members of the League against all external aggression; article 16 provides for measures of an economic and military nature against states which have recourse to war in violation of their engagements. If one should assign to the collaboration of the powers precise objects within the limits of the covenant, the care to assure the full efficacy of these articles should not be less emphatically required than that of permitting an eventual application of article 19.

The Government of the French Republic, moreover, cannot refrain from emphasizing that by insisting in general terms on the principle of revision there is risk of giving rise to hopes which it would be subsequently impossible to satisfy and to awaken fears, which, even if unjustified, would not fail to present an obstacle to the closer relations of nations. It does not believe especially that, at a moment when there is in progress in a part of Europe an evolution of minds and of institution of which it is impossible to foresee the end, it is proper to attempt such an experiment.

The Government of the Republic has given testimony by its acts of its desire to see the success of the Disarmament Conference assured. The cooperation of the four powers should have as its first effect to reduce the opposition which has become manifest in their respective conceptions (views). The declaration of December 11, 1932, has provided for the concession to Germany of equality of rights in a regime assuring security to all nations: this declaration retains its full effect. The French Government is, moreover, happy to see that the Italian proposal as well as the British proposal recalls that equality of rights can only be realized by stages and in conformity with agreements which are to be arrived at looking to this end. It is proper to add that these successive stages can only be realized by a progressive disarmament to the exclusion of all rearmament.

In presenting a draft convention31 which embodies a part of the principles included in other proposals, notably in the French proposal, and on which the general Commission has already expressed itself, the British Delegation has furnished a practical basis for discussion which should permit the Conference to arrive at a result. The French Government will fully support the efforts which may be made to this end, reserving to itself, however, just as other governments have done and pursuant to the invitation itself of the British representatives at Geneva, the right to propose such amendments or modifications which appear to it to be indispensable.

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A policy of cooperation of the four powers would not be limited to questions which fall within the province of the League of Nations. It will apply naturally to all questions which are common to them; it should also lead to consultation on all questions of common interest to Europe, notably those which concern its economic recovery and which are so pressing, it being understood that such a cooperation may not be directed against any state whatever, that it should not exclude any collaboration and that it should be coordinated with the efforts of this kind already attempted by the European Union.

It is with the considerations which are given above in mind, that the Government of the Republic, on the basis of the proposals of the British and the Italian Governments, submits for their examination the draft agreement, the text of which is appended to this memorandum.


Draft of a Pact of Understanding and Collaboration Between Germany, France, Great Britain, and Italy32

Conscious of the peculiar responsibilities which their permanent membership in the League of Nations Council imposes upon them toward the League itself and its members, as well as of the responsibilities which result from their common signature of the Locarno Agreements;

Convinced that the troubled state which reigns in the world can be dissipated only by the strengthening of a solidarity capable of reenforcing European confidence in peace;

Faithful to the engagements which they have assumed under the Covenant of the League of Nations, the Locarno Treaties, and the Briand-Kellogg Pact, and recalling the Declaration of Non-Recourse to Force, the principle of which was adopted on March 2, 1933 by the Political Commission of the Disarmament Conference;

Anxious to give full effect to all the provisions of the Covenant by conforming to the methods and procedures which it sets up and which they are not disposed to impair;

Recognizing the rights of each State which cannot be infringed without the consent of the interested Powers;

Have agreed to the following provisions:

Article 1

The High Contracting Parties will consult as to all questions affecting them and will endeavor to apply among themselves within the framework of the Covenant of the League of Nations a policy of effective collaboration with a view to the maintenance of peace.

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Article 2

The High Contracting Parties, bearing in mind the possible application in Europe of the articles of the Covenant, and especially of Articles 10, 16 and 19, resolve to examine jointly, subject to the reservation that decisions can only be made by the regular organs of the League of Nations, all proposals designed to give full effect to the methods and procedures provided in its articles.

Article 3

Renewing, as far as concerns them, their common declaration of December 11, 1932, the High Contracting Parties regard the present British Draft Convention as a practical basis of discussion which must permit the Disarmament Conference to elaborate as quickly as possible a convention which will insure a substantial reduction and limitation of armaments with provision for its subsequent revision with a view to a new reduction. Germany, on her part, recognizes that equality of rights in a system providing security for all nations can only be realized in stages in conformity with Article 8 of the Covenant and in accordance with the agreements which will be concluded to this effect.

Article 4

The High Contracting Parties affirm in a general sense their determination to consult on all questions of common interest in Europe, especially on all questions concerning the recovery of European economy, the regulation of which, without becoming the object of procedure before the League of Nations, can usefully be sought within the framework of the Commission of Enquiry for European Union.

Article 5

The present Agreement is concluded for a duration of ten years, beginning with the exchange of ratifications. If before the end of the eighth year, none of the High Contracting Parties has notified the others of its intention to terminate the Treaty, it will be regarded as renewed and will remain in force without time limit, the Contracting Parties in this case retaining the power to terminate it by a denunciation with two years notice.

Article 6

The present Agreement shall be ratified and the ratifications thereof exchanged as soon as possible. It will be registered with the Secretariat of the League of Nations in accordance with the provisions of the Covenant.

  1. French text dated April 10, 1933, is printed in France, Ministère des Affaires Étrangèrs, Pacte d’entente et de collaboration paraphé’ á Rome le 7 juin 1933 (Paris, Imprimerie des Journaux Officiels, 1933), pp. 10–11.
  2. See telegram No. 569, March 17, noon, from the Acting Chairman of the American delegation, p. 43.
  3. For French text, see Pacte d’entente et de collaboration, pp. 12–13.