Memorandum by the Ambassador in France (Straus)28

At 11:30 this morning I called by appointment on Foreign Minister Laval on the eve of his departure with M. Flandin for London. I told him that the purpose of my call was to ascertain whether there was anything about which he would like me to inform my Government. He stated in reply that he was going to London for a conversation, not a negotiation, and that he had every expectation of laying the groundwork for ultimate success in persuading Great Britain to see eye to eye with him in regard to general European conditions. He said that he was perfectly prepared to give Germany such satisfaction as would satisfy her national pride, and that his only desire was to assure general European peace. He said that he would lay his cards on the table, that he had nothing to conceal, and that he had no desire to encircle Germany or humiliate her in any way. He stated that Germany was prepared to subscribe to the Rome [Page 183] Pact,29 and that he had, in fact, seen the German Ambassador a few days ago, who had presented him with an aide-mémoire from Germany on the subject. The German Ambassador had also told him that Germany was prepared to subscribe to the Balkan Pact,30 but was not prepared to subscribe to the Eastern Pact, and that Germany had a suspicion that France and Russia had some kind of military agreement. To this Laval had replied that there is no military agreement between France and Russia and that there would be none looking to any other purpose than to establish European peace. He, Laval, had said that he was prepared to lay all of his correspondence with Russia on the table so that Germany could scrutinize it and see that he was playing fair and had nothing to conceal; and that the only understanding that he had with Russia was for peaceful purposes without any engagement of any kind for joint operation for military offense or defense. Continuing, M. Laval then told me that since the Saar plebiscite Hitler’s assurance that the western frontiers of Germany were settled, as well as Hitler’s refusal to give assurance as to the settlement of the eastern frontier, could be attributed to Germany’s fear of a Franco-Russian military alliance. He, Laval, had hopes, however, that as conversations proceeded and as he succeeded in convincing Germany that France had no desire for a military alliance with Russia, Germany might yield and agree that she regarded the eastern frontiers as settled as well. He stated that the smaller nations which were in constant fear of being gobbled up by Germany would feel much easier in their minds and would be less likely to start a general conflagration if the eastern frontiers question were announced by Germany as being satisfactory. Laval appeared very anxious that the United States should participate in a general disarmament conference once what he regarded as the prior necessity, namely, the settlement of the continental status quo, had been established. Trying to discuss disarmament first, he considered would be putting the cart before the horse.

M. Laval then referred to a statement that he had made yesterday in the Chamber of Deputies and read me from today’s Petit Parisien the following sentences expressing his views as he had frankly stated them to the Chamber yesterday:

“Nous voulons prendre notre part—une large part—dans l’organisation solide de la paix en Europe, mais nous ne concevons pas la paix sans les garanties de la sécurité. Nous n’avons d’ailleurs aucune conception [Page 184] égoiste. Cette sécurité, à laquelle toutes les nations ont le même droit, nous la demandons pour tous.”31

And he accentuated the last phrase, repeating it: “… nous la demandons pour tous.”

I asked him a question as to whether he believed there was any truth in the rumor that Germany, Japan and Poland had a military agreement between themselves, as reported in my despatch No. 1568 of January 29, 1935,32 setting forth a conversation which I had had with the new Russian Ambassador to France, M. Potemkin. Laval said he did not believe that there was any such military agreement though there had been an understanding which, in case there had been a Franco-Russian military agreement, might easily have developed into a military engagement. He said that recently Yoshida, Japanese Ambassador-at-Large, had been traveling widely and that he Laval had had several talks with Yoshida; had, in fact, given him a luncheon. He stated that Yoshida had been suspicious of the Franco-Russian engagements and he assured Yoshida—and he thinks satisfied him—that there was no Franco-Russian engagement that would lead to any military offensive against Japan. Yoshida had stressed the armaments of Russia in the East and Laval had told him that France had no ulterior motives, no desires for aggrandizement or for military preparedness either singly or in conjunction with any other nation except such as would lead to the assurance of world-wide peace.

Just before leaving I reminded Laval of the fact that the double taxation treaty had not yet passed the Senate.33 He replied: “I had it put through the Chamber of Deputies and I have not forgotten my promise and it will be passed and ratified by the Senate.” I said to him that I had met M. Caillaux, President of the Finance Committee of the Senate, in whose hands the double taxation treaty now lies, at a lunch at Baron de Lagrange’s yesterday and had mentioned the fact to him. Laval said that Caillaux was a friend of his, that he would speak to him on the subject and that he had not forgotten his promise to me that the convention would be ratified. He said that I had done well to speak to M. Caillaux.

I also left with M. Laval a memorandum that the Embassy had prepared for me on a series of tariff and quota protests that we had sent to the Foreign Office during the past six or eight months and which still remained unsettled. I asked him whether I should give this [Page 185] list to his Chef de Cabinet and he said “No,” that he would occupy himself with it and he took the list from me, making a note on it.

Jesse Isidor Straus
  1. Copy transmitted to the Department by the Ambassador in his despatch No. 1579, February 1; received February 8.
  2. Franco-Italian agreement signed at Rome, January 7, 1935, British and Foreign State Papers, vol. cxxxix, p. 947.
  3. Nonaggression pact between the members of the Balkan Entente, signed at Athens, February 9, 1934, League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. cliii, p. 153.
  4. Translation: “We wish to assume our part—a large part—in the solid organization of peace in Europe, but we do not envisage peace without security guarantees. Furthermore, we have no selfish thought. This security, to which all nations have the same right, we are asking for all.”
  5. Not printed.
  6. For correspondence concerning the ratification by France of the treaty of April 27, 1932, relating to double taxation, see vol. ii, pp. 247 ff.