740.0011 Mutual Guarantee (Locarno)/377: Telegram

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


175. The Foreign Minister received me this afternoon. He appeared most willing to outline the views of his Government and handed me the text of the communication to the League which will be delivered tomorrow.65

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

As a consequence of her unwillingness to take unilateral action he said that France will not mobilize at present and was taking no military measures beyond slightly reinforcing the garrisons of the frontier fortresses. I asked him if he felt that Germany’s intentions were warlike and he replied that he thought that Germany desired to occupy and to fortify the demilitarized zone which could then be held by a [Page 217] minimum force thus enabling the Reich to turn its attention south and eastward toward Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Russia and that he thought the menace of such ultimate action was very real.

I asked him how these events would affect the ratification of the Soviet pact and he replied that it would make it more certain than ever and that one of the reasons he was remaining in Paris until Thursday night was to see that instrument through the Senate.

With respect to the attitude of Italy he said that it was most fortunate that she had acquiesced in the request to discuss peace before these events. He added that Italy’s position was most difficult since under the régime of sanctions now applying to that country she had derived the larger portion of her supplies from Germany. It was his impression that under present conditions there could of course be no thought of extending sanctions against Italy and that there might be some possibility of dropping them entirely in view of her attitude shown with respect to the Ethiopian settlement and her desire to retain the benefits of Locarno. He asked me what I thought would be the attitude of the United States in view of the unilateral repudiation of a treaty followed up by military force.

He referred to the fact that the United States had recently expressed its interest in world peace by action with respect to shipments of arms to belligerents and restriction [of] shipments of oil to the average quantities previously imported by any nation prior to the outbreak of the war. I pointed out to him that as he was aware the United States was not a member of the League of Nations nor a signatory of Locarno and that the principal desire of our country as recently expressed and frequently reenforced by declarations of the Executive and acts of Congress was to remain neutral.

I added that he of course could judge from his own experience in the United States the nature of the feeling there with respect to the régime in Germany.

He asked me as personal favor because of England’s vacillation to call the situation to the President’s attention with the request that some statement might be made by him or by the Secretary of State condemning on moral grounds any unilateral repudiation of a treaty. It was his belief that the President’s words would have wide attention and real effect particularly in England. I told him that in view of the state of public opinion in the United States on the question of neutrality I could not comment on his request or on the reception it might encounter but that I would be glad [to] transmit it in the precise terms in which he had outlined it to me.

I should naturally be glad to have as urgently as possible any comment you may care to make on M. Flandin’s request.

Repeated to London, Berlin, Geneva, Rome, Moscow.

  1. Telegram in three sections.
  2. Despatched March 8, League of Nations, Official Journal, April 1936, p. 312.