852.00/2290: Telegram

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

668. Following upon a series of revelations and bitter criticism in the French Right press during the last week, the intricate matter of alleged attempted supply by the Blum12 government of arms and munitions to the Madrid Government was brought to a focus over the week end.

While no mention is made of it in the laconic communiqué issued after a Cabinet Council hastily summoned on July 25th, an inspired press statement made it known that the Blum government had unanimously decided against supplying arms to the Madrid Government and against intervention in the domestic affairs of another nation.

[Page 448]

The reasons which led to the decision were communicated to the Embassy by a reliable press contact who obtained his information from a member of the French Supreme War Council. According to his informant certain members of the Blum Cabinet particularly Cot, Air Minister, decided on July 21 to accede to a request from Spain and to send arms and ammunition urgently required by the Madrid Government. To this decision it is understood that Blum gave his tacit approval.

On July 22 Corbin, French Ambassador in London, telephoned Blum personally and called to his attention that the British Government was extremely worried about this contingency. Corbin urged Blum to come over and discuss the situation with Baldwin13 and Eden14 as soon as possible. Thus Corbin’s request was the chief reason for Blum’s sudden decision to proceed to London and not as is generally believed to join in the tripartite conversations which were then taking place.

In London Eden drew Blum’s attention to the grave international consequences which might result from French active support of the Madrid Government. The fears of the British Government were strengthened by a report from the French Military Intelligence which indicated a certain movement of German troops on the French eastern border. Eden furthermore made it quite clear that he considered that any assistance lent by the French Government to the Spanish Government might conceivably develop a most critical international situation in view of the Italian and German attitude in the matter.

Blum returned to Paris on the 25th and immediately called the Cabinet Council meeting mentioned above in the course of which the British point of view was brought forcibly to the attention of his extremist colleagues particularly Cot. After a lengthy debate the more moderate elements Blum, Daladier15 and Delbos16 who advocated a policy of strict neutrality won out and the decision mentioned above was taken.

From a conversation with Cardenas, recently Spanish Ambassador in Paris who resigned his office and came to take leave of me this morning, as well as the published reasons for not only his own resignation but also that of his Military Attaché and Counsellor of Embassy, proofs are not lacking to show that negotiations for the purchase by Spain of French war materials had actually taken place.

At the Chamber of Deputies tomorrow Taittiuger, Right Deputy of the Republican Federation and leader of the former Jeunesses patriotes, an extra parliamentary league dissolved recently by decree, will [Page 449]question the government with regard to the whole matter. While legally the Blum government was probably within its right at first in deciding to sell war supplies to a foreign government the Right press has made it abundantly clear in the last few days that the Spanish and French Popular Front Governments have been working in close harmony. In support of this view press correspondents in the more important Right organs have reported: (1) on July 24th a Spanish plane landed at Le Bourget with 19,000,000 francs in gold as alleged advance payment of orders for war material; (2) that 19 Potez 1929 model planes unequipped with armament and thus classified as commercial planes are at the military aerodrome at Éitampes-Mondesir awaiting the arrival of French civil fliers to pilot them to Spain; (3) that the freighter Ciudad de Tarragona escorted by a Spanish torpedo boat arrived at Marseille last week with the alleged intention of loading war material.

The debate in the Chamber of Deputies tomorrow which the Embassy will report will probably be a bitter one and the attack on the Government will stress the surreptitious manner which was adopted by Blum and his colleagues to supply the Madrid Government with arms and the implication that there is an agreement between the Popular Front Government of France and Spain to lend each other mutual support.

Straus
  1. Telegram in four sections.
  2. León Blum, President of the French Council of Ministers.
  3. Stanley Baldwin, British Prime Minister.
  4. Anthony Eden, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  5. Edouard Daladier, French Minister of National Defense and of War.
  6. Yvon Delbos, French Minister for Foreign Affairs.