765.84/3373: Telegram

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

19. Léger55 told Marriner56 yesterday afternoon that he thought there would be little or no action when the nations met again at Geneva on January 21. It was his opinion that matters would be delayed pending the results of the debates in the American Congress in order to see how the neutrality legislation was going to be ultimately framed.

Marriner asked him if he thought that this was in accord with Eden’s57 ideas and Léger said that the French Ambassador in London was of the opinion that Eden felt it absolutely essential to ascertain whether any neutrality legislation passed would class nations undertaking the enforcement of sanctions or the punishment of the declared aggressor as belligerents and equally deny them along with the aggressor the benefits of trade in arms and material of war such as oil. He said that de Laboulaye58 had been instructed to ask for information on the attitude of the American Government in this matter. He seemed to feel that unless the President were given some discretionary authority in the application of embargoes there would be little hope of further action in Geneva to increase or alter the present sanctions in force against Italy.

Whether this would mean that the demands of the small powers for increased severity against Italy which are apt to arise in Geneva are to be met by England and France by an effort to put the entire blame for inaction on the United States seems to be one aspect of the question. The other appears from Léger’s comment to arise from the French opinion that the Abyssinian venture from a military point of view is a flat failure which is becoming increasingly evident every day. He said that their information is to the effect that motorization has utterly broken down in that area; that the wear and tear on material, the difficulties of transporting sufficient motor fuel and the great distances involved have apparently not been taken into the Italian calculations so they now find themselves unexpectedly engaged in hand to hand fighting in which they have no advantage whatever over the Ethiopians. With this military set-back Léger felt that Mussolini had at the same time utterly failed to take advantage of any of the peace offers made to him and added that in [Page 87] his opinion whatever successes Mussolini might have had as an internal administrator in the course of his regime he had never yet shown himself an able diplomat. Therefore he could only envisage a solution through some change in regime when the facts become appreciated and if the powers retain sufficient patience.

  1. Alexis Léger, Secretary General of the French Foreign Office.
  2. James Theodore Marriner, Consul General at Paris.
  3. Anthony Eden, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; formerly Minister without Portfolio for League of Nations Affairs.
  4. André de Laboulaye, French Ambassador in the United States.