740.00/118: Telegram

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

261–262. I lunched alone today with Blum and Delbos. We discussed the entire international situation and Blum expressed substantially the same views as those of Delbos reported in my Nos. 250 to 254 of February 20, 1937.

In addition:

1. I brought up the question of St. Pierre Miquelon, explaining that I did not consider the suggestion of the Ministry of Colonies, transmitted to the Department in my No. 255, February 23 [22] 1 [4] p.m.,58 satisfactory. I expressed the hope that if the matter should not be settled before my departure from Paris they would receive Mr. Wilson59 and support him against the Minister of Colonies. They promised that they would do so.

2. Austria. Blum said that he felt Schuschnigg was almost at the end of his tether. The Nazi movement was increasing so fast in Austria that unless Otto should be replaced on the throne the Nazis would control Austria within 6 months. He said that he felt sure that Schuschnigg’s proposed visit to Rome would be for the purpose of asking Mussolini’s support for the immediate restoration of Otto. He added that he believed Mussolini would not support immediate restoration but would advise Schuschnigg to temporize. He believed that Mussolini realized that the restoration of Otto, with or without his support, might bring an immediate invasion of Austria by German troops and that he did not wish to face such a crisis at this time.

With regard to France’s probable action in case of a German invasion of Austria, Blum agreed with the views expressed by Delbos (see my telegram No. 253, February 21, 3 a.m.). He said that France certainly could not go to war for Otto; that the Yugoslavs definitely were opposed to Otto’s return to the throne and that the questions raised by a German invasion of Austria would be altogether unlike those involved in a German invasion of Czechoslovakia. France would go to war at once in case of German invasion of Czechoslovakia and would have the support of the Little Entente in so doing. France would not make war to prevent German occupation of Austria.

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3. Czechoslovakia. Blum said that the Czechs had done something to conciliate the Germans of Bohemia by their recent concessions. He added that he did not believe that the Czechs were now engaged in any serious negotiations with the German Government but that the situation had been somewhat improved by these Czech concessions.

4. Spain. Blum said that as soon as the control of the shipment of “volunteers” to Spain had been established effectively he believed that a move should be made to bring about the withdrawal of “volunteers”.

Delbos interjected that he had telephoned to Corbin, French Ambassador in London, this morning with regard to the matter and had said to Corbin that he believed such a proposal would be more effective if it should be made by the English than if made by the French. There were many French “volunteers” in Spain just as there were many German and Italian “volunteers”. If England should make the proposal it would come from a relatively uninvolved power.

I then asked Blum what further steps he envisaged in case the proposal for withdrawal of “volunteers” should be accepted. He said that he felt there should then be mediation in the form of a proposal for an immediate armistice, the establishment of a commission of control under the League of Nations similar to the commissions which had controlled the Saar60 and upper Silesia,61 and free elections under the auspices of the League of Nations.

I asked him if he had any hope that such a proposal would prove acceptable to either side in Spain. He replied that he had great hopes. There was beginning to be a strong feeling among patriotic Spaniards that the civil war must end; that it could not end by the triumph of either of the present warring factions and that the interests of Spain must be placed above the interests of the warring groups. He said that he even had information of a very positive nature that conversations recently had taken place between the anarchists on the one side and the phalangites of Franco on the other.

5. Franco-German reconciliation.

Last night Blum had expressed to me his thanks for my address62 and he renewed those thanks today as did Delbos.

I then asked him whether he did not feel that the present moment might be a propitious one for France and Germany to get together on the basis of removal of barriers to international trade and the limitation of armaments. He replied that he felt the moment was [Page 56] not yet propitious. Hitler was speculating on the fall of his government. The Germans believed that if he should fall, the Socialists, the Communists, and the Left-wing Radical-Socialists would go into a united opposition which would make any government in France impossible and would provoke a series of strikes—even a general strike. I asked him if he did not feel that the Germans were close to the truth in their anticipations.

He then said that they were not close to the truth. In the first place he believed that his government would not be overthrown because of the financial situation. There was beginning to be an increase of confidence.…

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

I then asked him in what further points the German diagnosis was wrong. If he should be overthrown on the monetary question, would he be able to have another general election? He said that he was not at all sure. In order to have another general election it would be necessary to have the consent of the Senate and he did not believe that the Senate would consent because the Senate would know that if there should be another general election the Left would be strengthened. The Socialists would gain considerably at the expense of the Communists and the Radical-Socialists, while the Radical-Socialists would retain approximately the number of seats they now hold by gains from the Center. The Right would gain nothing and he, Blum, would return with increased power.

Blum then made a most important statement. The third point in which the German diagnosis was incorrect was the following: if he should go into opposition, a Radical-Socialist government would then be formed with the support of the Center and he would do everything possible to prevent serious strikes instead of trying to provoke them. He would do his best to make possible orderly government in France. He considered the international situation too grave and the possibilities of action by Hitler too great for him to envisage for one moment any action which would diminish the strength of France in international affairs.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Edwin C. Wilson, Counselor of Embassy.
  3. See Foreign Relations, The Paris Peace Conference, 1919, vol. xiii (The Treaty of Versailles), articles 16–33, inclusive, pp. 173179.
  4. See ibid., article 88 and annex, pp. 210219.
  5. The substance of the Ambassador’s address delivered in Paris on February 22 was carried in the press of February 23; on the same day the full text was issued as a mimeographed press release by the Department of State.