The Ambassador in France (Bullitt) to the Secretary of State
[Received 8 p.m.]
14. In the course of a conversation today with Chautemps,2 I said that I had derived the impression from my last talk with Delbos3 that the present foreign policy of the French Government might be described by the phrase “wait and see”. He said that this was true; that he had no large projects in mind. He had thought of proposing to Germany, in a public statement, that the two countries should make a great effort to improve the tone of their relations by establishing cultural exchanges on a large scale and announcing to the world that they intended to work out all their difficulties in an atmosphere of friendship. He said that he was not now sure that he would do this. I gathered that he did not wish to seem to be seeking German favor at a moment when the prestige of France had been diminished seriously by events in Rumania.
With regard to the Rumanian situation, Chautemps said that unquestionably King Carol’s action in choosing Goga4 was a severe blow to France. Inasmuch as this action had followed immediately Delbos’ visit to Bucharest, the blow was all the more painful.
He believed that the King had acted in this way because of his fear and hatred of the National Peasants Party on the one hand and the Iron Guard on the other. Chautemps added that he expected Goga for the moment to continue to follow the foreign policy of Tatarescu5 [Page 2] but feared that after the elections, which would be arranged in order to give Goga a majority of the Parliament, Rumania would move further into the German-Italian orbit.
I asked Chautemps if he considered that any constructive international negotiations might be based on Van Zeeland’s report.6 He said that he considered the report prudent and on the whole sound insofar as it went; but he thought it did not go nearly far enough and he believed that even the mild recommendations of the report would prove to be unpalatable to either Germany or Italy. For example he would like to act on Van Zeeland’s [suggestion?] that all countries should agree not to take any further steps in the direction of autarchy. But he believed that neither Germany nor Italy would agree to limit evolution to repudiate autarchy. He also was not averse to discussing the exploitation of Equatorial Africa by international companies or consortiums. But he believed that Germany would not now be satisfied with the development of Central Africa by international organizations although the idea had originated in the brain of Schacht.7
Chautemps expressed his pleasure at the remarks on foreign affairs that the President has made in his message to Congress.8 He then reiterated what he has said to me on previous occasions; that the only effective intervention of the United States in world affairs would be if the President should be able to state that the United States would take arms against an aggressor or at least would cut off status of exports to an aggressor and send supplies to any nation or nations attacked. He added at once that he knew that it was impossible for the President to make any such statement or take any such position. He felt that this was unfortunate as he was convinced that such a statement by the President of the United States would be sufficient to stop the aggressor states and therefore would end the risk of the United States being involved in war. He was convinced that the United States would be drawn into war, if war should start in Europe and would suffer tremendous losses which could be avoided by taking a strong position which would prevent war.
I replied that he was quite right in his statement that it was impossible for the United States to take any such position, and reminded him that I had told him often that the United States would make every effort to stay out of war if war should come in Europe and that we would be involved only if our national honor should be trampled on as ruthlessly as it was by the Germans in 1917.[Page 3]
Chautemps said that the only ray of light he saw in the foreign situation was that internal conditions in Italy seemed to be becoming over-strained. He did not believe that Mussolini9 could continue to carry all the burdens imposed by his present policies. I asked Chautemps if he had done anything in the way of developing a rapprochement with Italy. He said that with Mussolini in his present state of mind it was virtually impossible to do anything with Italy. In point of fact diplomatic relations had practically been severed by France and Italy. Neither the Italian Chargé d’Affaires in Paris nor the French Chargé d’Affaires in Rome had any conversations of any importance whatsoever but were confined to strictly routine business.
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- Camille Chautemps, President of the French Council of Ministers.↩
- Yvon Delbos, French Minister for Foreign Affairs.↩
- Octavian Goga, Rumanian Prime Minister, December 28, 1937–February 10, 1938.↩
- George Tatarescu, former Rumanian Prime Minister.↩
- British Cmd. 5648: Report Presented by Monsieur van Zeeland to the Governments of the United Kingdom and France on the Possibility of Obtaining a General Reduction of the Obstacles to International Trade; see also Foreign Relations, 1937, vol. i, pp. 671 ff.↩
- Hjalmar Schacht, German Minister without Portfolio and President of the Reichsbank.↩
- January 3, 1938; Congressional Record, vol. 83, pt. 1, p. 8.↩
- Benito Mussolini, “Duce” and Head of the Italian Government.↩