740.00/430: Telegram

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

1167. In the course of a conversation with Secretary Morgenthau93 and myself today the Minister for Foreign Affairs gave a brief summary [Page 58] of his views on the present international situation. He said that there were two points of danger to peace in Europe at the present time. The first was Czechoslovakia. A few months ago this situation had appeared to be desperate because the British had refused to interest themselves in the fate of Central Europe. He had succeeded in persuading the British to take the initiative with regard to the settlement of the Czechoslovak-German dispute and he was most hopeful that the mission about to be undertaken by Lord Runciman94 would produce an appeasement. It would be impossible for Runciman to satisfy either party to the dispute completely but all the weight of Great Britain would be thrown into the scale to compel either the Germans or the Czechs as the case might be to accept Runciman’s proposals.

For the first time therefore he saw a ray of light. It was his personal opinion that war during the next two months was no longer to be feared.

He felt moreover that Germany and Italy were now at the peak of their military strength. They had used their gold reserves and the personal reserves of the people of Italy and Germany to build up immense armaments. It would be exceedingly difficult for Germany, and impossible for Italy to continue to replace these armaments.

In France and England on the other hand although the governments might encounter financial difficulties individual citizens were still immensely rich—with investments both at home and abroad. These riches could be used to build up the armaments of France and Great Britain to such an extent that if it should be possible to preserve peace during the next 12 months Germany and Italy would be unable to attack with any hope of success.

He added parenthetically that he felt that the chief danger to peace at the moment was Mussolini who was so completely aware that he would be unable to maintain the present military strength of Italy that he desired war at once.

With regard to the Soviet Union Bonnet said that he believed that the recent “purges” of army officers and civilian leaders had so weakened the structure of the Bed Army and the government that it would be impossible for the Soviet Union to contemplate war beyond its frontiers. It was his policy to attempt to strengthen the relations of France not with the Soviet Union but with Poland and Rumania. To this end he was attempting to obtain assurances from the Soviet [Page 59] Government that if war should come in Central Europe the Soviet Union would positively not attempt to march armies across the territories of Poland and Rumania and would not send airplanes across those territories but would confine its assistance to the furnishing of munitions and implements of war to the Polish and Rumanian Governments.

With regard to the situation in the Far East Bonnet said that he felt the Japanese were so deeply involved in China that there was no real danger that Japan would dare to attack the Soviet Union or the Island of Hainan or any French possession in Asia. China was proving to be such a formidable enemy that the Japanese could not afford to take on new enemies.

He read to us a telegram which he had received this morning from the French Ambassador in Moscow recounting a conversation with Litvinov in which Litvinov declared that the Red Army would remain in occupation of the positions recently seized at Changkufeng and that the Soviet Government had no fear whatsoever that the Japanese would dare to attack.

In conclusion Bonnet said that he thought that the action of the British in taking the lead in the settlement of the Czechoslovak-German dispute and the recent action of the French Government in developing close relations with Turkey marked the beginning of the end of the German thrust through Central and Eastern Europe.

With regard to Spain—the second danger point—Bonnet said that his position had been peculiarly difficult because while France on the whole was most favorable to the Barcelona Government the British on the whole were most favorable to Franco. To maintain close collaboration with the British was the basis of French foreign policy. It was therefore difficult to take a clear line with regard to Spain. He felt that the policy of non-intervention unsatisfactory as it might be was the only one to be. Franco had given categoric assurances to both Great Britain and France that if he should be victorious neither the Italians nor the Germans would be left in the possession of any strategic position whatsoever in Spain. The British furthermore had promised the French to go to war if necessary to eject the Italians and the Germans from any strategic position they might have acquired, and might refuse to give up.

Bonnet finally said that although he had been extremely pessimistic until recently he was now definitely optimistic and did not expect war this summer.

Bullitt
  1. Henry Morgenthau, Jr., Secretary of the Treasury.
  2. Walter Runciman, Lord President of the Council, 1938–39; for correspondence on his mission to Czechoslovakia in connection with the Sudeten question, see telegram No. 699, July 29, 6 p.m., from the Ambassador in the United Kingdom, p. 537.