The Ambassador in France ( Bullitt ) to the Secretary of State
[Received February 7—6:45 p.m.]
207. Chautemps, Delbos, and Léger29 lunched with Hugh Wilson,30 Edwin Wilson31 and me today. The conversation on the subject of [Page 16] a Franco-German rapprochement brought out in striking fashion the different conceptions and tendencies of those in control of French foreign policy in their approach to this problem. Chautemps is thoroughly realistic and intends to leave no stone unturned in an effort to come to a settlement with the Germans in the hope of obtaining the assurance of at least a few years of peace. Léger on the other hand is extremely cautious and while declaring that the essential point in French foreign policy is a settlement with Germany, nevertheless is negative when it comes to ways and means of accomplishing this end. Between the two stands Delbos.
Delbos hopes that the proposal which has been made for an agreement to cease bombing civilian populations in Spain may lead to negotiations with Germany to generalize the application of this principle in time of war. He hopes that out of some such small beginning may grow further helpful discussions, for example, on the question of a limiting construction of heavy bombing planes. The important thing in his view is to get Germany to sit down at a conference table with the other powers in the hope that discussions of relatively minor matters may lead to discussions of the essential problems of European peace. He is encouraged by the fact that while the proposal for ending bombardments of civilian populations in Spain at first met with an unfavorable press in Germany, later press reaction under the guidance of the German Government has shown a more favorable tone.
Delbos said that Von Welczech, the German Ambassador, had called upon him to state under instructions of his Government that the recent changes in the direction of the army and the Foreign Office in Germany did not in any way signify a change in German foreign policy. The information far from complete which the French Government has so far received regarding these changes in Germany seems to indicate that Hitler has engineered a compromise between the Reichswehr and the party.
Léger stated and Chautemps and Delbos agreed that he felt that Von Neurath32 had not been shelved but on the contrary would continue to have influence in the conduct of Germany’s foreign relations. He felt that Von Ribbentrop33 would not be allowed to run wild at the Foreign Office and that the establishment of the secret council on foreign affairs composed not only of rabid party men such as Goering, Hess and Goebbels but also of more moderate men such as Von Neurath, Lammers and the heads of the Reichswehr and the navy would mean that Hitler would get sounder advice in arriving at decisions on [Page 17] crucial points in foreign policy than when he had consulted only his intimates of the party.
Léger said that from such information as he had received he did not put stock in the story that Von Fritsch and other generals had conspired against the regime with the idea of restoring the monarchy in Germany.
Chautemps said that while the British would probably proceed with talks with the Italians he felt that nothing would come of these talks. In exchange for recognition of the King of Italy as Emperor of Ethiopia the British would demand (1) withdrawal of Italian troops from Libya, (2) cessation of propaganda in the Arab countries, and (3) withdrawal of Italian troops from Spain. To accept these demands would mean a capitulation on the part of Mussolini and the latter obviously could not grant them.
- Alexis Léger, Secretary-General of the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs.↩
- Ambassador in Germany.↩
- Counselor of Embassy in France.↩
- Baron Konstantin von Neurath, German Minister without Portfolio, and former Minister for Foreign Affairs.↩
- Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Minister for Foreign Affairs.↩