The Ambassador in France (Bullitt) to the Secretary of State
[Received February 22—11:40 a.m.]
280. I talked this afternoon with Delbos who was in acute depression. He said that the entire policy he had attempted to carry out for the past two years had been destroyed. There was nothing for him to do but give up his shoes. He could not think of any constructive policy. The British Government had made it clear that Britain would do nothing to prevent the absorption of Austria by Germany. France could not alone attempt to protect Austria.
It was clear therefore that Austria within a very limited time would fall into the hands of Germany.46 It would then be the turn of Czechoslovakia.47 He did not believe that Germany would attack Czechoslovakia directly but believed that Germany would become so threatening that Benes would be obliged to give autonomy to the Sudeten Germans.
The situation in Spain was even more tragic. The German and Italian intervention in Spain directly menaced France’s communications with her African colonies. But if France should intervene in Spain today England would not support her and France would be left alone to fight Germany and Italy. The most that could be done would be to send additional military supplies to the Spanish Government.
Delbos showed me a note which he had just received from Chamberlain in which it was asserted that there would be no change in British policy. He commented that this note was of course valueless. The fact was that England had embarked on a policy of turning over central and eastern Europe to Germany in spite of her obligations under the League of Nations. It would be possible for France now to retire behind the Maginot line, develop her own defenses and let the rest of Europe fall into Germany’s hands. He himself would continue to oppose such a policy; but it was a policy which in default of a better one was likely to be adopted. France was isolated.
No other great power would assist her and France alone could not establish collective security.
He would of course abandon his intention to make a speech in favor of “humanization of warfare”. In view of present events a speech on such a subject would be ridiculous. He was being urged on every side to make a strong address. He did not wish to make any address. He considered words entirely valueless. The world had now reached the stage in which force and force alone counted.[Page 29]
Delbos made it entirely evident that he desired to be out of office as soon as possible. I derived the impression that Chautemps will find it difficult to prevent his resignation and in consequence the fall of the government.
He said that if Germany should attack Czechoslovakia he would order French mobilization at once. He believed that nothing effective could be done to save Austria.
He was most concerned about Hitler’s statements with regard to Spain. He desired to send an expedition at once to seize the Balearic Islands in order to remove the threat to the communications with her north African colonies. He expressed the belief that if the threat to these communications should be removed France would be able to live safely behind the Maginot line no matter what might happen in central and Eastern Europe. It was the estimate of the general staff that one soldier behind good fortifications on the defensive was worth four attackers.