793.94/11975: Telegram

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

20. Leger14 who in the absence of Delbos15 is in charge of the Foreign Office stated to me today that it was the most ardent hope of the French Government that our Government might not become involved in war in the Far East. He added that he made this statement not for humanitarian reasons but because he felt certain that if we should become involved in war against Japan the British would be compelled to follow us and would be unable to act in Europe. This would mean that the position of France in Europe would be so greatly weakened that Germany and Italy would strike immediately. France would be left to defend her frontiers and her allies against the combined forces of Germany and Italy. That would be beyond her strength. He felt certain therefore that the involvement of the United States in war in the Far East would mean catastrophe for France and for Europe.

Leger added that he knew there were various forces in England which were doing their utmost by methods open and secret to persuade the United States to act against Japan. He said that he had discussed the possibilities of British action in the Far East at great length with various English statesmen and diplomats recently. He could assure me that there was not the slightest chance that England would go to war with Japan no matter what insults she might receive from Japan and no matter how serious might be Japanese aggression against her interests and possessions in the Far East. The British Government had no illusion that it could carry on a war successfully in Chinese and Japanese waters. A joint action in which the United States would carry the major portion of the burden would be quite another matter.

His latest information from Russia was that the Russian Government would continue supplying arms and munitions to Chiang Kai Shek but positively would not become involved in the war.

He believed that Chiang Kai Shek probably would retire into Szechuan and continue to fight but he was not sure that this was so. Chiang Kai Shek unquestionably desired to continue the war and to avoid negotiations but there were many other leaders in China who desired to enter into negotiations. The Chinese had consented to receive terms of peace from the hands of the German Ambassador in spite of the advanced warnings of the French Foreign Office as to the [Page 6] nature of the terms. This seemed to him to indicate that the will to continue fighting was not so strong in China as he would like to see it.

Leger was less pessimistic than Chautemps16 with regard to the ultimate effects of Goga’s appointment as Prime Minister of Rumania. He said that the King had said to the French Minister in Bucharest that the Prime Minister would have nothing to do either with foreign affairs or with military affairs. He, the King, would control Rumanian policy in both these fields and he would be entirely faithful to his friendship with France. Leger stated that General Avarescu, the new Rumanian Minister for War, had accepted the office only after pledges from the Prime Minister and the King that the policy of friendship with France should not be abandoned.

Finally, Leger stated that Goga himself had said to the French Minister that both foreign affairs and military affairs were not under his control but under the control of the King. Leger added that the military supplies which France had promised to Rumania would continue to be sent to Rumania; but would be delivered with an eye-dropper, very little at a time in return for good behavior.

Leger insisted that accord was now perfect between France and England with regard to the policies to be pursued vis-à-vis Germany and Italy. Chamberlain17 was as convinced as the French Government that no acceptable agreement could be made with Mussolini18 unless an agreement should have been made previously with Germany. The French and British Governments while continuing to rearm as fast as possible would therefore speak softly and amiably to Germany and ignore Italy.

  1. Secretary General of the French Foreign Office.
  2. French Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  3. Camille Chautemps, President of the French Council of Ministers (Premier).
  4. Neville Chamberlain, British Prime Minister.
  5. Italian Prime Minister.