The Ambassador in France ( Bullitt ) to the Secretary of State
[Received 3:02 p.m.]
798. Both Bonnet and Léger have informed me that the French Government received last night the counterproposal of the Soviet Government to the mutual proposals of the French and British Governments.
The Soviet Government has proposed to France and England that the three countries should guarantee not only to fight at once in case of a direct attack on any one of the three, but also that all three countries should guarantee to go to war at once in case of an aggression against any other country in Europe.
Both Bonnet and Léger said that they felt the acceptance of a proposal of this sort would place the present negotiations for mutual defense on an unreal “League of Nations” basis. Guarantees especially of this kind would not carry conviction. For example, it would be totally impossible in their opinion to get French soldiers to march in case of a German attack on Estonia unless such an attack should first involve Poland. A French guarantee of military aid in case of a German attack on Estonia would be therefore in the opinion of every one in Europe a fictitious promise that the French people would not support with arms.
Both Bonnet and Léger said that after studying the Soviet note today they would prepare, in close collaboration with the British Government, a counterproposal in which they would suggest a formula by which it could be understood but not stated specifically that if either France, Great Britain, or the Soviet Union should be drawn into war with Germany because of its obligations to support another European state, the other partner to the agreement should give immediate military assistance.
In other words the guarantees would be between France and the Soviet Union and Great Britain and the Soviet Union but they would cover Rumania without mentioning Rumania.[Page 240]
Both Bonnet and Léger said that they did not believe that the Soviet reply indicated a desire to escape from making any commitments. The formula might be hard to find but they were confident that it would be found.
Incidentally I dined last night with Léger and Vansittart62 who returned to London today after comparing agreement with Léger on the subject of relations with the Soviet Union. I gathered from Vansittart that his relations with Halifax have now become very close but that his relations with Chamberlain are as distant as ever. He is violently in favor of immediate conscription.
- Sir Robert Gilbert Vansittart, chief diplomatic adviser, British Foreign Office.↩