741.61/673: Telegram

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

1072. Daladier said to me this evening that he had stated to the Soviet Ambassador that he considered the Soviet proposal a ridiculous document. It would be absurd to conclude a political accord subject to the conclusion of a future military accord, and the enumeration of states in the Soviet proposal seemed to him thoroughly undesirable. What was necessary was to make a simple agreement between France, Great Britain and the Soviet Union, providing that the three states should go to war if any one of the three were menaced by an aggression direct or indirect.

I asked Daladier how he intended to define aggression in view of the Soviet note to Estonia (see my telegram No. 1071, June 5, 7 p.m.). He replied that the definition of aggression would have to be prepared with the utmost care. The Soviet note to Estonia was one of the most shocking documents he had ever read. It meant simply that the Soviet Union reserved the right to enter Estonia on any pretext convenient to the Soviet Government. He was inclined to think that the simplest test of aggression was the crossing of a frontier by an armed force. He felt that it was necessary to have the Soviet Union in the front of resistance to Hitler. He also believed that the negotiations could be brought to a successful conclusion; but he thought that before the end of the negotiations, it would be necessary for him to adopt a position of take it or leave it. He had done this once before with the Soviet Union when he had forced the Soviet Union to enter the League of Nations2 by informing the Soviet Ambassador in Paris that he intended to come to an agreement with Hitler.

Daladier said he had no indication as to Chamberlain’s attitude and, since Chamberlain had been driven by others to make his proposals to the Soviet Union, he felt that there was a possibility that Chamberlain would refuse to argue any further. He had said this to the Soviet Ambassador and had told the Soviet Ambassador that he was convinced [Page 270] that Chamberlain would not agree to guarantee the Baltic States. He added that he had no information which indicated that there were serious conversations with regard to a rapprochement between Germany and the Soviet Union.

Daladier then stated that he had no information indicating that Hitler was likely to attack Poland or any other country this month. He believed that the next great moment of danger would come at the end of July after the German harvest.

He thought that Hitler was now most hesitant to begin a war. The military position of France and England was much stronger than last September. The production of airplanes in both France and England was now satisfactory and anti-aircraft guns were now beginning to be produced in sufficient quantity. Germany and Italy could no longer bombard the industrial centers of France and England with impunity.

In his opinion another vital factor which was restraining Hitler from making war was the attitude of the Government of the United States. He was absolutely certain that if the President had not taken the attitude that he had taken from last October onward Hitler long since would have attacked France and England. He could never express adequately his gratitude to the President for his policy during these months. The fact that the United States had become an enormous question mark in Hitler’s mind had been sufficient to prevent the war which otherwise would have been inevitable. He was deeply grateful to the President and was certain that his position in history would be that of a very great statesman.

I asked Daladier if he had any criticism to make of American policy. He said that he had none. The Government of the United States had done everything possible to prevent war in Europe with a clarity and ability that were astonishing. If he should meet the President in Washington tomorrow he would have nothing to say except to thank him for his offers.

He had asked Alphand, Director of Commercial Accords, to speak to me about the possibility of acquiring a very large quantity of American cotton to be stocked at the earliest possible moment in France and he assumed that Alphand had already discussed this matter with me. I replied that Alphand had informed me that he would call on me today to make a formal proposal with regard to American cotton. Daladier said that aside from this proposal he did not have a single request to make. Relations between nations should be always of the sort that now existed between France and the United States.

I asked Daladier how he explained Mussolini’s present policy. He said that he felt Mussolini had aged rapidly during the past year and had begun to lose his grip and was influenced greatly by Ciano3 who [Page 271] was unpopular in Italy and could not see any way of becoming Mussolini’s successor except by German support. He felt that the present policy had been invented by Ciano and foisted on Mussolini by him and was designed to obtain German support for Ciano’s succession to the Duce’s post.

Daladier said that he felt confident that if war should break out during the month of July, Spain would not become an ally of Germany or Italy; but he felt almost certain that Spain would provide submarine bases for Germany and Italy.

Daladier said that the Japanese had been intensely angry because of his action in sending a military mission to assist the Chinese. They were threatening to attack French Indo-China almost daily. He did not believe that the Japanese would attack Indo-China and he was now sending arms and ammunition to the Chinese Government. He believed that it was of the utmost importance that China should be supported at the present time by all the democratic countries. (I spoke to him at this point about Chinese exports of tung oil to the United States. See your No. 396 of June 2, 7 p.m.4)

Daladier said that he was continuing to attempt to get under way the conversations between Great Britain and Poland for the rapid conclusion of a political agreement. He believed that it would have an excellent effect on the negotiations with the Soviet Union if France and England should conclude political, military and financial agreements with Poland before replying formally to the Soviet Union’s proposals.

  1. On September 18, 1934.
  2. Count Galeazzo Ciano di Cortellazzo, Italian Foreign Minister.
  3. Not printed.