The Ambassador in France ( Bullitt ) to the Secretary of State
[Received February 3—5 p.m.]
204. Rochat29 who visited me in my bedroom today, since I am still down with grippe, said that Leon Berard’s30 mission to Franco’s headquarters would have two objects. The first to make definite arrangements about the return to Spain of the 60,000 refugees who are already on French territory, the additional refugees who are arriving daily and the 2 or 300,000 armed men who are expected to cross the frontier within the next week.
The second object of Berard’s trip would be to arrange the form of French representation at Franco’s headquarters. The French Government could not send an Ambassador to Franco because it positively would not withdraw its Ambassador accredited to the Negrin Government and could not have two Spanish Ambassadors in Paris. On the other hand it had become a prime necessity to have some sort of representation at Franco’s headquarters such as the British had had for the past year and the Belgians had recently established.[Page 736]
Berard had been ordered to propose that the French representative should be the head of a commercial mission like the British and Belgian representatives. It is feared that Franco under Italian pressure would refuse this proposal and would insist on having a full-fledged Ambassador. The French Government hoped that some compromise might be worked out as Franco soon would be in control of the whole Spanish frontier of France and it was absolutely essential to have some sort of diplomatic relations with him.
Rochat said that the opinions of French observers differed as to the length of time the Valencia–Madrid section of Spain might continue to resist. Some competent observers believed that the Valencia–Madrid section could and would hold out for 2 or 3 months. Others believed that morale would collapse as soon as Franco should have the whole of Catalonia in his hands.
Rochat said that every one in the Quai d’ Orsay felt that the reports of the President’s attitude toward the present situation in Europe would deter the Italians and the Germans from making war in the immediate future.