The Ambassador in France (Caffery) to the Secretary of State
[Received August 16—1 p.m.]
4951. My 4875, Aug 11. As a result of informal and confidential conversations with a number of French Foreign Ministry officials, I submit the following as a general outline of the French Foreign Ministry views on certain topics which the French may bring up during de Gaulle’s visit.
1. Germany: The French take position that future security of France and Western Europe depends to a great extent on where Germany’s Western frontier is fixed. The French are concerned about the eventual reestablishment of a central German Govt not knowing what form it may take and believe that just as Russia and Poland have obtained any considerable degree of geographical security by the [Page 704]revision of Germany’s Eastern frontier as decided at Potsdam78 France should be guaranteed similar security by early revision of Germany’s Western frontier. What the French have in mind is that the future Western boundaries of a centralized Germany should exclude the Ruhr the Rhineland and the Saar and that a decision to this effect should be taken in near future so that Germans know these areas are irrevocably lost to them and a different policy and administration of these areas can soon be initiated by the Allied Occupational Authorities to prepare them for a non-German international status.
Insofar as the Ruhr is concerned the French envisage an international control by the Allied Powers including Soviet Russia and they hope the US. (The French are not particularly happy about the inclusion of Soviet Russia but believe that for internal as well as external political reasons Russia cannot be excluded.[)] The industrial potential of the Ruhr would be exploited for “the common good.”
For the Rhineland the French are thinking in terms of an international control administered by France, Belgium and Holland which for geographical and common security reasons are most interested. In such a setup France as the leading military power would assume the greatest responsibility.
The French officials with whom we talked are not speaking in terms of annexing the Saar but would like to have it integrated completely in the French economic system.
2. Indochina: In addition to certain specific economic ideas for Indochina contained in my 4919, Aug. 1479 the French are much concerned about Indochina particularly over possible Chinese designs. They say frankly that with the defeat of Japan special privileges in China including the French Concession in Shanghai are a thing of the past and that to maintain the French position in the Far East they must modify their former policy in Indochina. Generally speaking Chauvel80 and certain other officials believe that the best means of maintaining the French position in Indochina is to adopt a policy with respect to Indochina “which will have certain advantages for the US and Britain and which therefore will insure American and British interest in the future of Indochina.” As Chauvel put it “we should like eventually to operate Indochina in a general way as we operated the French Concession in Shanghai which was not only a lucrative business for us but which also was advantageous to the other occidental powers. Furthermore in the coming difficult period in the Far East Indochina will be the only real foothold on the Asiatic mainland for the occidental democracies (France, Great Britain and [Page 705]the US).” While the foregoing views appear still somewhat nebulous Chauvel said that Pleven81 shares them and is advocating such a policy to de Gaulle.
3. Bases: The Foreign Ministry is not opposed to the idea of making available certain French bases to the US. They caution, however, that a great deal depends on the manner of presenting this question. They point out that the French are touchy and “exasperated” and that if the question of bases is put as a demand or a natural privilege it might be difficult to meet our requirements. Should we bring up the question of French bases friendly officials who favor ceding bases express the opinion that we should do so as a discussion of general United States security requirements and as an indication of our views rather than as a specific request. They believe that if we present our requirements on the basis of mutual interest reciprocal security the problem can be worked out to our satisfaction.
4. Italy: The French state that they do not favor keeping Italy in a state of economic poverty and chaos nor do they wish to humiliate the Italians. They realize that Italy has been bled white and that there is little that the French may expect in the way of reparations from Italy. (They did mention, however, that if possible they want to obtain some Italian vessels to replace French vessels which were seized by the Axis and wish to recover certain equipment and machinery which were seized by the Italians after the debacle in 1940.)
Insofar as territorial adjustments are concerned the French “for security reasons” wish “certain minor revisions of the Franco-Italian frontier.” They state such changes will give them control of strategic hills, ridges, etc., which at present dominate French roads and valleys. They also apparently have in mind certain “minor rectifications” of the frontier between French Somaliland and Eritrea as well as some rectification in the Libyan frontier. (The Fezzan Plateau region was mentioned.) The French believe that in view of the “stab in the back” their desires are not unreasonable.
- Conference at Potsdam
July 17-August 2, 1945: see
Foreign Relations, The Conference of Berlin (The Potsdam Conference), 1945, vol. ii, p. 1509.↩
- Not printed.↩
- Jean Chauvel, Secretary General of the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs.↩
- René Pleven, French Minister of Finance.↩