Memorandum of Conversation, by the Associate Chief of the Division of Southern European Affairs (Dowling)
Mr. Berard60 of the French Embassy called this afternoon at his request to discuss the Department’s attitude regarding the French territorial claims against Italy. After reiterating the usual French arguments, Mr. Berard emphasized the necessity of ensuring that Bidault be placed in possession of a few diplomatic triumphs to display before his Communist colleagues in the French Cabinet. He said he could understand the American position regarding Spain, and even our attitude regarding the Ruhr and Rhineland was not beyond comprehension, but he could see no possibility of conflicting views on the French claims, and he hoped it would be possible to let French public opinion know we were at least not opposing the claims. In his argument he advanced the theory that Germany, blocked now from expansion to the east and to the west, would eventually erupt towards the south and ultimately dominate Italy; this, he said would leave France indifferent if security of the southern frontier could be assured. (Somebody in Paris has been reading Haushofer.)
I said immediately that I saw no possibility of such German expansion if we, the French, and the British were to oppose it, that I did not see how France could look without concern upon any development of this kind, and that in any case French influence was such that the other powers in western Europe would not readily turn away from Paris unless the French themselves took some positive action to bring this about. It was with this factor in mind, and realizing [Page 38] the importance of the question in future Franco-Italian relations that we had expressed a hope that the territorial claims might be settled directly between France and Italy. I added confidentially that we had again stressed to the Italians the desirability of a direct agreement but pointed out the difficulties of De Gasperi’s position, which was roughly analogous to that of Bidault. In France, the Communist Party had taken a strong stand in favor of the French claims, while in Italy the Communists were equally firm in their opposition to any concessions to the French. It seemed to me that any increase in tension between the two countries would only play into the hands of those who opposed the building up of French influence in western Europe and that we should therefore not be too precipitous but should at least hear the Italian case and hope that in the end there would be another matter for agreement rather than dispute.
The conversation continued in this vein for some time, during which Mr. Berard mellowed considerably and ended with an exchange of most agreeable compliments.
- Armand Berard, Counsellor of the French Embassy.↩