C.F.M. Files: Lot M–88: Box 2063: US Delegation Minutes

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Director of the Office of European Affairs (Matthews)

top secret
Present: M. Bidault
The Secretary
Mr. Matthews

M. Bidault called at his request and told the Secretary that he was quite discouraged at the complete lack of progress shown in the recent Council meetings. He said that Europe is in an impossible situation and he could not see much hope for agreement at the present rate. The Secretary agreed that the outlook was not promising. M. Bidault went on to say that he attached considerable importance to the fact that the Russians had brought 300 people with them although 100 were security forces. This meant to him that they must have something [Page 204] big in mind in the way of a deal, but he could not figure out just what it is. However, it worried him. Throughout the conversation, he showed extreme anxiety over the Russian intentions and twice mentioned the possibility of finding Cossacks on the Place de la Concorde.

In his effort to find some solution for the present impasse, he would like to suggest smaller meetings consisting just of the four Ministers and their interpreters. M. Bidault said he had not been at Moscow or Potsdam, but he was impressed with the difficulty of reaching agreement in a room full of fifty people. Mr. Byrnes said that he agreed with M. Bidault’s suggestion, adding that his experience at past conferences had convinced him that nothing of importance was ever agreed to in the larger meetings.

M. Bidault said that he accordingly would propose at tomorrow morning’s meeting that we try to lay all the cards on the table at once in a smaller gathering and see where we came out. He mentioned, in this connection, Molotov’s admission that the Dodecanese might be a matter for “bargaining”.

Mr. Byrnes suggested that M. Bidault consult Molotov before tomorrow’s meeting so that the smaller sessions could start immediately. He continued that if these did not succeed, he is then going to suggest that the meetings be thrown open to the public so that world opinion can see just what the situation is and just where stumbling blocks lie. He said that he had been very much impressed with the way opinion had rallied behind the American position during the discussions of the Iranian question in the Security Council meetings in New York. Many of our newspapers and correspondents who had previously misunderstood our position with regard to Russia had come around completely and had been greatly shocked at Russia’s attitude toward a small state. Whereas some months ago American opinion had been eager to give the Soviet Union the most complete cooperation, Russian popularity in the United States had been completely dissipated by the Soviet Government’s policies. He, himself, had gone to the extreme where he had even been subjected to considerable criticism for “appeasing” Russia and yielding too much. This period, however, had passed and American opinion was no longer disposed to make concessions on important questions.

Mr. Byrnes asked M. Bidault whether he thought Russian policy was based on a desire for security or expansion. M. Bidault replied, “security through expansion probably”. While he did not openly express any approval of a policy of appeasement, M. Bidault made it clear that in the “present state of French forces” and the danger of a Russian occupation of France, he could not be expected to adopt any very strong position.

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In reply to the Secretary’s question concerning the colonies, M. Bidault spoke with considerable vehemence against the example of independence for Libya. He referred to the tranquillity existing in French North Africa, to its vital importance as a source of manpower and resources for France, and to the inflammatory effect which he anticipated should a territory immediately adjoining Tunisia be granted immediate independence or even promised early independence. While the French had no love for the Italians, he had proposed Italy as the trustee because he did not like the example of a collective trusteeship, as envisaged in the American plan, nor did he want the British or the Russians as neighbors to Tunis. He spoke bitterly of British activities in Syria and the Lebanon, and said he did not want any repetition in Libya. As for Eritrea and Somaliland, they are farther away and he felt less strong about them.

As to Germany, M. Bidault said that this was a question of strategy and he seemed less intransigent on this question than on that of the Italian colonies.

The Secretary asked what he thought of the British proposals with regard to the Ruhr and Rhineland, and M. Bidault replied that the idea of internationalizing Ruhr industries was similar to that of the French and he went along with it. However, he did not think that the British plan went far enough and France still favored political separation. It seemed evident from the conversation, however, that he does not really expect to obtain this and that his position is at least in part due to its popularity and the effect on his party in the June elections. He practically admitted, however, that France would come to some agreement on less than its current demands.

Mr. Byrnes asked M. Bidault’s views as to forthcoming elections. The Foreign Minister expressed certain optimism. He said that the referendum on the Constitution will probably result in a close vote and will not necessarily materially affect the relative strength of the various parties in the June Assembly elections. Specifically, he did not expect any great increase nor decrease in the strength of the Communist Party. In fact, he said a decrease in Communist strength would probably come only when “the Cossacks are on the Place de la Concorde”. The Communists are making every effort to gain enough seats to be able to take over the Government in June, but he does not think this likely. The “congenital imbeciles on the Right” will probably make some gains probably at the expense of his own party, the MRP. The Socialist Party is in a state of disintegration, but one never could tell and it might retain its present relative strength. He admitted that the MRP might lose a few seats, but would continue to be one of the major parties of France.

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The Secretary then discussed with M. Bidault the question of the French loan and its possible bearing on the elections. M. Bidault thought that an early announcement would be helpful. The Secretary likewise discussed France’s present food shortage, and M. Bidault said if they could get through to July, when the new crop comes in, he thought the situation would be all right. He asked that the United States do all it could to help meet the needs of the next critical months, pointing out the unfortunate effect on the elections if the ration had to be reduced.98

At this point, the Secretary telephoned President Truman in Washington and recounted the developments and lack of progress at today’s Council meeting. He mentioned the question of the French loan and needed wheat to the President. At the end of the conversation, M. Bidault said a few words of greeting to President Truman.

The Secretary told M. Bidault that the President had just today given authorization to Mr. Clayton99 to proceed with certain positions he has taken with regard to the loan, and he thought the negotiations could be quickly terminated.

As to food, the President said he would look into it and see what could be done.

M. Bidault expressed his deep appreciation of the Secretary’s efforts and departed at seven o’clock.

  1. For additional documentation relating to the agreements between the United States and France on economic and financial matters, see vol. v, pp. 399 ff.
  2. “William L. Clayton, Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs.