740.00119 Control (Germany)/12–1747

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Douglas)

top secret

I met Bidault in Room 228 at Claridge’s at 3:00 p.m. this afternoon. Hervé Alphand was present as interpreter.

I expressed to Bidault my regret that discussions on the Ruhr, which I had previously mentioned to him on Saturday,20 had not commenced before, but that this had been made impossible by the variety of other things that had to be done incident to the close of the CFM meetings on Monday.
I suggested to him that the discussions commence sometime between the middle and end of January, for the purpose of exploring our respective minds on the Ruhr problem in several different contexts, as follows:
The present period of occupation, and the urgent problem of production as a catalyst for general European recovery when the Ruhr, as an instrument of aggression, presented no difficulty.
During the post-occupational period, when production having been achieved, the Ruhr might again be used, either by Germany as Germany, or by Germany in collaboration with others, to dominate Europe or otherwise to disturb the peace of the Continent.
Under conditions of a divided Germany; and
Under the conditions which might exist in the event of an undivided Germany.
Bidault was quite satisfied with the approximate date for the commencement of the discussions. He said, however, that the matter should be, at the moment at least, very confidential.
As to the place, I suggested London, because this was the seat of the British Government on which more direct persuasion could be brought to bear, should the British appear to be somewhat immobile in the matter. To this Bidault agreed.
Bidault then said that he had talked with Bevin in the morning; that Bevin had put the Ruhr well down on the list of matters to be discussed, but that Bidault thought the key to the problem was the Ruhr, and that once it was resolved, the other matters would fall into place. Nevertheless, he considered the discussion of the Ruhr to be a part, as he termed it, of “a general package.”
I told him the Secretary would talk with him about certain matters which should be discussed, and possibly agreed upon, to be put into [Page 812] effect in Berlin, but that the Secretary would mention them to him when he arrived.
Bidault said he feared division between Berlin and some other place, because the British might play one against the other. Moreover, he said Koenig was somewhat negative in his approach, but certainly that discussion should be commenced.
It was suggested that if discussions of the Ruhr took place in London, that possibly, should it be necessary, Clay and Murphy might come over for a brief interval.
Bidault said there were two matters which he wanted to tell me about. The first was that he feared there might be a rupture in diplomatic affairs between France and the Soviet. The second was that he thought that Benes would be evicted by the Communists in Czechoslovakia.21
He mentioned the reduction made by the Appropriation Committee under Taber for interim aid,22 and also the reduction in the appropriation for the support of Germany. This, he said, would be seized upon by the Communists as evidence of our wavering. Although he had told the Secretary that he need have no fear about public opinion in France, he thought perhaps that this statement should be tempered somewhat, because of his judgment that the Communists, while they would not be dominant, would be able to cause a little trouble.
As to the Saar, he said there were two matters. Of course, the first was one of finance, and the second was the matter of the gradual diversion of the Saar coal from Germany to France, until it finally became a part of the indigenous French coal. In this connection, he indicated that notification to E.C.O., as contemplated at Moscow, should, if possible, be made before the first of January. He picked this date, because after the first of January, the European Economic Commission succeeds E.C.O., and the Soviet will be represented on it.
As to new financing for France, he said that discussions had been had in Washington, and the Export-Import Bank had agreed to extend an additional loan to France secured by French securities held by French nationals in the United States. He said that he had given every assurance that the names of the French nationals would be kept secret. The United States Treasury is, however, a little bit sticky on the subject, and he asked if the Secretary would mention this matter to Snyder and clear it up. He said new financing was necessary, because the interferences caused by the Communist-inspired strikes had already cost France a substantial sum of money, and it had to be made up if interim [Page 813] aid was to be sufficient to carry France through until the Marshall Plan came into effect.
The Secretary then came in,23 and after the Secretary had left Bidault talked with me alone with no interpreter present.
Koenig, he said, was close to DeGaulle, and that if progress were made at Berlin without progress on the Ruhr, no French Government could stand. It would be attacked by the Left and by the Eight, including DeGaulle. This was the significance of Koenig’s relation to DeGaulle. I asked whether a satisfactory settlement of the Saar would not largely allay or prevent these attacks, and he seemed to be satisfied that it would.
Lewis W. Douglas
  1. December 13. No record has been found of the discussion under reference here.
  2. For documentation on interest of the United States in the maintenance of democratic government in Czechoslovakia, see volume iv .
  3. For documentation regarding the legislation in Congress for interim European aid, see volume iii .
  4. See the memorandum of conversation, infra.