762.60/10–3049: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Bruce) to the Secretary of State

top secret

4509. In reply Deptel 4074, October 25,1 as you are aware this Embassy has never, during the long period that the subject of dismantlement [Page 627] in Germany has been under official discussion, participated in negotiations regarding this question (which have been handled in Frankfort, London and Washington).

Therefore I do not feel competent to comment in any detail on the considerations raised by the Department’s telegram except insofar as they relate to the probable general reaction in France to possible changes in the German dismantlement program.

The succession to Prime Minister Queuille of Bidault with Schuman remaining as Foreign Secretary may well mean that Schuman’s views of French Government policy on German matters will not meet as ready an acceptance from the present Cabinet as they did from the preceding Cabinet where he could always count on the loyal and effective support of Queuille. Bidault’s own attitude toward Germany is generally considered here to be less flexible and more exacting than that sponsored to date by Schuman. Moreover, many of the policies heretofore approved by the French in regard to Germany were sanctioned during the period when Bidault was himself Foreign Minister, and although it is at present only a speculative fear, one must not dismiss the possibility that Schuman may possess less influence and freedom of action in formulating French policy toward Germany than he had in the last twelve months, and that Bidault may be recalcitrant about assenting to drastic changes in policies previously initiated or approved by himself.
The recent government crisis was attributed in public utterances and especially in newspaper accounts almost entirely to differences of party opinion on economic problems. Unexpressed publicly but sharply affecting the atmosphere of tensity which even now continues to prevail is a decided difference of opinion between those who follow Schuman’s line that close association between France and Germany is essential not only to the economic rehabilitation of Europe but also to the vital security interests of France and those more strictly nationalistic groups and individuals who feel that Germany should be treated at the very least until a peace treaty is signed as a conquered nation and that too much tenderness is being displayed by the allies to German susceptibilities and pretensions. The strength of the adherents to the latter line of thought has lately been measurably increased by
The context of those speeches by German politicians especially during the campaign last summer2 which reflected in French opinion a strong though latent nationalism and arrogance amongst large segments of the Western German population which are increasingly going to demand concessions from the Allies dangerous to the security [Page 628] of Western Europe through threatening by implication that if these concessions are not granted the democratic leaders in Germany may not be able to offer enough immediate rewards and future hopes to their constituents to keep them from succumbing to the blandishments of the Russians and

The fear that since the recent American-Anglo-Canadian conference in Washington,3 Great Britain can be even less counted upon than before to support the French in the protection of the latter’s security and commercial interests against a renascent Germany.

Schuman’s prestige in French political circles and in the country generally is very great but it must be borne in mind that his comparatively liberal attitude toward close Franco-German collaboration is regarded with considerable doubts and fears by large numbers of his compatriots and that he must move cautiously and call upon all his powers of persuasion if he is to obtain further concessions toward Germany. His task is made more difficult by fact that as a Lorrainer he was born and raised German and was in German Army in First War. Moreover, the doubts and fears of which I have spoken have powerful political support in the National Assembly and Schuman’s own Ministry is not free of caustic critics of his attitude.

Much depends here on the matter and manner of the German presentation regarding dismantlement. If some of their requests are plainly unreasonable and can be rejected, this will obviously help to sugar the pills that the government will then ask the French public to swallow.
So far as those plants are concerned where strong security considerations are evident and unquestionable, there is no chance of having them exempted.
As regards the set aside plants, I can express no opinion except that since this matter is apparently of less concern than the others and the present understanding concerning them was arrived at after recent difficult negotiations, it would be preferable if our attitude in the [this?] regard should not seem to have undergone a sudden change.
We attack the most entrenched position held by the French when we address ourselves to the subject of dismantlement of German steel plants. Two major considerations are involved there: First, that of security and second, that of potential commercial competition which will become extremely acute if, as the French believe, in a few years there should be overproduction of steel in Europe.
The mere continued existence of a steel making capacity in Western Germany more than 50 percent greater than the present Allied limitation in production seems to the French to constitute a threat to their security interests. Whether this attitude be logical or illogical it exists and is profoundly imbedded in French thought.
The chances of realizing a real economic integration in Western Europe that will include Western Germany will substantially depend upon the reaction not only in France but in other Western European countries to the mere existence of a large though temporarily idle overcapacity beyond the present 11,100,000-ton limitation to produce steel in Germany.

After having stated these generalities, I should like to add my belief that Mr. Schuman is more ready today than ever before to give favorable consideration to modifications beneficial to Germany of existing dismantlement policy. I cannot say with equal conviction that I feel sure he can carry his government, the parliament and the people much further along this road at this stage. Much will depend upon how the case is presented and argued and what sort of an overall package emerges. We may be able to exercise considerable influence on the French once the case if reasonably stated is actually before them for review.

Sent Department 4509; repeated London 768, HICOG Frankfort 112.

  1. Same as telegram 2314, to Frankfurt, p. 614.
  2. For documentation relating to the first West German Bundestag election, August 14, 1949, see editorial note, p. 267.
  3. For documentation relating to the American-British-Canadian tripartite economic discussions in Washington, September 7–12, 1949, see volume iv .