Memorandum of Conversation, by the Counselor of the Department of State (Bohlen)

top secret

The French Ambassador1 called this afternoon at his request and after a general conversation concerning the situation of France, brought up the following points regarding the North Atlantic Pact:


He inquired whether there would be a meeting of the Ambassadors tomorrow as he had to go to New Orleans in the middle of the week.

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I told him that I had only just heard that the other countries would not be ready for a meeting by tomorrow as they had not yet received the full views of their Governments on the draft submitted2 and that, therefore, it would not be possible to have a meeting until later on in the week.

The Ambassador said that in that case Mr. Bérard3 would represent him.


The Ambassador said he wished to talk about the Defense Council which although not formally mentioned in the treaty would be set up once the treaty was concluded.

He said he had expected and had so informed his Government that the U.S. would be favorable to the idea of a small restricted Defense Council which would sit in Washington, but that he had recently heard that while no decision had been taken, the thinking here was in the direction of utilizing the London Committee4 adding American and British participation. He said the French Government strongly favored the idea of a special Defense Council composed of representatives of the U.S., Great Britain, and France in which England and France would represent the Benelux countries and, of course, add Canada if we so desired. He said his Government felt that the important military staff work would be done in the Defense Council set up under the North Atlantic Pact and, therefore, should not be merged with the London Committee; that a small group would make for greater efficiency or the military planning more effective.

I told the Ambassador that I was not familiar with the matter he had brought up but would pass on his views to Mr. Lovett.5

The Ambassador said he had mentioned it in passing to Mr. Lovett, and while he was not asking for any answer immediately he wished to put forward the views of his Government. In reply to my question as to what would become of the London Committee, he said that the London Committee would have less importance once the Atlantic Pact was concluded. I replied that I thought in our view the London Committee would still have the important task of coordinating the specific defenses of the Brussels Pact countries since we in no way envisaged that the North Atlantic Pact would be a substitute for the Brussels union but merely a complementary and wider association.


The Ambassador said there were two questions which still remain unsolved which might be handled by drafting formulas, namely, the question of the reference to North Africa by which the French Government had in mind particularly Algeria and Italy. He said since Spitsbergen and Alaska were being mentioned, it was difficult to exclude mention of Algeria which was a Department of France. He said he was trying to work on a formula, but he had not yet found the exact one to deal with the subject. As to Italy he said that according to their information Italy was very anxious to be associated in the North Atlantic Pact.

I told the Ambassador that while I had heard in general these two points, I had not had an opportunity since my return to go into them in any detail, that insofar as Italy was concerned since it was a Western European country, it had always seemed to me that association with the Brussels union and through it to the Atlantic Pact was the most logical. I repeated, however, that I had not caught up with the latest developments on that point.

C[harles] E. B[ohlen]
  1. Henri Bonnet.
  2. A draft treaty dated December 24, 1948, was submitted on that date by the International Working Group to the Ambassadors Group. This draft, a revision of the September 9 and December 21 drafts, was approved by the Ambassadors Group on December 24 for submission to their respective governments. For text, see Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. iii, p. 333.
  3. Armand Bérard, Minister in the French Embassy.
  4. Brussels Pact Military Committee with headquarters in London.
  5. Robert A. Lovett, Under Secretary of State, was Acting Secretary of State at this time and held the position until January 22 when Dean Acheson assumed the duties of Secretary.