396.1 LO/5–850: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Acting Secretary of State

secret   niact

2185. From USDel. Summary US–France ministerial conversations May 8, morning session,1 follows, exclusive of my preliminary private conversation with Schuman.2

Item 1. Review of conclusions of preparatory groups on world-wide objectives.

At Schuman’s invitation I noted that I had only few words on questions of emphasis to add re agreed objectives which had been summed up in London:3 US feels that next three or four years are critical years; USSR is widening gap militarily; she has less resources than West but is devoting proportionately more to military budget. West is devoting proportionately and in certain military fields actually less to defense. There is real danger gap will progressively widen and that toward 1953 or 1954 balance of forces might induce USSR to take or threaten to take hostile measures which might either actually, or through psychological effect of disproportionate force, lead to disastrous results. While USSR has pushed military preparation close to limit, West has larger margin for effort and work must begin in that margin. Steps to be taken are (1) to examine military Western defense program as laid down at the Hague4 and begin work on it; (2) to strengthen and develop economic base of the West. These general considerations lead us immediately toward more specific questions:

Great resources of Germany (at least Western Germany) must be attached to West so that Germany may become strong and stable element in our general economic effort;
We must establish close and immediate connection between problem of Southeast Asia and defense of West; recent Communist successes in Asia, if held at present point, may result in liability to [Page 1008] USSR but if resources SEA are added to those of China the liability is turned into a highly dangerous asset;
We must bring our propaganda effort into harmony and, by giving increased and continuing expression to our agreed objectives, bring them home to peoples of Europe and Asia. In light of high quality of Russian propaganda US is renewing its efforts in information field and wishes to coordinate its efforts with those of France, UK and other countries. We must not allow Russia to have monopoly of peace theme;
In organizing our efforts we should create organizations only in the light of the specific purpose which they are to achieve so that organization should be the assistant of, and not the substitute for, action.

Schuman replied he could agree fully but with certain differences of perspective due to geographical situation of France. It is clear that present respite cannot last forever: USSR has temporarily turned within herself to deal with certain internal and satellite problems and digest China conquest but process will not result in policy change in direction of conciliation or appeasement and we have no choice but to continue and intensify present efforts for coordinated defense. In propaganda field we all, and especially France, are inferior to USSR. We must make better use of our resources individually and must pool them in fields of broadcasting and in judicious use of experience of stable and sound refugees. France welcomes London decision to reinforce propaganda activities within NAT areas but feels that in some cases we should bring in other countries not NAT members. Furthermore propaganda should not be limited to stressing faults in opposing camp: we must counter powerful Communist peace propaganda theme, which is making dangerous headway even in non-Communist circles, by impressing on our own and friendly peoples that we do not prepare for war in order to wage it and that we increase our defenses for peaceful purposes only. “Cold war” is inappropriate term indicating we accept Russian challenge to fight on their chosen ground. Our purpose is not to win cold war but to increase security of our peoples through consolidated total defense. Hence too great reliance on atomic theme is dangerous. It frightens rather than reassures and tends to slacken defense efforts of populations. Consequently final communiqué from London conferences should be strong, determined and serene without abrupt or aggressive overtones and should reflect the calm growing out of our common solidarity.

Re Germany Schuman entirely agrees she should have her place in Western organizations devoted to peaceful economic efforts but she must submit to the same discipline as other members so that her efforts will be equally beneficial to herself and to the Western community.

[Page 1009]

Re organization, Schuman agreed we should avoid accumulation and multiplication of overlapping organizations and that this question should be fully pursued on a tripartite basis.

I then made following observations on importance East-West trade controls:

Control of East-West trade has great strategic significance and US attaches major importance to this question: we must concentrate not only on growing stronger but also on reducing potential of USSR and I hoped that scheduled meetings this subject would reach rapid and fruitful conclusions.

Schuman stated France had agreed to renounce all deliveries which have strategic value and could strengthen military potential of USSR. He added that problem was particularly acute for Germany now cut off from her natural markets to east. We must be careful not to ruin German economy by useless limitations, such as trucks, but base limitations on strictly military and strategic considerations.

Item 2 Franco-American relations. Schuman spoke eloquently in name of French Government and people on excellent state mutual relations adding that ERP had saved economy of France and Europe. This opinion was held by vast majority French people despite Communist efforts in opposite direction. Communists were losing momentum in France and very violence of their methods in Parliament and futile attempts prevent US arms deliveries were proof they were seeking to divert attention from fact they had lost ground. Re divergent views, Schuman spoke at some length on colonial problem. US attitude had long caused concern to France which came to head at time of UN decisions re Libya. While London talks5 had done much to dispel this concern, Schuman felt it important to emphasize to me that since last war France has definitely abandoned colonialism and is determined to implement new policy of French union. Latter is younger than British Commonwealth and territories it embraces are frequently less evolved. France recognizes it must lead its backward peoples toward self-government but slowly and progressively taking into account differing situations in different territories.

Furthermore, political and economic evolution must go hand in hand: if first precedes second, result may be chaos, leading to easy exploitation by Communists. Since France has responsibility for territories under its control it must take measures it deems necessary to discharge this responsibility even if such measures incur adverse criticism. In end it will be recognized that they are in interest of peoples [Page 1010] themselves and of entire west community. Hence France pleased at London proposal to consult bilaterally and trilaterally on these questions.

I replied by agreeing that our relations were excellent and that most of our problems lay in third areas and that good impression had been created in US by French economic recovery and by government success in vigorously handling Communist demonstrations at time of MAP deliveries. I said that the progressive policy of France toward French union was understood and appreciated.

I then raised question of FCN treaty expressing hope it could quickly be negotiated so that US investments in France which would become increasingly important as ERP neared its end, could find solid base. Schuman assured me he would make personal effort to resolve inter-ministerial difficulties, recognizing that signature this treaty was pre-condition for continued US investment in economic development of France and overseas territories.6

Item 3. Indo-China. Schuman in long exposé stated this was crucial problem for France which had been involved alone in four years war whose ever-increasing material burden threatened to impair French ability to meet her commitments for European defense. Financial cost of maintaining army of 250,000 (150,000 French and 100,000 natives) and feeding 30,000 interned Chinese Nationalists was crushing and made impossible the reorganization of French Army in line with coordinated plans for European defense. It was view of French Government that France could not indefinitely carry out this twin burden effort alone: Schuman formally and categorically denied in name of government press reports that France intended to abandon Indo-China. He reiterated that without help she could not carry both burdens and would have to revise her European commitments.

Schuman made further point that in Indo-China, France was not fighting for selfish interests but was defending vital area against Communist infiltration and control: she was defending both military and ideological positions.

Furthermore Schuman was grateful to US for understanding France’s position as indicated by recognition of Bao Dai7 and for possibility giving military and economic aid. He understood that nature of this aid would be supplementary not primary. He agreed that US could not substitute itself throughout world for nations having primary responsibility but could only assist them in carrying out that [Page 1011] responsibility. France is not seeking to avoid discharging her responsibilities and will abide by her resolution to stand firm in Indo-China.

Schuman then made plea for most immediate receipt of two items of utmost military urgency: fighter planes and small naval vessels, pointing out that air fields were being constructed in rebel territory and that fall of Hainan meant that arms smuggling to Annamese coast would increase and in few nights could reverse military balance against French unless requisite naval vessels were urgently received to intercept smugglers.

Schuman then thanked US for recognition of Bao Dai saying it had been in every way useful. Unfortunately his authority and prestige were not as well established as one might wish, partly through his own fault. France was resolved to do everything to strengthen his authority.

Schuman then specified following French program for immediate future:

Maintain structure of March 8 agreements as they now exist. While they must be respected for the moment, they are obviously not the last word. Unfortunately it is not possible to say this now to Viets but obviously after war agreements probably will be modified.
Creation new Ministry of associated states which would be accomplished in next few days.
Remove all limitations imposed by March 8 agreements on right of associated states to send diplomatic mission abroad.
Set up by negotiation with associated states in next few weeks, joint services for reserved questions such as currency, customs, immigration and foreign trade, with French supervision reduced to minimum consistent with practical aspects of situation and use of French technicians as requested by associated states.
Creation of national armies in Indo-China which would eventually permit French troops to withdraw to bases as provided in March 8 agreements.

In conclusion, Schuman stated belief that this policy which was only one possible and which he hoped was wise would succeed and would put end to financial and military hemorrhage which was sapping France’s strength. If France had political understanding and military aid of US he was sure it would.

I replied I was glad to hear this wise and progressive statement of policy and to see that we looked at matter much as French did. I then made following points:

We are all agreed on strategic importance of Indo-China: if it goes, SEA goes.
Primary responsibility rests on France and US role is supporting one. Our effort is not one of substitution but of help in order to relieve burden of France by insuring success of entire operation.
Great burden of work must necessarily rest on peoples of areas; as they take over administrative and military burden, France will be correspondingly relieved. We are entering critical period which must be measured in weeks, not months. First enthusiasm for Bao Dai is subsiding and things are at dead stall but they must not be allowed to slip back. Many fence-sitters must be won over soon.
Believe we can work out aid question satisfactorily. During next six weeks present fiscal year we must obviously depend on appropriated funds. For next fiscal year we must plan on what administration has been successful in obtaining from Congress. As for amounts, comparisons are odious. We must assess needs of particular area. We will press forward energetically with military and economic program. In realm of figures, I could say on confidential basis that about $20,000,000 are available for remaining six weeks of fiscal year but no estimate possible for fiscal 1951 until appropriations made by Congress.

At my request Bohlen explained difficulties in availability of type fighter aircraft desired by French, stated that 37 mm ammunition was being readied for early shipment and that our respective military authorities were in daily contact in order expedite procurement and shipment on mutually recognized urgent basis. (Exact details as authorized by Tosec 120 and Ecato 4888 will be communicated to French authorities by Bruce and Blum.)

Schuman gave thanks for our promises which he hoped would soon become reality and added French Government saw therein proof of wider understanding, friendly cooperation and solidarity of purpose.

I then said tripartite statement as suggested by French in London seemed unrealizable because of British desire to consult Commonwealth.9 I, however, was willing to make unilateral statement and had draft ready.10 Did Schuman also wish to make statement?

Schuman replied he would give answer in afternoon after examining our draft. He then made this final point. French had enjoyed good relations with our special missions in Indo-China and owed them a lot. French thanks were particularly due to Jessup for his objective assessment of tangled situation. In future, however, it would be useful if instructions were given to mission inspired by, and based on, our common objectives and members should be guided thereby with Viets, lest contrary attitude be exploited and contribute toward maintaining Indo-Chinese in present state of passivity and watchful waiting. Viets are too prone to avoid their responsibilities under present agreements [Page 1013] in hope of getting something better. They must be told to get on with their business—administrative and military—abide by present agreements and expect to achieve further powers on basis of experience gained and accomplishments achieved. US representatives could be most useful in driving these ideas home.

Resumé of afternoon meeting follows.

Sent Department 2185, repeated London 616.

  1. The meeting was held from 10:30 a. m. to 1:15 p. m. at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The United States Delegation consisted of Secretary Acheson, Jessup, Perkins, Bruce, and Bohlen; the French Delegation consisted of Foreign Minister Schuman, Alphand, de la Tournelle, de Margerie, Seydoux, and Baeyens. A copy of the French Delegation minutes for the meeting was transmitted as enclosure 1 to despatch 1065, from Paris, May 12, not printed (396.1 LO/5–2250).
  2. No record of this conversation has been found in the Department of State files; however, Secto 154, May 5, from London, not printed, reported that Jessup had approved a private conversation for 10 a. m. between Schuman and Acheson at which only an interpreter would be present, and at which Acheson would explain “in frank terms” the tenor and reason for the extensive preparatory talks with the British. (396.1 LO/5–550)
  3. Regarding the agreed objectives, see Secto 138, p. 961.
  4. For documentation on the third meeting of the NATO Military Committee at The Hague on March 28, 1950, see pp. 1 ff.
  5. Regarding the London preparatory talks on colonialism, see pp. 948 ff.
  6. For further documentation on Franco-American negotiations for a treaty of friendship, commerce, and navigation, see pp. 1357 ff.
  7. For documentation on the United States recognition of the Governments of Viet-Nam, Laos, and Cambodia on February 7, 1950, see vol. vi, pp. 690 ff.
  8. Tosec 120, not printed; Ecato 488, dated May 5, vol. vi, p. 801.
  9. Regarding the discussion of a tripartite statement on Southeast Asia at the London preparatory meetings, see pp. 935 ff.
  10. A copy of the draft under reference here has not been identified in the Department of State files; however, regarding the further consideration of this draft, see telegram 2186, infra.