740.5/2–2351: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Bruce) to the Secretary of State 1

secret

4981. Re Embtel 4872.2 Conference reconvened late yesterday to continue general discussion French plans for European army. Italian delegation made lengthy statement giving general support to idea as necessary step together with Schuman Plan3 toward European integration. Welcomed French assurances plan within framework of NA defense which must not be hampered or delayed. Time has come to go beyond simple coordination of defense forces and move toward supranational system. Italian constitution forbids sending troops beyond frontiers and therefore necessary present European defense idea to Italian people. Political basis for European army can be established by treaty approved by parliament which would provide for German participation. As is important not to have multiplicity of international organizations, should utilize present or planned machinery such as Schuman Plan assembly. Asked whether Austria would be included in defense system, agreed with plan on relationship of Defense Commission to Supreme Commander, AFD [and] suggested that development of air forces be transferred entirely to first phase. On conscription, suggested that recruitment system should not be rigid or necessarily uniform, as it should be flexible enough to meet different conditions in several countries.

Alphand in reply said Austria not represented at conference, and while might participate in European army, this not contemplated for first stage. Basic idea was European army to defend Western Europe including Mediterranean area but starting point was difficult because of differences of fact, i.e. those who had forces and those who had not, and those who had overseas commitments and those who had not. [Page 770]French agreed those differences should be minimized and Brussels decision on combat teams made this possible. From strictly military viewpoint combat team was not best solution but it represented compromise with political necessities. European army based upon a fusion of nationalities admittedly raised important difficulties and French Government cannot go beyond combat team idea without compromising its plan, but conference should decide if political aspects important enough to outweigh military disadvantages. Saw no difficulty in principle to transfer of air forces to first stage. Re recruitment is willing to discuss question of conscription vs. volunteers although not likely can escape conscription. Agree should not be multiplicity of political institutions and thought same assembly might be used for Schuman Plan and European army. Was not certain that Council Ministers of Schuman Plan could be used for army as might be necessary to give wider powers to Council for European army, at least in initial stages.

German delegation presented series of questions to which Alphand replied. On page 3 of French plan (see despatch 2323 February 164) reference made to Brussels decision of which Federal Republic not informed and would like text. French replied cannot answer on own authority but believed essentials given Federal Republic by US chairman of HICOM after Brussels meeting. German delegation asked if German units would be employed outside Europe and French replied that although certain countries had overseas security obligations, European army was for defense of Europe. German delegation asked for more precise definition of elementary units and was told that largest homogeneous unit of nationals is combat team from which mixed divisions would be formed. In reply to query on general reserves, were told that these would be composed of various units to support combat troops and Germany would participate. Asked if Defense Ministers can address themselves directly to Supreme Commander and were told this would be subject for careful discussion. Alphand thought answer should be yes in first stage. Germany said did not understand reference to support for combat teams by existing Allied divisions (section III of French plan). Were informed that until European army divisions were in existence, combat teams would have to be supported by various Allied divisions. Germany asked when could Federal Republic have air force and were told could participate in first stage if practicable. German delegation noted re section IV that Germany was classified in combat zone and asked for definition. Alphand said such zones were fixed by NAC and could not give reply on own authority. Other German queries relating to revocation of Defense Commission [Page 771]and on technical military details were put over for later discussion in committees.5

No other delegations (members or observers) offered comment whereupon Alphand proposed creation of steering committee composed of participating members (but not observers) to give general directives so that committees could start work. German delegation stated both Hallstein, chief of German delegation, and high Bonn officials were concentrated upon Schuman Plan negotiations and consequently not in position to draft directives; proposed adjournment until next week. Alphand opposed this delay and was agreed that steering committee will meet today to make such progress as it can.

Dutch Ambassador6 informed me that his government is continuing participate as observer and not as member conference. Representative Von Kessel says that his present instructions consist only of a number of clarifying questions and that Bonn has not yet finished its review of plan. Taviani, chief of Italian delegation, states that although Italian military are opposed to French plan, his instructions from De Gasperi are to make serious effort along lines of French plan provided (a) that French really mean business, (b) that plan will not hamper or delay Atlantic defense forces, and (c) that other European countries will cooperate. Italian Government willing to go far in real European integration and believes that sound political basis is required for European army. As starting point advanced proposal that in future war is unthinkable between countries represented at conference. He thinks there is considerable division of opinion still within French Government on merits of plan but feels determined effort should be made using French plan as basis for discussion, trying to reconcile it with military opinion. Germans have asked for session with us early next week and are patiently awaiting word from Bonn and probably comment from us.

Conference has gotten off to slow start and reluctance or present inability of smaller states to give reaction to French plan increases slow motion atmosphere. On other hand Alphand’s clear and candid answer to Germans seems to indicate that French policy and originally vague [Page 772]ideas have become more precise and that they are now ready to discuss the many practical problems which this plan evokes. There is certainly no take it or leave it attitude.

Bruce
  1. This telegram was repeated to London, Brussels, Rome, The Hague, Frankfurt, Lisbon, Copenhagen, Oslo, Ottawa, and Luxembourg, and copies were made available to the Department of Defense.
  2. Dated February 16, not printed. It reported that at the second plenary meeting of the Conference for the Organization of a European Defense Community, Alphand presented a commentary on the French proposals along the lines reported upon in telegram 4847, February 15, from Paris (see footnote 3, p. 767). The conference tacitly accepted Alphand’s suggestion that there be a general discussion of the French proposals followed by detailed study in political, military, and financial committees. At the suggestion of the American observer, Ambassador Bruce, it was agreed that the countries represented by observers would normally attend plenary meetings of the conference, could send representatives to meetings of the specialized committees when the agenda was of particular interest to them, and would be furnished complete conference documentation. (740.5/2–1651)
  3. For documentation regarding the attitude of the United States toward the establishment of a European Coal and Steel Community (Schuman Plan), see volume iv.
  4. Not printed, but see footnote 3, supra.
  5. Telegram 7132, March 3, from Frankfurt, not printed, reported on a conversation between High Commissioner McCloy and Chancellor Adenauer. Inter alia, Adenauer observed that the French proposal to the European army conference seemed to him so deficient that he had taken steps to avoid any leaks about it for fear of adverse German public reaction. McCloy urged that the French proposal be taken only as a rough first working paper and that the German delegation to the conference state their points reasonably but forcefully with the confidence that other delegations would consider them fairly. McCloy assured Adenauer that substantial French groups did desire to work out a European army on the basis of real equality and that negotiations should be carried on with a view of obtaining French support for a sound scheme. (850.33/3–351)
  6. Baron van Boetzelaer