No. 157


Background Memorandum Prepared in the Department of State1
top secret

Visit to the United States of Vincent Auriol, President of the French Republic, March 1951

[Here follow a table of contents, a program for the Auriol visit, and a list and biographical sketches of the members of the Auriol party. The omitted section comprises 4 of 35 pages of the source text.]

the political situation in france

Current Internal Problems

After the fall of Prime Minister Pleven’s cabinet on February 28, 1951, over the question of electoral reform,2 Hen i Queuille, a Radical [Page 350] Socialist and a former Premier, was able to form another “third force” coalition government of so-called “limited activity”. Its principal tasks are to prepare for national elections, which may be held this June, to get the national budget passed and to take certain temporary and emergency measures to improve the economic position of labor. The general pre-electoral atmosphere which has been apparent for many months has gradually weakened the governmental coalition of the Socialist, MRP (Catholic Party) and Radical Socialist (moderate right) parties. The national preoccupation with the elections, which will determine the composition and political outlook of the National Assembly for the next five years, is responsible for the failure of the government to take action necessary to improve the position of industrial workers.

The prime objective of electoral law reform, Bruce continued, “is reduction of Commie strength in assembly” and reform was therefore regarded as a “matter of national defense.” On December 21, 1950, the Assembly had voted 399 to 177 (only the Communists in opposition) in favor of the principle of reform. But third force parties and the Gaullists were divided (1) by contrary calculations as to how many seats might be taken away from the communists under various proposed plans, (2) the fear that “No reform at all, and even some reform proposals, would risk election of an Assembly so evenly divided into three major blocks—CP, Gaullists and third force—that effective govt would be so difficult as to be almost impossible,” and (3) simple mutual suspicions of each other’s motives and aspirations. These obstacles to electoral reform 10 months before a constitutionally mandatory national election, Bruce concluded, had generated considerable passions within and between the various parties and posed a grave threat to the continuation of the Pleven government. (Telegram 4237 from Paris, January 22, 751.00/1–2251) On February 7, Bruce reported that Pleven “has returned to find parties of his coalition as dissatisfied as ever with each other on electoral law.” (Telegram 4661 from Paris, London Post files, lot 59F59, 350 France) For Ambassador Bruce’s analysis of the immediate cause of the Pleven government’s downfall and the prospects for future political stability in France, see the unnumbered telegram from Paris, Document 163.

In spite of the remarkable recovery of the French economy, which has reached levels of production well above pre-war, the purchasing power of industrial workers is still below the 1938 level. This accounts for the dissatisfaction of the workers with the moderate governments and is a factor in their tendency to vote Communist as a protest against the situation. Although the present wave of strikes3 will be exploited by the Communists, they are caused by long-standing economic distress which has been aggravated by the rise in the cost of living (of almost 10 percent compared to about 7 percent in the US) since the beginning of the Korean War.

Under existing legislation national elections must be held before November 1951. The National Assembly has now passed a compromise bill which abandons the previous system of proportional representation and provides for an electoral law based on a majority system, a single ballot, party alliances and the “departments” as [Page 351] the voting district. However, in those departments in which no single list is able to win a majority of the votes cast the seats will be distributed among the parties on the basis of proportional representation as before. If this present bill should become the new electoral law (it has not yet been passed by the “upper house”—the Council of the Republic), its effect might be estimated as follows: the “third force” parties will probably control nearly two-thirds of the next legislature at the expense of the Communists and Gaullists. However, the shift of strength within the “third force” parties will probably be to the right. Such a shift may affect the economic program of the governments which will be relying on their rightist parliamentary majority.

[Here follow a brief summary of the history of French domestic politics and foreign policy since the Liberation of 1944 and a short passage on the background of the visit with the observation that while “There were no substantive questions which the Department wished to raise with President Auriol,” the French “wished for discussion of the following subjects. The French and United States positions on these questions may be summarized as follows.”]

us financial aid to france

French Position

The most important French financial problem is not one of meeting the dollar obligations arising from the French defense effort. Rather, the French have a very serious problem of raising francs internally to finance their overall 1951 budget, including increased military expenditures. The normal difficulties of the French Government in raising revenue are compounded by the fact that this is an election year in France. If possible, the French would like to receive freely-disposable US dollar aid, which they could partly use to create francs by discounting the dollars at the Bank of France.

US Position

1. The French budget is strictly a local currency problem which can be solved only by the French themselves. The only way in which the US may help is by financing essential dollar imports into France. Such imports may in effect be sold to French importers by the French Government, and the francs used for budgetary expenditures.

2. Financial assistance will be provided to France during the remainder of fiscal 1951 and in fiscal 1952 to the extent that France demonstrates a requirement 1) for dollar imports to support military production in France, or 2) for dollar imports necessary to support a healthy French economy, which is fundamental to any French defense effort. Continued financial assistance will be available [Page 352] provided 1) such dollar aid does not make possible an increase in French gold and dollar reserves, and 2) the US continues to be satisfied with the French defense effort. It is US policy that economic aid should not be extended to a country if the result is an increase in its reserves, except where the effect of withholding aid would be to hurt the defense effort. Negotiations are presently under way to determine the amount of financial assistance that France will receive during the remainder of fiscal 1951.

3. As Secretary Acheson stated in the talks with the French last October and again in January,4 we believe that we cannot become directly involved in the local budgetary deficits of other countries. We believe that only by means of an increase in essential imports into France can US financial aid serve to provide increased local currency resources for the French Government. Such imports, by absorbing purchasing power, will serve as a most effective device to combat rising prices. In the same way, France may shift some part of the burden of rearmament to the other NATO countries in real terms only by developing an import surplus in her overall trade with those countries, rather than the large and increasing export surplus which has characterized French trade with Western Europe during the past eighteen months.


If the French raise this subject, they should be informed of the US position.

delays in the provision of us mdap aid

French Position

It is likely that the French will state their concern about the long delays and procedural obstacles involved in receiving raw materials, machine-tools and deliveries of military end-items.

US Position

The problem has been, in the first place, to obtain a satisfactory picture of planned military production in France together with a French program for imports of necessary materials and machine-tools required from dollar sources; and secondly, to complete our own review of the French military program and to suggest to them what changes we believe desirable. We are handling this matter through our missions in Paris, who have just received additional instructions on these subjects.

[Page 353]

With respect to the delivery of military end-items, every effort will be made to provide the end-items programmed for France as quickly as possible. The French know that priorities of delivery are necessarily given to Allied forces in Korea and to Indochina. As production mounts, substantial acceleration of deliveries to all areas may be possible. Shipments already made to France under the MDAP include 180 aircraft, 7 vessels, 2320 tanks and armored vehicles, and 6627 trucks.


That the French be informed of the US position.


French Position

France has consistently supported the action of the United Nations with respect to Korea and has sent a battalion of French troops in support of United Nations military operations.

United States Position

To bring the maximum possible collective pressure of the free world to bear upon the Communist aggressor in Korea so as to enhance the possibility of finding an honorable solution for the Korean problem and to deter similar aggression elsewhere.


It is recommended that President Auriol be given an expression of the appreciation of the United States for the fine service being rendered the Unified Command in Korea by the French battalion and for the constant support which the French Delegation to the United Nations has provided with reference to the United Nations resolutions on Korea.

The following points in relation to Korea might be reviewed with the President of France:

The United States has not changed its position in support of the basic objectives of the United Nations in Korea. Our military efforts to repel the aggression and to bring international peace and security to the area will continue.
It is the hope of the United States that continued United Nations military action in Korea will assist France in her efforts to repel Communist aggression in Indochina and will relieve military pressures in other Far Eastern areas.
At the same time, the United States, together with the other non-Communist members of the United Nations, is anxious to take full advantage of any developments which might ultimately lead to the acceptance of an honorable solution in Korea. Such a solution, however, must be without reference to political commitments in other areas.

[Page 354]

the four power deputies conference in paris5

French Position

The French have so far maintained a united front with the British and ourselves in the Four Power talks. While the French would like to achieve the same type of agenda we desire, it is evident from private tripartite talks that they, as well as the British, are more willing to compromise with Soviet proposals than we in order to ensure that a meeting of the Foreign Ministers will be held.

United States Position

The US, together with the United Kingdom and France, has been striving to achieve with the Soviet representative an agreed agenda for a later meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Four Powers. The principal point at issue has been the insistent attempt of the Soviet Union to obtain the agreement of the Western Powers to include on the agenda, as the first item and without relation to other issues, the subject of “German Demilitarization.” The US has rejected this attempt and has insisted that Germany is not a cause but a result of existing international tensions which must be examined as a whole and in relation to each other. Fundamental to the US approach to achieving an agreed agenda is the maintenance of a united front with the British and French.


M. Auriol and M. Schuman should be informed that we attach the utmost importance to the maintenance of a common tripartite approach in face of the USSR; that we are confident that if we remain undivided and firmly insist upon a “neutral” agenda, the USSR will not make impossible a Foreign Ministers meeting by refusing to agree on an agenda satisfactory to all of us; that we will not accept the principal Soviet aim to have listed on the agenda as a separate item reference to the “demilitarization of Germany;” and that we prefer, should it prove impossible to obtain an agenda, to have no ministerial meeting rather than accept the serious political consequences of permitting the Soviet proposals to prevail and to subject the three Foreign Ministers to a time-consuming and unproductive series of meetings which the USSR desires primarily for propaganda reasons.

[Here follows a brief summary of the course of the Four-Power Exploratory Talks since their inception on March 5.]

[Page 355]


French Position

It is anticipated that M. Schuman will state that France is carrying the burden of the Indochina responsibility in as great a degree as her national and international commitments permit. In so doing she is carrying a more than equitable share of the burden of the free nations of the world in their defense against communism. Her recent decision to send reinforcements will be cited as additional evidence of this fact. France has loyally carried out its agreements to grant autonomy within the French Union to the Associated States. With the fulfillment of American assurances concerning aid, France is determined to fulfill her primary responsibility for French Union areas. The only eventuality which might lead France to a reconsideration of her role in Indochina would be a large scale Chinese attack. In that event France will require aid from her allies, including the US, to forestall if possible, a withdrawal or evacuation.

The French may refer to the complex nature of Vietnam internal politics and the practical considerations delaying the transfer of powers. They will cite their recent action in transferring customs and certain financial services as evidence of their good faith.

United States Position

There has been no important change in the US position regarding Indochina since the Truman-Pleven talks on January 29th and 30th, 1951.6

The US continues to recognize the seriousness of the threat from China and the extent to which the Chinese are supporting the Viet Minh. The US believes that every means within the power of the Associated States and the French Union must be brought to bear to assure the territorial integrity of the Indochinese peninsula. American military aid is being furnished to assist toward that end. The US is at present planning to continue to furnish military aid during the present and coming fiscal year, as outlined to M. Pleven.

The US continues to regard the defense of Indochina as being the primary responsibility of the French Union. The US is not prepared to intervene directly but would be willing to consider requests for logistic support in the event of an emergency such as a forced evacuation. The tripartite military conversations agreed upon during the Pleven talks will take place in the near future.

[Page 356]

In agreeing to proceed with its aid programs the US is confident that the French Government will interpret the various Accords with the Associated States as liberally as circumstances permit. The US looks forward to the early development of the National Armies. We are confident that the French will continue to furnish financial and military aid to the Associated States. American aid in all fields is designed to supplement rather than supplant French aid. The US continues to doubt the advisability of a general UN consideration of the Indochina problem.


It is recommended that the President and Secretary inform the French that there appears to be no need to revise the observations and conclusions reached during the discussions with Prime Minister Pleven. There are, however, one or two new problems and further developments in old ones which we would wish to draw to the attention of the French in order to confirm at the highest level the declarations of US policy made by our Ambassador in Paris and Minister in Saigon, and, in turn, obtain French official confirmation of assurances already given.

1. Reinforcements for Indochina

The US recognizes the fact that French Union Forces in Indochina must be supplied with the men and equipment required to assure the successful defense of the Associated States from foreign aggression and Communist-led and inspired internal insurrection. Any decision regarding reinforcements for French units in the French Union forces is primarily a French decision. The President should avoid any discussion relating to the necessity of submitting any such decision to NATO and any question regarding the latter’s jurisdiction in the matter.

Discussion. General deLattre has received the approval of the French Government for the assignment of an additional 12,000 troops to Indochina as reinforcements for a maximum period of a year and a half. It is the opinion of General Bradley, concurred in by the Department, that the decision to provide French reinforcements should be a French decision in which General Eisenhower, as SACEUR should, if possible, not participate.

2. United States Intentions in Vietnam, Particularly as they Concern the Operations of our Military and Economic Aid Programs and Information Services

The President should make it abundantly clear that the US has no intention of supplanting French efforts in Indochina either at the present time or in the future. The US purpose remains one of furnishing economic and technical aid to supplement that being furnished by France in order to achieve our common objectives of national stability in the Associated States. The US trusts that this objective will be attained at the earliest possible moment in order to permit both France and the US to be relieved of their present [Page 357] commitments. The President should request that Foreign Minister Schuman take the necessary steps to bring these assurances to the attention of those French officials, both in France and Indochina, who still labor under any illusions on this score.

Discussion. There have recently been evidences of an impression on the part of some French officials in Indochina that the US was endeavoring to replace the French as the western power primarily concerned with advising and assisting the governments of the Associated States in the conduct of their affairs. The matter has been the subject of discussion between our envoys and the appropriate French officials. Although assurances have been given to the contrary, the suspicion concerning the true nature of our motives persists and should be vigorously denied.

3. Transfer of Services to the Associated States

The President should indicate that he has noted with pleasure the recent transfer from French to local control of certain services and the steps currently in process to transfer certain others as provided in the Pau Accords. The US Government recognizes the difficulties entailed in effecting the transfer of other services yet trusts that the French Government will not relax its attention to the matter. Notwithstanding the difficulties it is believed that the furtherance by the Associated States of their foreign relations with friendly states through the assignment of representatives abroad has been delayed longer than might be explained by practical considerations. It is recommended, therefore, that the President urge M. Schuman to bring the influence of his government to bear upon the sovereigns of the three Associated States to enlarge their present representation abroad as rapidly and extensively as possible.

Discussion. The French have taken steps to transfer certain services to the Associated States in accordance with the Pau Accords. The speed and scope of the transfers have been delayed, largely for valid reasons involving practical considerations. It is believed, nevertheless, that the diplomatic representation of the Associated States abroad can and should be increased.

4. Recent Vietnam Cabinet Crisis

The President may wish to seek French confirmation of their government’s determination to maintain a detached attitude in the internal struggle for power now taking place in Vietnam. The President may wish to attest to our appreciation of the complexities of the factors involved in Vietnamese internal politics and the dangers inherent in attempting any major alterations in the Bao Dai solution under the present circumstances of armed internal conflict and threatened invasion from abroad.

Discussion. The new cabinet in Vietnam was established on March 3, 1951, only after considerable negotiation and maneuvering between Bao Dai, Prime Minister Huu, and other protagonists. Although the French maintained a policy of nonintervention during the unfolding of the crisis, General deLattre did intervene in an advisory capacity, particularly in prodding Bao Dai on to action in resolving the impasse. General deLattre’s role, although [Page 358] not interventional in an unwarranted sense, was evident in connection with the Bao Dai-Huu tension which was ultimately, if temporarily, set aside in the formation of a cabinet under Huu. In the thought that the present government will fall in the near future, French views on its possible successor are sought.

middle east defense—malta talks


On January 23–24 Admiral Carney met at Malta with General Sir Brian Robertson, the British Commander in Chief of Middle East Forces to discuss the defense of the Middle East.

During his conversation with President Truman on January 30 Prime Minister Pleven said that the French desire to participate in any strategic conversations such as those held in Malta. President Truman said that neither the Secretary of Defense nor the Secretary of State had any intention of cutting the French out of any conversations.

Ambassador Bonnet requested on Saturday, March 10, that the French be invited to participate in conversations that were to be held in Malta on Monday, March 13, between Admiral Carney and General Robertson. Ambassador Bonnet was informed that in view of the question of the principle raised by this request, the position taken by the British Government on a similar request made of it, and the shortness of time, it was impossible for us to accede to the French desire.7

On Friday, March 16, Ambassador Bruce was handed by Ambassador Parodi a strong note signed by Mr. Schuman reflecting the decision taken that morning by the Cabinet regarding the Malta Conference. It outlines in considerable detail France’s interests in the Near East, her desire to fulfill her responsibilities in that area, the unfortunate repercussion both political and military of the Malta Conference to continued US-UK and French collaboration and concludes with the hope that “in the general interest of the Western powers the Government of the United States will take measures with a view to preventing the recurrence of the incident caused by French absence at the Malta conversations and that it will define with full clarity its position regarding the association of France with the organization of the defense of the Near East.”

In handing this protest to Ambassador Bruce, Parodi referred to President Truman’s assurances to Mr. Pleven. He also stated that [Page 359] the French are inclined to attribute their exclusion more to the British than to ourselves.8

At the same time the French delivered a similar, but stronger, note to the British.

The deep interests of France in the Western Mediterranean are self evident. Her position in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, her sovereignty over Corsica, as well as her continental position on the Mediterranean, give France as great an interest in Western Mediterranean affairs as any nation in Europe. With regard to the Eastern part of the Mediterranean, France’s interest stems from the economic, cultural and political position it enjoyed until recent years. The French Government has made clear that it now regards the petroleum resources in the Near East and the communications to Indo China and other territories of the French Union via the Suez Canal as of capital importance to the vital interest of the French Republic. The United Kingdom and France have a treaty relationship with Turkey which France considers as being ample evidence of the importance she attaches to the general area of the Middle East. France does not believe that it is possible to isolate Western and Eastern Mediterranean affairs.

France’s position in the Near East has suffered a marked decline since the beginning of World War II. During the period of her mandate in Syria and Lebanon she exerted strong political, economic and cultural control. However, her popularity declined over the period of years and with the fall of France in 1940 it reached a low point. When these two countries became independent several years later, it was clear that there was a strong antipathy toward any French military, economic or political influence in the area. This antipathy continues up to the present moment. There is no sign that it is likely to decrease. France has one major interest in Iraq in the form of a 23 percent share of the Iraq Petroleum Company. French cultural influence continues strong in Egypt and Lebanon, and France has displayed a keen interest in the Holy Places of Palestine.

[Page 360]

It has been the opinion of the United States Government that the prestige of France in the Middle East had declined to such an extent that it would not be possible for France to make any useful contribution in the political or military fields for the time being. NSC 47/2, “United States Policy Toward Israel and the Arab States”, approved October 17, 1949, states: “There should also be close United States-United Kingdom collaboration wherever possible to achieve the basic objectives. In addition, the United States should bear in mind the desirability of collaborating with France and with Turkey and with other Moslem non-Arab states in the area for the same purpose whenever it is feasible and practicable.”

NSC 47/5, “United States Policy Toward the Arab States and Israel”, approved by the President March 17, 1951, was prepared for the purpose of developing a policy for the United States to follow in the Arab states and Israel during the cold-war period. It has been felt during the past several years that our approach to the area on matters relating to the defense of the area could only be done in collaboration with the United Kingdom. The opposition which would be engendered in the Arab world if France were to participate in defense arrangements has been repeatedly made clear by spokesmen of Near Eastern countries. Recent manifestations of French policy in Morocco have further decreased French prestige in the Near East.

The United States has attempted to cooperate with France in the Near East wherever possible, taking into account the limitations imposed by the decline of French prestige. In this connection, we have participated with France and Turkey on the Palestine Conciliation Commission since 1948. Similarly we have collaborated on the settlement of the Arab refugees. In May 1950, the United States, United Kingdom and France participated jointly in the issuance of the Tripartite Declaration which was addressed to the question of the shipment of arms to the Near Eastern area.9 However, this is the extent to which the United States has felt that it would be politically possible for us to go in collaborating with France.


In discussing the question of the Malta Conference with Foreign Minister Schuman it is recommended that you take the following line:

We sincerely regret the amount of publicity received by the recent meeting between British and American commanders of forces in the Middle Eastern area. The purpose of this meeting was [Page 361] merely to discuss together our appraisals of the military situation in the Middle East.

Although the United States Government is firmly convinced of the necessity of the multilateral approach to European problems and to certain other questions of mutual interest, it nevertheless believes that there are many questions that can be best handled on a bilateral basis, as recently shown by the Carney-Lambert talks, the Franco-Italian naval discussion, General Hamilton’s meetings with the French Air Force officials, and General Juin’s meetings here in January.

The relationship of the Mediterranean area to other defense plans has not been clarified. The United States desires to discuss this matter further with the French military authorities and accordingly proposes that there be held in Washington in the near future a meeting between French, British and American officials on the standing group (not the standing group per se), plus such additional personnel as any of the three powers might want to attend. At this meeting the general conclusions arrived at at the Malta talks would be outlined and the United States Government would be prepared to discuss the relationship of the Mediterranean area to General Eisenhower’s command and to the British Command in the Middle East. As the Malta talks were concerned with technical military questions relating to American and British forces, you might wish to say to Mr. Schuman that these questions can be more appropriately discussed by military representatives.

The United States representatives at this forthcoming meeting would be prepared to consider the possibility of holding technical discussions of Mediterranean matters, if desired, on French soil between French, United States and United Kingdom naval commanders. Such a meeting, however, would undoubtedly create additional problems in that other Mediterranean countries, such as Italy, Greece, Turkey and possibly certain Arab States, might desire to participate therein. This matter would therefore have to be further discussed at the Washington meeting.

Mr. Schuman will undoubtedly inquire as to the United States Government’s position regarding the association of France in organizing the defense of the Middle East (interpreted by us to include Turkey, Iran, the Arab States and Israel). It is suggested that you reply that this is a problem that will have to be worked out and that you continue as follows:

The establishment of an organization for the defense of the Middle East should, in our opinion, conform to the desires of the governments in the area as well as the governments which are prepared to contribute forces to the defense of the area.
Similarly, while the United States believes that all possible steps should be taken to strengthen the Middle Eastern area, with due regard to the requirements of the NAT area, nevertheless this must be in response to the expressed will of the governments concerned.
The United States desires to carry out in close cooperation with France and the United Kingdom, the purpose of the Tripartite Declaration (Tab A).10 (Mr. Schuman will recall that this declaration was addressed to the question of the shipment of arms to the area and contained an expression of interest on the part of three governments in the maintenance of peace between the states in the area. It was not designed to deal with general defense of the area against external aggression.)

  1. For information concerning this memorandum and its drafting, see the editorial note, supra.
  2. On January 22, Ambassador Bruce cabled the Secretary of State that the electoral law reform problem was the “number one issue dividing parties” of the third force governing coalition in France and dividing the third force from the Gaullists.
  3. Documentation concerning the growth of widespread work stoppages in France during the first 3 months of 1951 is in file 851.062.
  4. For documentation concerning the Franco-American financial and military talks in Washington during October 1950, see Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. iii, pp. 1396 ff. For the substance of the January 1951 talks during the visit of Prime Minister Pleven, see Annex A to Document 154.
  5. For documentation on the Four-Power Exploratory Talks in Paris (Conference Palais Marble Rose), see vol. iii, Part 1, pp. 1086 ff.
  6. See Documents 149, 151, and 154.
  7. The conversation summarized here is the subject of a memorandum by Webb, March 10. (770A.5/3–1051)
  8. A translation of the French Note protesting exclusion from the Malta talks of March 13 is in telegram 5472 from Paris, March 16, and a summary of the Bruce-Parodi conversation which accompanied the note is in telegram 5477 from Paris of the same day. (770A.5/3–1651) At the Secretary of State’s daily staff meeting on March 26, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Perkins reported “that Alphand has told Admiral Carney that the French were not really interested in the Malta talks but were attempting to secure agreement on the French participation in all global strategy talks involving the U.S. and U.K. In response to the Secretary’s question, Mr. Perkins said we had still no reply to the British as to the line we proposed taking with Auriol and Schuman regarding these talks.” (Secretary’s Daily Meetings, lot 58D609, March 1951)
  9. For text of this declaration, transmitted in a circular telegram from Washington, see Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. v, p. 167.
  10. Not printed, but see footnote 9 above.