No. 848


Memorandum of Conversation, by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Bonbright)1


Subject: Arms for Yugoslavia

Participants: M. Parodi, Secretary General, French Foreign Office;2
M. de Juniac, Counselor, French Embassy;
Mr. Bonbright, Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs;
Mr. Reinhardt, Director, Office of Eastern European Affairs.

M. Parodi said that the French Government was very concerned about the possible threat of Soviet aggression against Yugoslavia and believed that it was in the interest of the Western Powers to do what they could to strengthen the Yugoslav military position. This view was based on the conviction that the breach between Belgrade and Moscow was definitive and that Tito’s regime was sufficiently solid to preserve Yugoslav independence in the absence of overwhelming aggression from the outside. He asked whether the US shared these views. He added that, as we were aware, the French had been negotiating for some time with the Yugoslavs a commercial agreement which was to include, among other things, deliveries of a substantial quantity of arms, including a cartridge factory and that this agreement was on the point of being consummated. The French Government, however, believed that it was important that additional arms be made available to Yugoslavia without further delay and that he would appreciate learning our views in this regard as well. He added that it was clear from two recent calls made upon him by the Yugoslav Ambassador in Paris, on one of which he was accompanied by Milovan Djilas, that the Yugoslavs themselves are very worried.3

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In reply to M. Parodi’s first question, I stated that the US Government fully shared the French view with regard to the importance of supporting Yugoslav independence and that we were glad to learn that Yugoslavia would receive much needed equipment under the new commercial agreement with France. As M. Parodi knew, we had been giving serious consideration for some time, together with the French and British, as to what military support could be given Yugoslavia in the event of an attack and, in reply to the second question, I added that we were also studying the question of immediate support of this character in advance of such a development.

Mr. Reinhardt pointed out that at the present stage of rearmament there would be little or no matériel from current production which this country could make available to Yugoslavia for a good many months other than by taking it away from some intended recipient to whom it was at present committed; that the only immediately available source of matériel would appear to be surplus and captured World War II equipment. Unfortunately the US had very little of this character in its possession but, as M. Parodi knew, there were certain quantities of German equipment in France and elsewhere. This seemed to be the most practical approach to finding immediate military assistance for Yugoslavia and had the added advantage that the Yugoslav army was in fact in part equipped with German arms. M. de Juniac recalled that in the report of the Tripartite Staff Committee on military aid to Yugoslavia4 the French had in fact submitted a list of German equipment in their possession that might be available for this purpose. (He did mention the fact that the French thought had been at that time that the Yugoslavs would purchase this equipment presumably with US credits).

M. Parodi said that it was of course politically difficult for Tito at this juncture openly to receive military assistance from the US and that perhaps France could serve as a go-between in such an operation. Finally, he said that upon his return to Paris he would check with the Ministry of Defense to ascertain the present status of the captured German arms in French possession and suggested that we keep in close touch on this subject with a view to developing as much assistance as possible to Yugoslavia. I replied that I would, of course, do so.

J. C. H. Bonbright
  1. Drafted by Reinhardt.
  2. French Foreign Ministry Secretary General Parodi was one of the officials accompanying Prime Minister Pleven during his visit to Washington, January 29–31; for information concerning Pleven’s visit, see Document 843.
  3. In a brief separate memorandum of conversation, Bonbright reported Parodi’s statement that when Djilas and the Yugoslav Ambassador in Paris called upon him a few days earlier in Paris, they had informally suggested that Yugoslavia would be grateful if, in any forthcoming meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers, the Western powers could do something for Yugoslavia. (768.56/1–3151) In this connection, see the memorandum of conversation by Campbell, Document 855.
  4. See the editorial note, Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. iv, p. 1482.