Memorandum of Conversation, by William D. Fisher of the Office of Western European Affairs



  • Maurice Faure, Deputy, French Delegation to UNGA
  • Andre Dulin, Senator, French Delegation to UNGA
  • Roger Seydoux, French Embassy
  • Mr. MacArthur, C
  • Mr. Merchant, EUR
  • Mr. Fisher, WE

Mr. Merchant welcomed Messrs. Faure and Dulin, noted that M. Faure had spoken in the recent French Assembly foreign affairs debate,1 and asked for his views on this debate. M. Faure said that he and M. Dulin had come down from New York to speak to the responsible Department officers on this subject because they felt that the EDC could not be ratified unless there was some new shock to French public opinion. What was primarily needed, he said, was the development of British association to an extent much greater than anticipated in recent negotiations; the U.S. should urge the U.K. in this direction.

M. Faure continued, stating that the recent debate was very long—too long, very important, and did not have a very satisfactory ending. If a majority of the Socialists voted for ratification there was still a chance, but EDC is losing ground. Certain conditions laid down in the Assembly resolution of 1952 have not yet been realized, particularly the certainty of an agreement concerning the Europeanization of the Saar and, more important, a treaty of extensive UK participation. The UK has the same reasons as France to seek the aims of the EDC but excuses itself on the basis of Commonwealth ties; however, France has the French Union, which is more centralized and a more effective organization than the Commonwealth. If the EDC is not ratified, all would not be lost because in France there is a great majority which does not contest the North Atlantic alliance and would support, instead of the EDC, an armament pool along the lines of the Schuman Plan, with combined training schools and headquarters. In such a way the sentimental attachment to the French army would not stand in the way.

Mr. Merchant inquired whether what was being worked out with the UK now would not be sufficient. M. Faure said that basically it amounted only to having observers. As in 1914 and as at Dunkirk, UK troops might still be withdrawn from the continent in an emergency to defend the British Isles. Also, he continued, there was a fear [Page 857] that once EDC was established that France without its own army would no longer have a strong voice in international diplomacy while the UK would retain its army and its position.

Mr. Merchant stated that the next two or three years presented the greatest of dangers for all of us. As the Soviets had not abandoned their aim of ruling the world, there would be grave peril unless the West developed further strength and unity. We must consider public opinion in France, the US and Germany and the important factor of time. He said he appreciated the sacrifices which the French consider were involved in the EDC and mentioned that the US was also making considerable sacrifices. In Germany, public opinion desires to know whether Germany may be accepted in the western community on a basis of equality. At some time in the future Germany will be armed whatever France and the US do. For the sake of common survival we must assure that Germany is really integrated in the European framework. Time was very short, only a matter of weeks or months; there was no time to modify the EDC treaty or attempt to find a substitute for it, for we then would soon be faced with a totally new situation.

M. Dulin discussed the debate in the Council of the Republic and reiterated the arguments regarding UK participation and the necessity of a Saar solution. He said that if these two conditions were met, there would be a vote of 200 to 100 in the upper house for the EDC.

Mr. MacArthur said that he believed we had come to the most critical period in post-war history, a veritable crossroads. French, German and US opinion in the coming months would chart a course which would decide whether we are to go on together or separately. There is a parallel in the period before World War II, as Germany is making a tremendous comeback and the forces of nationalism are strong though still buried—a fact which Adenauer recognizes. If we missed this opportunity, there was a great risk that German public opinion, having been rebuffed, would force Germany to move ahead in some other way that might play the East and West against each other. The EDC was important not so much for the forces which would be brought into being but for the tieing of Germany in solidly with the West. The US had attempted to furnish the additional resources that were necessary to create a strong Western Europe but if Western Europe did not make the best use of its resources there would be a danger that the US would feel that the total effort was insufficient and that its added contribution was a waste. There is no time for an alternative to EDC. If the French reject the EDC and attempt to go down a different road than that which we have worked out together, the differences may not be apparent immediately but they will in twelve months or so, for we can’t force an unwilling Germany into a particular role without forcing Germany to the side of the East. It has been our policy to support French leadership not only in Europe [Page 858] but in North Africa, Indochina and throughout the world. But if the present opportunity is missed in Europe, the onus will be on the French and everyone will look elsewhere for leadership.

M. Faure said he agreed completely that the decision must be made and made quickly. He said that he would work strongly for EDC ratification but he maintained that we must work together to create the necessary atmosphere. We must be realistic, he continued, and if EDC fails, we must work out other solutions for if the US were to withdraw its troops from the continent, France would be forced to turn to Moscow. We should work to avoid having the forthcoming French decision on EDC create a fundamental crisis in the North Atlantic alliance itself.

Messrs. Merchant and MacArthur replied that we were discreetly trying to help bring about an atmosphere conducive to ratification and would continue to do all that we could.

  1. The French Assembly debated the EDC Treaty, Nov. 17–21, after Bidault had headed off an effort by Gaullists to postpone debate through resignation from the government by threatening to submit his own resignation. After 5 days, debate was suspended while various parties and groups prepared motions.