PPS files, lot 65 D 101, “Bonn–London Conference”

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Merchant)
secret

The Prime Minister of France called on the Secretary this afternoon at 3 o’clock at the former’s suggestion. He arrived unaccompanied despite the Secretary’s suggestion that he might wish to bring with him one or two of his Delegation. The conversation lasted until approximately 3:50 when it was necessary to depart for the Plenary Session at Lancaster House at 4 p.m.

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The Premier opened the conversation by saying that he had felt after the morning conference session that there may have been a slight misunderstanding between the Chancellor and himself which he had attempted to clear up after the session ended. He had felt that Chancellor Adenauer was under the impression that additions to existing plants or increasing existing capacity might be free from his proposed licensing requirement whereas the construction of new armaments plants would be subject to approval by the Brussels Council. He said that he had explained to the Chancellor that both expansion of existing plant and construction of new plant were equally under the same licensing requirement.

The Premier then embarked on what was clearly the primary purpose of his call. He opened by saying that German admission to NATO was extremely unpopular in France. He said that in the light of the clear desire of France’s allies in this matter he had agreed to accept German admission into NATO. This, however, represented a major concession on the part of France and in consequence he hoped that the Secretary would understand the necessity for his insisting on obtaining agreement to the French point of view on other elements in the package which he would have to submit to the French Assembly. He said that the essential components of this package were German admission to NATO, strengthening of the Brussels alliance, assurances from the UK and the US concerning the retention of forces on the continent, control of armaments, inspection arrangements and a settlement of the Saar dispute with Germany. He seemed to give certain emphasis to the arms proposal which he said was lifted almost in its entirety from the EDC Treaty. He intimated that he was amazed at the opposition that he had encountered to this proposal in light of the fact that France’s five partners in EDC had always professed a confidence in the perfection of the EDC Treaty.

The Secretary said that the Premier must realize that certain suspicions concerning his purposes in putting forward his arms pool ideas were prevalent. There were doubts as to whether he might not have as his intention the prevention of any armament production in Germany and the concentration in France of the armaments industry of the entire community. In light of these suspicions (which the Secretary made clear he did not share personally) the suggestion was made that it would be useful if the Premier could put down on paper with more precision his proposal on an armaments pool. M. Mendes-France said that he was doing so and that it would be circulated shortly.

The Secretary then said that he had discovered somewhat to his surprise only this morning that there had never been an agreement [Page 1310]reached by the signatories of the EDC Treaty as to the description of the exposed area referred to in Article 107 of the Treaty. He said that the Annex described the area within which propellents could not be produced but that there apparently was no agreement as to the more general area in which general production limitations applied. Mendes-France said that there had been no formal agreement but that there had been an agreement reached by the experts of the six countries to the effect that this area would be identical with that which had been described in connection with propellents.

M. Mendes-France then went on to repeat that he was surprised at the opposition into which he had run in putting forward his proposal for an arms pool. He felt that it was almost identical with the provisions of the EDC Treaty. He felt that it would be possible for experts to agree within the next three or four weeks on the general principles which should govern such a pool or agency. The Secretary did not comment on this expression of confidence.

The Secretary then said that he had the impression that the UK was disposed to go just as far as it felt possible in granting assurances on the maintenance of British forces on the Continent. He felt that this would be a most constructive development. The Secretary then went on to explain that if the London conference produced a success it would probably be possible for the United States to repeat in substance the assurances which it had given in this general connection on the assumption that the EDC would come into force. The French Premier expressed surprise approaching consternation, which seemed somewhat feigned, that the US would find it impossible to go beyond the EDC assurances. The Secretary then explained in great detail the constitutional aspects of this matter, on which M. Mendes-France made no further comment.

The Secretary then raised the question of the Saar. The French Premier related at considerable length the history of the establishment of a Saar settlement as a precondition for ratification of the EDC by the French Assembly. He described how his inadvertent omission of this topic in his investiture speech in the early summer of 1953 had brought a storm down upon his head. He made it perfectly clear that even if he were not personally disposed to make a Saar settlement a precondition for an arrangement for German sovereignty and rearmament, the French Assembly would do so beyond the slightest doubt. He then went on to describe his concept of how the matter should be handled. He said he had discussed it glancingly with Chancellor Adenauer in the morning. Mendes-France had no disposition (nor apparently had the Chancellor) to attempt to reach a settlement on the Saar during the course of the London conference. Neither of them [Page 1311]had any appetite for its injection into the discussions of the conference itself.

M. Mendes-France expressed the view that French and German experts working together could probably arrive within three or four weeks at the outline of a settlement which would not necessarily be along the lines of the AdenauerTeitgen agreement1 (which Mendes-France said had been severely criticized even by Bidault) and that thereafter he and Adenauer personally would have to settle the final terms of the agreement. He thought that a solution was possible under which the Executive of the Saar would be responsible to the Council of Ministers under the Brussels Treaty. He recognized that some parliamentary superstructure might be required and outlined a rather vague proposal that an Assembly might be established as a parliamentary adjunct to the Brussels Pact which would be composed of the individuals named by the seven countries signature to the Brussels Treaty as their representatives to the Council of Europe.

The Secretary did not comment on this proposal which was vague and ill-formed.

The French Premier then reverted to the question of the retention of US troops on the Continent and indicated that he would like an arrangement under which the aggregate of British, French and American divisions in Europe would bear a fixed relation to German divisions. He explained that only by such a commitment would it be possible to maintain a consistent and varied integration of divisions within the several corps at the disposal of SACEUR.

The Secretary repeated that it was beyond our constitutional competence to give long-term commitments for the maintenance of specified numbers of American military forces to be maintained outside of the United States.

As the time was approaching for the opening of the afternoon Plenary Session, the Secretary and the Premier left for Lancaster House in the Secretary’s car.

  1. Regarding this agreement signed May 22, 1954, see the editorial note, p. 967.