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

top secret


  • France
    • Pierre Mendes-France
    • Alexandre Parodi
    • Maurice Couve de Murville
    • Jean Soutou
    • Roland de Moustier
  • United Kingdom
    • Anthony Eden
    • Harold Macmillan
    • Gladwyn Jebb
    • Christopher Steel
    • Harold Caccia
    • R. R. Powell
    • Anthony Rumbold
  • United States
    • John Foster Dulles
    • Robert B. Anderson
    • John C. Hughes
    • C. Douglas Dillon
    • Livingston T. Merchant

[Here follows discussion of other subjects.]

Second Saar Period

Mendes-France then referred to the second Saar period (support at the Peace Conference) and said he had promised to return to it. He [Page 1506] stated he was told in Washington that the U.S. wanted “to go back” on statement of Ambassador Dillon in June.2 The Secretary then reviewed the past on this point and stated his belief that this present arrangement was not a permanent solution nor do both the Germans and the French want US–UK support for it at the Peace Conference. (Mendes-France read to the meeting a French memorandum of Ambassador Dillon’s remarks last June.) He said he hoped that after looking at this 1954 statement the Secretary would change his mind. He then read the Marshall 1947 statement and said he would accept a private assurance to support him at the Peace Treaty Conference.

The Secretary said he was not saying he wouldn’t support him. Adenauer last spring in connection with his agreement with Tietgen had accepted the principle of our guaranty. This is now an acute problem in Germany and there is no change in the U.S. basic position sympathetic toward France in his matter. The Secretary went on to say that it is one thing to have an attitude but another thing to give formal understanding, but it was probable that we will support the French position at the Peace Treaty conference.

Mendes-France remarked that that “won’t help a lot !” and went on to say that all France got from the war was the Saar. The Secretary asked if Mendes-France realized that to give the guaranty and publicize this might wreck the entire WEU project. Mendes-France suggested that the Committee Chairman could be told privately. Sir Anthony then went over the record of the Saar problem up to 1950 and said that the attitude was unchanged but they could not give any formal undertaking.

Mendes-France then mentioned a tripartite letter of August 3 [2], 1951 to Chancellor Adenauer reiterating the US–UK position.3

The Secretary remarked that the U.S. attitude toward France was well-known but that he himself couldn’t bind his successors. What will bind them is past history and our fundamental attitude toward France. He went on to say that to give assurances publicly would be disastrous, and to do it privately, dishonorable. He stated he saw no chance of our being able to change our position on this matter.

Mendes-France suggested that this perhaps might be possible in the future—after ratification. He went on to say that this would be raised in the Assembly. The Secretary said that if the US is formally asked [Page 1507] for their position, they will give it but that he advised Mendes-France not to ask.

Mendes-France suggested that he refer to former commitments and say he has no reason to believe the position has changed. The Secretary stated he would not be agreeable to this since it would give the impression that the U.S. had committed itself. Mendes-France said he wouldn’t object if the Secretary wanted to think it over for a few days. The Secretary said he felt he should not give a final answer here and now but stated it would be in general along the lines of what he had said.

Letter of Troop Assurances

Mendes-France inquired when the President would make his declaration and the Secretary replied that this would come when the (ratification process had advanced to a point where the program was substantially assured. Mendes-France said he assumed this meant after the debates in the French Assembly but before deposits of instruments of ratification. The Secretary stated that it might be before all 14 nations had ratified but after essential action had been taken by the French and Germans. Mendes-France asked if it could come before signature and deposit by France of the ratification instrument. The Secretary said this would probably be all right and quite possibly it would be before the formal French deposit of instruments of ratification. The Secretary suggested that they recess. Mendes-France thought they should meet again and it was agreed to meet on Saturday afternoon if there was no NATO meeting.

  1. A summary of this conversation was transmitted to the Department of State in telegram Secto 9, Dec. 17 (740.5/12–1754).
  2. Presumably a reference to Dillon’s meeting with Schumann on June 8 concerning a joint United States–United Kingdom statement on a Saar agreement; Dillon informed the Department of State concerning this meeting in telegram 4764 from Paris, June 9, p. 968.
  3. For the text of the tripartite letter, which was circulated as document AGSEC (51) 1274 of Aug. 2, see Documents on the Saar, p. 304.