740.5/12–2354: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Dillon) to the Department of State

top secret

2666. Limit distribution. Mendes telephoned me last night at quarter past twelve, immediately after the end of the night session.1 He said that things were not going well in the debate and he sounded discouraged. He said that he wanted my frank personal advice on the possibilities of obtaining additional assistance from the US. What he had specifically in mind was the distribution of US military aid and he wondered if, in view of his parliamentary difficulties, it would not be possible for us to go further than we already had and agree to give our aid to the Arms Agency of the WEU for distribution.

I told him that there were serious difficulties of substance and procedure which I was afraid would prevent us from acceding to his [Page 1516] request. I explained to him as gently as possible that rightly or wrongly the US Government had considered that the EDC was a supranational organization with its own army and that under the EDC, national armies no longer existed. Therefore, we had been forced to agree to give our aid direct to the EDC commissariat for further distribution, not to member states, but to the EDC’s own troops. That situation no longer existed under the Paris Accords, and I told Mendes that it was inconceivable to me that Congress would agree to allow a foreign organization, in this case the Arms Agency of the WEU, to decide how US aid should be distributed. I then told Mendes that the procedural difficulty was, to my mind, even more serious and would make any action impossible, even if we were disposed to take it. The difficulty was, as I told Mendes, that the Secretary could not make any such commitment affecting the future distribution of US aid without first clearing the matter with the responsible committee heads in Congress. These men were not now available in Washington and in any case clearance with them would be a protracted process.

Mendes understood and acknowledged the procedural difficulty and said that in such an event, he thought it was probably better for me not to bother Washington at all about this matter. He would proceed and do his best with what he had. He said the reason he had raised this subject was that many of the speeches in the Assembly bore on this problem. In particular, he said that Maurice Faure, who had spoken previously and indicated he would vote for ratification, had told him during the evening session that he now intended to propose a reservation to the effect that the treaties would not take effect until the US negotiated an agreement to deliver their military aid through the WEU. Mendes said that he had talked Maurice Faure out of submitting this amendment last night but that it might come up again today, and that it would be a very difficult matter for him to combat. He said he realized that such an approach would be utterly unacceptable to the US and therefore he would never accept it himself.

I then asked Mendes if the last paragraph of the letter which the Secretary had given him on the subject would not be of considerable help. Mendes acknowledged that this letter represented real progress, but said that it was not sensational and what was needed now in the present temper of the Assembly was some new sensational fact that could change the tone of the Assembly.

Mendes said that he planned to make his speech this afternoon and would wait and see how it was received before deciding on further tactics. He said there were two possibilities. He was sure that a vote of confidence would be necessary to prevent dangerous amendments to the ratification law, and the question was whether he could force things [Page 1517] tonight and have the vote take place late Friday night and early Saturday morning, or whether he should allow the vote to be put off till Monday morning. He said he saw dangers in both courses. On Friday night many deputies would be absent and would be voting by proxy. These proxies were inflexible and as a general rule proxies were apt to be unfavorable to the government. On the other hand, if he waited until Monday, deputies would be exposed to extreme pressure in their constituencies over the week end, which might be dangerous and also further time would be allowed for additional moves by the Soviets. I naturally could not be much help to him in this problem of internal political tactics and our telephone conversation ended on this note.

Comment: Mendes has reason to be disturbed by the course of events in the Chamber. The debate so far shows clearly that there is no one in the Assembly enthusiastically in favor of the Paris Accords. This lack of enthusiasm will probably be translated into massive abstentions which might even approximate the number of favorable votes. Consensus of French political reporters now is 240 votes for, 170 against, and approximately 220 abstentions or absences. Such a vote would be a real defeat for Mendes personally, and would be extremely upsetting to him in view of the thesis that he has continually upheld, that the question of German rearmament must be solved by a massive national majority. Such a vote will also make more critical the next two months prior to the vote in the Council of the Republic, and it will give added importance to that vote when it takes place. I regret that I can’t think of any action on our part that would be helpful at this late date.

  1. Reports concerning the first 2 days of the ratification debates in the French National Assembly, debates which began on Dec. 21, are in telegrams 2648 and 2663, Dec. 21 and 22, respectively (740.5/12–2154 and 740.5/12–2254).