Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 185

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



  • Ambassador Herve Alphand
  • Livingston T. Merchant

Just before I left the club Alphand telephoned to ask if he could see me privately and informally. When he arrived he said that he was coming with Bidault’s knowledge but he wanted to talk to me personally as an old friend about the question of assurances from the U.S. regarding maintenance of troops in Europe as a means to facilitate EDC ratification by France. He asked at the outset if we would be willing to sit down quietly with the French and the British in Paris at the time of the Council meeting to attempt to draw up a statement of U.S. intent or commitment which could then be held secretly in reserve for release at the critical moment in the debate.

I told Alphand that of course we would be willing to sit down privately in Paris and discuss sympathetically this whole question but that I thought he should be under no illusions regarding the following points. First, whereas our obvious purpose was to be as helpful as possible in securing passage of the EDC there were very definite limits, constitutional and other, beyond which we could not go. Secondly, that on a number of occasions the President and the Secretary of State had made public statements designed to clarify U.S. policy and reassure public opinion. There were also outstanding such statements [Page 1845] as the tripartite Declaration of May 27, 1952.1 I said I doubted personally that we could go much beyond what we have already said or committed ourselves to but that obviously it might be possible to find some form of re-presentation which would be effective. Third, that I had always personally felt that in the effort to render precise, in written language, the policy which our adherence to the North Atlantic Treaty fundamentally constituted, we ran the grave risk of provoking a debate which regardless of its outcome might do great damage to our common endeavors while it was going on. I said that I wondered under whose domination Latin America might be today if, starting in 1820, the new countries of South America had attempted to nail the Monroe Doctrine down into precise, detailed treaties of alliance with the United States. Finally, I said that I thought it improbable we could agree on or put in final form any statement until the test of the crucial debate in the French Assembly were already upon us. I said it had been an educational experience to us to watch the mounting demands made on the British in this same general connection with the result that when they went down the road one-half a mile in answer to an appeal they were immediately requested to travel another mile.

Alphand did not seem surprised or upset by what I said but expressed appreciation for my reiterated assurance that we would talk to the French on this subject in Paris next week.

  1. Ante, p. 686.