751.5/1–2552: Telegram

No. 494
The Ambassador in France (Bruce) to the Department of State

top secret

4437. Eyes only for the Secretary and Harriman. No distribution except as directed by Secretary. On several occasions this week both Bidault and Bourges-Maunoury have spoken to me about the impossibility of their making adequate defense contribution to NATO 1 while continuing effort IC on present scale within limitations of 1190 billion franc budget in 1952. This has been as you know the contention of Fr Defense Ministry for months and led to bitter inter-Cabinet dispute between Bidault and Rene Mayer.

Bidault remains Defense Minister and Mayer is no longer in Cabinet.

Fr services are now completing a balanced military program based on acceptance by Fr of TCC financial recommendation for 1190 billion franc budget in 1952. Results are not yet definite but Bidault this morning authorized Clermont Tonnerre to inform me that as presently estimated consequences will probably be a reduction of number of divisions from 14 to 7 with no increase in subsequent [Page 1141] years; Air Force goal will be 600 front-line planes instead of 180 [1800?]; seven Air Force squadrons will be demobilized; military service will probably be reduced from 18 to 12 months; a number of recruits now called up will be sent back; a number of factories working only on military orders will be closed down; and production contracts will be canceled with a payment of 50 billion francs for cancellation indemnities. Indochina operations wld proceed at present level.

This information is available only to very limited number of Fr officials who in turn are authorized to speak only to key members of country team. Bidault’s present decision is that this program cannot be discussed in TCC because of danger of publicity and serious effect on morale of Fr forces, and is referring question as to how best to proceed to new Cabinet. Fr TCC reply would presumably only show gap between TCC military and TCC financial recommendation but not details of reductions.

Bidault and other ministers are fully aware of the consequences to NATO of this curtailed program. There is still belief in some quarters that US will somehow find funds to prevent such a disastrous development but realization that such funds just do not exist is widespread. Bidault states that as Defense Minister he will never agree to execute such a limited program but knows that his successor may have to do so.

We have, of course, known for many months that Fr force goals were far too high for their own financial resources combined with scheduled US aid. We have also known that problem was not just squeezing smaller priority items out of military budget. It is regrettable Fr Govt could not force Fr military to agree to work out a program on basis of realistic budget many months ago. Now that they seem to have done so, and have facts before them, they are faced with problem of this magnitude. Its implications for Indochina and European Defense community are obvious.

I do not wish to be over pessimistic and still hope that arrangements can be made so that Fr can at least match one [or?] two division German program and continue in Indochina. If Fr cannot, we are going to have difficulties not yet anticipated.

Considering specifically implication for EDC I do not believe any ratification by Fr Parliament of EDC possible if Fr military program not able to provide number of divisions equal to number to be contributed by Germans.

  1. The question of defense contributions by the member states of NATO was under serious examination by the Temporary Council Committee (TCC), which was created to study this matter and report to the North Atlantic Council at its meeting in Lisbon in early 1952. For documentation concerning the financial recommendations of the TCC and the discussion concerning these recommendations, see vol. v, Part 1, pp. 203 ff.