751.5 MSP/2–1252

No. 501
Memorandum of Telephone Conversation1

top secret

The Secretary telephoned Secretary Lovett to ask whether he had seen telegrams 4924 and 49252 from Bruce. Secretary Lovett said he had not. Mr. Acheson said there was a meeting going on at Mr. Harriman’s office with a representative of Defense, as well as of State, to try to figure out just what they meant. The result of the conversation was that Mr. Lovett and the Secretary would get together today, when they had a report on what the working level people considered the telegram meant in terms of financial help wanted.

There followed discussion of whether Mr. Lovett should come to London on the weekend to talk with Mr. Harriman about the French budget. Mr. Lovett said the matter had been mentioned to him, but that in his judgment (which was before these telegrams had been received) he had not thought he should go, since to do so played Lisbon down. He had thought he would have time to talk on Tuesday, the 19th in Lisbon; but the Secretary pointed out that he might not get there until Wednesday.

The Secretary said he thought the talks that were now proposed between Secretary Acheson, Secretary Lovett, and Mr. Harriman, in the light of the new cables, were a necessary preliminary to Lisbon. The telegrams seem to indicate that the French will accept the TCC program, provided we give them financial help (in the amount indicated in the telegrams, about which amount there is confusion and uncertainty). Mr. Acheson thought we would have to have some idea about what we can do before going to Lisbon. He, therefore, thought Secretary Lovett should consider going to London if Mr. Harriman was going to be there, after which Mr. Harriman, and possibly Mr. Lovett, could go down to Lisbon and have some talks with the French before the NATO meeting opened.

Mr. Lovett said he thought there were two reasons why he probably would not go to London. The first was that he had told the Committees on the Hill that, because of the postponement of NATO, he would be available to testify through Monday. He also thought it was fairly futile to talk with the French along the lines of what we would do for them in return for what they would do. [Page 1159] He had pointed out to them in November in Paris3 what might be done in the way of military expenditure and had also pointed out that every month of delay would mean 35 or 40 million dollars not spent. They have now lost three or four months such expenditure, which is now gone. He thought we would have to face up to the fact that it was hopeless to deal with the French on the basis of the 14 divisions, and that we must face up to the fact that they would have to do what they can, and we can not talk with them on the basis of some theoretical figure of the military people. Mr Lovett pointed out that he had only 200 million dollars of transferable funds left. As soon as they can find out some way of distributing that, they will be out of cash, except on end items under the transferability clause.

However, Mr. Lovett said he would come to see the Secretary as soon as he had word from Ruffner. He thought any talk would be meaningless until we get some plan of what to do. He has a strong hunch that there is very little that can be done now. He mentioned that if we cut down the French to 7 divisions, the Germans will have to be cut down to seven also. Mr. Lovett said that he thought the temper on the Hill is going to be very rough on our doing anything more than match the other country’s effort—not pick up his tag. He had ducked questions by saying that we were exploring things now.

  1. Drafted by Marion Evans, Dulles’ personal secretary. Copies of this memorandum were sent to Matthews, Merchant, and Bonbright.
  2. Document 499 and supra.
  3. For documentation concerning these meetings with the French in Paris during November 1951, see Foreign Relations, 1951, vol. iv, Part 1, pp. 437455 passim.