611.51/8–3154: Telegram

No. 656
The Ambassador in France (Dillon) to the Department of State1


897. Now French Assembly has rejected EDC2 following general suggestions are offered re US attitude toward France in coming months.

Primary concern of US must be to do everything possible to develop the strength of the West by strengthening FedRep ties with West and maintaining Adenauer’s position in Germany.
It will be far easier to obtain this result with French agreement than by taking unilateral or bilaterial action with UK over French objections.
Therefore every effort should be made to obtain French agreement to whatever actions may be necessary to accomplish objective in paragraph one. Obviously there should be no attempt to omit France from pertinent discussions or to isolate her. US Government [Page 1444] should refrain from statements or acts of clearly punitive nature directed against France.
If, as we expect, French prove unreasonable in negotiations re Germany, particularly in regard to rearmament, and US should be forced to act in concert with UK over French objections, our attitude toward France should be one of firmness and regret that France herself is not prepared to take the steps necessary to increasing Western strength.
If action outlined paragraph 4 is necessary, it should be made abundantly clear that we are not “abandoning France” or taking Germany as an ally to replace France but that door is always open to France to resume her active role among Western nations.
If France should make difficulties for US and UK in carrying out policies under paragraph 4 then and then only should US consider retaliatory action which could include (a) cutting off deliveries of end items (b) cutting off French dollar receipts as result of Indochina program.
Re off-shore procurement, French armaments manufacturers contributed in no small way to success of anti-EDC movement. They should not be rewarded for their action in putting selfish, short-range, interest and narrow nationalism above patriotism and for what amounts to acting in collusion with Communist Party to defeat EDC. Every effort should be made to place follow-on orders outside of France. Present status of ammunition contracts with deliveries running many months behind schedule offers good excuse for switch of follow-on orders to other countries which should be taken advantage of. Freeze on French off-shore orders should not be complete but orders should be reduced to nominal amount in those fields if any where no ready alternative source is available.
We should realize that we are entering a period of crisis where our policy must be attuned to events as they unfold. This will require a maximum of flexibility and recognition on our part that it is impossible to see our exact path through the storm. We must meet each eventuality as it arises as calmly as possible and above all must not give way to anger no matter how justified.
Finally, in our attitude toward the French in this period of crisis for Europe when the French Government and Parliament have failed us in our entire strategy to consolidate and strengthen the West, the following should constantly be borne in mind.
The vast majority of Frenchmen are deeply attached to the Western alliance including those who for selfish, nationalistic, or stubborn contrariness and pride in past glories have worked and fought successfully to destroy EDC and the European ideal.
In past history the French state and even the French as a people have appeared to have been finished but there have been [Page 1445] successive revivals. There is still great native intelligence and vitality here under a heavy layer of selfishness, defeatism, neutralism, negativism and cynicism. There are also encouraging signs of self-criticism and realism to off-set pride and delusions of grandeur. There is a fierce attachment to personal freedom and the value of the individual. This strength in the French character stands up against totalitarian communism but has proved almost fatal in organizing the disciplines and restraints required to set up a viable government capable of making important decisions. This is the tragic dilemma here now. It may be that it cannot be resolved and that we shall have to relegate France to the position of a museum in our future strategic planning. But the possibility cannot be excluded that France will pull herself together and resume the role which she is capable of playing in the spiritual, political and military fields. This we should do everything to encourage. If we should now “write off” France, our enemies here would rejoice and our many friends would be discouraged and bitter.
France is undoubtedly ill and the chart presently indicates high fever. Shock treatment is indicated, merited and sound therapy. But the voltage must be carefully controlled so as not to kill off the patient. We must reconcile ourselves to the probability that for some time, perhaps for some years, France will be the weak sister in the Western alliance but a quick glance at the map of Europe and North Africa still shows why we must in our own interests continue to exercise almost superhuman patience and forbearance during the next few months.
  1. Repeated to 23 European posts.
  2. For documentation concerning the rejection of the EDC Treaty by the French National Assembly on Aug. 30, see vol. v, Part 1, pp. 871 ff.