396.1 GE/5–2454: Telegram

SmithBidault Meeting, Geneva, May 24, Morning: The United States Delegation to the Department of State

top secret

Dulte 107. Repeated information Paris 322. Eyes only Secretary; Paris eyes only Ambassador. Re Paris 4499 to Department.1 In accordance with Dillon’s suggestion I had long talks with Bidault this morning. Only Margerie and Achilles were present. Day in country and good night’s sleep had put him back in good condition.

I told him of Saturday night’s talk with Molotov,2 including my conclusions that Russians expected no progress on Korea but thought they had hooked big fish on Indochina which ought involve Europe as well, that they considered time on their side although their worries over developments elsewhere might impel them to accept a less favorable settlement than they had hoped. I thought next two or three days might shed further light.

Bidault felt we should go right ahead with Franco–US talks as to what would be done should conference fail and that public knowledge such talks were going on was helpful. “Lightning should not strike during conference but occasional rumbles of distant thunder were useful and the quicker the better.” We should go ahead as rapidly as possible and get the British to come along. His talks with Eden on Saturday and British press comment, particularly Saturday’s Economist and yesterday’s Observer, convinced him Eden was making rapid progress in right direction. This was important from Paris viewpoint because Gaullists were particularly responsive to British thinking.

He said his troubles in Assembly were primarily due to bitterness over EDO and that this week and especially tomorrow would be unusually dangerous. It was becoming apparent to opponents that MRP and Socialist Congresses would probably result in majority for EDC unless government were overthrown.

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Bidault expressed great confidence in Ely and was eager to hear his impressions, particularly as to seriousness of situation in delta. There must be change in commander in chief. In view of French superiority in men and weapons, something was obviously wrong when French suffered defeat after defeat. Asking if I might speak bluntly, I said any second rate general should be able to win Indochina war, if there were proper political atmosphere. Present political climate of Indochina made it very hard to produce native forces with real will to fight. Did he believe I could help with Bao Dai and was it true that he did not want Bao Dai back in Indochina?

He expressed surprise and said Bao Dai at Cannes was completely useless. Either he should stay in Evian and run his delegation or, better still, get back to Indochina and run his country. He would be glad to have us try to get him to do one or other.

He said he did not understand very clearly what was contemplated on POC and thought that if Security Council veto was followed by interim committee action, there would be less chance of unfortunate speeches by Asiatic, Latin American and Arab delegates. However, he appeared agreeable to leaving decision between the two to the experts.

Reverting to Franco–US talks, I believed it important they be held in Paris but that he and I should be kept closely informed and that decisions not be taken until we had had chance to express our views. He expressed pleasure and we agreed to keep in close personal contact about it.

He was worried by report from Bonnet that US intervention would be limited essentially to naval and air support, that there was strong feeling in Congress against use of ground forces and that joint resolution might be passed prohibiting their use on continent of Asia. Bonnet felt US military might be less interested in saving Associated States than in A-bombing China. I told him Congressional resolution authorizing naval and air support would be major accomplishment.3 Navy included marines, now a major military force, but still one which benefitted from traditional feeling that they could be used in remote places without constituting an act of war. US would be unwise to commit major ground forces in Indochina and if there were real war, it would not be fought in Asia.

He said if he were not in Paris on Wednesday, he would be glad to speak on Korea and to take line that to speak of UN as belligerent was in effect to tear up charter.

  1. In telegram 4499 from Paris (May 22, in volume xiii) Ambassador Dillon reported that “Bidault also made several remarks about how ill-informed he had been in Geneva on these negotiations [regarding intervention in Indochina]. He said that Margerie had talked with Achilles but that he himself had never talked with the Under Secretary on this subject. I have the impression that he would very much like to have the Under Secretary talk with him about this early next week.” (751G.00/5–2254)
  2. The French informed the press about the SmithMolotov talk of May 22; for Under Secretary Smith’s reaction, see telegram Dulte 122, May 26, p. 936.
  3. For a draft Congressional resolution authorizing the President “to employ Naval and Air forces of the United States to assist friendly governments of Asia”, see annex to memorandum of conversation with the President, May 19, in volume xiii.