196. Telegram From the Mission at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and European Regional Organizations to the Department of State 0

Polto 2536. Reference: Polto 2535.1 Following text French note:2

“In accordance with the procedure established in the Resolution of October 5, 1955, of the North Atlantic Council (Document CM (55)82),3 I have been instructed by my Government to apprise you of its decision to effect an important change in the status of the French naval forces in [Page 421] the Mediterranean, which are earmarked, for the year 1959, for assignment to NATO.

In time of peace, and still more in time of war, the essential mission of the French naval forces in the Mediterranean is, in addition to the defense of the French and North African coasts, to ensure freedom of communication between the two shores of the Mediterranean.

Whether it be a question of transports rendered necessary by the exigencies of the struggle to pacify Algeria, whether it be a question of the defense of the community, or whether it be a question subsequently of the supply-line for the oil from the Sahara, the importance of this mission does not require demonstration. It can have no other character than that of a national mission, especially in the absence of any real solidarity with respect to the fundamental problems of Algeria and North Africa in general. The French fleet in the Mediterranean must be assigned to it on a priority basis, which is why the French Government is led to resume control, in time of war, over its naval forces in the Mediterranean.

Such a decision will not have any consequences in time of peace, in as much as the French units in the Mediterranean are under French command exclusively. It means that in time of war France must cope with its own national tasks. The French Government, for its part, considers these tasks of prime importance for the Alliance as a whole.

Moreover, it goes without saying that the French naval forces in the Mediterranean will be able to cooperate in time of war with the Allied naval forces in the implementation of the plans of the Alliance, on condition that such plans do not conflict with the execution of the said principal mission assigned to the French fleet by the French Government. The French military authorities are prepared henceforth to examine the ways and means of effecting such cooperation.

An identical communication is being addressed to the Standing Group and to the Supreme Command of the Allied Forces in Europe.

I am addressing the same letter to the Secretary General and to the other Permanent Representatives.

Please accept, Mr. Ambassador and dear Colleague, the assurances of my high consideration.”

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 740.5/3–659. Secret; Niact; Official Translation.
  2. Polto 2535 from Paris, March 6, reported that the French note had just been delivered, after last-minute efforts to hold it up had failed. (ibid.)
  3. The French text, attached to the source text, is not printed.
  4. Not found, but see Document 192.