141. Letter From President de Gaulle to President Eisenhower0

Dear Mr. President: Your letter of September 211 recalls in terms that move me deeply your recent visit to France and the talks we had there. You may rest assured that I, for my part, preserve a moving memory of our meeting. Like you, I was pleased that we were able to proceed to frank exchanges of views on basic questions. Until such time as we can resume our talks, I see great advantage in our continuing to correspond on subjects of common interest, and I am grateful to you for again taking the initiative of doing so.

With respect to possible action in the Mediterranean, particularly by the naval forces, I explained to you in my letter of May 252 last the reasons prompting France to take certain measures on its own. However, I personally, as well as the French Government, am entirely disposed, pursuant to your suggestion, to charge the Standing Group in Washington with examining the conditions governing cooperation among the American, British, and French naval forces in the Mediterranean. Mr. Debré will therefore transmit to the French representative in this Group the necessary instructions to undertake such studies with his American and British colleagues as soon as these last are ready to do so.

Moreover, I have taken note of the ideas you expressed on the question of stockpiling American nuclear weapons in France. I think that we shall be able to make some future arrangement regarding this matter, as soon as we can agree that the launching of an atomic war by the West anywhere in the world would require the joint decision of the United States, Great Britain, and France. In this regard, I think there is reason to expect that the successful development by France of French atomic armament in the fairly near future will facilitate matters for us.

With respect to the organization of the command within the Atlantic Alliance, I understand the reasons for your wishing to maintain the system of integration. I am sure that you, for your part, appreciate the full importance of the reasons for my being a less earnest advocate of this. As I told you during our talks, to give a great people, its government, and its leaders the feeling that they are not directly responsible for the defense of their own country is, in my opinion, detrimental in the [Page 288]long run to the national effort and, in the final analysis, to the value of the alliance.

Although you evoke, and rightly so, the cohesive force supplied to the North Atlantic Community by the American forces in Europe, you are certainly not unaware that the conditions under which France participates in the alliance are not comparable to those that apply to the United States. Doubtless those American forces presently assigned to Europe are part of NATO. However, in this organization, the whole is under the command of an American general officer. As for the direct defense of the territory of the United States, the government in Washington and the leaders to whom it entrusts this charge are solely responsible for it. Moreover, it must be added that supplying nuclear weapons, an essential element in Western military might, is the province of the United States. In view of the present ratio of forces, this state of affairs is undoubtedly inevitable in the integrated system we employ in NATO. But it is precisely the disadvantages inherent in this system that I hope to see rectified some day. I admit, however, that in the situation in which we all now find ourselves, it is not advisable at this time to change the present organization of the defense of continental Europe.

In more general terms, this same situation makes me feel that the commitments that bind us, whatever their present or future form, are more necessary than ever. That is why I take satisfaction in anything that tends to emphasize and strengthen the harmony of our policies, since this harmony is the very basis of our alliance. May I say that I consider the gracious support you publicly gave my declaration of September 16 last very important in this connection.

Most cordially and faithfully yours,

C. de Gaulle3
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Project Clean Up. Secret. The source text is a Department of State translation. The signed original of this letter in French was delivered to Goodpaster’s office on the afternoon of October 7. The French text was attached to the source text.
  2. Document 139.
  3. Document 117.
  4. Printed from the translation that indicates that de Gaulle signed the original French-language copy.