45. Letter From President de Gaulle to President Eisenhower0

Dear Mr. President: When I had the pleasure of meeting with Mr. Foster Dulles last July,1 I informed him of my views regarding the [Page 82] organization of the defense of the free world. The events which have since occurred have reinforced the French Government’s conviction in this regard. This has determined the French Government to make certain propositions to the American and British Governments.

Because of the importance of the problem, I have instructed Mr. Alphand to raise this matter personally with you in my behalf. I hope that the enclosed memorandum, which I am also having sent to Mr. Macmillan, may be the object without delay of a full discussion among the three Governments.

I appreciate how much the Far Eastern situation may be causing you preoccupations and I wish to assure you on this occasion of my sincere and trusting friendship. I hope all the more that we may be able to work together under better conditions in order that our alliance may become more coherent and more effective. It is in this spirit that I inform you of the conclusions to which I myself have come and concerning which I would be very happy to know your personal views.

Please believe, dear Mr. President, in my loyal sentiments and in the assurances of my very high consideration.

C. de Gaulle2




Recent events in the Middle East and in the straits of Formosa have contributed to show that the present organization of the Western Alliance no longer corresponds to the necessary conditions of security as far as the whole of the free world is concerned. The sharing of the risks incurred is not matched by indispensable cooperation on decisions taken and on responsibilities. From this the French Government is led to draw conclusions and to make several propositions.

The Atlantic Alliance was conceived and its functioning is prepared with a view to an eventual zone of action which no longer corresponds to political and strategic realities. The world being as it is, one [Page 83] cannot consider as adapted to its purpose an organization such as NATO, which is limited to the security of the North Atlantic, as if what is happening, for example, in the Middle East or in Africa, did not immediately and directly concern Europe, and as if the indivisible responsibilities of France did not extend to Africa, to the Indian Ocean and to the Pacific, in the same way as those of Great Britain and the United States. Moreover the radius of action of ships and planes and the range of missiles render militarily outdated such a narrow system. It is true that at first it was admitted that atomic armament, evidently of capital importance, would remain for a long time the monopoly of the United States, a fact which might have appeared to justify that decisions on the world level concerning defense would be practically delegated to the Washington Government. But on this point, also, it must be recognized that such a fact admitted originally no longer is justified by reality.
France could, therefore, no longer consider that NATO in its present form meets the conditions of security of the free world and notably its own. It appears necessary to it that on the level of world policy and strategy there be set up an organization composed of: the United States, Great Britain and France. It would be up to this organization, on the one hand, to take joint decisions on political questions affecting world security and on the other, to establish and if necessary, to put into effect strategic plans of action, notably with regard to the employment of nuclear weapons. It would then be possible to foresee and organize eventual theaters of operations subordinated to the general organization (such as the Arctic, the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Indian Ocean), which could if necessary be subdivided into subordinate theaters.
The French Government considers such a security organization indispensable. It (the French Government) subordinates to it as of now all development of its present participation in NATO and proposes, should such appear necessary for reaching agreement, to invoke the provision for revising the North Atlantic Treaty in accordance with Article 12.4
The French Government suggests that the questions raised in this note be the object as soon as possible of consultations among the United States, Great Britain and France. It proposes that these consultations take place in Washington and at the outset through the Embassies and the Permanent Group.
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, International File. Secret. The source text is a translation. Attached are the French texts of the letter and the enclosed memorandum. Dulles, who received the French texts from Alphand on September 25, sent them and the translations to the President under cover of a September 25 letter in which he wrote: “I told the French Ambassador that this memorandum raised very major problems and would probably require considerable study both by the Department of State and the Department of Defense.” Both de Gaulle’s and Dulles’ letters bear Eisenhower’s initials. (Ibid.)
  2. See Document 33.
  3. Printed from the English translation that indicates that de Gaulle signed the original French-language copy.
  4. Secret. The source text is a translation.
  5. Article 12 of the North Atlantic Treaty provides for consultation among the signatories for the purpose of reviewing the Treaty should any member request it after the Treaty has been in force for a minimum of 10 years.