50. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Representations of Ambassador Brosio to the President re de Gaulle letter


  • The President
  • The Acting Secretary
  • The Italian Ambassador
  • Mr. Jandrey, Acting Assistant Secretary for European Affairs

Ambassador Brosio said that he had been asked by Prime Minister Fanfani to express directly to the President his strong reaction to the unexpected French moves. The Ambassador said that when the Italian Prime Minister met with General de Gaulle1 and when the General met with Chancellor Adenauer nothing of the character of the recent de Gaulle letter had been revealed. On the contrary the General stressed the importance of European cooperation. Consequently the de Gaulle letter came as a real shock.

The Italians were given information about de Gaulle’s approach to the U.S. and U.K. and the recent conversation between Couve de Murville [Page 89] and the Italian Ambassador to France had not improved the situation. Couve de Murville said that NATO was not good enough and must cover a wider territory. Such a philosophy would reduce NATO to nothing.

The President said that it was hard to understand what is in the mind of another person. He personally had known General de Gaulle for a long time and found him essentially honest. De Gaulle says that on the one hand we have NATO with its present responsibilities and here are three countries with responsibilities that are world-wide. The President said that there had been no change in our policies. We hailed a stronger government in France but we have not suggested or even hinted at a system involving control of the world by a few powerful nations. We have placed our hope in the UN, in NATO and other alliances such as SEATO. The President said that he could not believe that anyone, including General de Gaulle, would want to weaken NATO. The U.S. is not giving any comfort or assurance to anyone who tries to control the world.

The President stated that in his opinion the least said about this proposal the better. He did not wish to have questions about it asked at a press conference. The President added that the free world must work cooperatively and cited the Cyprus problem as an example of the need for cooperative effort. In the West he said the great thing is NATO and the important point to remember is that real strength rests in our union.

The Italian Ambassador said that he was pleased to hear the President say this as Italy felt the same way. The French proposal would destroy NATO and it should be considered in the NATO forum.

The President said that he had been associated with the British for many years during the war and after it and we had never thought of a special circle within NATO. He suggested that the best course to follow was to sit quietly and not exaggerate the situation.

The Italian Ambassador said that with the President’s support this problem could be resolved and he would be pleased to report his conversation with the President to the Italian Prime Minister.

The President reiterated that while the members of NATO may vary in their economic strength and in other ways each could be as strong as the other in our cooperative effort. All the members of NATO must be free but there need be no fear that we shall on a clandestine basis attempt to control the world. In closing the President said that France occupied an important position in Europe with many of our supply lines passing through it. We could not therefore reject the French proposals out of hand, especially with a person such as General de Gaulle but he said again that publicity would make the problem more difficult.

  1. Source: Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 64 D199. Secret. Drafted by Jandrey.
  2. Fanfani conferred with de Gaulle and Couve de Murville on his visit to Paris August 7–8.