200. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State0

3196. Bonn’s 1899 to Dept.1 We have read with much interest Ambassador Bruce’s stimulating and valuable observations on problems of Germany and Berlin. Embassy has following comments: [Page 418]

So far as French are concerned, believe they would agree with assessment in reftel to effect that retention of FedRep in NATO is far preferable to German reunification on terms endangering Western security position. French, including de Gaulle, are not keen on German reunification in any case, and they are apprehensive of concessions to Soviets on reunification or in security field which might have adverse effect on retention of US troops on European continent (Embdesp 1553).2 We believe, therefore, that French are unlikely, in four power working group, to push for dangerous compromises in our position in order to tempt Soviets to accept reunification. (Footnote: FonOff officials such as Laloy and Jurgensen continue be attracted by idea of “special status” for reunified Germany in NATO. However, it appears that this concept, which may or may not turn out to be dangerous upon further study, has not been accepted by Couve or de Gaulle.) On security matters, we may find French will even oppose to troublesome extent such limited measures in security field as can be developed on our side without detriment to our position.
As caveat to above, we continue believe it is important, even if in our own minds we are prepared to accept provisional renunciation of reunified Germany, that we should not appear in our public posture, or in relationships with Germans, to give impression that we have forsaken our interest in German reunification. Nor should we ever appear to have agreed with Soviets in deal to act as “co-dividers” with them of Germany. To do so would constitute repudiation of one of major tenets our foreign policy. While this would risk damaging our reputation on world-wide basis, we would think (and here we would defer to Ambassador Bruce’s judgment) that in FedRep particularly any hint on our part that we view with equanimity continued division of Germany would have most adverse repercussions. If this is true, it will be necessary for us to persist in our efforts to come forward, for public presentation, with suggestions for unified Germany which will appear “reasonable”, while at same time guarding against advocacy of ideas dangerous to our security interests.
Reftel outlines frankly, and to our mind correctly, possibility that US may have to “go it alone” in order to defend Berlin by military force, including nuclear means. French attitude on this question is difficult to predict at this juncture. Although de Gaulle, Debre and government continue solid, we have impression that French people as a whole are not very interested in Berlin question nor have yet faced up to idea that Berlin crisis may bring hostilities; much less do they seem aware that general nuclear war could result from Berlin problem. If and when [Page 419] threat of nuclear war becomes acute, we are not optimistic that French, or, indeed, any of peoples in Allied countries, will be inclined to give strong support to their government in standing up to Soviets. Fear of nuclear holocaust runs deep, and recent opinion polls in Western Europe are not encouraging on this subject. However, so far as France is concerned, de Gaulle’s tough-minded attitude in resisting Soviet threats, plus his authority, could be decisive factor in holding France steady with us in face of threat of nuclear war over Germany. Thus, although reftel’s comments concerning deficiency of French military forces in context of Berlin crisis are undeniably true, we feel that de Gaulle’s position could be of key importance in preserving French support if nuclear war threatens, and in influencing other European governments in this sense.
Although USUN and Moscow in better position comment on possibility suggested reftel of making UN headquarters in Berlin, and Soviet reaction thereto, it appears to us that while suggestion has dramatic appeal it would be unlikely to meet Soviet desire of eliminating Berlin as “cancer” harmful to Communist regime of GDR. UN headquarters in Berlin would seem only to compound difficulties for GDR regime as symbol of liberty contrasting with prison of surrounding Communist territory.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/3–459. Secret; Noforn; Limit Distribution. Repeated to London, Bonn, Berlin, and Moscow.
  2. Document 193.
  3. Dated February 18. (Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/2–1859)