267. Memorandum of a Conversation, Chateau de Rambouillet, Paris, September 3, 1959, 7 p.m.2



  • United States
    • The President
    • The Secretary
    • Ambassador Houghton
    • Mr. Merchant
    • Lt. Col. Walters
  • France
    • President De Gaulle
    • Prime Minister Debre
    • Foreign Minister Couve de Murville
    • Ambassador Alphand
    • M. de Courcel
    • M. Lebel


  • North Africa

Upon the remainder of the party joining the two Presidents, Mr. Merchant handed the President a copy of a joint communiqué which had been agreed between the French and the Americans. The President read it and said he had no objection to it. General De Gaulle read the French version and likewise gave his approval. After some discussion, it was agreed that the communiqué would be released that evening.3

The Secretary then said that Prime Minister Debre had given a restrained presentation of developments in Algeria and the desirability of finding methods to dovetail our policies on Morocco and Tunisia. Mr. Debre said that generally we shared the feeling that the King of Morocco was a reasonable man, that we should try and support him, that he was the personification of Moroccan sovereignty. We should [Page 613] try to help him but in so doing we must be prudent and discreet. As far as he was concerned, he was definitely oriented towards the West. President Eisenhower said that there had been some differences between us on the matter of the bases. We had tried to go slowly and drag our feet but we had long ago committed ourselves to the fact that we would not attempt to maintain permanently bases in countries where they were not wanted. In order to increase the time available in Morocco, we had agreed to pay more rent but we do not have any hope that over a long period of time we could retain these bases. Mr. Debre said that the situation involved not merely bases but was a matter of general policy as what happened in Morocco and Tunisia had immediate repercussions in Algeria and that the problem involved here was two-fold. It involved financial assistance as well as military assistance. He felt it was essential that the US and France be able to coordinate and consult over this financial and military assistance.

General De Gaulle said that certain independent nations were in direct contact with the Communist world and he could well understand the US rendering them arms assistance. This was the case with Laos. However, Morocco and Tunisia were not in contact with the Communist world—yet. In a country like Tunisia, which is rather disorganized, the French didn’t mind the Tunisian Army getting arms. However, when the Fellagha were mixed in with them and the weapons, which were greatly sought after, drifted into Algeria and when these weapons were supplied by the US without consulting France, this made things quite difficult for them. The President replied that this misunderstanding had begun at the end of 1957 when the Tunisians asked for arms. We preferred that the French supply them. However, the government in power at that time, which was headed by Mr. Gaillard, had been unable to make up its mind and when it became apparent to us that the Czechs and Egyptians were going to ship in equipment, we shipped in 500 rifles which was a token amount. The French Government, nevertheless, was very much annoyed and we have been at some loss to know why there had been such a fuss over such a small quantity of weapons.

General De Gaulle asked, “But what happened later?” The Secretary said that the US and French had agreed to supply the Tunisians with weapons for an army of 20,000 men. Mr. Debre said these weapons had replaced a large part of the arms with which the Tunisians had originally been equipped, and that as the older weapons had been released, they had drifted into the hands of the Algerian rebels. Therefore the French felt we should examine this problem together.4 The [Page 614] President said that we should send in that amount of equipment that was necessary to keep Iron Curtain country weapons out.

General De Gaulle then said that he and the President had discussed the problems of Germany on which there was no shadow of a difference between them. They had also discussed Algeria, Guinea, Morocco, and Tunisia. He said that often it appeared that the US and France were in complete agreement when they discussed these matters, but that, in practice, they seemed to be opposed. He wondered what could be done to prevent such situations from occurring.

The President said he felt two things could be done. First, we should render the minimum amount of assistance necessary to keep the Iron Curtain weapons out. He also felt we might have a small staff to work together on these problems to make an estimate of what was required, and this would at least give us a floor. If any specific country made a request, we could consult together and coordinate our policy before one country was pledged to keep its word. He felt we should have started this more than two years ago; but when we had done what we had done at that time, a shipment from Nasser to Bourguiba was already at sea. General De Gaulle interjected, “There were several and thank God we were able to stop them”. The President then said that he felt we should have closer, more effective consultation earlier. General De Gaulle then said, to sum up, that it seemed to him that the principal conclusion is that when these situations develop, we should consult very early. When necessary, we should include the UK which likewise had world responsibilities. He felt it would be helpful to put our cards on the table in developing world strategy and that we should keep in contact constantly.

The President said we might have a small group of staff officers who should not be too high ranking, and in reply to a suggestion by the Secretary of State, said that this might be under the direction of the Ambassador. He recalled that we were dealing with independent nations and said that if we did not deal with them, they would obtain the arms elsewhere. Prime Minister Debre said that many of these countries did not have money and that, therefore, the question of financial aid was also involved as well as military assistance. General De Gaulle indicated that in the case of Tunisia, it was difficult to distinguish sometimes between the Tunisian Army and the Fallagha. The President said that he would have no objection to setting up a small staff on an ad hoc basis with French and US representation to discuss these matters—military as well as financial. This obtained general agreement and the Secretary said he felt it should be clear that neither side should have a veto. The President said that this was not the intention, that this body would be consultative in nature and could make recommendations.

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 59, Conference Files: FRC 83–0068, CF 1449. Top Secret. Drafted by Walters, cleared with Merchant, and approved by S on September 14. Eisenhower traveled to Europe August 26–September 7 for consultations at Bonn, London, and Paris in preparation for Khrushchev’s visit to the United States, September 15–27.
  2. For text, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1959, p. 914.
  3. These two sentences were revised by Herter, who felt the original draft did not accurately reflect what Debré had said. (Memorandum from Krebs to S/S, September 14; attached to the source text)