236. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State0
2440. It seems to me that three Western Allies are drifting apart at moment above all others when we need to draw together and reinforce our solidarity. From Paris it appears that US-UK relationships are pretty much in order. This in itself must needs leave de Gaulle somewhat on outside. Three is always awkward number—in children, in matrimony, in alliances. But I do sincerely feel that basically we and the French are in step regarding Berlin even though outwardly we give all the signs of not being so. I would be less than human if I did not see and admit the difficulty of cooperation with de Gaulle. By the same token I would be imperceptive if I did not recognize in him a Western leader of proven sagacity whose councils can be of great value in our deliberations. Like Churchill, he has not always been wrong.[Page 675]
Embassy has attempted in various messages (for example, Embtel 2080)1 to analyze reasoning underlying de Gaulle’s position on various issues (and in particular Allied tactics with respect to Berlin) which currently causing Franco-American friction. I sense with some disquietude growing irritation in Washington which understandably results from daily disagreements and what appear to be French reservations on nearly everything we propose. I believe however it would be grave error to mistake these differences for serious divergences on fundamentals or allow our frustration to spill over into public pronouncements where we have on the whole shown extraordinary patience up to now. I think it would help to restore our sense of proportion if we simply reconcile ourselves to accept and live with certain facts of life with respect to France and basic attitudes of de Gaulle which we cannot modify. Annoying as these may prove in their daily manifestations they are also indices of diversity which is characteristic of Western Alliance and in which lies our strength as well as our weakness.
- We should start by recognizing that de Gaulle does not and cannot see “universe” in same terms as we and that no matter what we do or say he will continue to view struggle in which we are all engaged from his own special angle. This viewpoint is that of great Frenchman sole survivor among leaders of World War Two who sees far into past and also far into future. Underlying his ardent nationalism (and not necessarily inconsistent with it) is his consciousness of old Europe (and particularly continent) to whose values he is passionately attached and whose position he is determined to defend and strengthen in world dominated by US and USSR. Although “Europe from Urals to Atlantic” is basic in de Gaulle’s thinking, he certainly does not believe that this concept can be realized so long as Soviet system prevails. Nor do I think de Gaulle’s attachment to Western values permits him to envisage Europe of Six in present struggle as neutral element playing both ends against middle. However, I do not deny that he believes that strengthened, self-respecting Europe organized under French leadership would have greater voice in Western Alliance and be able to influence its course far more than it now does. It is in this light that new French draft treaty (Embtel 2161)2 for political organization of Six should be viewed and I think welcomed in its general outlines as another step in direction of stronger and more unified Europe for which US has made great efforts and sacrifices since 1948. At same time we should realize that attainment [Page 676] such goal is bound to revive independence of ideas as to how matters should be run and to bring forth statesman such as de Gaulle with views different from ours. These differences we must begin to live with even though France and continental Europe are not yet sufficiently strong or unified actually to impose them.
Foremost among many things that concern de Gaulle in Europe today is future of West Germany. More than any European statesman he has worked to bring Western Germany into intimate association with all facets of Western European life. At same time I am inclined to believe that he thinks first object of Soviet strategy in Western Europe today is disarmament of West Germany. If Soviets succeed in this they may well feel confident of outcome of struggle between free world and Soviet system. Further in evaluating their prospects they must be impressed with basic distrust of Germans that exists in so many places in Europe. De Gaulle therefore has consistently sought to integrate Western Germany into Western European Community as a strong contributing member. When one realizes this one understands his attitude on Berlin situation. Any suggestion of examining “European security” as part of an overall examination leading to solution of Berlin problem is a suggestion directly pointed towards partial or complete disarmament of West Germany. “European security” is a euphemism used by Soviets to cover neutralization of Western Germany. At this juncture in European affairs French feel that Soviets have achieved many of their chief objectives in Berlin. Through the erection of the wall they have stopped the flow of East Germans into West Berlin and through varying approaches to salami-slicing they will achieve some form of de facto recognition of East Germany. Soviets had hoped to get US sit down and discuss “European security” in bartering over West Berlin rights that were in fact already ours. Thus far they have not achieved this objective. Now they have for moment moved pressure center to Finland with view to forcing Finland into some kind of accommodation to Soviet designs: very likely recognition East Germany and possibly further neutralization that would place Finland more securely under thumb of Soviet Union. They may wish also to block improvement of German relations with Scandinavia and push toward neutralization of area after which they would again try to examine “European security” with a view to extending neutralization pattern to Germany.
In any event it clear that discussion of prospects for German acceptance of disengagement or thinning out of inspection zones would be strongly opposed by de Gaulle who continues to believe that strong West Germany participation in strong European community is basic to our posture in dealing with Soviets and even to any equilibrium on which secure detente might rest.[Page 677]
While we may not agree with this view we cannot reject it out of hand without jeopardizing Western Alliance and our own survival. Tactical differences which arise from this extreme reluctance of de Gaulle to get involved in negotiating this concept with Soviets may be regrettable but I cannot see anything unhealthy in his basic view on Germany. In last analysis it may be something we could live with more easily than a certain softness in UK viewpoint (understandable in view British special vulnerabilities) even though differences with UK are masked by more relaxed and empirical “Anglo-Saxon” approach to daily business which we instinctively find more congenial.
- What is frustrating and humiliating for de Gaulle is that as he himself quite frankly said on September fifth3 France still lacks means to translate these concepts into reality and to make voice felt. Despite strides in economic field her modernization is just getting underway and she is still wasting manpower and money in Algeria. She has not yet succeeded in achieving de Gaulle’s goal of balancing out her commitments at new level as continental rather than colonial power even though transition is obviously underway. And on top of this comes Soviet created crisis in Europe for which France’s military and other resources are not properly mobilized and oriented. This frustration inevitably translates itself into glacial manifestations of displeasure which find their way into Franco-American relations. We on our side tend to cultivate image of France still exploiting her indispensable geographic position and the considerable remains of her influence in Africa and Asia in ways which obstruct and annoy us and which we find negative and at times absurd. But in reality there are obvious signs that these attitudes are changing and I think de Gaulle is just as conscious as we of global nature of Soviet threat. Moreover I believe that if France gets her feet on new ground she can and will confront this threat and make positive and solid contribution to Western cause.
- Meantime I think de Gaulle while understanding our basic problem in US with respect to public support during present danger, may feel that US is rushing too fast at Berlin crisis and concentrating its strength a bit too rapidly in area where Soviets may suddenly decide slacken pressure for time being and try diversionary tactics as in pressure on Finland and Scandinavia or possible acceleration efforts in Africa or Asia. This may partially explain current difficulties over troop ceilings which I hope to clarify soon, as well as difficulties over less important matters.
- In long run I think we have everything to gain from paying as much attention as we can to French counsels in areas where they have long experience and in acting on basic assumption that France will ultimately have even greater contribution to make and that de Gaulle’s long view of things may have something to be said for it as in past, annoying though his short-term sensitivities may be. For this reason I hope two Chiefs of State will be able again to meet face to face and get tuned in again on same wave lengths as they did in May.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 651.00/11–661. Secret; Priority. Repeated to London, Bonn, Berlin, and Moscow.↩
- Telegram 2080, October 17, reported that when de Gaulle decided not to enter discussions on Berlin with the Soviet Union, it was inevitable that his position would put a strain on Franco-American relations. (Ibid., 762.00/10–1762)↩
- Telegram 2161, October 20, transmitted a summary of the provisions of a draft treaty for the political union of the six Common Market countries. (Ibid., 375.700/10–2061)↩
- For a transcript of de Gaulle’s press conference on September 5, see Major Addresses, Statements and Press Conferences of General Charles de Gaulle, May 19, 1958–January 31, 1964, pp. 140–150.↩