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

3973. During tour d’horizon with de Gaulle yesterday, I stated I was particularly interested in political union of Six and military significance of that union, specifically the relationship it would have to NATO.

De Gaulle said that purpose of political union of Six was to form a concert of nations, to establish a common view on political matters of concern to all. One purpose also is to encourage cultural and economic exchanges. He said that there is no doubt that it has defense implications but these have not been seriously considered so far. In time they will be but French thinking has not gone very far on military matters. They have not examined relationship of Six to NATO, but in any case, he said, the political union would strengthen the Atlantic Community. He obviously did not want to go any further in discussing the problem with me.

The foregoing is in essence what he said on Six although we talked about it for quite some time. I am satisfied that de Gaulle’s thinking as expressed in his memorandum of 25 Sept 1958 and, in part, reaffirmed in his last letter to the President,1 remains unchanged. He considers NATO inadequate to deal with prevailing conditions affecting the vital [Page 681] interests of US, UK and France and, when all is said and done, he considers NATO to be a US headquarters in Europe. Now, whether or not we respond to his desires for a triumvirate organization he will proceed to organize Europe on his own, insofar as he can do so.

In Sept 1958 memorandum he envisioned the organization of theaters of operation with, I believe, responsibility for these areas being given to specific great powers. Europe, he believes, should be the responsibility of France. It is for this reason therefore that he has taken initiative, repeatedly, in European affairs. I am convinced that his thinking on subject of Six has gone far beyond what he was willing to discuss with me yesterday and, further, that he does foresee clearly organization of Six as ultimately a strong military bloc.

I base this upon discussions with his Ministers and with others here in France. Looking back on his handling of Algerian situation, for example, one is impressed by his cleverness in moving inexorably towards his objective, while at the same time giving out only as much information as was necessary, from time to time, to meet a particular tactical need or to satisfy insistent demands that would not be denied. It seems obvious to me that he will now devote most of his time to strengthening France in a unit of Six and strengthening the Six politically, economically and militarily. If these views are valid then it will avail us little to continue to try to persuade him and prevail upon him to be more cooperative in NATO affairs. Realistically, we should realize that as long as he is President of France we are going to have to be prepared to deal with Six in which France is playing a powerful role on economic and political matters and anticipate the military relationship which ultimately may come into being. It is very likely that other members of Six will oppose the French initiative and they will continue to support fully their commitments to NATO. I doubt that this will deter de Gaulle and further, I doubt also that he will attack NATO or take any overt actions against NATO. In fact, for tactical reasons, he will continue to give lip support to NATO while he moves toward his own objective, a strong European power bloc in which France will play leading role. He believes that this will best serve the interests of France in opposing Soviet power and, finally, he rationalizes this view to point where he believes it best serves the interests of NATO and Atlantic Community. To his mind, there is no dichotomy in this thinking. With an awareness of this, as one course of action de Gaulle is likely to follow, we should conduct our relations within NATO and with NATO powers, other than France, in such a manner as to maintain close ties with NATO and its individual members. In this respect, Germany is in a particularly sensitive position from the viewpoint of her relations with the USSR and her nuclear aspirations.

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Our relations with Germany should be such in my view that whenever she is confronted with a choice between aligning herself with France or the US, she should choose the US. This would obviously influence our discussions with Soviets on broad problems of European security as well as role Germany would play in a multi-national NATO nuclear force. (The foregoing goes well beyond the current day to day situations with which we normally deal here in Paris, but I believe it deserves our careful thought. To continue to deal with de Gaulle in anticipation that he will be responsive to our current diplomacy, seems to be unrealistic to me. Our own interests will best be served, as well as those of our Allies, when we understand where de Gaulle is going and then, while not ignoring him, nevertheless take such actions as we consider adequate to serve our interests and those of our Allies without necessarily being too concerned with or responsive to intransigence of de Gaulle or to roadblocks he may place in our way. When Algeria is settled, he is going to be far more difficult to deal with and this, if we understand it, should not in any way disturb us. Our own objectives can be sought and our own interests served effectively despite difficulties he may interpose.)

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 375/2–2162. Secret; Limit Distribution. In addition to this telegram, Gavin reported on his discussion of NATO in telegram 3972 (Document 127), and of Algeria in telegram 3857, February 20. (Department of State, Central Files, 611.51/2–2062)
  2. Dated January 11, it primarily discussed the question of negotiations with the Soviet Union on Berlin, but also devoted 2 paragraphs to the differences between France and the United States on atomic weapons. (Ibid., Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204)