250. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State 0

5425. At family luncheon with de Gaulle today he took me aside at once and after usual amenities suggested that I come by and see him after his return to Paris Sunday night.1 I will make an appointment for some time next week. He asked about my visit to Washington and I told him I had discussed quite extensively all the matters of common interest to our two countries with the President.2 I made specific reference to the need for understanding about our desires to cooperate with France’s support of emerging African countries. I then reminded him of discussion with President last May in which he expressed an interest in cooperating more closely with us in Latin America.3 Nothing significant came from our discussion and by implication it is to be continued next week.

After lunch he again took me aside and remarked he had been kind to US in his press conference yesterday.4 I replied that I in a way felt so too but added that I should be frank with him and tell him that the press conference will be seen in different light in Washington than in Paris and undoubtedly there will be people in US who will not think he was particularly kind to US. He said he was used to that. (J’ai l’habitude.)

De Gaulle then went on to talk about organization of Western Europe remarking as he did that US should not be mixed up in Western European difficulties and should keep itself apart only bringing its weight to bear in case of necessity. It would suffice for Western Europe to know that if war were to start it could rely on US. In reply I told him that for many years US remained, in effect, isolated from Europe but we had then participated in WW I. After that war feeling of isolationism grew considerably, particularly in our midwest and, in fact, up until Pearl Harbor there were many who felt US should stay out of WW II. Nevertheless, out of deep conviction we entered that war and we left thousands of our sons buried in Europe. WW II brought an end to isolationism in US and we feel that now we should share burdens of Atlantic [Page 703] Community wherever those burdens take us and in doing so we will strengthen free world.

In final analysis, fulfilling role that we do in Europe is an alternative to isolationism and, except for a small extreme right political bloc, isolationism is antithesis of present administration. He nodded, seemingly in understanding, and had nothing to say. But I was almost startled by cold harshness of his unqualified statement that US should stay out of affairs of Europe.

Reference was made to his emphasis yesterday in his press conference on balancing of Western Europe against Eastern Europe. He said that all depended on whether or not we had war. If we had war, no one knows what would happen. If we did not have war, people should become accustomed to living in peace and the only way this could be brought about was through the balance of Western Europe against Eastern Europe. It was suggested that modern, rapid communications had shrunk the world so that it would seem impossible to set Europe apart from rest of world, let alone Eastern Europe from Western Europe. The Atlantic was no longer a division. Again, he nodded but made no comment and left me with clear impression that he thinks a Western Europe organized, undoubtedly under leadership of France, will be able to checkmate Eastern Europe.

I will continue this discussion with him next week. I would again like to press him on his concept of how a Europe of Six would accommodate to or within NATO.

I told de Gaulle that President had had good talk with Minister Malraux and he had made certain suggestions to Malraux (ref Deptel 6133)5 which he will be bringing back to General de Gaulle. Since I did not know what latter were and de Gaulle did not query me about them we did not discuss. In view my meeting with de Gaulle next week it would be most helpful if I had some information of suggestions Malraux will bring back to de Gaulle. I would appreciate as much information as it may be appropriate to have as soon as possible.

Although five MRP members had resigned this morning, de Gaulle made no reference to this. He was calm, relaxed and in a thoroughly agreeable mood.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.51/5–1662. Secret.
  2. May 20.
  3. Gavin met with President Kennedy on May 2, but no other record of their meeting has been found. (Kennedy Library, President’s Appointment Book)
  4. See Document 230.
  5. For a transcript of de Gaulle’s press conference on May 15, see Major Addresses, Statements and Press Conferences of General Charles de Gaulle, May 19, 1958–January 31, 1964, pp. 172–184; see also American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1962, pp. 600–603.
  6. Telegram 6133, May 15, informed Gavin that, at his discretion, he could brief de Gaulle on the U.S. position on Laos and should tell the General that the President had had a good conversation with Malraux. (Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/5–1562)