71. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Franco-German Treaty


  • State Secretary Carstens
  • Ambassador Knappstein
  • Counselor Schnippenkoetter
  • Secretary Rusk
  • Asst. Secretary Tyler
  • Mr. Brandin, GER

Dr. Carstens opened the subject by referring to de Gaulle’s January 14 press conference which raised the question of whether the Germans should go to Paris. The Government and political leaders decided they should. Here was the cause of the misunderstanding now between the US and Germany. Germans were as shocked as the US, the UK and the others by de Gaulle’s press conference. Germany favored UK accession to the Common Market then and does now. The German delegation did its best at Brussels with Vice Chancellor Erhard and Foreign Minister Schroeder participating personally.

Dr. Carstens explained that it was originally planned to make an executive agreement with France, not requiring ratification, but lawyers had asserted such an agreement would not be valid and could be successfully challenged in the Constitutional Court. Hence it was decided at the last minute to make it a treaty. He conceded that later political party leaders wanted the chance to ratify the agreement, but insisted it was originally a legal question.

Dr. Carstens said there was a general feeling in Germany that the Treaty constituted an important step in Franco-German relations because of the strong desire to create harmony and end the historical struggles between the two countries. In addition to this sentimental reason there were strong political reasons, which is why all political parties in Germany favored putting Franco-German relations on a new, solid basis. Another reason was Germany’s desire to be informed about any move de Gaulle might make affecting Germany or the Western Alliance. For example, Germany was not informed in advance about what de Gaulle intended to say at his press conference. Rumors that Ambassador Blankenhorn in Paris was so informed were untrue.

The Secretary asked whether it was the German understanding at Paris that a study by the EEC Commission would be agreed.

Dr. Carstens said there was partial agreement on a report, but no agreement on submitting proposals for a solution, on setting a time limit [Page 183] for negotiations, on submitting the report to the Six or Seven, or on whether the Seven should meet again in a few weeks to discuss the report.

Dr. Carstens went on to say there were many discussions in Paris at all levels. It was apparent that the French did not want to commit themselves to further negotiations with the British. The Germans had thought a compromise would be possible—e.g., sending the Commission report to Fayat for his disposition—but in the end the French were unyielding.

Dr. Carstens digressed to mention that he had seen Mr. Acheson earlier in the day. The Secretary said that if Mr. Acheson expressed concern it was important because he was a close friend of Germany and a strong supporter of the Chancellor.

Dr. Carstens said there seemed to be a great misunderstanding in the US. There were fundamental differences between Germany and France on UK accession to the EEC, on whether the EEC should pursue a liberal or restrictive economic policy and on defense matters, such as the forward strategy and the Nassau Agreement. The Franco-German Treaty would not affect the substance of Germany’s position on any of these matters. Yet the impression in the US seemed to be that Germany had changed its attitude.

The Secretary then outlined the elements of US concern. Germany might find us sharp about de Gaulle on certain points but we wanted to work with him as much as possible. But de Gaulle was not President of the US and could not veto US policy. We read his press conference under a microscope from a different viewpoint than the German one, noting particularly the undertones about the US. We were deeply concerned that in rejecting UK entry into the Common Market, the reason given by de Gaulle was not that the UK was not ripe, which would be up to the UK and certainly could be settled by discussion, but rather that the UK was too close to the US. Because de Gaulle resented US presence in Europe he took this drastic action. De Gaulle’s strong attitude toward US-European cooperation against the background of current US efforts to strengthen that cooperation—e.g., in the nuclear field—came as shock if not a surprise. The notions that the US was trying to smother Europe or use the UK as a stalking horse were deeply resented.

The Secretary said there was deep sympathy in the US for Franco-German reconciliation, but it was noted that Germany agreed to consult with France to reach a common viewpoint on questions in NATO, although there was no reaffirmation of NATO as such in the Treaty. We knew de Gaulle’s attitude toward NATO. He told Mr. Macmillan at Rambouillet that “France was going to be less and less in NATO”.1 At [Page 184] the time of the meeting with President Kennedy, de Gaulle objected to a reaffirmation of NATO in the communiqué. Apparently de Gaulle equated NATO with the US. The French army was being reduced from 750, 000 to 500, 000, which does not favor the forward strategy. France was disinclined to assign its forces to NATO, Couve de Murville maintaining that there must be three French (not NATO) divisions in France to defend France. This combination gave us concern. If the commitment to NATO had been reaffirmed in the Treaty we might not have been so concerned.

The Secretary said another point, as he had mentioned to Ambassador Knappstein, was where the weight of influence would be in the Franco-German Alliance. Even if Germany continued to hold its present views, we could be forgiven a certain skepticism about Germany’s ability to influence de Gaulle, having barked our own shins on that tree.

The Secretary emphasized he was not trying to sow seeds of distrust, but merely explaining US concerns. France sees itself as the senior partner on the Continent. We have encountered this attitude in our efforts to bring Germany fully into the picture. At Geneva and Paris the French proposed tripartite meetings before the quadripartite meetings. We resisted at some expense to our relations with France. (Ambassador Knappstein added that the French also proposed a tripartite directoire in NATO.) The question of where the balance of weight would lie might be more serious than Germany realized.

Dr. Carstens said he thought the US overestimated de Gaulle’s intentions. He would not defend de Gaulle’s views. In fact he thought de Gaulle was all wrong on the atomic weapons issue. But de Gaulle was reacting to the Nassau Agreement, not to the US position in Europe; he would not go so far as to suggest US withdrawal from Europe. De Gaulle thought Macmillan was not frank with him at Rambouillet, and at Nassau had chosen in favor of the US instead of Europe (i.e., France). De Gaulle was never enthusiastic about the UK’s entry into the Common Market, but the Germans thought (mistakenly) that he would not go against the other Five. Still, Germany did not conclude from this that de Gaulle wanted the US to withdraw from Europe.

The Secretary said he would concede Dr. Carsten’s last point, but in another direction. De Gaulle was utterly confident the US would not withdraw from Europe and was acting on that assumption.

Dr. Carstens agreed that de Gaulle was maneuvering in a small area for purely national purposes.

The Secretary said we understood de Gaulle’s passionate desire to rebuild the structure and morals of France.

Dr. Carstens replied that this was an element of strength for Germany. De Gaulle had built up France politically and economically. On [Page 185] balance France was better now than five years ago when there was chronic political instability.

Dr. Carstens then turned to the question of NATO’s inclusion in the Treaty. The Germans had asked for consultation on NATO matters because they felt it their duty to confront and influence France with their views.

The Secretary asked whether de Gaulle would have signed the Treaty if it had contained a strong reaffirmation of NATO.

Dr. Carstens doubted it, but pointed out the Treaty was procedural and did not contain any substance. The US could trust Germany, especially on NATO matters. For eight years Germany had favored strengthening NATO on every issue. Germany was convinced NATO was the only effective basis for defending itself. Support of NATO was taken for granted in Germany.

The Secretary asked whether this position would not be diluted by the commitment to reach a common view.

Dr. Carstens agreed it would be hard to move de Gaulle, but perhaps not impossible.

The Secretary recalled that the US was always expected to pledge its allegiance to NATO. Perhaps a general “pledging session” was needed. We ought to know the French commitment to NATO.

Dr. Carstens said he could not speak for France, but he could speak for Germany. Germany was absolutely firm on NATO. The US might think Germany would move toward the French position on NATO, but he could vouch that it would not. Would the US have preferred no reference to NATO in the Treaty?

The Secretary observed that the Treaty called for a maximum effort to reach agreement on political, defense and other matters, including those in NATO.

Dr. Carstens acknowledged it would be difficult to get a strong reaffirmation of NATO from de Gaulle, but said it was easy to get one from Germany. Perhaps Germany could move France. For example, there was a current press report that France had agreed to move a division from Trier to Bavaria. If true, it represented a success for German efforts.

Dr. Carstens then addressed the question of the center of gravity in Franco-German relations. It was an important matter. But Germany was not inclined to give up on vital points to meet France. It had not done so at Brussels, which the UK had recognized.

The Secretary apologized for pressing the point, but asked whether there really would be any agreement if the Germans were to say what they meant and de Gaulle were to say what he meant about the Treaty.

[Page 186]

Dr. Carstens repeated that the Treaty was a procedural document. Germany and France agreed on some points—e.g., European security—but not on others.

The Secretary then mentioned the inclusion of the Berlin clause in the Treaty, saying we would have to reserve our position on applying a treaty of this nature to Berlin. We would like to discuss the question because we considered ourselves a partner in Berlin. Moreover we had always taken the position with the USSR in negotiations about Berlin that the USSR could not confer rights on East Germany that it did not have itself. Had the Berlin clause been a problem in the Paris negotiations?

Dr. Carstens replied that it was not a problem in Paris. He pointed out that the defense clause specifically excluded Berlin. The clause was included in the Treaty because the USSR contested the Federal Government’s right to represent Berlin, which was granted by the Allies. Since 1956 the Federal Government had worked this clause into every agreement, except one with the USSR, to avoid setting any precedent the USSR could use to influence neutral countries. But Allied rights in Berlin would not be affected. It should be easy to find a formula to clarify this matter—perhaps a joint letter to the US and UK. In any event, the question would be submitted to the Allied Kommandatura in Berlin.

Dr. Carstens turned to the ratification of the Treaty, saying it should be ratified. Germany could not refuse to ratify after it had signed. The Treaty should be ratified in due time, without haste, probably before the Bundestag recessed around July 1. First the Treaty would go to the Bundesrat for three weeks, then to the Bundestag committees, then back to the Bundesrat for two weeks.

Dr. Carstens said his personal idea was to ask the Bundestag to pass a resolution reaffirming Germany’s commitment to the Western Alliance, which would be published with the ratification.

Ambassador Knappstein said the reaffirmation of NATO could be inserted in the resolution.

The Secretary asked whether the connection to ratification would be close enough to be effective.

Dr. Carstens replied that since the Treaty was procedural there could be no conflicts on points of substance like Germany’s ties to the Atlantic Alliance and its Western allies.

The Secretary said it would be hard to persuade the American public that the Treaty was procedural.

Mr. Tyler added that the public impression in the US was that Germany had jumped on the de Gaulle bandwagon.

The Secretary stressed his concern that a fuse might be lit in Europe that would cause a public explosion in the US. If the American people got the impression Europe did not want them over there anymore, they [Page 187] would say “the hell with it”. Most Americans still preferred to stay home and leave the rest of the world alone. It was a fantastic misunderstanding to think the US wanted to smother Europe.

Dr. Carstens said no German wanted the US to leave Berlin or Germany. What was so upsetting about the US reaction was that Germans thought the US understood how they felt. It was a fascinating experience in diplomacy to see how friends could misjudge each other.

The Secretary said some Germans seemed to have got the idea that the US should give assurance without realizing the US might want assurances too. They took the US for granted.

Dr. Carstens said Germans took it for granted the US favored Franco-German reconciliation. The coincidence of dates, involving de Gaulle’s press conference, the signing of the Treaty and the Brussels negotiations, gave a false impression. He hoped the impending Bundestag debate on domestic and foreign policy would clarify matters.

The Secretary asked about French and German motives in signing the Treaty.

Dr. Carstens said Germany wanted to keep close to de Gaulle so that together with others Germany could influence de Gaulle to keep in line with common policies. The Treaty could be a useful instrument for this purpose. Erhard, Schroeder or anyone else succeeding Adenauer would be 100% in favor of the Western Alliance.

The Secretary said there was no distrust in the US because of the Treaty. We were concerned about what Germany might have to pay to give reality to it. We had confidence in German views but with two streams of policy (Bonn and Paris) moving in different directions, we wondered what reconciliation would mean.

Dr. Carstens said there would be agreement on some points, but not on others.

The Secretary observed that the US was in the same position vis-à-vis France. We wanted to cooperate in Africa, the Near East and on nuclear weapons. We had hoped de Gaulle would follow his first inclination to study the Nassau Agreement carefully. Instead he rejected it without full knowledge or study, thereby missing a great opportunity. Unfortunately, because of press leaks, there had to be a great deal of lastminute improvisation at Nassau.

The Secretary ended the hour-long meeting by inviting Dr. Carstens to resume the discussion at breakfast the next morning.2

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, Pol WGer-Fr. Secret. Drafted by Brandin and approved in S on February 7. A memorandum of Carstens’ conversation with Tyler at 11:30 a.m. along these lines is ibid., ECIN 6 EEC.
  2. Macmillan visited Paris December 15–16, 1962.
  3. Brief memoranda of Carstens’ conversation with Rusk at 8:45 a.m. on February 6 on the Franco-German treaty and European integration and a more extensive memorandum of his conversation with Ball at 10 a.m. are in Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 65 D 330.