187. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State 1

2196. I called on General de Gaulle this afternoon to discuss the Berlin situation with him. He began by asking me if I had seen his reply to the letter from President Kennedy and when I told him I had not he sent for a copy of it which I read at once.2 I told him the sentence in which he agreed to the continuing of the present discussions on the Ambassadorial level in Washington and the discussion leading up to that sentence were most significant.

de Gaulle said, to begin with, he does not think we should give the impression of organizing a high level meeting to provide guidance, on a 4-power basis, to Amb Thompson in Moscow. He is not doing anything to prevent us, meaning the USG, from having such a meeting but if we do, it will be on our own. It was for this reason that he could not agree with the President’s suggestion of having a 4-power meeting in mid-November.

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I then asked de Gaulle what he envisioned would occur if no negotiations were to take place with the Soviets—would not hostilities begin with us having lost an opportunity to make clear our intent to engage in hostilities if they pursued their present course? In answering, he said if the Soviets are thinking of using force against us, this is all the more reason we should not negotiate. It would be negotiating under worst conditions possible.

If they are not, then there is no reason for us to hurry to negotiate. (de Gaulle said in French that in America one gets the impression we are hurrying to try to negotiate. This was not translated by translator.) For the time being, it all depends on the Soviets: wishing to talk at any cost, or giving them that impression, one makes a big mistake. Either they do not want to wage a general war—and de Gaulle says he believes that is the case—then there is no reason to hurry; or they want to go to war and in such case we should not negotiate because it would be negotiating under direct threat. We would suffer a setback in any case, because one cannot make working arrangements with people threatening them.

The fact that we have accepted negotiations has been detrimental. Because of that, Adenauer has lost votes in the last election. That not only affects Germany but other countries as well. What one ought to say to the Soviets, under the circumstances, when they have threatened us with the atomic bomb, built the wall in Berlin, threatened to sign a treaty with East Germany with no promise to guarantee access to Berlin, and indulged in saber-rattling in general—we cannot talk when they apply force in this manner. If they apply force, we will do the same and see what happens. Any other stand would be very costly for not only Germany but all alike.

Gavin
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/10-2361. Secret; Priority. Repeated to London, Bonn, and Berlin.
  2. Regarding Kennedy’s letter to de Gaulle, see footnote 1, Document 176. In his October 21 reply de Gaulle refused to join in any Western approach to the Soviet Union concerning Berlin, adducing many of the arguments made to Gavin in this telegram. de Gaulle also stated that he would not object to U.S. feelers to the Soviet Union and welcomed the U.S. measures to strengthen its military posture. (Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204)