34. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Franco-American Relations


  • Ambassador Bohlen
  • J. Robert Schaetzel

Ambassador Bohlen was convinced that De Gaulle would not take France out of NATO. De Gaulle’s objections run to the organization of the alliance while of course the Treaty itself is entirely silent on this point. In one sense De Gaulle might find attractive NATO assuming worldwide responsibilities but of course the inclusion of Germany and Italy as major elements in the alliance would conversely diminish this attraction.

Bohlen doubted that De Gaulle would attempt to play the Russian card. The real problem in the area of Russian-Western relations is the apparent eagerness of the United States to reach accommodations with the USSR plus the fact that in De Gaulle’s eyes we continue to see the confrontation between the East and West in ideological terms.

Bohlen stressed that the “Dumbbell” organization of the Atlantic is indispensable despite the fact that there is little prospect of early major movement forward. It was his view that both European and American public opinion should be made aware of the long term prospects implicit in the Atlantic partnership concept. He urged that we define more clearly what the United States really means by partnership. Bohlen wondered whether we had thought through the implications of such an arrangement and whether we were really ready to give up any U.S. sovereignty.

In speculating about the post-U.S. election period, Bohlen noted the degree to which President Kennedy had finally come to understand De Gaulle. He was fearful that President Johnson would not have the patience to undertake this task and would probably not reach the point of appreciating the complexity of the General. Bohlen was convinced that De Gaulle’s obsession with French independence means that the General would be totally unable to compromise on any significant element of policy. On the other hand De Gaulle’s personal and public politeness might very well mislead President Johnson into mistaking [Page 57] manners for substantial concessions. He felt that De Gaulle might be prepared to attempt a summit meeting but certainly not a NATO summit meeting. Bohlen also felt that the place in which the meeting was held could become important.

Bohlen referred to correspondence he had had from Mac Bundy2 in which the latter had asked what could be done in the context of our political campaign to meet criticism of the deterioration of French-American relations. Bohlen’s short answer to this was “Nothing.”

He referred to the letter I had written him about the Atlantic Parliamentary Assembly. He said he would be writing to us on Senator Fulbright’s proposal. His only doubt was how it would fit into the concept of Atlantic partnership.

He said he was anxious to come to the United States shortly after November 3. He felt this important in view of the speculation in France about his own future.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL FR-US. Confidential. Drafted by Schaetzel.
  2. Not further identified.