Volume #24 - 286.|
NORTH ATLANTIC TREATY ORGANIZATION
GENERAL DE GAULLE AND NATO RE-STRUCTURING
Memorandum from Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs |
to Secretary of State for External Affairs
June 4th, 1958|
LETTER FROM THE PRIME MINISTER TO GENERAL DE GAULLE|
The accession of General deGaulle to the premiership of the French Republic68 has come at a time when our present Ambassador in Paris, Mr.Désy, is on sick leave prior to his retirement (on July 9)69 and Mr.Dupuy, whose appointment to succeed Mr.Désy has been announced, is not due to reach Paris before September.
I feel, however, that the exceptional nature of the Gaullist régime, the uncertainties regarding its future policies and the rather special personal characteristics of the General himself warrant careful attention on our part to the possibilities for reinforcing our good relations with the French Government and with General deGaulle.
In the past, and it must be recognized, when he had little expectancy of coming to power, General deGaulle has expressed views on NATO and relations with the Soviet Union which, if they were to become French Government policy, would undermine the Alliance. Following an interview with deGaulle on March 20 of this year, the British Ambassador, Sir Gladwyn Jebb, reported to the Foreign Office that it seems obvious that if the General were ever in power he would adopt a policy of appeasement toward the Soviet Union and that this would be only too likely to result in the breakup of the present system of Alliances. The General expressed his view that a world war was most improbable and if the people of Western Europe were really convinced that this was so, they would, in the long run, simply refuse to make the enormous sacrifices which would be necessary to prepare for such a war. Hence, he thought NATO was doomed whatever the Russians did or said. He placed little importance on the introduction of IRBMs into Europe feeling that these would be out of date in three years when ICBMs were introduced. He thought there would not be a war then since the Russians were becoming quite embourgeoisés and their offensive against the West would increasingly take the form of cold war and propaganda measures.
These views expressed in private conversation should not necessarily be taken as a philosophical foundation for a new French policy in NATO and vis-à-vis the Soviet Union, but they are of sufficient importance to warrant attention. General deGaulle has explicitly indicated to Jebb through General Billotte that he would do everything to see that NATO was used for the purpose of forming a common policy as between the USA, UK and France notably as regards Afro-Asians and Africa. His cabinet includes such strong NATO supporters as Mollet, Pinay and de Murville who should serve as a modifying influence.
We would not envisage any immediate difficulties for NATO if only because other problems (North Africa, the Constitution) would have priority. Nor is it likely that France will question the fundamentals of the Alliance. What we may expect, however, is that difficulties may arise from deGaulle's efforts to establish a more prominent place for France in the Alliance.
The situation is uncertain however and we therefore feel that special efforts should be made to establish intimate relations with General deGaulle and his immediate advisors. Canada might have an important role to play in this connection in view of our special relationship with France as a result of our history and French speaking population.
With the foregoing in mind, Iwonder whether you would consider suggesting to the Prime Minister that he send a letter of congratulation and good wishes to General deGaulle. A draft letter is attached. It includes an invitation to the General to visit Canada and places emphasis on the relationship of France to Canada and North America.
If you and the Prime Minister consider that such a letter should be sent, Iwould further suggest that you might wish to ask General Vanier, in the capacity of Ambassador Extraordinary, to deliver it. General Vanier, now in retirement, is a personal friend of General deGaulle and has had close connections with him during and after the last war when he was accredited to the Comité Français de la Libération Nationale in London and later when he was Ambassador in Paris. While he was there, he won the respect and indeed affection of a large section of the French public.
For these reasons, Ithink General Vanier could be of considerable value to us in establishing close relations between the Canadian Government and the Gaullist régime. Ihave not, of course, got in touch with him, but Ishould think that he would agree to undertake a special mission. If so, it might have a profound effect both on deGaulle and on the French public and provide a symbol for the special importance attached to the links between Canada and France. Iam attaching an outline of instructions which might be given to General Vanier.
The timing of this initiative is of some importance. There would be obvious advantages in delivering the letters as soon as possible. General Eisenhower has already sent a letter of congratulations. On the other hand, there might be some advantage in delaying an approach until General deGaulle could reserve a reasonable amount of time for an interview with General Vanier. In any case, it would probably be inadvisable to delay too long. The precise timing would probably have to depend on the reaction we might have from General Vanier and on information which may be forthcoming regarding General deGaulle.
I should be grateful for an indication of your wishes regarding these suggestions.70
68 Pour un exposé sur la montée au pouvoir du général
deGaulle en 1958, voir chapitreIV, deuxième partie.
69 Note marginale:/Marginal note:
70 Le général Vanier n'a pas remis la lettre au général
deGaulle. Pour les textes de cette lettre et de la réponse du général deGaulle au premier ministre John Diefenbaker, voir Canada, ministère des Affaires extérieures, Affaires Extérieures, vol10, N7, juillet 1958, pp.156, 160.