Discussion of December 2, 1944 Between J. STALIN, Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR, and CHARLES DE GAULLE, President of the Provisional Government of the French Republic.
Present at the discussion: V. Molotov, A. Bogomolov, Ambassador of the USSR to France, Roger Garreau, Representative of France to the USSR, B. Podtserob [...]
DE GAULLE says that France suffered German invasions in 1870-71, in 1914-1918 and in 1940. From these ensued almost all France’s difficulties in foreign policy and even in home policy. The French have now well understood that the only means they have to open the road toward a better future is close cooperation with other powers.
STALIN asks what is preventing France from becoming a great country again.
DE GAULLE answers that it is above all the Germans; that it is still necessary to win. The French know what Soviet Russia has done for them and that Soviet Russia played the leading role in their liberation. However, this does not mean that the French do not want to count on their own forces and prefer to count on the forces of the others, on the forces of their friends.
DE GAULLE says that basically, the cause of the misfortunes which struck France was the fact that France was not with Russia, had no agreement with it, and had no effective treaty. Secondly, France was not in a geographic situation which assured it a good position against Germany. In brief, the French had been thrown back on their unfavourable borders.
STALIN says that the fact that Russia and France were not together was a misfortune for us also. We very clearly felt it.
DE GAULLE says that besides Germany, only Russia and France occupy a continental geographic position in Europe. These two countries are neighbours of Germany and consequently are under its threat. This was so in the past and will be so in the future. DE GAULLE says that he does not know what Marshal STALIN thinks of the future but, whatever is done to weaken Germany, it will be insufficient, because the German people will remain.
STALIN says that it is not a question of the German people, but of its leaders. The Germans have many leaders hidden and they know how to hide them.
DE GAULLE says that after the war of 1914-1918, which ended with a French victory, the French thought that peace based on the League of Nations would be sufficient to maintain peace and security. They did not make the necessary decisions. Soviet Russia was far from France and the French were not able to organise their security. Then, great events occurred and the French learned a lot. They understood what the absence of Soviet Russia meant and that it was the existence of a certain ideology which was more peace-loving than realistic. DE GAULLE does not suppose that Marshal STALIN thinks that France believes it can restore its power, maintain its place and guarantee its security without great efforts on its part, on the part of its own people. DE GAULLE says that he knows that the first condition for the recovery of France is its own activity, that of the French people, whose youth want to do everything to set the country right; this spirit of patriotic sentiments is something new for the French people during the last years.
STALIN says that the Germans have helped us in this respect. By their occupation regime they gave back to the peoples their sense of patriotism [...]
DE GAULLE then says that it is important for France that in the future she find herself in a territorial situation towards Germany which protects her and strengthens her, in which her forces are always on their guard. For the French the border which would assure the geographic and historic possibility of protecting France is the Rhine River. The French think that, from all points of view, the Rhine should be the definitive barrier to the East against Germany and the German threat. There are other barriers, but a real, geographic barrier is needed. This is the opinion of the French.
STALIN says that in that case the French should doubtless propose to include the Palatinate and Rhineland in French territory.
DE GAULLE says that it would be a good decision to detach the Rhineland from Germany and to reunite it with France. Perhaps for its northern part, the Ruhr basin, it would be necessary to establish another authority which would not be a French authority, but an international one. But concerning the Rhineland in general, it should be detached from Germany and reunited with French territory, because this is a political, economic and military necessity.
STALIN asks how the allies see this problem.
DE GAULLE says that the same question was posed in 1918. Clemenceau then suggested handing back the Rhineland to France. The allies did not accept this proposition. At that time they found a temporary solution which, as subsequent events showed, was not a good one. The Germans attacked. DE GAULLE says that he thinks that the allies have made progress towards understanding the reality, but that maybe they still had not made all the progress necessary.
STALIN says that, as far as he knows, the English circles are considering another possibility, that of placing the Rhineland and Westphalia under international control. What DE GAULLE said is new and STALIN is hearing about it for the first time. STALIN says that it would be necessary to know the opinion of the allies on this question.
DE GAULLE says that he hopes that this question can be examined by the European Consultative Commission.
STALIN says that it would be difficult for Russia to object to this.
DE GAULLE says that if the English and the Americans had found themselves historically and geographically in the situation of the French on the Rhine, the question would have been resolved differently. But they are not in that situation either historically or geographically. They have other concerns. The French have been able to convince themselves of this, and they and the Russians have paid for it more dearly than anyone. This is a lesson for the future.
STALIN says that the Anglo-American armies are waging operations in this region against Germany. He considers it necessary to hear the opinion of England and America and that such a question cannot be resolved without them.
DE GAULLE answers that he agrees, that it is necessary to act in concert with England and the United States. But it is necessary to resolve the question, because the new peace should be a long-term peace and not only for the year 1945. The Americans and the English will not always be on the Rhine, but France and Russia will always remain where they are.
STALIN says that the two last wars have shown that the force of the continental powers was insufficient to overpower Germany. Without the help of the English and American forces it would be difficult to defeat Germany. It is necessary to take into account the experience of the two wars. Although England and America are situated far from the Rhine, they are close enough to play an important role in the victory. This is the lesson of the two wars.
DE GAULLE answers that this is true, but that the intervention of the English and the Americans has taken place under conditions which everyone knows. DE GAULLE says that he is thinking of France which almost perished. If a solution were found which would give France and Russia good conditions at the beginning of a war against Germany, it would be in the interest of all, including the English and the Americans. DE GAULLE says that he is not sure that the English and the Americans did not understand this.
STALIN says that this is so much the better.
STALIN then says that by itself the border does not determine the situation, although it favours the success of a war with Germany. STALIN says that among us there are people who think that the Carpathian Mountains and Transylvania are the natural borders of Russia. Nevertheless it is very difficult to transfer the border to Transylvania or the Carpathian Mountains. We do not insist on that, because it is not the borders which resolve the problem, but a good army and a good command.
STALIN says that he is asking DE GAULLE to understand him well. We, the Russians, cannot resolve this question alone, without having spoken with the English and the Americans. It is not only this question; there are many others that we cannot resolve without our allies and without trying to reach a common solution.
DE GAULLE says that he also thinks that this question and all the other questions which concern Germany should be resolved by the Allies together. Then, DE GAULLE says that the establishment of an international system in the Rhineland would be an inconvenience for France. If such a system is adopted, the immediate security of France would depend on the good will of the other powers and their state of preparation.
STALIN says that all the States depend on each other and that to fight against Germany an alliance of anti-German powers is needed. Besides the question of the borders, it is necessary to take into account the mutual aid, because the forces of two powers alone are not sufficient to eliminate the German danger. STALIN says that one should not exaggerate the importance of borders for the defence of States. To think that the Carpathian Mountains or the Rhine can save the situation and that the army can sleep, this can engender illusions, such as those that confidence in the Maginot Line, the Hitler Line or the wall to the east of Hitler have engendered. It is good to have high mountains on the border, but this does not resolve everything. One should not exaggerate the importance of the question of borders.
DE GAULLE says that he does not think that the Rhine can by itself assure the security of France. DE GAULLE agrees with what Marshal STALIN said on the urgent necessity of creating a union of anti-German States. After the last war, France sacrificed everything to this possibility and France understands that it is not enough to correctly resolve the problem of the borders to eliminate the German danger. An alliance of the anti-German powers is needed to prevent Germany from attacking again. Such is the opinion of the French government.
STALIN says that this is good.
MOLOTOV says that in 1935 a pact was signed with France, but it was not applied.
DE GAULLE says that Molotov doubtless does not want to see the difference between Laval and de Gaulle.
MOLOTOV says that he sees the difference, but that he only gave the example of an agreement which had been signed, but which remained on paper and was not observed.
DE GAULLE says that the treaty of 1935 was not ratified, but that it was not all bad. It contained points which are now not on the agenda. For example, a series of provisions of this pact were subordinated to clauses of the Charter of the League of Nations. This does not apply to our time. However the pact by itself was not bad. Such is the opinion of the French government. DE GAULLE asks what does the Soviet government thinks of it.
STALIN points out that the pact of 1935 was not bad but that it was not applied.
MOLOTOV said that the history of this pact gave us a lesson for the future.
STALIN says that this war, which was very hard for the Soviet Union and for France, taught us a lot.
DE GAULLE asks if Molotov does not think that, if it were made precise and complete, the pact of 1935 would be acceptable.
MOLOTOV answers that several days ago he read a statement made during a press conference in the Foreign Ministry by Mr. Offroy, who declared that this pact did not exist any more.
DE GAULLE answers that the pact does not exist any more, because it was not applied and that now it is a question of drawing up a new pact. He asks if Molotov does not think that the pact of 1935 could serve as the point of departure for drawing up a new pact.
MOLOTOV answers that he bases himself on the words of Marshal STALIN on the need for the anti-German powers to agree.
DE GAULLE says that Soviet Union signed a treaty with England in 1942 and with Czechoslovakia in 1943. This is a good treaty.
STALIN says that when the French-Soviet treaty of 1935 was concluded, everything was not clear. At that time we understood that Laval and his colleagues did not trust us as allies. By signing a treaty with us they wanted to bind us and to prevent us from reaching an understanding with Germany. We, the Russians, did not have complete trust in the French and this mutual distrust was fatal to the pact. The current war has eliminated this distrust or reduced it to the minimum. This is what distinguishes the situation of 1944 from that of 1935. The French are now convinced that the Russians will fight against the Germans and the Russians have confidence in the French. This creates favourable conditions for a pact. One must think this question over well.
DE GAULLE agrees and says that it is necessary to think about this.
Then, DE GAULLE says that he would not want one to think that France has some distrust towards England or America. There is no such thing, but DE GAULLE knows that the clauses of the new peace should be more certain and more realistic. This realism, in conditions of peace, the French and the Russians can bring about. DE GAULLE adds that he said the same thing to Churchill during Churchill’s stay in Paris.
Then, DE GAULLE says that up to now it was a question not only of the west, but also of the east. Marshal STALIN said that he did not think that the borders alone would resolve everything. He is right. But nevertheless there is a problem of the borders. The important thing is not only the question of the western borders of Germany, but also that of its eastern borders, because there is only one Germany and it is necessary to think of all its borders.
STALIN says that he thinks that the former Polish lands should be returned to the Poles. Silesia, Pomerania, East Prussia should be restored to Poland.
DE GAULLE says that, for him, the Oder should be the border of Germany and that further south, the border should follow the Neisse, that is to say it should pass to the west of the Oder.
STALIN approves and says that, in his view, this would be just.
Then STALIN says that Austria should exist as independent State. As for Czechoslovakia, in any case its eastern border in the region of the Sudetenland should be restored. Then STALIN says that in his conversations with Churchill and Roosevelt, the question of the dismemberment of Germany was taken up, but without concrete decisions.
DE GAULLE says that he does not think that France would have serious objections to the restoration of East Prussia to the Poles, which was always a troublesome element in German policy. DE GAULLE says that in this particular case he considers the problem of the eastern border independently of the other problems which concern Germany.
The discussion ends at that point.
(Document from the archives.)
Discussion of J. STALIN, Chairman of the Council of Peoples Commissars of the USSR, with CHARLES DE GAULLE, President of the Provisional Government of the French Republic.
December 6, 1944
Present at the discussion: V. Molotov, A. Bogomolov, Ambassador of the USSR to France, Georges Bidault, French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Roger Garreau, Representative of France to the USSR, Maurice Dejean, Director of Political Affairs of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, B. Podtserob.
DE GAULLE states that he and the people accompanying him asked to be received in order to take advantage of their stay in Moscow to learn the opinion of the Soviet side on the questions which are posed today and which will come up tomorrow, as well as to inform the Soviet side of their opinion about these questions.
DE GAULLE says that there is presently discussion of the signing by the Soviet Union and France of a pact determining for the future the position of these countries towards Germany. The French consider it possible, at the same time, to the degree that current events and time permit, to also discuss questions which arise around this pact.
Dc Gaulle points out that on all the questions which will be discussed the French intend to express themselves clearly and frankly, according to the method recently adopted in relations with the Russians.
DE GAULLE states that he would like first of all to deal with the Polish question. Marshal STALIN knows, he says, that for various reasons, sentimental relations have existed for a very long time between the Polish and French nations. DE GAULLE says that he would like to approach this question by taking it from a distance. He says that Marshal STALIN knows better than he that the ties between Poland and France concern civilisation and religion. For a long time, France tried in vain to maintain an independent Poland. After the events of the last war, France harboured a distrust towards Germany. Trying to assure her own security, she desired the revival of Poland as an enemy of Germany, as a country standing up against Germany. Such were the real motives of the policy of France when, after 1918, she tried to restore the independence of Poland. The policy of Beck and others of his ilk, a policy oriented towards an agreement with Germany against the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia, presented a great danger for France. The French are conscious of the danger that Poland would constitute for France and for the Soviet Union if it would go back to this policy towards defeated Germany. Germany has always wanted to use Poland for such a policy. Such a policy is not impossible in the future.
STALIN says that Germany wanted to swallow up Poland.
DE GAULLE agrees and says that Germany would have doubtless wanted to first use Poland and then swallow her up.
STALIN answers that this is clearly so.
DE GAULLE states that in his opinion it is in the common interest of France and the Soviet Union that Poland does not go back to this policy and that Germany not be able to create the conditions for a return to this policy.
STALIN points out that blocs and occupation contribute to this.
DE GAULLE says that he agrees with the Soviet propositions on the western borders of Poland; he thinks that the establishment of the border on the Oder and the Neisse will exclude the possibility of an understanding between Germany and Poland.
STALIN says that this is correct.
DE GAULLE says that if the Soviet side agrees to an extension of Poland towards the west, this would at the same time resolve the question of the eastern border between Poland and the Soviet Union.
STALIN points out that the demarcation of the eastern border between Poland and the Soviet Union was approved by Clemenceau.
DE GAULLE says that France has no objection to the Curzon Line. He then says that he thinks he is in agreement with Marshal STALIN in considering that Poland should be independent, that it has demonstrated its vitality. DE GAULLE says that the French consider that the eastern border of Poland along the Curzon Line can be recognised if one assures Poland the German lands on its western borders.
STALIN answers that this will be done and that the Red Army will take care of it.
DE GAULLE says that the French know the situation concerning the Polish question: some Poles are on one side and others are on the opposite side and one does not know what the Polish people will think when Poland will have been completely liberated by the Red Army. The French consider, says de Gaulle, that there will be difficulties in this connection. In the situation of Poland the war has led to many things which can contribute to the friendship between Poland, the USSR and France. DE GAULLE says that he considers it necessary to state that if, at the time of the liberation of Poland and even before, France has the possibility of using its influence on the Poles, she will do it to reinforce friendly relations between Poland and France and between Poland and the Soviet Union. France considers that she should act in accord with the USSR, England, the United States and the other allies. At the present time, says de Gaulle, the French government maintains relations with the Polish government-in-exile in London, relations which were established at the time of Sikorsky. However these Poles are not in Poland and the French government has some practical and material questions to deal with this government.
DE GAULLE states that the French government is observing the evolution of events. When the Polish territory is completely liberated, the French will be ready to use their influence on the Poles to reach an accord with them and will agree with what has just been said about the Polish borders, so that Poland adopts an attitude of sincere friendship with the Soviet Union and France.
STALIN says that he understands this.
After a break, STALIN says that he would like to ask what the western bloc is and what it means.
DE GAULLE answers that he does not understand very well what Marshal STALIN would like to speak about.
The press has spoken a lot about a western bloc and the importance that Marshal STALIN accords to this question is not clear to him, de Gaulle. Having indicated that France is a continental country, DE GAULLE says that, through the experience of the present and the previous war, France knows that Europe constitutes a whole. It is impossible for an event to take place in the East of Europe that does not have any connection with what is taking place in the West, and vice versa. All the European States are States of the same continent and any event which concerns one State affects, even if only indirectly, the interests of all the other States. One can not cut Europe into pieces. The French know this well. History has shown that it is impossible to create either a western bloc, or an eastern bloc, or a southern bloc, or a northern bloc.
DE GAULLE then says that, however, it always happens that people who have identical interests take common practical measures. The main question which presently concerns everyone is the German question. That is why one can say that the only bloc which exists and which can exist in Europe is that of the States which do not want a German attack. The first proposal in this spirit is the one to the Soviet Union that the French have made, although they have immediate neighbours which are Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Luxemburg, England. Without a doubt, France will conclude good neighbour accords with England, as well as with Belgium and Luxemburg. It is possible that one day she will also conclude an accord with Italy. But these accords will not constitute a bloc.
STALIN says that he is sorry if he asked a superfluous question and if he placed DE GAULLE in a difficult situation.
DE GAULLE says that he does not consider the questions of Marshal STALIN as superfluous and adds that, on the question of the bloc, there are also other opinions.
MOLOTOV indicates that Belgian Prime Minister Pierlot, for example, declared that a western bloc exists.
DE GAULLE says that he has no knowledge of this.
STALIN says that he has no more knowledge of this. This is the reason why he asked this question of de Gaulle, thinking that DE GAULLE knew about it.
DE GAULLE says that Belgium was and is under the threat of Germany. In 1914, she suffered a German invasion and then, after the First World War, sometimes she had been for military accords with France and Great Britain, sometimes she was not for them. DE GAULLE says that France has economic exchanges with Belgium and she will continue to have them, but that this is not a bloc.
STALIN says that he considers that France should have a sound defensive military alliance with its neighbours and that this will be an important element of security for France with regard to Germany.
DE GAULLE says that he would like to return to the question of the bloc. He says that Bidault has made a public statement pointing out that France does not want the organisation of a western bloc, that the English have never asked the French for this and that, as for them, they have never proposed this to the English. DE GAULLE says that he considers the Moscow-Paris-London bloc will effectively be a European bloc. Anything else will be economic and strategic accords of a local character between various countries. DE GAULLE says that when one studies the history of this question, one realises that the only bloc which has existed in Europe is the German bloc. This was the case at first with the Triple Alliance, and nowadays with the Axis. One cannot say that there will be no attempts to revive such blocs. And that is why the French are in favour of a bloc with Great Britain and the Soviet Union. DE GAULLE says that the French prefer such a bloc to any other and they consider that it is the only one possible.
STALIN says that he understands this and points out that we the Russians, like the French, are interested in a pact of mutual assistance and security being concluded between France and the Soviet Union. STALIN says that in his opinion this will be accomplished in a few days.
STALIN says then that he would like to say a few words on the Polish question. DE GAULLE knows that during the last thirty years Poland had been a corridor which the Germans had used to come to Russia. Both the Russians and the Poles have had enough of this. We, the Russians, we would like this corridor to be closed. Other countries cannot close this corridor. It is necessary that it is Poland which closes it itself and for this it is necessary that Poland be strong, independent and democratic. Experience shows that there are no strong States without democracy. STALIN says that this is a turning point of our policy towards Poland. Until the beginning of this war, Poland and Russia were always in a state of conflict. There were historic reasons for this. Twice, the Poles took Moscow and, in the course of a hundred years, the Russians twice occupied Warsaw. All this has left its mark on the relations between Poland and Russia and left a bitter aftertaste. We shall put an end to this history and we shall put an end to it definitively. One of the lessons of the war is the consciousness that friendship between Poland and Russia is a guarantee of security for Poland and Russia. And this has been understood not only by the leading circles of Russia, but also by the best elements of Poland. Throughout its history, France has always been the friend of Poland and its independence. One can say that France has been the defender of Polish independence. In this respect, her policy distinguished itself advantageously from the policy of other States. The Poles know this and remember it. STALIN says that in connection with this he thought that the current policy of France would distinguish itself advantageously from the policy of America and Great Britain. STALIN says that he would depend on this.
STALIN says that he understands that England, which is linked to the Polish government-in-exile, as well as to General Mikhail Mikhailovich in Yugoslavia, became a little entangled and that it is now difficult for her to free herself. STALIN says that he understands this. But the fact is that one cannot allow Mikhailovich to return to Yugoslavia, and that he is hiding somewhere in Cairo. STALIN says that he is afraid that the same thing would not repeat itself with the Polish Girauds and Lavals who are sitting in the Polish government-in-exile in London.
STALIN then says that the Poles who are in London are playing at being ministers whereas in Lublin the Poles are carrying out an agrarian reform similar to that which France carried out at the end of the XVIII century, thus forming the bases of a sound French State.
STALIN says that there is a difference between these two groups. The one does not know what it is doing, while the other, the one in Lublin, is taking charge of achievements of great importance. These are the considerations on which the Soviet government based itself in establishing good relations with the new Poland, renewing itself through its Committee of National Liberation. STALIN says that he thought that the French would understand this more quickly than the English and the Americans.
STALIN says that in the course of time the English will equally understand this.
DE GAULLE asks what is the state of mind of the population in Poland.
STALIN says that he is interested in this question and that he is studying it.
DE GAULLE asks what is the official information which STALIN has on Poland. Can STALIN give him this information? He, de Gaulle, thinks that STALIN knows better than anyone the situation in Poland, given that he has contributed to the formation of the new Polish government.
STALIN answers that the Polish population began in perplexity. The Red Army is advancing, beating the Germans, liberating the Polish people. Polish troops are fighting together with the Red Army. A Polish Committee is in Poland at the side of the population. The Poles are asking: where is the London Government? Why are the London Poles not in Poland when the country is being liberated? From this moment on, the actions of the émigré government have begun to disintegrate. The second stage in the decline of the actions of the émigré Polish government occurred after the fiasco of the so-called Warsaw uprising. The Polish people learned that the uprising had been launched without the knowledge and without the agreement of the command of the Red Army. If the Soviet command had been asked whether it could militarily aid the uprising, the Soviet command would have made it known in advance that it was not ready for this. Indeed, at that time the Red Army had just finished fighting the six hundred kilometres which separate Minsk from Warsaw. When the Red Army arrived at Warsaw, its artillery and ammunition were still four hundred kilometres to the rear. The Red Army was not ready to immediately begin an offensive against Warsaw. But no one asked anything of the Red Army command. The people know this and they are angry at seeing that they were dragged into an adventurous action. There were many victims. The agents of the Polish Government-in Exile made it possible for the Germans to achieve a success in Warsaw. The third stage of the decline of the authority of the Polish émigré government was when the Polish Committee of National Liberation began to carry out the agrarian reform. All the agents of the Polish émigré government who were in Poland stood up against this reform. They killed civil servants of the Polish Committee of National Liberation to make the agrarian reform fail. Of what does this reform consist? The lands of the big émigré Polish landlords and the big landlords who sided with the Germans were taken and sold to the peasants; they became their private property. France did the same thing at the end of the XVIII century and created there a new democratic State. On this basis, the Polish Committee became a great force, whereas the prestige and influence of the Polish émigré government in Poland fell.
STALIN says that such is the information which he has on the situation in Poland.
DE GAULLE says that, when all of Poland is liberated, one will then see clearly what is the state of mind of the Polish people. If France has an influence on the Poles, she will use it to develop friendship among Poland, the Soviet Union and France. Concerning the Polish government in London, France maintains relations with it as do the other powers. It is possible that at some time the French government will recognise the other Polish government in accord with the other allies. The Soviet government has acted in the same way when it recognized the French government in accord with the other powers. [...]
DE GAULLE says that France was liberated only three months ago, that it is still gathering its forces and that for the moment it has done little, but will do more and more, to reestablish normal relations with the other States. The first thing that France is concerned with now it is to make a turn towards Moscow. By proposing a mutual assistance pact, France also has in mind to clear up other questions. As regards the other States, the French government is glad to note that the position of the Soviet Union towards these States aims at maintaining their independence and friendship with them, as well as the development of friendship with the Soviet Union and with France, in the progress of these States in the direction of democracy. The French consider elections by universal suffrage as a democratic basis.
DE GAULLE adds that the French are satisfied by the policy of the Soviet government towards all the States that are satellites of Germany. The French would like to act in accord with the Soviet government. For the moment, they can not do more than a few things, but in the future they will do more and they have in mind to act in accord with the allies and especially with the Soviet Union.
STALIN says that he thinks that we understand each other mutually. […]
(Document from the archives.)
Discussion of J. STALIN, Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR, with CHARLES DE GAULLE, President of the Provisional Government of the French Republic.
December 8, 1944
Present at the discussion: V. Molotov, A. Bogomolov, Ambassador of the USSR to France; Bidault, French Minister of Foreign Affairs; Garreau, Representative of France to the USSR; B. Podtserob.
DE GAULLE says that the French asked for a new meeting with Marshal STALIN because, after the discussions which took place, they considered it useful to inform him about their plans.
STALIN answers that he is ready to listen.
DE GAULLE states that he would like to repeat that, in the current historical period, there is for France only one important question, that of Germany.
France suffered German invasions three times. During the first invasion, the French were beaten; they lost provinces and their prestige. The second time, after the German invasion, the French achieved victory, but at the price of enormous sacrifices. In the third invasion, France was completely occupied by the enemy and almost lost its independence. DE GAULLE says that he is raising this possibility of the loss of independence because, if Germany had won, France would not be independent. With many difficulties, France was able to carry out a policy which assured her independence, even with regard to her allies. Now, this time, the Germans will not win the war but they are continuing it and the objective of French policy is to do everything possible to win. The French will do it as long as Germany has not been defeated. But even if the Germans are beaten, Germany and the German people will not be destroyed. The German people will live, though with greater or lesser difficulties. Given that the German people will remain, the German threat will remain also. It is necessary to take measures so that this people cannot again become a danger to their neighbours. There are three ways to do this. These are: first, the demarcation of borders; second, disarmament; third, alliances.
Borders. As DE GAULLE already said, France is in agreement on the demarcation of the eastern borders of Germany in the manner that Marshal STALIN pointed out. Concerning the western border, the French have stated that German sovereignty should not extend beyond the Rhine and they have explained why they thought so. DE GAULLE says that he thinks that the people who are located to the south of Germany and who have rendered it important services should be separated forever from Germany. DE GAULLE explains that he is speaking about Austria.
Disarmament. It is necessary to take a series of measures, notably of a moral and economic nature, because in our time the economy and the morals of a nation are the sources of its military power.
STALIN says that he is in agreement and that we think the same.
DE GAULLE adds that the French think that, from the economic point of view, it would be useful for peace to utilise the Ruhr Basin under international control.
DE GAULLE then says that he would like to deal with the question of alliances. During the previous war and this last war, France was able to see in practice what policy of alliance she should practice. The German people are in a geographic position which threatens France and Russia first of all. France and Russia are the two countries which are directly under the German threat and which pay most dearly during German invasions, when this threat is transformed into aggression. So France and Soviet Union can be described as in the first line of security. The second line is England. England has never been cornered, because it is a colonial empire and because her people have a particular mentality. England has always joined in when Germany has already begun to fight, when it was too late for the powers who were in the front line. After the war and the Treaty of Versailles, France acted in concert with England to assure its security. The result was that in this war Great Britain fought bravely and with strength, but after having delayed in taking important measures. This is not to reproach her on the part of the French. This phenomenon is in the nature of things. It is explained by the temperament of the English people and by the fact that England is an empire. When England undertakes something it must first consult Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and it must look to Washington. England has never been cornered, and yet security is sometimes a very urgent matter.
STALIN says that this is a fact, because the English have no obligatory military service, nor do they have permanent military career officers. England prepares slowly and now she has prepared her troops in the course of the war. The Soviet Union and France have permanent armies and that is why they are always prepared.
After having expressed his agreement with this remark, DE GAULLE says that there is still a third line of security, and that is the United States and other States. Before the United States entered it, the war had time to advance. This time, the United States entered the war when France was already out of the fight, when Russia had been invaded and when England was within an inch of losing.
The French would like, says de Gaulle, to draw attention to the fact that the commitments taken among allies should come into effect when it is necessary, immediately; but England is an ally with whom it is difficult to deal: she is always and everywhere late. She has interests everywhere and she has frictions with France and with Russia, frictions which can one day complicate the situation and make it difficult for England to make the necessary decisions. This is a fact. Between you and us, adds de Gaulle, there are no difference and we have the same interests with regard to Germany. France as well as Russia are located on European soil. They are interested in having reliable and rapid means to assure their safety.
DE GAULLE states that French policy obliges the French to want in the first place a pact of mutual assistance with the Soviet Union.
The French people and the Russian people are warrior peoples. Russia has, and France had and hopes to have in the future, a permanent army. That is why it is not difficult for the French and for the Russians to succeed in concluding a pact and to prepare immediate measures to prevent aggression. After that, one could think about the second line of security and about a pact with England. If Marshal STALIN thinks that it is necessary to conclude a treaty with England at the same time, this would mean that in the future the necessary and urgent measures would not be taken in time. As far as France is concerned, the pact with England is for her a long-term affair. The French have difficulties with England in the East and they may have some in the Far East, because there are also questions to settle there. The French cannot say exactly what the policy of England towards Germany will be. The French know the policy of the Soviet Union and they have explained to the leaders of the Soviet government their policy with regard to Germany. But they do not know English policy with regard to Germany and moreover it is not very probable that the English themselves reflect exactly what this will be.
STALIN says that he thinks that the policy of England towards Germany will be very severe.
DE GAULLE says that it will be severe at the beginning. DE GAULLE says that he remembers Lloyd George who was against Germany, but then came Balfour and Baldwin and another policy began.
STALIN says that this is true. However, England now has great possibilities of destroying German industry and she will do it. America will do it also. The English understood that, as long as they did not destroy German industry, England could suffer from German competition on the world market. STALIN says that he thinks that the English did not understand this during the first war, but that now they have understood it and this is the reason that they take such pleasure in destroying German industry by air raids.
‘So much the better if that is how it is, says de GAULLE, but what if nothing happens? In ten years, will England be as resolute as today?’
STALIN says that every country should have its own strength and count on its own army. STALIN says that he acknowledges that France and Russia should understand each other better than the others, because they are the first to receive the blows. They should be closer to each other than the other countries.
DE GAULLE asks if Marshal STALIN thinks that our countries should have closer relations.
STALIN says that he understands this and that he acknowledges it.
DE GAULLE asks to what point Marshal STALIN is ready to push what he just said.
STALIN says that our countries should absolutely do it. For France, this is particularly advantageous now. For us too, it is advantageous.
DE GAULLE says that this is correct.
STALIN says that it would be advantageous for France from the point of view of the independence of its policy.
STALIN says that he is sorry to express himself frankly, but certain States are preventing France from having an independent policy. The pact will help her to have a 100% independent policy.
DE GAULLE says that this is exactly what he wanted to speak about and that he had spoken of a French-Soviet pact.
STALIN says that he understands this.
DE GAULLE asks what should be done now.
STALIN says that a French-Soviet pact is good. But there are good pacts and there are also better ones. A tripartite pact which would include England would be better. It is Russia and France that suffer the first blows, but it is difficult to win the war without England. The second line plays a big role in winning the war. The third line also plays a big role. It is good to have a French-Soviet pact, but it is better to have a tripartite pact.
DE GAULLE says that this is not the French point of view. The French think that it would be better to have a separate pact between Russia and France and another separate pact between France and England. DE GAULLE says that it is not as easy for the French as it is for the Russians to consent to a tripartite treaty. The Russians already have a pact with England, whereas the French do not have one and it will not be easy for them to conclude one.
STALIN says that the question of the tripartite pact was raised two days ago. STALIN says that he wrote to Churchill that the French had arrived and they had raised the question of a French-Soviet pact, and they asked him for advice. Churchill answered that he is not against a bilateral pact, but that he considers that a tripartite treaty would be better. STALIN says that he took the advice of his colleagues and that it was decided to agree with Churchill’s proposal to conclude a tripartite pact comprising all the necessary improvements in relation to the English-Soviet treaty* which has its inadequacies.
* This concerns the treaty of alliance between the U.S.S.R. and Great Britain in the war against Hitlerite Germany and its accomplices in Europe and of cooperation and mutual assistance after the war. This treaty was concluded on May 26, 1942. By decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., dated May 7, 1955, this treaty was annulled as it had lost all value after the ratification by the English government of the agreements of Paris of October 23, 1954, which foresaw the remilitarisation of West Germany, the creation of an army of Western Europe and the inclusion of the rearmed West Germany in the military groupings, which was in flagrant contradiction with the fundamental objectives of the English-Soviet treaty of 1942.
STALIN says that he sees that a tripartite pact is not suitable for the French.
DE GAULLE says that he does not think that a pact with London can contribute to the solution of the concrete problems of the French. The French think that peace and victory depend on the settlement of all the questions among Moscow, London and Paris. But it is not as simple to settle questions with London as it is with Moscow. France is not in the same situation as Russia with regard to England. From the French point of view, it would be better to have a treaty between France and Russia and that each of these countries have a separate treaty with England. There is another consideration against the tripartite treaty. Russia is far from England. Russia has many forces, it is a great power. For the moment, France does not have such forces, although she hopes to have them in the future. If France accepts a treaty with England, her situation will be different from that of Russia. DE GAULLE asks how Marshal STALIN proposes to conduct negotiations on the tripartite treaty.
STALIN answers that, for the moment, Churchill has not yet made known what improvements he plans to introduce into the English-Soviet treaty. STALIN advances the supposition that it will be necessary to engage in negotiations among the three States, in Moscow or elsewhere. To this end, it is necessary to work out a draft and, to draw up this draft, preparatory talks among the three States are indispensable. All this can take one month or more.
DE GAULLE says that the French cannot say anything more on the tripartite treaty. But he, de Gaulle, would like to add that the French cannot consent to an accord with England, because they do not know what the real attitude of England towards Germany is. Naturally, the French do not reject the principle of a tripartite treaty.
STALIN says that the French would like to conclude a pact with Russia and that this pact is necessary for us too. But if, now, one postpones the pact of three, Churchill will take offence, because STALIN wrote to him to inform him of his agreement to a tripartite treaty.
DE GAULLE says that, when the French left for Moscow, the English told them that they had no objection to a French-Soviet pact.
STALIN says that also now, the English do not oppose it. Moreover, it is not so important. Now the English are proposing a tripartite pact. Let the French render us service and we shall render them service also. Poland is an element of our security. Three days ago, we spoke with the French about this question. Let the French receive a representative of the Polish Committee of National Liberation in Paris and we would sign the bilateral treaty. Churchill will be hurt, but so what?
DE GAULLE says that probably STALIN sometimes offends Churchill.
STALIN says that sometimes he offends Churchill and that, sometimes, Churchill offends him. One day, the correspondence between Churchill and him, STALIN, will be published, and then DE GAULLE will see what messages they had at times exchanged.
STALIN says that DE GAULLE should know that we have had disagreements with England and America about the French National Committee, on the question of whether it should be considered a government or not. There were important disagreements.
DE GAULLE says that he thinks that STALIN won at this game.
STALIN admits that he won. If one plays, it is to win. But France will win at it even more.
BIDAULT speaks and says that he would like to say to Marshal STALIN the following: The position of the French Provisional Government, which is following the path of General de Gaulle, does not mean that the French government would be against a tripartite pact. But he realises that it would take a lot of time to conclude this treaty and that there are many difficulties which hamper its conclusion. Besides, the French realise that, the more signatories there are to a treaty, the less chance that it will be effective. If two friends take an oath of allegiance, each of them counts on the other one. If three friends swear each other allegiance, each should count on the two others. This is better, but it is slower. That is why he, Bidault, thinks that, to be sure that in the future immediate measures will be taken against Germany, it is necessary to have a pact between the Soviet Union and France which would guarantee well the two countries.
STALIN says that he understands this. [... ]
(Document of the archives.)
With acknowledgements to Patrick Kessel
From Recherches Internationales No. 12, March-April, 1959.
Translated from the French by Adelard Paquin and George Gruenthal.
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