The French Embassy to the Department of State

711.0012 Anti-War/986 1/2

The French Embassy to the Department of State

1. Position of France


1. No difficulty can arise between France and the United States.

2. France has no fear to entertain against Great Britain, although the enormous naval superiority of the latter country might create an uneasy feeling on the part of the other.

3. On the side of Italy France may have serious fears due to the fact that the Government of that country is constitutionally irresponsible and depends entirely upon the will of a single man. Everyday the Italian press, which relies entirely upon Mussolini, addresses threats to France and the whole Italian nation is being fed with the idea that conquests on the side of her neighbor country are possible. Likely, such threats are not serious; nevertheless they constitute a disturbing factor. History shows that an act of madness is always possible when national feelings have been systematically raised to a certain pitch.

4. An alliance between Italy and Germany is not inconceivable and in that case France, obliged to face two fronts, would be put in a dangerous situation. In fact, free communications with Africa where she finds an important proportion of her military contingents, are vital. Italian raids against such an important artery may be extremely serious.

5. Is it absolutely sure that in a war of that kind France could depend upon the unconditional help of Great Britain ?

6. As far as United States are concerned it is true that they have declared that war is a crime and that consequently the nation which causes war is criminal. But they have always declined to consider the consequences of that principle and they seem to claim the right to furnish supplies indiscriminately to the aggressive nation, and to her victim under penalty of war.

2. Position of Italy

1. In case of war with France Italy would be placed in an extremely disadvantageous position. Her enormous length of coast exposes her to attacks from all sides and her main rail lines might be cut at any time.

2. From a strategic point of view, Italy is entirely surrounded by French possessions (Bizerte, Corsica, Toulon, and on her eastern coasts, Yugo-Slavia who would probably be an allied [ally] of France).

3. Economically speaking, Italy produces no iron, no coal, no metal, no lumber, no textiles, no oil. Her financial resources are limited. Her political situation is uncertain.

4. Italy depends also completely upon foreign help for her food supplies. A few German submarines almost succeeded in bringing shortage of food in England. What could numerous French submarines not do?

5. From the point of view of her resources as well as of her geographic independence, Italy finds herself, as regards France, in serious conditions of inferiority. Naval forces constitute only one factor of that disparity.

6. Since Italy lives within the limits of a sea which it would be easy to close entirely, no country could be more attached to the principle of the freedom of the seas, a principle of which America is an ardent defender.

3. Conclusion

For France as well as for Italy, there are questions more vital than proportion of naval armament (neither in fact wants a race for armaments). The question of general security is the most important for them.

For France absolute security lies within a defensive entente with Great Britain and a favorable interpretation of the Kellogg Pact by the United States.

For Italy her security lies within the principles of the freedom of the sea

Consequently nothing could be better for the peace of the Old Continent in which America is so interested, as shown by present negotiations, than an extension by the United States of the principles of Article 7 of the Washington Conference: (1)

"The contracting Powers agree that whenever a situation arises which, in the opinion of any one of them, involves the application of the stipulations of the present Treaty (the Kellogg Pact), and renders desirable discussion of such application, there shall be full and frank communication between the Contracting Powers concerned".

The United States might object that such a clause is similar to "foreign entanglements". In fact the United States have the right to protect themselves against an event which constitutes for them a serious threat. They have the right to be interested into a conference against war just as they would interest themselves into a conference against plague, against noxious insects, etc. The principle of the foreign policy of the United States was announced by President Coolidge when he said in his Gettysburg speech: Everywhere there is war or threat of war, something happens which is contrary to the interests of the United States.(2) Hence the necessity for them to take measures of prophylactic nature./. [WASHINGTON,] September 25, 1929.

(1) Article VII of the Nine-Power Treaty concerning China, signed at Washington, February 6, 1922; Foreign Relations, 1922, vol. I, p. 280. Back

(2) In his speech delivered on May 30, 1928, President Coolidge said in part: "It is almost impossible to conceive of any conflict anywhere on earth which would not affect us injuriously." Congressional Record, vol. 69, pt. 10, p. 10729. Back

Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States - 1929
(In Three Volumes) Volume I
Department of State Publication 2018
Washington, DC : Government Printing Office, 1943

127 Wall Street, New Haven, CT 06511.