TODAY France is threatened by Soviet imperialism, as yesterday it was threatened by German imperialism. The writer of this article has been an unwavering friend of the United States, and knows that nothing but the alliance of France and Europe with America can ward off the danger. I know, too, that if war should come this alliance would give France the only hope of saving her freedom and culture. It is just because everything depends upon this alliance that there is such wide and deep anxiety about it in France today. The policy followed so far in Europe since the war seems about to collapse. The force of inertia in the chancelleries carries the customary diplomatic procedure along, but the structure of Western European security offers no promise of real safety for the peoples of Europe--particularly for the French people--in the hour of supreme peril.

What should be done? First of all, the psychology of our people must be understood in America. It is a very different psychology from what must have been that of the American people following the last world war. The United States suffered during the war; but the country was not occupied by the enemy, Americans did not have to witness the slaughter of their fellow citizens in extermination camps, they did not watch their cities go up in flames, see their harvests destroyed by warring armies, roads, railroad lines and bridges cut, ports in ruins. The French went through all of that for four years, sharpened, too, by the bitterness of defeat. They cannot forget that for years before that experience they had trusted in the Maginot Line, which was supposed to preserve France from invasion. It proved a mirage. After such disillusionment and suffering they have no faith left in Maginot Lines of any kind, whether concrete or paper, strategic or diplomatic. Their first concern is to do whatever has to be done to prevent their territory from being invaded again.

Anyone who wants to throw France into the arms of Communism has only to spread the idea that in the event of war the United States will be content with a peripheral strategy, letting the Russians invade continental Europe to the Atlantic and the Pyrenees and merely expecting to reconquer this territory some years later. The prospect of a second occupation, more cruel even than the last and with the added refinement of atomic bombardment, plunges Europeans into despair. The number one question for Frenchmen is this: Will their homeland be defended with all the forces of the Atlantic alliance, or will it not? If the answer is yes, they are ready for sacrifices. If the answer is no, the alliance does not interest them; they will deviate from it in just the degree to which they think it will draw danger upon them instead of warding it off. These are the simple particulars which determine the French attitude toward the German question, the problem of Europe, the Atlantic Pact, and the general world situation.

II

Any consideration of the German question must begin with the elementary geographical fact that Germany is located in the heart of Europe, between the Slav world and the West. After 1945 there was but one possible policy to be followed toward Germany--the one advocated by the Provisional French Government under the leadership of General de Gaulle. It favored the rebirth of the German states--Baden, Württemberg, the Palatinate, etc.--and sought to make it possible for each of them to develop its own political and economic existence so that they could be incorporated in a federated Europe as distinct states, not as "Germany." This policy was neither understood nor supported by our British and American allies. On the contrary, they urged the fusion of the three Western zones and the creation of the Republic of Bonn. Inevitably, this raised the question of the unity of all of Germany. Even after the birth of the Western republic a safer policy was still available, however. If a European confederation had been set up without delay, Western Germany would have found her place in it and accustomed herself to it before nationalism was reborn. Instead, unfortunately, the West resorted to such fictions as the Council of Europe, and dangerous efforts were made to "pool" coal, steel and armed forces. Now Russia has decided to exploit her chosen weapon--the appeal of German unity. In the field of politics it is comparable to the atomic bomb.

It is useless to shut one's eyes to reality. Unity--the reconstitution of the Reich with its own armed force--is a primordial objective for the immense majority of Germans, even if it is proposed by the Soviets and even if it is encumbered with a Russian mortgage. From the Communists of Grotewohl through the Social Democrats of Schumacher and the Christian Democrats of Adenauer to the neo-Nazis of Remer the Germans will respond to the call of Einheit. Bolshevism plays its game boldly, astride the horse of the Apocalypse; German chauvinism is in full renaissance.

We French people know from the experience of three wars the meaning for us, and for the peace of the world, of the recurrent appearance of the German nebula which gathers itself together and then explodes. That was the phenomenon of the Bismarckian Germany of 1870, of Wilhelm's Empire of 1914 and of Hitler's Third Reich. Now the outlines of the Fourth Reich appear on the horizon, the product of Western errors and cynical Soviet calculation.

There is still time to deal with this problem; but only a little. The sole possible solution is a Franco-German agreement. In March of this year General de Gaulle said: "For centuries there has been a deplorable conflict between France and Germany. Europe cannot be built if these nations remain in opposition to one another." And he pointed out the path by which this "enormous and permanent historic fact" can be surmounted: "A direct agreement between France and Germany, on the subjects which have always divided them as well as on those which tend to bring them together." In General de Gaulle's view the "Atlantic policy" does not really tend in that direction. "This policy," he said, "pretends to arbitrate between a Germany and a France which are not in agreement, notably in the military field, rather than let them come to an understanding and themselves make that understanding the basis of a European confederation having in its charge matters of economy, defense, culture."

In other words, the solution is not to be found by countering German chauvinism with French chauvinism, but in the opposite course--an historic effort to rise above the age-old national conflict. Perhaps because they have been adversaries so long, it is possible for Frenchmen and Germans to reach a mutual understanding when they speak together directly. They know each other so well that the very dissimilarity of their qualities enables them to estimate each other more accurately than others can ever do. Only a Franco-German accord can provide the basis for a confederated Europe which would be a reality and not a fiction of the chancelleries. But the perpetual intervention of the other Powers, especially in view of the hope now entertained by the Germans of being able to secure a specially profitable alliance with America, makes such an accord impossible. And it is no less hindered by the French fear that the Americans will, in effect, recreate with their own hands the very idol which they brought down yesterday.

What should be the scope of this Franco-German accord? If it is to have the right results it should, I think, be "all-inclusive." It should include military clauses to determine the nature and relative size of the armed forces of each country. Its economic clauses should cover the whole productive systems of both nations--not coal and steel production only, as in the Schuman Plan. And it should have broad cultural provisions, establishing exchanges in the fields of science and the arts. It should be negotiated and signed by France in her full status as the French Union --that is, France as an African Power as well as a European Power--with all the consequences which that implies, economic and political. A Franco-German agreement of that nature and that scope would establish a zone of peace in the West, would deter even a reunified Germany from embarking on warlike ventures, and would open the way for her to a future in which she would not be dependent upon the Soviets. It would, finally, provide a solid base on which "Europe" could be constructed.

III

"Europe"--no one has done more in France than General de Gaulle and his followers to emphasize the vital necessity of turning that word into a concrete fact. It is quite absurd, of course, to compare the countries of Europe to the 13 original states of America, and to assume that like them the European nations can be integrated overnight into a single bloc. But we believe that a confederation is entirely possible at the present time through the following steps:

1. A referendum of the people of Europe, in which they will reply "yes" or "no" to the fundamental question: Do you desire a confederated Europe with supranational powers? I believe the response would be overwhelmingly affirmative.

2. The establishment of a democratic authority for the confederation.

3. The assignment to this authority, step by step, of a part of the sovereignty of each state in the fields of finance, economics, armed forces and culture.

Unfortunately, instead of attacking the problem in this fundamental and realistic way, the Western nations--largely in consequence of obstinate British opposition to the creation of a truly united Europe--have approached it by the roundabout road of so-called functional structures, devised by alleged economic and diplomatic experts. The Schuman Plan for a coal-steel "pool" and the proposal for a "European" army are chimeras. Such attempts to hang the steel industry, the military forces, and, presently, agriculture and other sections of the economy on complicated technical agencies without any democratic basis promise nothing but frustration to every country involved--certainly to France. A proposal to replace the normal powers of the President, Congress and Supreme Court of the United States by obscure committees of technocrats would be somewhat comparable. Such bodies are mere abstractions that will be swept away by the first puff of wind, and those who pin their hopes on them court two great dangers: that the old Franco-German antagonism will reappear in worse form; and that, in General de Gaulle's words, "The community of Europe, which ought to create the entente between the French and the Germans, instead runs the risk of opening a brilliant career toward hegemony for a unified Reich."

IV

Though the subject is important, I will not dwell on the way in which the daily operations of the Atlantic Pact sacrifice policy to technical expedients, in particular overriding French national feelings and forcing France to play a subordinate and dependent rôle on her own soil as well as in her overseas territories. This heedlessness damages the spirit of the pact and supplies choice items for Communist propaganda. Further, the fact that agreements are not properly ratified and made public keeps French opinion from understanding the methods by which air bases, supply depôts and services of all sort are installed on our territory, the way command is divided, or the relationship of American military authorities to French civil authorities. These things in my opinion are neglected and should not be; for in preparing for a possible conflict there is nothing more indispensable than to win the support of public opinion. In total war the battle is waged and won with the soul of the people.

The fundamental defect of the Atlantic alliance, however, is that it is merely--Atlantic. Actually, it is restricted to the North Atlantic. It would have value as a regional section of a larger grouping, but in itself it is as inadequate as a breastplate covering half the chest or a helmet protecting the forehead but not the back of the neck. The danger facing the free nations is global. To parry it they must have a global strategy. The land mass of Russia and her satellites, stretching over most of the Eurasian Heartland from the Elbe to Vladivostok and from Petsamo to Shanghai, exerts its heaviest pressure on four segments of its frontiers: first, the European front, where the strategic objective of the Soviets, valuable to them beyond anything else, would be to cross France and the Low Countries and reach the Channel and the Atlantic; second, the Balkans, where Moscow's objective would be to liquidate the Titoist heresy and descend upon the Mediterranean; third, the Near East, with its oil and the explosive politics of Islam; and fourth, Southeast Asia, where the objective would be to drive across Indo-China against Malaya and Indonesia, outflanking Japan and breaking America's defensive chain in the Pacific.

These four fronts are plainly but parts of one whole. The Russians have the ability, exploiting the enormous advantage which an imperialist Power derives from the possession of the continental Heartland, to manœuvre on their inner lines and force the free nations to disperse their strength. In face of this danger, only the European and Atlantic sector has even begun to organize its defense--the Atlantic Pact. The Balkan sector and that of the Near East, though linked in some respects, are nonetheless chaotic. In Asia, finally, three wars are being fought simultaneously against the Russian advance guards: in Malaya, in Indo-China and in Korea. Three Western Powers--Britain, France and America-- are engaged there with substantial forces; yet the three wars remain separate and distinct. The paradox is profoundly confusing.

The Mediterranean just as clearly forms a unit, but here deep disagreements divide the Allies, specifically in regard to the allocation of naval commands. In French eyes the western Mediterranean, with Marseilles on the north and Algiers on the south, is a body of water lying within our metropolitan territory. Communications across it from north to south are indispensable to us in peacetime, and absolutely vital in time of war. Thus North Africa's membership in the French Union, in the form of the French Departments of Algeria and the states associated by treaty-- Tunisia and Morocco--cannot be challenged. In fact, every Frenchman unless he is a Communist considers Algiers, Oran, Bizerte and Casablanca French cities: not one would dream of agreeing to a separation of North Africa from the metropolitan area. We are surprised and perplexed, then, when we read diatribes in the American press against France's alleged "colonialism." We do not understand how Americans can contemplate sawing off the branch on which they are seated--weakening those whose alliance they seek, and bringing aid and succor to the common enemy. France has committed no crime in North Africa other than to bring it the progress of which the native régimes were incapable. The Frenchmen who have settled there have become as North African as the farmers of Nebraska are American. Are we to be reproached for not having eliminated the Arabs as if they had been Sioux or Navajos? The Arab peoples have prospered and multiplied; and we on our side have planted roots there and become acclimated. Algeria is a French land and everyone in it is French; the Arabs and the Berbers are citizens; they vote, and send Moslem deputies to parliament in Paris. The French Government is determined that the overseas populations shall progress (it was General de Gaulle who, by decree of March 7, 1944, emancipated the Moslems of Algeria), but we cannot accept foreign intervention in these matters and would no more agree to the secession of North Africa than Americans would agree to the secession of California.

If the British, the French and the Americans are allies against the Russian menace through thick and thin, then they should be allies everywhere and should act everywhere as allies. It is impossible to stand shoulder to shoulder on the Rhine and quarrel in the Maghreb or on the Euphrates. The common welfare also demands an end to the traditional rivalries of the specialized services. A general settlement in the Mediterranean should include an equitable division of naval commands; reconsideration of the question of Libyan independence which was arranged at the expense of Italy's legitimate interests; the inclusion of Spain in the common defense measures; and the establishment of a firm common front against intrigues of every sort, even when they hide behind the catchwords of pan-Arab demagogy.

The three wars in the Far East are in fact a single conflict. Russia is pushing forward her Chinese, Korean, Malayan and Viet-Namese satellites, forcing us all to shed blood and spend enormous sums of money, while she herself expends nothing but stocks of war matériel. The weight which France is carrying in Indo-China is crushing; the war there holds the best of her troops in Asia, and decimates them. But she cannot abandon the independent states of Viet-Nam, Laos and Cambodia without condemning them to death.

The time has come to view things in the Far East realistically. If France retreated from Tonkin and Saïgon, Indo-China would at once fall into Soviet hands, and Malaya as far as Singapore would quickly follow. What would happen then to Indonesia, Burma and Siam? And who would expect that the Philippines, Ceylon and India would be immune? With all Southeast Asia at stake, the mastery of the Pacific as a whole is plainly in the balance. It is indispensable for the Western allies to coördinate the strategy, logistics and financing of the single war which the Kremlin is waging against them in Asia under three different guises.

V

The Russian menace, and the risk that the present policy is about to collapse, call for bold initiatives. These, in sum, are the essentials:

First, a direct agreement between France and Germany.

Second, based on the Franco-German agreement, immediate steps to set up a European confederative authority.

Third, an alliance scaled to meet the present threat--a global alliance, that is, to meet a threat that knows no boundaries, regions or limits. The Atlantic Pact should be retained as a regional agreement. The global alliance should be subdivided strategically into theatres of operation, and the commands allocated on the basis of geopolitical and psychological as well as military factors. In every theatre the nations with world interests --the United States, Great Britain and France--should draw into partnership the nations having particular regional interests-- the Western countries and Germany in Europe, Italy and Spain in the Mediterranean, Japan in the Far East, and so on.

If France is to play her indispensable rôle in the "Grand Alliance" of freedom it must be as a coördinate not a subordinate partner--integrated with the others but not dependent on any one of them. In brief, the French wish to be allies but they do not wish to be satellites.

Such are the conditions under which we believe that the global menace of Stalin's totalitarian empire, entrenched in the land mass of Eurasia, can be "contained." The fundamental precondition of the success of this policy of containment is that the Western peoples of the European continent know that if war comes they will be defended by all the forces of the alliance against invasion and occupation--defended not as temporary advanced posts in a peripheral strategy but as vital territory to be held without reservation. That guarantee would make the difference between a Europe resolved to fight and a Europe resigned to be abandoned and to abandon itself.

You are reading a free article.

Subscribe to Foreign Affairs to get unlimited access.

  • Paywall-free reading of new articles and a century of archives
  • Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
  • Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions
Subscribe Now
  • JACQUES SOUSTELLE, member of the French National Assembly and president of the parliamentary group of the Rassemblement du Peuple Français; member of General de Gaulle's French National Committee during the war; Minister of Information and Minister of Overseas Territories, 1945-1946
  • More By Jacques Soustelle