Franco-German relations are at once much better and much worse than is generally imagined in the United States. Better, because the frigid atmosphere and tensions of 1964-1965 obscure the solidity of the links forged between France and the Federal Republic. Worse, because these tensions are not solely attributable to General de Gaulle but are the expression of a profound divergence in perspective.

Who could have foreseen, at the moment of France's liberation, that 20 years later, to the question "What is your opinion in regard to West Germany?", the responses would be: "good opinion," 52 percent; "neither good nor bad," 29 percent; "bad opinion," 9 percent; no response, 9 percent- putting Germany ahead of all other countries in French sympathies? To explain this evolution thoroughly would require a book. Let us note simply that the amelioration began in 1945. At the end of the war, there were some Frenchmen who believed that the future could not be built on aversion and fear. Most of them were products of the Resistance. Often they had just returned from German prisons and concentration camps. They did not believe in collective guilt and wanted to help the German minority who were trying to build a new Germany. It was the organizers and the participants of the Franco-German meetings of the years 1945-1950 who constituted what might be called the human infrastructure of the present political relationship. Independent of daily politics, there exist today-in embassies, in ministries, on the staffs of newspapers, in the leadership of unions, political parties and professional organizations of both countries-men who have known each other for many years and have acquired the habit of working together.

When in 1963 the other European countries complained about the exclusive character of the Franco-German Treaty of Friendship, they were doubtless right, politically speaking. But were Belgium, Holland and even Great Britain prepared, as France was, for such intimacy? From actual joint cabinet meetings to the success of the Franco-German Office for Youth, created in July 1963 and contributing last year alone to the meeting of 180,000 youths of both countries at 6,500 gatherings, seminars and study trips, that intimacy has been based on a network of contacts and prior exchanges-a network denser between France and Germany than between either of the two countries and any other.

The transformation of the French economic psychology also helps to explain the rapprochement. General de Gaulle was right when he said to the workers at Duisburg in September 1962, "Today, what is accomplished in the Ruhr . . . evokes only sympathy and satisfaction in my country." The new faith in development has done its work, as has, in the political sphere, the European idea of which Robert Schuman was both apostle and creator. Although the Federal Republic is approximately the same size as France, that would not be the case with a unified Germany. Yet it is interesting today to see that 55 percent of Frenchmen polled replied affirmatively to the question, "In your estimation, is the reunification of Germany desirable or undesirable?"; only 26 percent replied in the negative. Contrary to what is generally thought outside France, especially in Germany, Frenchmen interested in political problems do not place the question of German reunification in the context of "Germany" but of "East- West relations"-a fact which has to do with attitudes to be examined in a moment.

Following his return to power, General de Gaulle contributed powerfully- sometimes reversing the attitude he had taken prior to 1958-to the improvement of Franco-German relations. Since 1963, he has caused them to deteriorate, although this year they seem to have recovered slightly. Without doubt he has brought a mass of Frenchmen who were still holding back at the end of the Fourth Republic to accept the idea of an understanding with Germany. But in the Federal Republic, his style (at first seductive), his anti-Americanism, his recent flirtation with Moscow, have seriously chilled the climate. And his nationalism is feared by those Germans most attached to a democracy which is still poorly insured against some unfortunate contagion. The treaty of January 22, 1963, will decidedly not be an electoral weapon for the Christian Democratic Union.

But the essential does not lie there. If de Gaulle should disappear, if a "European" like M. Maurice Faure should succeed M. Couve de Murville at the Quai d'Orsay, the climate will certainly change and some sharp conflicts over Europe and the Atlantic Alliance will be alleviated; but French and Germans, though closely united, would continue to have different points of view on some central questions. Between France and the Federal Republic a marriage has been performed. Divorce is highly improbable, but the spouses do not belong to the same denomination.


Their positions were different from the beginning. The division of the world and the cold war did not have the same significance for France as for Germany. From 1947, French policy was forced to renounce little by little its own objectives (at that time they were to diminish and decentralize Germany) in order to gain an American guarantee of security. Significantly, the fusion of the French zone of occupation occurred simultaneously with the signing of the Atlantic Pact. Even then the French were not going to give up the idea of an East-West détente, because depolarization would ease the internal division between Communists and non-Communists as well as improve France's power status.

In periods of tension, however, the military potential of a thoroughly anti- Communist West Germany assumed greater importance. Indeed, the German return to sovereignty, to an international role, was effected largely because of the cold war. In 1949 the Federal Republic and the Atlantic Alliance were born almost like twins of the East-West conflict. Since 1948, the Berlin crisis had transformed the vanquished enemy into an ally and the capital of Prussianism and Hitler's Reich into a symbol of freedom. The tension was undoubtedly going to aggravate the division of Germany, but it would also, and especially, permit the Federal Republic to attain the foremost goal of its foreign policy-that is, the right to have a foreign policy, something originally forbidden by the Statute of Occupation.

In March 1951 the Bonn government was authorized to create a ministry of foreign affairs in order to be able to sign the treaty for the European Coal and Steel Community and to be in a better position to take part in the preparations for German rearmament. The creation of Europe represented progress toward equal rights. For the Federal Republic, supranationality meant at the very most renouncing the acquisition of something it did not yet have; while for France it meant abandoning a sovereignty already solidly in its possession. This explains in part why for 15 years, from Bidault's veiled refusal in 1953 to the thundering "Nons" of General de Gaulle, the French attitude toward political integration has always been more reserved than that of the Germans. In the same way, the status of inequality within NATO is much more unacceptable to France, for whom the Big Four once had meaning, than to the Federal Republic, which finds the Atlantic Alliance under American domination an egalitarian paradise compared with the situation of 1945 and even 1949. In taking the initiative in rearmament, Konrad Adenauer understood perfectly how much it would improve the young state's position.

The desire to normalize the exercise of sovereignty is limited in Germany, however, by the given factors of the essential national problem-the defense of Berlin and reunification. The Paris agreements which took effect in May 1955 state expressly that "The Three Powers reserve the rights and responsibilities previously exercised or reserved by them concerning Berlin and matters involving all Germany, including the reunification of Germany and a final peace settlement." No German politician speaks of revising this clause, though it constitutes an enormous restriction on full sovereignty. That is because the restriction is also a guarantee that the Federal Republic will not be left alone to face the Soviet Union or Ulbricht's Germany. It prolongs the quadripartite system of 1945, founded, indeed, on the sovereignty of the conquering powers, but also on the unity of Germany. To let the three Western powers abandon their responsibilities would be to justify the Russians in doing the same. In this matter the Soviet Union has always been very prudent. In spite of six years of declarations by Khrushchev about the outdated character of the 1945 agreements, the "Treaty of Friendship, Assistance and Coöperation" signed at Moscow on June 12, 1964, between the Soviet Union and the D.D.R. states precisely, in article 9, that the rights and obligations set forth in the Potsdam Agreement remain intact.

Under these conditions, de Gaulle's statement in his press conference of February 4, 1965, that German reunification should be negotiated between East and West Europe, was bound to upset the Germans. The sensible statement that the German problem cannot be settled without the agreement of Poland and Czechoslovakia is not very pleasing to the Germans, and they were shocked by the absence of any reference to quadripartiteism i.e. to American responsibility. Paris issued many statements in an effort to smooth things over; but an essential point was demonstrated: although the Federal Republic is more disposed than France to accept European supranationality, it nevertheless sets limits in advance on the authority to be exercised by a unified Europe. For Germans, the German problem does not lie within European jurisdiction-the more so since the problem is not one of unification only, but also, and primarily, of the defense of the free parts of divided Germany, the Federal Republic and West Berlin, menaced by a Communist Germany supported by the U.S.S.R.

The notion of security constitutes a fundamental element in the Franco- German divergence of outlook. A curious turnabout has taken place since the prewar period. After 1918, France was obsessed with security. The Maginot Line was the sign of fear, born in large part from an awareness of terrible weakness due to the frightful massacres of the war and aggravated by a demo- graphically aging population. Since 1948, it has been Germany that is obsessed with security, and here again it is due to the awareness of weakness-this time in regard to the Soviet Union. The French, on the other hand, have perhaps never felt so secure as in the last few years. There was certainly fear in 1947-1949. When General de Gaulle reëntered political life in the spring of 1947, it was because he believed a third world war was impending. When French diplomacy sought so diligently the following year to obtain an American guarantee, it was because the Communist takeover in Prague led France to believe that a new Soviet advance was imminent and that precautionary measures must be taken. But little by little these fears were placated. Today no one believes at all in the possibility of a war in Europe, in part because the U.S.S.R. is judged to be pacific (why would it jeopardize its internal development?), in part because of implicit confidence in "the balance of terror."

Since there is no danger, and (or) since the United States cannot let the balance be destroyed, there is less need for the army or the national atomic force as instruments of security; they are to be used as diplomatic weapons, notably within the Western world. The Germans believe there is a risk that the United States might not defend Europe and draw the conclusion that the Americans should not be offended or discouraged. General de Gaulle can go so far as to provoke them because he really believes neither in the Soviet threat nor in American abandonment. In principle, the French atomic force was conceived as a political detonator. Since the Soviet Union is capable of destroying the United States, Europeans could not be sure that the Russians would believe in the American counter-threat, connected as it is with the risk of suicide; some means was therefore needed to convince the U.S.S.R. that the conflict could, by the decision of France, become atomic. But even the detonator theory carries the inference that the physical retreat of the Americans from Europe will not create insecurity.

For the Germans the contrary is true. The sole means of assuring the security of Europe in a period when counter-threat and the risk of suicide are bound together is to see that the largest possible American force is stationed near the line which separates the two camps; then any violation of the line will cause immediate American losses and oblige the United States to retaliate, thus beginning the "escalation" which is so much feared and by that fact constitutes the best way of preventing the violation from occurring in the first place. The weakness of the French position rests principally in the fact that even General de Gaulle has until now accepted the German reasoning with regard to Berlin; this reasoning is accepted by all the Western governments and explains why they have always rejected any proposal to internationalize or neutralize the city. If there were no Western soldiers (and especially Americans) in West Berlin, an attack from the East would carry no risk; no president of the United States could credibly brandish the nuclear threat to reverse a fait accompli. On the other hand, the death of American soldiers would compel any American president to take counter-measures which would constitute the beginning of escalation, thus posing a considerable risk to the East. Why, ask the Germans, should what is true for Berlin not also be true for Europe as a whole?

Without pushing the paradox too far, and contrary to appearances, it can be stated that the question of confidence in the United States scarcely presents itself to the French, while for the Germans it is at the center of their foreign-policy preoccupations. Germans make innumerable approaches to the White House or the State Department to obtain assurances. They must convince themselves over and over again that they can safely have confidence in the United States, that it continues to support them in their confrontation with the great power which holds 17 million Germans prisoner and menaces the liberty of the others. And to have confidence, one must be certain of inspiring confidence. France can permit itself to go to the very verge of outright offense to the United States. Even the distrust which General de Gaulle inspires does not reach the bedrock of the collective American psychology; whereas the Federal Republic, heir to the heavy German past, multiplies its acts of allegiance without causing American opinion to ask itself any the less often what confidence is to be placed in the Germans.

The position which the United States occupies in German election campaigns is significant in this respect. In 1953 and 1957 the Social Democratic Party lost the elections partly because many voters thought that if the S.P.D. came to power it would shake American confidence in the Federal Republic and, consequently, lessen the confidence which Germany could have in the protection and support of the United States. In 1961 the S.P.D. sought to overcome this liability, and in 1964-1965 has made a complete about-face. Confronting the sometimes divided Christian Democrats, the S.P.D. has firmly played the card of fidelity to the United States. Not for an instant has its approbation of American policy faltered either with regard to Viet Nam or Santo Domingo. In France, on the contrary, the quarrel between Gaullists and anti-Gaullists is not about whether to criticize the United States, but in what terms. Gaston Defferre's last statement before he withdrew his candidacy for President spoke of "the serious political error" of Santo Domingo and reproached General de Gaulle for contenting himself with "saying a few disagreeable things to the Americans" when "it would be better to place ourselves in a state of resistance to the invasion of American capital and American enterprises."


The Franco-German divergence on defense and in the matter of confidence is in some ways symbolized by the military realities of NATO, which also brings out another difference-that between German "Europocentrism" and French "globalism." The shortfall in the French contribution to NATO forces is almost as old as the organization itself. In the Fifth Republic it is due to disengagement, the refusal to integrate. In the Fourth Republic the French army was in Indochina, then in Algeria, not in Europe. Common defense against the East in Europe was and remains only one French national interest among other interests.

Inversely, ten years after the initiation of German rearmament there is, properly speaking, no German army. Apart from a few divisions of frontier guards, all the divisions brought into being by the Federal Republic are integrated into the Atlantic organization. This total integration originates in the first place from distrust. The subordination of the German army corresponds to the need of Germany's partners for security in view of the possibility of renewed German aggression, toward the East even more than toward the West. The second origin lies in the German desire to maintain the physical presence of the United States, and an integrated structure assures this more effectively than national armies would. Finally, the absence of any German equivalent of "interventionary forces," the key element of the French military organization, results from the fact that the Federal Republic has no obligations and ambitions outside the defensive field covered by NATO.

Understandably enough, German foreign policy is overly preoccupied with the "German problem." In addition to the desire to please, the absence of any criticism of American policies in Viet Nam or Santo Domingo is evidence of a lack of interest. The great industrial power which is the Federal Republic has no desire whatsoever to be a great political power. In Brazil, India or elsewhere, German capital and German steel mills have no political purpose, except in so far as the German question is concerned; an African or Asian government is "good" or "bad" according as it does or does not recognize the D.D.R. Germans feel that in aiding Berlin, in rearming and in being firmly anti-Communist on the Elbe, they contribute enough to the common cause to be able to leave world-wide responsibilities to others.

This attitude conforms to the highest hopes of the victors of 1945, who sought to uproot all will-to-power from the German soul. Nevertheless it poses problems, particularly as regards the future of Europe. The "European" adversaries of General de Gaulle in France delude themselves about the possibility that a united Europe would play an important role in world politics: a common foreign policy would necessarily be influenced by the German reluctance to see Europe assume such a role. It would also have to take account of the priority which Germans give the German problem. Here the German haste in demanding European political integration is a bit confused. For example, what German government in the foreseeable future could accept seeing the majority decide against it on such issues as the Polish borders or the status of the D.D.R.? Responsible Germans dodge the question, taking it for granted that a united Europe would adopt the policy toward the East which they desire.

This could well be an illusion, like the argument of the French "Europeans" that their five partners also believe in the idea of Europe as a Third Force. For the only country which might have global preoccupations of the same order as France does not belong to the Europe of the Six: Great Britain. One could cite any number of parallel quotations from the British and French leaders, and from the opposition in both countries, about the necessity of retaining military forces to intervene outside Europe and to influence world politics-above all the policies of the United States. Alone in the West, Great Britain and France must ask themselves the terrible question: How to retain world influence after ceasing to be a world power? The joint failure of Suez was a symbol. Both countries were searching for a new basis of influence. Did not Britain's desire to enter Europe spring largely from its hope that through Europe it might retrieve the influence which, even joined with the Commonwealth, it no longer had? Similarly, General de Gaulle looks on Europe largely as a means to extend French influence. And not only de Gaulle. His Socialist or M.R.P. adversaries, who, like him, defend the solidarity of France with the young African states, are not really more disposed than he is to allow Europe to take the place of the linguistic, cultural and intellectual "presence" of France.


There exists still another Franco-German divergence of view with regard to the Third World, having its source in a difference of ideological orientation. The consequences are felt in a variety of directions, from relations with the East to the aims of labor unions. If the Right and the Left are defined as in one case a defense of the established order and in the other as the effort to establish a new order, France would find herself (on the basis of ideas more than a political or technical realization of them) clearly further to the left than the Federal Republic. Anti- Americanism is not enough by itself to explain a certain French "Castroism" and the animated criticism of the landing in Santo Domingo. There must be added the sympathy felt for those who revolt in the name of liberty and equality against those who possess wealth and power. And if progress must come through socialism, then go for socialism. Authoritarianism which transforms old structures for the benefit of the disinherited is excused where liberalism which benefits only the privileged is not. Germans, dominated as they are by anti-Communist ideology, are satisfied more easily with American explanations-yesterday about Guatemala, today about Santo Domingo-which tend to identify as Communism what in most French eyes is an attempt to establish more political, economic and social justice.

This ideological difference also plays an important role in European affairs. The French attachment to the idea of planning stems in part from the conviction that the economic and social order must be changed, while Germans, who are satisfied to let "the laws of the market" work, consider Western society more satisfactory. As a result, economic integration, the creation of a true economic community in Europe, has more supporters in France than in Germany, while the reverse is true for the political community. If it were only to maintain the French system of "flexible planning," the European Economic Community would be something quite different from a simple common market. But it is precisely this "planned Europe" which Professor Erhard dreads, simply because of the risks it would entail for the Marktwirtschaft in the Federal Republic.

The opposing ideologies have even more important repercussions on the views taken of the Soviet East. The chances are that every change there toward a relaxation of totalitarianism will be underestimated in Germany and overestimated in France. On the German side, the idea of a Western civilization which is essentially good is opposed to the idea of a Communist world which is essentially bad. France has a worse conscience about the disorders, failures and injustices of Western civilization than has Germany, and the Eastern régimes appear less universally reprehensible. Moreover, the French have learned in school that terror and oppression may be only passing phenomena in a general movement toward progress: the French Revolution advanced humanity in spite of the blood it spilled. As a result, many Frenchmen-and not only those on the Left-have a double standard when it comes to violence. One student imprisoned under Franco elicits more emotion than ten students imprisoned by Ulbricht: "reactionary" oppression is somehow of another sort than oppression carried out in the name of progress. At the same time, the French are much more apt than the Germans to view the evolution of the East serenely and especially not to require the complete "Westernization" of the People's Democracies.

When some years ago Walter Hallstein, then Secretary of State in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, spoke of a Europe stretching to the Urals, what he meant was not very different from the "rollback" of John Foster Dulles. When General de Gaulle uses the phrase "Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals," he means the reunification of the Continent after liberalization (but without complete "Westernization") of the countries to the East. Some purely French considerations certainly come into play here, if only the old ties with Poland or Czechoslovakia. But the ideological aspect is probably more important: between Gomulka and Salazar, the majority of French would choose the first, the majority of Germans the second.

This oversimplified outline needs to be shaded in, of course, especially when Rolf Lahr, one of the two Secretaries of State in the Foreign Ministry at Bonn, speaks in Bucharest of the "European solidarity" which links the Federal Republic to Rumania, and when Die Zeit and Der Spiegel adopt "French" attitudes toward Eastern Europe. Moreover, everyday politics will continue to be dominated by attitudes peculiar to General de Gaulle, with their contradictory and corrosive aspects in German matters. In order to escape from being obsessed with its own problem, the Federal Republic needed and continues to need a task which is more than simply national. Until now, there have been two: one negative-defense against Communism; the other positive-building Europe. But French policy toward the Federal Republic presently consists in reproaching it for being restricted to the first, while refusing to allow it to accomplish the second.

But the more profound and permanent differences analyzed here are no less real. The American press and American leaders have a tendency to underestimate them-at the same time that they underestimate, in a reverse way, the number and strength of the links which today bind France and Germany together.

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