NEARLY a century ago, in a prophetic article, Karl Marx characterized the line from Stettin to Trieste as the frontier of Tsarist imperialist ambitions. Today, the armies of Soviet imperialism have advanced to that line. This fact dominates all European politics and, consequently, world politics, in so far as any revolutionary development in Europe will necessarily compromise world peace. It therefore dominates the foreign policy of France, which is first and foremost a European Power, astride the end of the Continent between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, but also a World Power with territories and interests all over the globe.

General de Gaulle in July 1947, at Rennes, sought to put the French people on their guard. He described in forceful terms the alarming extension of Russian power over Europe: "Two thirds of the Continent are now under the thumb of Moscow," he declared. "Soviet Russia has already established, or is actively seeking to establish over certain Allied countries -- Poland, Jugoslavia, Albania -- and over certain conquered countries -- Prussia, Saxony, Rumania, Hungary and Bulgaria -- a totalitarian dictatorship that is only an appendage or a reflection of her own. . . . She holds Czechoslovakia and Finland in her power, and her hand is heavy upon Austria. Moreover, she has directly annexed the Baltic States, as well as considerable territories carved out of Prussia, Finland, Rumania and Poland. . . . This bloc of nearly 400 million people now borders upon Sweden, Turkey, Greece and Italy. Its frontier is only 500 kilometers, distance from our own! We, who have never trifled with the freedom of men and the independence of France as if they were stakes in a game, declare that this state of affairs may soon place both these cherished ideals in peril."

It must be noted that General de Gaulle's denunciation of the Soviet danger does not spring from any initial hostility toward Russia. During the war, the French National Committee, of which I was a member, never had any illusions as to the character of the internal régime of the Soviet Union. But just as our Third Republic before 1914 concluded an alliance with absolutist Holy Russia, we, too, after June 1941, tried to reestablish close relations with the Soviets. In our view, the most important thing was to win the war, and the second was to set up a European balance such that no rapid rebirth of German militarism could endanger the peace. This second objective, however, was based upon one vital condition: that victorious Russia would show restraint in her victory and permit the neighboring peoples of eastern and central Europe to enjoy their national independence. This condition she has not fulfilled. It is she, then, who has rendered impossible any return to the traditional French policy of a Franco-Russian alliance. Today, in consequence, de Gaulle, who as recently as 1944 signed a pact with Stalin in order to finish the war, is the most forceful exponent in France of a policy of resistance to Soviet expansion.

During the last three years events in the field of international diplomacy have proceeded so rapidly that it is difficult even to remember the attitude of the Allied Governments and of Allied public opinion toward the Soviet Union in 1945. Only little by little did the true face of Soviet aims reveal itself, from Yalta and Potsdam to the succeeding international conferences. For the people of France, however, the attitude of the Communists within their own country was an infallible index of what was happening on the international scene: the aggressiveness of the Soviets made itself manifest on our own soil and in our internal political life even before it became clear to world public opinion.

Since this was the case, we had to develop a French foreign policy geared to the new situation, and to define its aims. These might be expressed as follows: First, France must be able to make a real contribution to the maintenance of peace. Second, no matter what happens, even in the event of a conflict, the independence of France and the liberties of her people must be safeguarded.

It is obvious that these objectives cannot be achieved by a kind of French isolationism. Our country knows full well that it could never remain neutral in any European or world conflict. The problem of French independence can be considered only with reference to the European complex of which France is a part. Actually, it is possible to conceive of a Europe unified under Russian hegemony. But we cannot accept this "solution" -- and by "we" I mean the enormous majority of French men and women, above all those who look to the leadership of General de Gaulle. The reason we cannot is that it presupposes the destruction of the democratic system in France and the establishment there of the dictatorial régime now prevailing in Russia. It would also entail the abolition of our independence as a nation, even if the forms of independence were preserved by means of a puppet government supported by the Communist Party, or by a "Front" of several parties dominated by the Communists. Finally, we are convinced that this solution would inevitably lead to a war between the continents.

General de Gaulle therefore defined our policy in the following terms: "Let us assume the leadership of those who wish to reconstruct a free and balanced Europe, utilizing, under conditions that respect our independence, any assistance that outside Powers, especially the United States, may be able to give us."

The phrase "assume the leadership," as used by the President of the Rally of the French People, obviously does not imply any desire for political or military hegemony. However, it is our conviction that for historical and geographical reasons France is the key to western Europe. If France were Bolshevized, what would happen in the British and American zones of Germany? What would happen in Belgium? What chance would even Italy have, encircled as she is by France, French North Africa and Tito's Jugoslavia? Conversely, the powerful movement necessary to achieve an economic union of the western European states -- the first step toward their political federation -- must be centered in France if it is to have any chance of success. England is really outside the Continent; her imperial and maritime interests constantly draw her away from Europe. Although it is most desirable that she be one of the first European states to enter the system that must be constituted, it is doubtful that she can give the stimulus or take the initiative for its creation. France, on the other hand, can play the rôle of a spiritual guide to the benefit of all the European countries. This rôle is in harmony with her traditions and will awaken sympathetic echoes throughout the Continent -- even in the lands beyond the iron curtain.

As early as July 27, 1943, the date of the fall of Mussolini, de Gaulle proclaimed the "interdependence of France and Italy" to be an essential factor for "reason and hope in Europe." On October 7 of the same year, at Ajaccio, when the Fascist troops were crushed in Corsica, he declared that France felt no resentment toward Italy. Today these two nations -- the only western countries represented in the Cominform at Belgrade -- seem to be the two principal objects of Soviet expansion on the Continent. The first step toward the realization of a unified Europe must be a rapprochement between them. This should be accompanied by agreements between France and "Benelux," and, finally, by an agreement with England. Paris is geographically and, more important, politically, the center of the network that embraces The Hague, Brussels, London, and Rome.

An agreement with Great Britain is an essential element in this system. It would be vain to attempt to build a united Europe without first settling the conflicts that periodically beset the Franco-British alliance. General de Gaulle and his friends were too close to England's heroic struggle during the war, they were too intimately associated with the British war effort, they themselves sacrificed too much for this alliance, to be anything but its firmest supporters. Nevertheless, an effective alliance can be built only in an atmosphere of complete understanding. A thoroughgoing settlement of Franco-British affairs must concern itself principally with Germany and the Arab countries.

Now it is a fact that, in the period between the two world wars British policy often seemed to be based on the theory that "the Germans were Englishmen and the French were Germans." The old idea of a European balance of power found expression in the notion that Britain should act as the arbiter between France and Germany, both of which must be contained. Experience has shown how disastrous this philosophy was alike for France, which was invaded and devastated three times within 70 years, and for England, which almost perished during the recent conflict. France, for her part, cannot accept any policy that has as its object to reconstruct a unified and potentially aggressive Germany.

In this connection it is necessary to dispel certain false interpretations and myths current not only in Great Britain but in the United States. The French people as a whole, and sometimes General de Gaulle especially, are represented as determined to impose a "vengeful peace" which would keep Germany permanently prostrate, starved and ruined. Nothing could be further from the truth. When de Gaulle paid a visit as President of the French Government to occupied Germany he was not afraid to declare that the Allies must rebuild Germany -- a statement for which he was sharply criticized by the Communists. We are perfectly well aware that Europe cannot survive with an abscess of poverty and ruins at its very center. We understand that the Continent cannot recover economically without the labor and production of the German masses. But we nevertheless believe that between the economic reconstruction of the former territories of the Reich and the political reconstitution of a Reich there stretches all the distance between a wise peace policy and an extremely dangerous adventure.

For centuries the various German states existed without threatening the peace of Europe. Yet as soon as these states were unified into a Reich under William I and Bismarck, then under William II, and finally under Hitler, the huge political and military machine thus created was irresistibly drawn toward conquest. There are many who say or write that it is fantastic to wish to reconstitute the old German states. Nonetheless, what we know of Bavaria, for example, leads us to believe that the Bavarians are not in the least anxious to see a new Reich created. The same is true of the Rhineland-Palatinate state established in the French zone. In the Saar, the vast majority of the population, with the exception of an insignificant number of Communists, voted -- in full freedom -- for the autonomy of this territory. We believe, therefore, that it is absolutely necessary to let the Germans serve their democratic apprenticeship in a framework of separate states which are in no way united in one Reich and which can be integrated economically into the western European complex. To sum up the French position on Germany: Economic prosperity? Yes. Political unity? No.

Moreover, it must be realized that a policy based on the idea of reconstructing one Germany is now obsolete. Whether we like it or not, Germany has already been divided into two parts. Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that a German government is constituted in Frankfurt with authority over all the territories now occupied by the western Allies. Such a government would be weak indeed compared with that which the Russians would in all probability constitute in their zone, doubtless with its seat in Berlin. Moscow has too much political realism not to take advantage of all the traditional resources of Prussia: the Prussian army, with marshals like von Paulus, the Prussian Junkers, and the Prussian administration and bureaucracy, ripe for incorporation into a kind of National-Communism based upon mass propaganda. The West-German politicians, Social-Democrats and Christian Socialists, would then embark upon a desperate competition with the Berlin leaders, each group trying to outdo the other in nationalist frenzy, until the "Anschluss" or fusion of the two Germanies was achieved. This would be to the advantage of the Russian Empire, which would then extend from Vladivostok to the Rhine, with Germanism as its vanguard. Perhaps certain Prussian minds have already conceived the hope that they can thus accomplish in defeat the dream which Hitler was unable to realize through conquest.

We consider that the recreated West-German states, each with its own democratic institutions, its own independent existence, and a decent standard of living, would constitute the only real obstacle to such an adventure. In any case they would form a more substantial obstacle than a phantom Reich which could not fail to be irresistibly attracted toward a Sovietized Prussia.

Britain, France and the United States must try to agree together on the rectification, where necessary, of the frontiers of the three zones, the recognition of whatever autonomous states may be constituted within these zones, and the establishment of a régime which will enable these states to function without imposing a ruinous financial burden upon the Allied nations. They should also establish a régime of control over the Ruhr which will prevent it from becoming again the arsenal of a new imperialism, while allowing it to work to the fullest possible capacity for the economic reconstruction of Western Europe.

The western German states should adhere to a European federation, of which they would gradually become full-fledged members. During the first phase they would develop their own democratic institutions under a protectorate of the Allied Powers, but would achieve complete independence within the framework of the European federation as a result of the eventual withdrawal of the Allied forces. We conceive of this federation as a democratic organization based on an Assembly or Congress representing all the countries concerned. Part of the national sovereignty of each state would have to be surrendered to the Congress, especially in economic matters such as tariffs. The federal institutions, which should be built up as soon as possible, would have as their first task to deal with the Ruhr administration.

One of the most frequent sources of friction between France and England is the British policy with regard to the Arab lands. Syria and Lebanon have furnished a good illustration of this fact. In the present situation, France is primarily interested in her African territories, some of which (Algeria, for example) are an integral part of the mother country. Here again it must be stated that a real settlement of Franco-British differences implies an agreement that so far as British influence can be used it will oppose any interference by the Arab League in French North Africa.

But the problem of "Europe and Africa" is much broader. From Algiers to Brazzaville, from Dakar to Nairobi, from Lagos to Leopoldville, three western European countries -- England, France and Belgium -- control vast reaches of the African continent. There is no need to stress the importance of this area from the point of view of military strategy (Mediterranean bases, bases on the South Atlantic) and economic resources (fats, rubber, minerals, uranium). From both standpoints the United States is as vitally interested in Africa as in Europe, which considers the great continent to the south an extension of, and a complement to, itself. If there is to be coöperation between the nations of western Europe and if they are to make progress toward forming a continental federation, their agreements must include those parts of Africa which they control. The crowning achievement of a unified Europe must be the incorporation of Africa into the European system.

When people discuss the relations between Europe and the United States they have a tendency to forget that, since 1945, America has been a European Power, directly governing one part of Europe: the American occupation zone in Germany. Moreover, everything that happens in England, France and Italy necessarily affects the United States, often in its vital interests.

It therefore is to the interest of the United States that western Europe should be constituted as a viable unit. Aid to Europe should not be considered as a humanitarian undertaking or as relief, but as a policy and a strategy. Stalin's allies in Europe are hunger, misery and despair; but these forces are also America's most dangerous enemies. Since France is one of the vital bastions of the European continent, its defense is of capital importance for the United States.

General de Gaulle has taken every possible occasion since his return to political life to explain how he conceives of Franco-American coöperation in this domain, especially with regard to the execution of the Marshall Plan. He has often said that the French people "must not sit back and wait for a miracle." He has emphasized the absolute necessity for the French people themselves to work and to produce. He has also made clear on several occasions that he thinks American economic assistance to France should be the object of agreements freely arrived at between the two countries. Everyone must realize how indispensable such agreements are for the maintenance of democratic régimes in Europe. For the peoples of the Continent, to receive American economic support is of immediate importance; for the people of the United States, to give such support is a long-term interest, but not less vital.

It would take too much space to recall the numerous references made by General de Gaulle to the problem of organizing world peace. He has always declared himself strongly in favor of the United Nations, even to the point of accepting international authority on certain questions. For example, in July 1946, at Bar-le-Duc, he stated that "the proposals made by the United States Government for the purpose of centering in an international and compulsory organization all authority over matters pertaining to atomic energy, in all parts of the world, seem to us wise and just."

We conceive of a European federation as a regional organization within the world-wide United Nations framework. Obviously, a part of the federal sovereignty of each regional group should be given up to the world authority, exactly as a part of the national sovereignty of each individual state ought to be given up to the regional federation. Of course we do not think that this aim can be achieved easily. It is even possible that disastrous conflicts may have to be fought again before the necessary light dawns upon mankind. In the meantime it is France's duty, as we understand it, to do everything she can, first, to attain a federated Europe, and secondly, to promote close coöperation between the new Europe and the United States.

A realistic foreign policy cannot be based upon sentiment alone; to make it solid it must embody the common vital interests of several nations. This identity of interests is present today in western Europe and America. France can and must have a share in planning and executing a policy which not only will be of substantial assistance in her own recovery, but will also afford her an opportunity to give substantial aid to others. This is, for us, the profound meaning of what General de Gaulle has defined as "international coöperation, which from now on is mankind's only possible road to peace and salvation."

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  • JACQUES SOUSTELLE, Secretary-General of General de Gaulle's "Rally of the French People;" during the war, member of the French National Committee in London; after the liberation, Minister of Information and Minister of Overseas Territories
  • More By Jacques Soustelle