The Pentagon Papers
Document 71, Telegram from Ambassador Dillon to Secretary of State Dulles on the French Position in the Negotiations, 4 July 1954, pp. 543-44.
TO: Secretary of State
NO: 41, July 4, 3 p.m.
EYES ONLY SECRETARY
Reference DEPTEL 52.
I can well understand difficulties we face as described in reference telegram. I feel that French position is fairly clear as of now but difficulty may well arise in last days or hours of conference after Ministers have returned to Geneva.
In that connection we face following problem. If we withdraw delegation from Geneva we lose all possibility of influencing French to stand firm, and we also throw away whatever restraining influence we may still have on Communist delegations. French would feel abandoned and, with only Eden to advise, would undoubtedly accept a result more favorable to the Communists than if we stayed at Geneva. The same effect but to a lesser extent would result if neither Under Secretary nor you return to Geneva for closing negotiations.
On the other hand even if we do maintain a full delegation at Geneva headed by you or Under Secretary there is always the possibility and maybe even probability that French will accept a settlement that does not fully accord with 7 points in US-UK agreement. This will be particularly apt to happen if Eden does not stand firm in final negotiations.
I do not feel that public statement of our position would be helpful as it would create the antagonism mentioned in next to last paragraph of reference telegram. Even if we do not consider final settlement satisfactory to us, I feel that unless we agree not to use force to upset it we will be in an untenable position here vis-a-vis Soviet and neutralist propaganda that will picture US as the nation which by its acts clearly shows that it wants war.
Mendes is fully conscious that we may feel that we cannot be a party to the settlement. However, I do not feel that this would necessarily weigh very heavily with him in final settlement, particularly if he can obtain Eden's support. Naturally I have no idea what is in mind of Communists on this score.
We have one strong card which so far we have apparently not cared to use. That is we can trade willingness to give full diplomatic support to French in their effort to sell settlement to Vietnam in return for a settlement that we can support. The indication which French now have that no matter what the settlement may be, we cannot be counted upon for support with Vietnam obviously greatly weakens our influence with French.
In conclusion if we base our actions solely on the attempt to get the best possible settlement I feel that we should (1) maintain our delegation at Geneva, (2) have you or the Under Secretary return to head the delegation when the other Foreign Ministers return, (3) tell the French at once that we will support them in selling settlement to Vietnam provided that settlement is satisfactory to us, (4) maintain close contact with and pressure on Eden so he sticks to 7 points US-UK agreement.
I fully realize that domestic political considerations must also be taken into account, but I am not in a position to evaluate them so I have confined these thoughts to a description of the best method available to US to influence the final settlement at Geneva in the direction we desire.
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