The Pentagon Papers
Document 78, Telegram from Ambassador Dillon to Secretary of State Dulles on French Reaction to Dulles' Letter to Mendes-France, 11 July 1954, pp. 552-53
TO: Secretary of State
NO: 134, July 11, 9 p.m.
SENT DEPARTMENT 134, REPEATED INFORMATION GENEVA 21, LONDON 35
FOR SECRETARY FROM AMBASSADOR
I delivered Secretary's message Department telegram 127 to Mendes in Geneva after lunch Sunday. At same time, I gave him personal message contained in first paragraph Department telegram 128. In view Eden's absence (SECTO 585), I did not (repeat not) see him. Johnson will deliver message to Eden tomorrow, if Aldrich has not (repeat not) already done so.
Mendes was very touched by personal message in Department telegram 128 and twice asked me to be sure and thank Secretary on his behalf for this thought. Regarding Department telegram 127, Mendes expressed extreme disappointment and gave concern at United States decision not (repeat not) to be represented at Ministerial level. He divided his remarks into two categories, first, the effect of our decision on Conference itself, and second, the overall effect of our decision on world affairs.
Regarding first category, Mendes stated that our absence made French bargaining position far weaker. He stated that if Secretary was present, France would not (repeat not) accept anything at Conference that was unacceptable to United States. As he put it in his own words, presence of Secretary would give United States in effect a veto power on decisions of Conference. He felt it particularly important that we have someone at Geneva who could take strong personal position with Molotov, if and when necessary, and without having to refer to Washington for instructions. Mendes also feels that United States absence at Ministerial level will lead Communists to increase their pressure and be more demanding in order to deepen the obvious rift between the Western powers. He said France had not (repeat not) as yet departed from the Seven Point United States-United Kingdom position and he did not (repeat not) make any commitment to hold to these points during coming week, except for statement regarding United States veto power if Secretary present.
On the overall effect of our decision, Mendes pointed out that this will be first time since the war that United States not (repeat not) represented at equal level with other powers in an important conference. He said he felt certain that Europe would interpret United States absence as first step in return to a policy of isolationism. This, he felt, would have catastrophic effects not (repeat not) only in Far East, but also in Europe and would be great cold war victory for Communism. According to Mendes, we would in effect be saying "do your best, you have our sympathy, but result is no (repeat no) real concern to us."
I tried hard to dissuade Mendes from this viewpoint, but without much success. His statement regarding United States veto power if Secretary present, led me to point out that there must also be an agreed alternative if Conference failed. Mendes promptly replied that only alternative to cease-fire at Geneva would be internationalization of war with United States military forces coming promptly to assistance of French. This aspect of our talk being covered more fully in separate telegram, being repeated to Saigon.
Finally, Mendes asked if there was anything he could do specifically to create a situation that would make it possible for Secretary to come to Geneva. He asked me to pass this question on to Washington. In this connection, he specifically questioned sixth paragraph of Secretary's letter, and said he knew of no (repeat no) French thinking along such lines, except possibly on subject of international supervision. He wondered where United States had got the ideas expressed in this paragraph.
While I was talking with Mendes, Johnson talked with Chauvel and showed him a copy of Secretary's letter. Chauvel showed Johnson a cable from Bonnet which indicated that Bonnet may have given Secretary the impression that French were considering retreating from Seven Point program.
Chauvel and Johnson joined us at the end of our talk, and Johnson and I suggested that if Mendes developed any concrete ideas which would help meet United States fears, it would be helpful if he put them into a reply to Secretary's letter. While Mendes was non-committal as to a formal reply, I rather expect he will make one. In closing, Mendes said he would keep in close touch with Johnson. During talk, Mendes made it clear that while presence of Under Secretary at Geneva would be most helpful, he very much hoped that Secretary himself could come.
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