FRENCH FOREIGN POLICY IN THE WAKE OF THE CZECHOSLOVAK CRISIS

Created: 10/10/1968

OCR scan of the original document, errors are possible

Intelligence Memorandum

FRENCH FOREIGN POLICY IN THE WAKE OF THE CZECHOSLOVAK CRISI

CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY Directorate of Intelligence8

INTELLIGENCE MEMORANDUM

French Foreign Policy in the Wake of the Czechoslovak Crisis

Summary

De Gaulle's initial response to the invasion of Czechoslovakia was "business as usual" with the invaders. Recent evidence, however, suggests that the French President may be reappraising his policies to ensure that France continues toominant role in Europe. It is not clear yet what he wants or where he intends to go, but it would appear that he isew look at the question of European security. The last several weeks appear to haveime of floating trial balloons, of probing for reactions, of looking for new approaches. Whether French foreign policy is in anew initiative inor toward temporary retreat to concentrate on domestic problems--will become clear only in the months to cone<

Note: This memorandum was produced eolely by CIA. It wae prepared by the Office of Current Intelligence and coordinated with the Office of National Eetimatee and the Office of Strategic Research.

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De Gaulle's Views on the Eva of the Czechoslovak Crisis

the months just prior to theintervention in Czechoslovakia, Dethat he was witnessing significantaccomplishment of his long-range goalsentente, and then cooperation" inwas encouraged by the increasinglytaken by many regimes in Eastern Europe andcourse of political liberalization in De Gaulle told confidants that thethe combined pressure of domestic strifeVietnam war, would be forced to adopt arole in Europe, Thus, looking to thethe West, De Gaulle saw signs which confirmed

his view that the tensions of the past were subsiding, and that the "policy of blocs" was becomingobsolete.

Given this assessment, De Gaulleumber of policy initiatives which he believed would leadtill further relaxation of tension. Political contacts with Eastern Europe and the USSR multiplied. Franco-Soviet scientific and technical cooperation continued to flourish, France alsoto oppose the entrance of Britain into the Common Market in order to ensure French primacy in Western Europe, olution to the German problem as the key to detente in Europe, De Gaulle maintained close ties with Bonn and encouraged the Germans toiberal policy toward Eastern Europe, At the same time, De Gaulle moved toFrench relations with the united States, Following President Johnson's announcement onarch limiting bombing in Vietnam, French officials at every level of the governmentuch more cooperative attitude toward the US. No policy shifts occurred, but it was clear that the Elysee was moving to alter the style, if not the substance, of French policy toward the US.

The Soviet military interventionrastic setback for De Gaulle, In late July he had characterized the Czechoslovakas "but an episode in the inevitable process of gradually relaxing Russian control over the countries of the socialist bloc," Although his

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foreign minister, Michel Debre,lear alarm, De Gaulle appears to have believed to the end that the Soviets would not use military force in their dispute with Prague*

Post-Crisis Assessment

4. In the first weeks following theof Czechoslovakia. De Gaulle seemedto continue his major policiessurprise and disappointment over the turn His post-invasion statementinvasion, criticizing the "policy ofaffirming the correctness of his detenteneither contradicted nor repudiated anyenunciated in the past. The immediatewas that De Gaulle had not beenan "agonizing reappraisal" of hishe acknowledged that his goal ofbeen "momentarily thwarted," Generalestablished which laidbusiness asin cultural, scientific, and economicwhich provided for curtailment onhange in the Soviet posture. emphasis on detente, coupled withunwillingness to see NATO strengthenedthe focal point of Western discussion andseemed to confirm that he believedoviet attack on Western Europe The general outline of French policy,clear as of early September: no toand reappraisals and yes to detente. umber of signs began toraised the possibility that De Gaulle wasrethinking his stand.

foreign policy by December under the direction of Prime Minister Maurice Couve de Murville. Despite his contradictory statements in the post-invasion days on the possibility of aggression, it seems clear he himself does notussian military move. His neighbors in Western Europe, however, and particularly in Bonn, are fearful of futureand it is their reaction which prompted his recent actions.

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6* De Gaulle hopes to prevent the Czechoslovak crisis from driving the Germans more closely into the arms of the US and forcing Bonn to assert its own interest more actively at France's expense. Either development would lessen France's ability to exert substantial influence over certain aspects of Bonn's foreign policy. Nevertheless. France's inept tactics during the recent Deiesinger talks appear only to have exacerbated Franco-German De Gaulle not only failed to offer thepledge of military support so desired by Kiesinger, but he also infuriated the Germanby suggesting that German policy might haveactor in provoking the Soviet invasion. These counterproductive moves may have stemmed from De Gaulle's uncertainty about which tack to take in the new situation brought about by the Czechoslovak crisis. His perplexity about the best means tohis dominant role in Western Europe without committing France unilaterally to the position of defender may explain the recent surfacing of two different approaches to European security.

Possible Alternatives

7. One of the ideas which came to light in mid-September concerned the possible revival of the concepturopean Defense Community (EDC1.*

proposed0 and then rejected4 the original EDC treaty. This treaty called for an integrated European army with national units from the participating countries, which included only the "littlerance, Germany, Italy, and the Benelux countries. ommissariat with weightedfrom the member countries was to function as the executive body, with the Council of Ministers of the European Coal and Steel community participating in scene decisions. At the same time that the foreign ministers of the Six signed the EDC, they alsoutual defense treaty with the UK. France, Britain and the US thenripartite declaration in which the latter two signatories stated that any menacing action against the EDC would be regarded as an attack on their own security. Gaulliets vehemently opposed tho treaty, which they believed would have an

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negative effect or; France's national army. They joined with other parties to vote down the treaty in the National Assembly.

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second idea, surfaced lace inthat De Gaulle is interested indiscussions on the nuclear defense Quai Director of American Affairsasked to comment on the substance of the

talks ofeptember between Ambassador Shriver and De Gaulle, interpreted De Gaulle's comments as an indication of interest in US-UK-French discussionsuclear directorate. eading of the cable reporting Shriver's account of the talks, this intention does not come through. The primary thrust of De Gaulle's argument, according to Shriver, was that the US could not be counted on touclear war to defend Western Europe. De Gaulle maintained that because European countries either singly or collectively lacked the strength to stand up to the Russians, the prime question was whether the US would respond immediately with nuclear weapons if German borders were violated. He said France would not regard an invasion of West Germany as anoftand which Shriver believed explained De Gaulle's conviction that the US, too, would not deploy all its resources in such a Although De Gaulle repeatedly refused to give Shriver any indication that France wouldany new commitments regarding the security of the West, he stated that if the US responded with all of its power to an attack on Europe, France would respond with all its power.

is possible that De Gaulle wouldtripartite agreement automatically toweapons to the defense of Europe as agoal. The political and militarysuch an agreement arc intertwined, as they19S8 when De Gaulle originally proposed adirectorate involving the same threehe would doubtless hope to reap politicalas military benefits. For such anbe acceptable to France, De Gaulle would haverecognized by the other participants asEurope. He would expect toeto onof nuclear weapons in Europe as well asthat the woapono would be used ifrequested. Washington's announced policyin the first instance to awith its own conventional forces has never

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been acceptable to De Gaullle, who sees the flexible response theory as an indication that the US,howdown, would not risk its own existence for Europe.

That De Gaulle might be interested inriumvirate, then, is possible. He is politically astute enough, however, to realize that Washington would not readily abandon the theory of flexible response andripartite directorate would be anathema to Bonn. British support forlan would depend on whether London believed it to be another French maneuver to keep the UK permanently out of Europe or whether participation would be seentop toward inclusion in future Western European security arrangments. Despite this, De Gaulle may hope to capitalize on the recent thaw in Franco-American relations and on Washington's interest in solving the problems of Europe's defense to persuade the US to enter into bilateral discussions on the question.

De Gaulle may, then, have decided that the tensions in Western Europe created by thecrisis make some new move necessary- It is clear from his initial response that he is adamantly opposed to proposalsevival and strengthening of NATO. He may, however, feel the need to propose alternativesounter to demandstrengthened NATO. Even if such alternatives should ultimately prove unacceptable, he would have again taken center stage in the world arena and would have an answer to any charges by critics that he was unresponsive to

the new situation in Europe. Future French proposals mayesemblance to the two defenseevival of some form of an EDCripartite nuclear directorate--but it is also possible that some new and as yet undisclosed scheme may be outlined*

possible course of action hasby British diplomats. Tho logicalDe Gaulle's mind, according to theselead him net only to oppose furtherEuropean economic and political unity,to retreatolicy verging on isolationist

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neutralism. Hanking German officials, too, fear De Gaulle may be in the process of withdrawing from his coimnitmenta. ecision to concentrate on France's internal problems to the exclusion of foreign policy initiatives is not beyond the realm of possibility. It wouldajorfrom previous Gaullist policy, however, and would probably only be pursued if his foreign policy gambits had failed badly.

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