FRANCE AND THE ALGERIAN PROBLEM

Created: 5/23/1961

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FRANCE AND THE ALGERIAN PROBLEM

THE PROBLEM

To estimate the short-term effects on de Gaulle's position in France of the April coup attempt in Algeria and to evaluate the prospect of the negotiations forof the Algerian problem over the next six months.

THE ESTIMATE

Revolt

The collapse of the coup attempt inhas confirmed President de Gaulle's high personal prestige, but the seriousin the French state laid bare by the revolt still remain. Although the conspiracy was initiatedew military activists, the belief that the activists enjoyed broad support within the army and the fear thatofficial! and security elements would not act against the insurgentshowdown caused panic among some government officials early in the crisis. The firm stand by de Gaulle ac that time, the demonstration ofby the vast majority of the populace of the metropole. and the failure of theto gain active support of the armythe government to weather thethreat. At the same time the crisis pointed up the virtual lndispensabillty of de Gaulle to the survival of the Fifth Republic.

The President's retention of his emergency powers to which he had resorted during the crisis, however, has caused widespreadand may resultecrease insupport for the government. Although the failure of the insurgency is likely toat least for the time being, any similar organized efforts to unseat de Gaulle, thereonstant danger that military activists, well-armed European colons, or rightwing terrorists will continue to commit acts of violence in an effort to disruptwith the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republicuch acts might include provocation of clashes betweenand Europeans, and there Iseal danger that attempts will be made on the life of de Gaulle or of his prominent associates.haken France approaches thebusiness ofeace settlement when its army leadership and much of its administrative apparatus are deeply disturbed.

n especially serious problem exists within the French military establishment, where it is apparent that many officers, including many of those whoariety of reasons did not join the mutiny, remain opposed to de Gaulle's Algerian policies. Moreover, the problem of whether or not to obey orders of the civilian government was squarely posed only for the army in Algeria and for some air forceew units and officers openly declaredfor de Oaulle in the early stages of the crisis; most officers, including many who may have been loyal to de Gaulle, waited to see what the outcome would be, If only to avoid bloodshed within the armed forces. The lack of active support from the army apparently caused the insurgents to abandon the revolt. Nevertheless, the attitudeajority of the army and some of the air force can best be

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described as passive or equivocal. Theof the navy appears to have been correct throughout, though Its loyalty was not put to the specific test of taking military action against the insurgents. The passivity of the army during the coup has posedritical moment for France the question of the army's dependability as an Instrument of de Gaulle's Algerian policies

Gaulle's prestige among theof Algeria has Increased.Is likely to decline rapidly unless heevidence of his determinationterrorism by the cotons. toFrancaise elements In-the army,negotiate an Algerian settlement.Moslems of the cities, althoughto He low while things areway, would probably respondprovocation by colon troublemakers.circumstances they would viewor police action In defense ofas indicating that de Oaulle wasto master French extremists.

Negotioriom

Successful negotiations depend as much on the attitudes of the POAR leaders as on de Gaulle's position and on the ability of both parties to control their own extremists. These leaders were alarmed during the Insurgency that the best opportunity to achieve theirby negotiation would evaporate If the coup succeeded. Nevertheless, the POARdivided concerning the negotiations and the strategFes to be employed. The PGAR. especially its moderates, is uncertain whether rebel field commanders, some of whom are convinced that the French will ultimately tire of the struggle, can be counted on toruce arrangement or any compromise

The rebel movement apparently wasby Cairo and Moscow to resist any French offer to negotiate that wasirm French undertaking to recognize the PGAR as the legitimateof an Independent Algeria. While the

PGAR was aware that de Gaulle would not accept this condition. It has feared that,secured in advance ofominant position for the PGAR in Algeria might not be attainable. Accordingly, the PGAR is wary of any negotiations, and the extremists, at least, tend to Lake comfort In Lhe thought that If negotiations break down the PGAR. with the political and military assistance promised by the Bloc, willwear down French resistance.

The Negotioring Position*fter months of painstaking political effort and pressure, de Gaulle had by the time of the April revoltegotiating position that was not only stripped of any mention of an Algerie Francaiie solution but wasdesigned lo meet some of the principal Moslem demands, although ii still contained many ambiguities. Apparently he does nol feel that his bargaining strength has been reduced in any significant degree by thebecause he has since reiterated Lhe basic outlines of his position. France will ofTer thehoice between "association"orm of independence which de Gaulle describes ashe "association" concept now appears to amount to virtually complete national sovereignty with certain special relationships with France, Including the maintenance of limited base rights andof French sovereignty In the Sahara. It would also require meaningful guarantees by the Algerian state of the rights ofand pro-French Moslems resident there. If the Algerians reject any form ofand insist upon full independence, the President has threatened' to withdrawand pro-French Moslems to coastalcenters where their personal interests may be defended, to return all Algerians living in France to their homeland, and to cut oft* ail French assistance. He has also stated that France would retain the Sahara. Publicly, however, the PGAR has steadfastly refused to accept less than full sovereign independence from France over all Algeria, including the Sahara.

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Gaulle's position probably containedmixture ol enticement, threat,to bring the PGAR intoHowever, there is not yet aacceptable to both sides,French have announced unilaterallywill cease offensive operationsrebel forces. Moreover, substantialdisagreement exist on all the majorthe disposition of the Saharanstatus of the colons, the manner andFrench troop withdrawals, and the rolePGAK during the interim periodtruce and referendum Given deto solve theood chance that he will beat least some ot these issues. At thethe PGAR, which may feel thatIn the French Army and Stateultimate attainment of its objectives,certainly insist on exacting stiffon these issues from the French.

Prospect*

the short run it is likely that detry vigorously to eliminate all obstaclespursuit of negotiations withHe will use his emergency powersto root out potential saboteurs of hishe may win the confidence of theby such tactics, It la probable that he will repel some of his current supporters in France and he might drive his enemies to new acts of desperation. For lis part the PGAR will be extremely suspicious of French good faith. Moreover, negotiations will be taking place in an atmosphere of extremeand explosive possibilities which might at any time produce an incident to interrupt or terminate the talks.

We believe that the negotiations will take many months, even if conducted under the best of circumstances. Frequentand postponements of the formalare likely and on each suchopponents of an independent Algeria will take new hope and exploit anyto assure that the talks are not resumed. The chancesettlement within the period of this estimate are slight.

If the negotiations fail, the PGAR willcertainly become more extremist and will probably solicit more direct forms of Bloc support De Gaulle will find himselfby his inability to dispose of theproblem and to get on with theof French power and prestige, which Is his primary concern. His failure wouldundermine public confidence In his regime

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