restricted access 5 Containing the French Malaise?
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75 Intrabloc relations in East and West during the Cold War gain momentum in the current historical analysis. Among the strains that have loomed large throughout NATO’s existence, the foreign policy of Gaullist France (1958–1968) was the most intense. Yet, the often-told story about France and NATO in the 1960s misses an important institutional and personal dimension—that of NATO’s secretaries general . How did Paul-Henri Spaak, Dirk Stikker, and Manlio Brosio assess France’s NATO policies and what active measures did they take to influence Paris and other NATO capitals? By comparing the interactions between each of these three secretaries general and NATO governments, differences in their approaches and success levels come to light.1 Spaak’s Efforts to Counter de Gaulle’s Challenge to NATO in 1958 In a speech on 27 September 1958, Paul-Henri Spaak praised NATO’s flexibility and achievements in the political field. Since his assumption of the NATO chairmanship in May 1957, the major Western po­ wers had increasingly consulted their smaller allies in the North Atlantic Council (NAC) on East-West relations. Spaak characterized this development as a “revolution in international diplomacy” and was confident that the West could calmly face the Soviet challenge of peaceful coexistence.2 Spaak’s speech also attempted to counter another challenge to NATO. Three days earlier, Charles de Gaulle had given Spaak a copy of his memorandum of 17 September 1958 to U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower and British prime minister Harold 5 Containing the French Malaise? The Role of NATO’s Secretary General, 1958–1968 Anna Locher and Christian Nuenlist 76 Nato and the warsaw pact Macmillan.3 ToaccountforthechangingnatureoftheColdWar,deGaullesuggested establishing permanent U.S.-UK-French consultations to determine Western political and military strategy.4 Spaak was “stupefied,” for he understood that the French proposal contradicted his understanding of NATO as an alliance of equals and that his sum­ mer efforts to mediate between de Gaulle and NATO had failed.5 Spaak had tried to establish a working relationship with the new French leader from the very beginning. In their first meeting, de Gaulle had as­ sured Spaak on 23 June 1958 that France in no way opposed NATO but that it wished to play a more important role to outbalance the influence of Washington and London within the alliance.6 Spaak was supportive of such a move and in a long memorandum encouraged France to play a more active role within the alliance. As an example, he mentioned NATO’s preparatory work for a possible East-West summit in early 1958, where he had missed U.S. leadership. France could have filled this gap by taking an initiative, Spaak speculated, and he asked de Gaulle to show “more eagerness and imagination” regarding the NATO machinery.7 Anticipating a fissure within NATO, Spaak asked West German chancellor Konrad Adenauer to convince de Gaulle that Bonn would not accept a U.S.-UK-French directorate within NATO, but when Adenauer and de Gaulle met on 14 September, neither broached the topic.8 Three days later, de Gaulle’s memorandum triggered a prolonged crisis within NATO and prompted a round of informal high-level intrabloc consultations. In this situation, U.S. secretary of state John Foster Dulles and Adenauer asked the NATO secretary general to mediate between France and the rest of the alliance . In Boston, Dulles encouraged Spaak to prepare an answer to de Gaulle with the aim of bringing the discussion back into the NATO forum. Germany’s NATO ambassador, Herbert Blankenhorn, recommended that Spaak react to the French challenge with a comprehensive review of both the alliance’s political consultation procedures and its strategic planning.9 On 15 October, Spaak replied to de Gaulle with a memorandum of his own. While expressing sympathy with most of de Gaulle’s concerns, he completely opposed installing a tripartite directorate, an idea that he characterized as “neither pragmatic nor fortunate,” because it would mean the end of the Atlantic alliance. Spaak emphasized that Germany, Italy, and NATO’s smaller countries also had major interests in developments in Africa and elsewhere outside of NATO territory. They would never accept tripartism, but instead choose neutralism.10 He intended to write a report with his own ideas for improving political consultation in the alliance and discuss the problem at NATO’s December ministerial meeting.11 Revelations in the German press of de Gaulle’s memorandum in late October, however, ruined Spaak’s plan to launch...


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Subject Headings

  • Soviet Union -- Foreign relations -- Europe, Eastern.
  • Europe, Eastern -- Foreign relations -- Soviet Union.
  • United States -- Foreign relations -- 20th century.
  • United States -- Foreign relations -- Europe.
  • Europe -- Foreign relations -- United States.
  • Warsaw Treaty Organization -- History.
  • North Atlantic Treaty Organization -- History -- 20th century.
  • Cold War.
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