France Restored: Cold War Diplomacy and the Quest for Leadership in Europe, 1944-1954

By William I. Hitchcock | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 4
The Hard Road to Franco-German Rapprochement, 1948-1950

By the summer of 1948, the fluid international system of the immediate postwar period had hardened into the shape it would hold for the next forty years. The London accords of June secured tripartite agreement on the creation of a western German state. When the first step of this tripartite policy was introduced -- currency reform in the three western zones -- the Soviet Union responded by attempting to cut Berlin's supply lines to the West, isolating the former capital inside the Soviet zone. The heightened tensions created by this standoff justified British foreign secretary Ernest Bevin's appeals for a formal U.S.-European military pact; by July, exploratory talks on what would emerge as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) were underway in Washington. Although still restrained by a lack of political support in the Congress, the Truman administration now seemed prepared to add a military dimension to the already expanding economic recovery program for western Europe.

Despite these promising signs of strategic convergence among the United States, Britain, and France, however, serious differences remained to be settled, most of which focused on Germany. In mid-July, Robert Schuman's government, weakened by the London accords, finally fell due to an MRP-Socialist dispute about the military budget and the timing of local elections. After a summer of political drift, the veteran Third Republic Radical Henri Queuille formed a government and installed Schuman at the Quai d'Orsay. Although Schuman's personal style -- he was modest, cautious, introverted, and a devout Catholic -- could not have been less like Bidault's, the two men shared a similar belief in the need to encourage closer Franco-German relations while ensuring that Germany remained subject to the controls that the occupation had put in place. In light of the Berlin crisis, however, the United States redoubled its efforts to persuade France that continued

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