Europe, Cold War and Coexistence, 1953-1965

By Wilfried Loth | Go to book overview

10

De Gaulle's France and the Soviet Union from Conflict to Détente 1

Georges-Henri Soutou

When de Gaulle returned to power in 1958, he already had a long-term blueprint for France's relations with the USSR and for European security. Even if in the short term and especially during the Berlin crisis of 1958-1962, he realized that Soviet policy was very aggressive and dangerous, in the long term he was convinced that Russia would ultimately discard communism and return to a traditional great power diplomacy. France would seek a profound revision of the Atlantic Alliance, suppressing NATO integration. NATO would be reformed and greater independence of the Europeans from the Americans would enable France to launch a new détente policy towards Moscow. At the same time, the reduction of tension would diminish the dependence of Eastern Europe on the USSR. Germany (through tacit Franco-Soviet cooperation) would be forced to accept its Potsdam boundaries and to give security guarantees to its neighbours, especially renouncing nuclear weapons; thus reinsured and able to dispense with the need for Soviet protection against Germany, the countries of Eastern Europe would overcome the artificial ideology of communism and revert to their traditional national interests. The Soviet Union, no longer confronted with the danger of an integrated Western alliance and especially with a strong German-US pairing, but having to address the Chinese menace, would also revert to its long-term national interests. Thus it would be possible to rebuild a European security order freed from ideological tensions, resting on a tacit Franco-Soviet understanding for controlling Germany. The USA would revert to their former role of outside guarantor of the new European order, as a form of reinsurance. This would be a return to the Concert of Europe before 1914, but of course, at least in de Gaulle's view, a modernized one, taking into account the political, strategic, and democratic necessities of the twentieth century. 2


De Gaulle's Basic Tenets

Contrary to a commonly held opinion at the time, de Gaulle did not have in mind any kind of neutralism, nor did he wish to reverse France's alliances.

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