The Limits of Independence, 1944-1947
As the war in Europe drew to a close, French policymakers knew that their country, still economically and politically frail, would be as reliant on its wartime allies in the period of reconstruction as it had been during the war itself. Surprisingly, however, economic weakness in no way diminished the zeal with which French planners promoted their country's political and economic interests, especially with regard to Germany. On the contrary, they viewed domestic recovery as largely dependent upon the achievement of a favorable postwar settlement in Germany, one that allowed France a preponderant role in determining the economic and political future of that defeated nation. Across a broad spectrum, French foreign policy officials and postwar planners believed that France had a unique opportunity to ensure that German resources would be used to initiate French and western European recovery. They also anticipated that France could use its position as a victorious power to compensate for the economic inferiority from which it traditionally suffered. Under French political tutelage, German industrial power could be employed to the benefit of all of Europe, but Germany itself would remain so shackled by administrative controls as to be rendered incapable of threatening the political equilibrium of the continent.
In setting out this vision, French leaders, President Charles de Gaulle in particular, revealed that the German problem dominated their thinking about postwar recovery. This was not surprising. Germany had been the principal focus of France's attention during the war, the source of profound humiliation and therefore the only nation through which French dignity could truly be redeemed. During the military campaign of the winter of 1944-45, de Gaulle aimed to recapture French grandeur at Germany's expense, and alerted the Big Three that France intended to share as their equal in the adjudication of the new European order. From the recovery of grandeur would flow all things: stature among the great