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211 Hodgson to Watt

Letter (extract) PARIS, 12 November 1946


[matter omitted]

... In the campaign headed by Australia against Great Power
dictatorship France can be, to my mind of very little use to us.

France cannot afford to offend the U.S.S.R., and will accordingly
extend no substantial support to any Australian proposal. Equally
the French Foreign Ministry, which is covertly anti-Soviet, will
not risk a conflict on our behalf however minor, with the United
Kingdom and the United States. I can hold out little hope
therefore that on any vital issue where we were opposed to the
policy of the great powers we might successfully invoke French

With the country politically emasculated as it is and really not a
serious factor in international affairs, there seems small
prospect of attaining what I take to be the major object of any
Australian mission, namely the persuasion of the French government
towards our own policy on current issues. This is particularly
true I think of French support at international conferences. I
wish there were more to hope for in the sphere of Pacific affairs,
but again I doubt whether there is much prospect of the French
being of great value to us. All parties here except perhaps the
Socialists, who are the most liberal, are unregenerately
imperialist, the Communists included, largely because of their
determination to use nationalist and chauvinist sentiment for
their own ends. Their policy in Indo-China is to put the clock
back as far as possible and to retain as great a degree of
dominion over the country as expediency will permit. We shall see
at the forthcoming conference on the South Seas Regional
organisation whether the situation is likely to be very different
in the French island possessions. In the long run this diehard
policy is bound to lose them any advantage in the territories
concerned and it would be retrograde and inept for us to identify
ourselves too closely with French rule in any of the French
Pacific possessions, most of all in Indo-China.

This is a gloomy picture and one might well ask what good there is
maintaining a mission here which sees no prospect for useful
diplomacy. I think that the answer must be this. There are other
very important fields here where we can act with profit at once.

The study of economic and social reforms and the supply of
information on the multitude of activities which never secure
mention in the Australian press is one major activity. To gather
information concerning western Europe [in] general from a city
which is unparalleled for what the French would call Australian
'radiation' is a third. To act as a base for conferences is a
fourth. And while France may be little value to us politically for
the time being I do not think this will last for ever. This is a
rich country, with a large and skilful population, and sooner or
later its economic recovery is certain. When that time comes the
political obscurity and frustration of the present time will
largely be dissipated and I think the communist element here will
either dwindle in importance or draw away from Moscow. In short I
think that economic recovery will largely restore to France its
independent place in the world and its value to other countries.

In the meantime the main role of France in international affairs
will, I feel somewhat ruefully, be to act as an irritant in the
interest of Soviet policy. I think that the Soviet Government
wants no more of France in Western Europe than to use it to
prevent any Western bloc being formed even on the economic plane.

For the next two or three years then this situation, which is
unsatisfactory most of all to the United Kingdom, is likely to

1 Handwritten.

[AA:A4387, A/46/45]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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