Britain, France and the Rearmament of the Federal Republic of Germany 1947 - 1954: Cooperation and Discord

Pastor-Castro, Rogelia (2003) Britain, France and the Rearmament of the Federal Republic of Germany 1947 - 1954: Cooperation and Discord. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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For the Western allies the breakdown of the Council of Foreign Ministers in 1947 and the onset of the cold war precipitated the controversy over Germany's future and established perceptions of the Soviet threat. Through the investigation of British and French diplomatic archives, the aim of this thesis is to compare how Britain and France responded to the prospect of West German rearmament, why this issue challenged the entente and assess how their different objectives shaped the issue of West German rearmament and in turn the cold war.
Echoing past diplomatic traditions, British and French perceptions of a future threat in Europe differed significantly. An analysis of this thread will demonstrate how the Foreign Office, although initially opposed the military argument in favour of using German resources for the defence of the West, eventually reached a compromise with the Chiefs of Staff (COS) in the form of the West German gendarmerie. At the Quai d'Orsay, however, French foreign policy, dominated by a fear of a future German threat and undermined by internal political innnobilisine of the Fourth Republic, refused to consider the possibility
despite repeated warnings. In September 1950 the United States proposed to its NATO allies the rearmament of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). This controversial proposal brought the debate onto the international stage, highlighted the divergent British and French positions and raised tensions within the Western alliance. Britain accepted the American
proposal in a bid to reinforce the Atlantic dimension of European defence. The French response, a counter-proposal for a European Defence Community (EDC), was an attempt to save the Schuman Plan and France's bid to define West Germany's role in Europe. Due the Britain's reluctance to reconcile her atlanticist tendencies with the French vision for Europe, Britain stayed out of the French plan. The thesis will examine why the EDC had a turbulent path to ratification and assess why, despite French pleas, Britain declined to join the project.
In fact, as will be argued here, as the EDC faced criticism from various sides, including from the French military, the Foreign Office began to prepare alternatives in the event of the EDC's collapse. In August 1954 the EDC did indeed collapse, prompting the British-led solution of West Germany's entry into NATO in May 1955. Nine days later the Warsaw Pact was established thereby consolidating the cold war and providing it with some of its permanent features.

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