Georges Bonnet

Georges Bonnet

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Not to be confused with the French Socialist Georges Monnet
Georges Monnet
Not to be confused with the French wartime foreign minister Georges BonnetGeorges Monnet was a prominent socialist politician in 1930s France and a member of Paul Reynaud's war cabinet as Minister of Blockade. Preceding that, he was Minister of Agriculture in Léon Blum's government...


Georges-Étienne Bonnet (22/23 July 1889 – 18 June 1973) was a French politician and leading figure in the Radical-Socialist Party.

Early career


Bonnet was born in Bassillac
Bassillac
Bassillac is a commune in the Dordogne department in southwestern France.-Population:-References:*...

, Dordogne, the son of a lawyer. He studied law and political science at the École Libre des Sciences Politiques
École Libre des Sciences Politiques
École Libre des Sciences Politiques , often referred to as the École des Sciences Politiques or simply Sciences Po was created in Paris in February 1872 by a group of European intellectuals, politicians and businessmen, which included Hippolyte Taine, Ernest Renan, Albert Sorel, Pierre Paul...

 and Sorbonne
University of Paris
The University of Paris was a university located in Paris, France and one of the earliest to be established in Europe. It was founded in the mid 12th century, and officially recognized as a university probably between 1160 and 1250...

, and then went to work as an auditeur at the Conseil d'état. In 1911, he launched a political career after marrying Odette Pelletan, the granddaughter of Eugene Pelletan. Bonnet's wife, often known as Madame Soutien-Georges, ran a salon, and had great ambitions for her husband; one contemporary reported that Madame Bonnet was "so wildly ambitious for her husband that when a new ministry was being formed he was afraid to go home at night unless he had captured a post for himself". Many privately mocked Bonnet for the way in which his wife dominated him. The moniker "Madame Soutien-Georges" directed towards her was a French pun on the word for brassiere
Brassiere
A brassiere is an undergarment that covers, supports, and elevates the breasts. Since the late 19th century, it has replaced the corset as the most widely accepted method for supporting breasts....

 (soutien-gorge) and was both a reference to Bonnet's Christian name and to the size of her breasts. In 1914, Bonnet joined the French Army and in 1918 served as director of demobilization. During his service in World War I, Bonnet was a much-decorated soldier who won the Croix de guerre
Croix de guerre
The Croix de guerre is a military decoration of France. It was first created in 1915 and consists of a square-cross medal on two crossed swords, hanging from a ribbon with various degree pins. The decoration was awarded during World War I, again in World War II, and in other conflicts...

medal for bravery under fire. In 1919, Bonnet served as a secretary to the French delegation at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919
Paris Peace Conference, 1919
The Paris Peace Conference was the meeting of the Allied victors following the end of World War I to set the peace terms for the defeated Central Powers following the armistices of 1918. It took place in Paris in 1919 and involved diplomats from more than 32 countries and nationalities...

 and wrote a book, Lettres á un Bourgeois de 1914, that called for widespread social reforms.

Bonnet served in the Chamber of Deputies from 1924–1928 and again from 1929–1940. He was appointed undersecretary of state in 1925, the first in a series of high ministerial positions throughout the 1920s and 1930s. During his time as in the Chamber, Bonnet was regarded as a leading expert in financial and economic matters. As a minister, Bonnet had a reputation for hard work, always well prepared in parliamentary debates and excelling at political intrigue. In 1932, Bonnet headed the French delegation at the Lausanne Conference
Lausanne Conference of 1932
The Lausanne Conference was a 1932 meeting of representatives from Great Britain, Germany, and France that resulted in an agreement to suspend World War I reparations payments imposed on the defeated countries by the Treaty of Versailles...

. During the Lausanne Conference, the British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald
Ramsay MacDonald
James Ramsay MacDonald, PC, FRS was a British politician who was the first ever Labour Prime Minister, leading a minority government for two terms....

, commenting on Bonnet's abilities, asked "Why isn't he in the Cabinet?". In 1933, Bonnet was a prominent member of the French delegation to the London Conference
London Economic Conference
The London Economic Conference was a meeting of representatives of 66 nations from June 12 to July 27, 1933, at the Geological Museum in London. Its purpose was to win agreement on measures to fight global depression, revive international trade, and stabilize currency exchange rates.The Conference...

, where he was a leading critic of President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt , also known by his initials, FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war...

's actions during the conference. In 1936, Bonnet emerged as the leader of 18 Radical deputies who objected to their party's participation in the Front Populaire
Popular Front (France)
The Popular Front was an alliance of left-wing movements, including the French Communist Party , the French Section of the Workers' International and the Radical and Socialist Party, during the interwar period...

. As a result, the French Premier Léon Blum
Léon Blum
André Léon Blum was a French politician, usually identified with the moderate left, and three times the Prime Minister of France.-First political experiences:...

 effectively exiled Bonnet by appointing him the French Ambassador to the United States in January 1937, though Bonnet never learned English. Upon hearing of Bonnet' appointment, the American Ambassador to France, William C. Bullitt wrote to President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt , also known by his initials, FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war...

 about Bonnet:
I don't think you'll like him. He is extremely intelligent and competent on economic and financial matters, but he's not a man of character. You may remember that he led the French delegation to the London economic conference where he led the attacks against you.
Despite his short stay in the United States and inability to speak English, Bonnet claimed for the rest of his life to be an expert on all things American because of his time as French Ambassador in Washington.

On 28 June 1937, Bonnet returned to France when the Premier Camille Chautemps
Camille Chautemps
Camille Chautemps was a French Radical politician of the Third Republic, three times President of the Council .-Career:Described as "intellectually bereft", Chautemps nevertheless entered politics and became Mayor of Tours in 1912, and a Radical deputy in 1919...

 appointed him Finance Minister. Bonnet's first major act as Finance Minister was to oversee the devaluation
Devaluation
Devaluation is a reduction in the value of a currency with respect to those goods, services or other monetary units with which that currency can be exchanged....

 of the franc
French franc
The franc was a currency of France. Along with the Spanish peseta, it was also a de facto currency used in Andorra . Between 1360 and 1641, it was the name of coins worth 1 livre tournois and it remained in common parlance as a term for this amount of money...

 (the second devaluation in less than nine months), with the value of the franc going from 110.8 francs/per British pound to 147.20. The devaluation was forced on Bonnet by the fact that the 10 billion francs that had been set aside in September 1936 in a Currency Reserve Fund to defend the value of the franc following the devaluation of that year had been spent by middle of 1937. As Finance Minister, Bonnet imposed sharp cuts in military spending. Bonnet felt that the costs of the arms race
Arms race
The term arms race, in its original usage, describes a competition between two or more parties for the best armed forces. Each party competes to produce larger numbers of weapons, greater armies, or superior military technology in a technological escalation...

 with Germany were such that it was better for France to reach an understanding that might end the arms race, rather than continue to spend gargantuan sums on the military. Besides the economic problems associated with budgetary stability and attempts to maintain the value of the franc against currency speculation, Bonnet concerned himself with the social conflict caused by the need for increased taxation and decreased social services in order to pay for the arms race. In a meeting with Franz von Papen
Franz von Papen
Lieutenant-Colonel Franz Joseph Hermann Michael Maria von Papen zu Köningen was a German nobleman, Roman Catholic monarchist politician, General Staff officer, and diplomat, who served as Chancellor of Germany in 1932 and as Vice-Chancellor under Adolf Hitler in 1933–1934...

, the German Ambassador to Austria, in November 1937, Bonnet together with Chautemps expressed the hope that an understanding might be reached in which France might accept Central and Eastern Europe as Germany's sphere of influence in return for German acceptance of Western Europe as France's sphere of influence. Moreover, Bonnet became the leading spokesman within the French Cabinet for the idea that the French alliance system in Eastern Europe, the so-called Cordon sanitaire
Cordon sanitaire
Cordon sanitaire — or quarantine line — is a French phrase that, literally translated, means "sanitary cordon". Though in French it originally denoted a barrier implemented to stop the spread of disease, it has often been used in English in a metaphorical sense to refer to attempts to prevent the...

, was a net liability that only served to embroil France in conflicts with Germany. Throughout his career, Bonnet was noted as an advocate of "sacred egoism", the notion that France must do what was right for France with no regard for any other state. Bonnet regarded himself as a "realist", and his thinking on foreign policy tended to be colored in equal measure by pragmatism and insularity.

Bonnet's cuts in military spending created a major row with the War Minister Édouard Daladier
Édouard Daladier
Édouard Daladier was a French Radical politician and the Prime Minister of France at the start of the Second World War.-Career:Daladier was born in Carpentras, Vaucluse. Later, he would become known to many as "the bull of Vaucluse" because of his thick neck and large shoulders and determined...

, who was able to persuade the Cabinet to rescind the most severe of Bonnet's cuts to the budget of the French Army
French Army
The French Army, officially the Armée de Terre , is the land-based and largest component of the French Armed Forces.As of 2010, the army employs 123,100 regulars, 18,350 part-time reservists and 7,700 Legionnaires. All soldiers are professionals, following the suspension of conscription, voted in...

 by pointing out that in the current international climate, the French Army needed more funding, not less. Since the Ministers of the Air and the Marine were not as substantial personalities as Daladier, the French Navy
French Navy
The French Navy, officially the Marine nationale and often called La Royale is the maritime arm of the French military. It includes a full range of fighting vessels, from patrol boats to a nuclear powered aircraft carrier and 10 nuclear-powered submarines, four of which are capable of launching...

 and French Air Force
French Air Force
The French Air Force , literally Army of the Air) is the air force of the French Armed Forces. It was formed in 1909 as the Service Aéronautique, a service arm of the French Army, then was made an independent military arm in 1933...

 were not able to reverse the Finance Minister's cuts. In January 1938, following the fall of Chautemps's government, Bonnet made a serious effort to form a new government, but in the end, had to content himself with being appointed Minister of State.

To the Munich Conference


In April 1938, following the fall of the second Blum government, Bonnet was appointed Foreign Minister under Premier Édouard Daladier
Édouard Daladier
Édouard Daladier was a French Radical politician and the Prime Minister of France at the start of the Second World War.-Career:Daladier was born in Carpentras, Vaucluse. Later, he would become known to many as "the bull of Vaucluse" because of his thick neck and large shoulders and determined...

 (despite their quarrel of 1937, Daladier and Bonnet had reconciled by this time). Bonnet was a staunch supporter of the Munich Agreement
Munich Agreement
The Munich Pact was an agreement permitting the Nazi German annexation of Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland. The Sudetenland were areas along Czech borders, mainly inhabited by ethnic Germans. The agreement was negotiated at a conference held in Munich, Germany, among the major powers of Europe without...

 in 1938 and was firmly opposed to taking military action against Nazi
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 expansion; for the most part, he preferred to follow a course of appeasement
Appeasement
The term appeasement is commonly understood to refer to a diplomatic policy aimed at avoiding war by making concessions to another power. Historian Paul Kennedy defines it as "the policy of settling international quarrels by admitting and satisfying grievances through rational negotiation and...

. In 1938–1939, there were three factions within the French government. One, led by Bonnet, felt that France could not afford the crippling costs of an arms race with Germany and sought a détente
Détente
Détente is the easing of strained relations, especially in a political situation. The term is often used in reference to the general easing of relations between the Soviet Union and the United States in the 1970s, a thawing at a period roughly in the middle of the Cold War...

 with the Reich; as an expert in financial matters and a former Finance minister, Bonnet was acutely aware of the damages inflicted by the arms race on an economy already weakened by the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

. A second faction, led by Paul Reynaud
Paul Reynaud
Paul Reynaud was a French politician and lawyer prominent in the interwar period, noted for his stances on economic liberalism and militant opposition to Germany. He was the penultimate Prime Minister of the Third Republic and vice-president of the Democratic Republican Alliance center-right...

, Jean Zay and Georges Mandel
Georges Mandel
Georges Mandel was a French politician, journalist, and French Resistance leader.-Biography:Born Louis George Rothschild in Chatou, Yvelines, was the son of a tailor...

, favored a policy of resistance to German expansionism; a third faction, led by Daladier, stood halfway between the other two, and favored appeasement of the Reich as the way of buying time to rearm.

Daladier, who believed that France needed more time to rearm, was willing to leave foreign policy largely in the hands of Bonnet as the best way of avoiding a war with Germany in 1938. In addition, Daladier felt that the best way of watching Bonnet was to include him in the Cabinet: he wished to see the Popular Front continue, whereas Bonnet wanted to see it come to an end. In Daladier's view, if Bonnet were outside of the Cabinet, his ability to engage in intrigues to break up the Popular Front and seize the Premiership for himself would be correspondingly increased; including him in the Cabinet limited his room to manoeuvre. An additional complication in the Daladier-Bonnet relationship was posed by Bonnet's desire for the Premiership, which gradually led to a breakdown with his once warm relations with Daladier. Bonnet was extremely critical of what he regarded as the "warmongers" of the Quai d'Orsay
Quai d'Orsay
The Quai d'Orsay is a quai in the VIIe arrondissement of Paris, part of the left bank of the Seine, and the name of the street along it. The Quai becomes the Quai Anatole France east of the Palais Bourbon, and the Quai de Branly west of the Pont de l'Alma.The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs is...

, and from the very beginning of his time as Foreign Minister, he tended to exclude his senior officials from the decision-making progress, preferring instead to concentrate authority in his own hands. In Bonnet's opinion, the Franco-Czechoslovak treaty of 1924 committing France to come to the aid of the Czech and Slovaks in the event of a German invasion was a millstone that could lead France into a war with Germany that would be disastrous Bonnet believed that the best course for France in 1938 was to pressure the Czechoslovak government into conceding to German demands in order to prevent a Franco-German war. Alternatively, if the Czechoslovaks refused to make concessions, then that refusal could be used as an excuse for ending the Franco-Czechoslovak alliance. While pursuing this course, Bonnet not only kept his senior officials at the Quai d'Orsay uninformed, but sometimes also Daladier. This led the Premier to rebuke his Foreign Minister several times for behaving as if French foreign policy was made by "one minister."

Between 27 and 29 April 1938, Bonnet visited London with Daladier for meetings with Neville Chamberlain
Neville Chamberlain
Arthur Neville Chamberlain FRS was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from May 1937 to May 1940. Chamberlain is best known for his appeasement foreign policy, and in particular for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938, conceding the...

 and Lord Halifax
E. F. L. Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax
Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax, , known as The Lord Irwin from 1925 until 1934 and as The Viscount Halifax from 1934 until 1944, was one of the most senior British Conservative politicians of the 1930s, during which he held several senior ministerial posts, most notably as...

 to discuss the possibility of a German-Czechoslovak war breaking out, and what the two governments could do to stop such a war. During the talks, the French ministers argued for firm declarations that both nations would go to war in the event of a German aggression and agreed to a British suggestion that the two nations pressure Prague into making concessions to the Sudeten Heimfront of Konrad Henlein
Konrad Henlein
Konrad Ernst Eduard Henlein was a leading pro-Nazi ethnic German politician in Czechoslovakia and leader of Sudeten German separatists...

. The London summit marked the beginning of a pattern that was to last throughout 1938, where the French would begin talks with the British by demanding a harder line against the Reich, and then agree to follow the British line. In the view of Bonnet and Daladier, these tactics allowed them to carry out their foreign policy goals while providing them with a cover from domestic critics by presenting their foreign policy as the result of British pressure. As Bonnet told the American Ambassador William C. Bullitt, his "whole policy was based on allowing the British full latitude to work out the dispute" because otherwise France would have to bear the main responsibility for pressuring concessions on Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

. Throughout the summer of 1938, Bonnet allowed most of the diplomatic pressure applied to President Edvard Beneš
Edvard Beneš
Edvard Beneš was a leader of the Czechoslovak independence movement, Minister of Foreign Affairs and the second President of Czechoslovakia. He was known to be a skilled diplomat.- Youth :...


for concessions to Henlein to come from London. This led to sharp complaints from the British that Bonnet should do more to apply pressure on Beneš.

Between 9 and 14 May 1938, Bonnet attended the meeting of the League Council of the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

 in Geneva, Switzerland. During the meeting, Bonnet met with the Soviet Foreign Commissar Maxim Litvinov
Maxim Litvinov
Maxim Maximovich Litvinov was a Russian revolutionary and prominent Soviet diplomat.- Early life and first exile :...

, who offered vague and evasive answers to Bonnet's questions about what the Soviet Union proposed to do in the event of a German attack on Czechoslovakia. At the same time, Bonnet was informed by the Polish and Romanian delegations that if Germany invaded Czechoslovakia, they would refuse the Red Army transit rights to Czechoslovakia's aid, and that any Soviet violation of their neutrality would be resisted with force. After the League meeting, Bonnet met with Lord Halifax in Paris, where he urged Halifax to "work as hard as he could for a settlement in Czechoslovakia so that the French would not be faced with a crisis which they definitely did not want to face". As Lord Halifax reported to the British Cabinet, Bonnet "wanted His Majesty's Government to put as much pressure as possible on Dr. Beneš to reach a settlement with the Sudeten-Deutsch in order to save France from the cruel dilemma between dishonouring her agreement [the Franco-Czechoslovak alliance of 1924] or becoming involved in war".

During the May Crisis of 1938, on 21 May, Bonnet advised Lord Halifax that Britain should warn Berlin that if the Germans attacked Czechoslovakia, then Britain would become involved in the ensuing war, only to be informed that London had already delivered such a warning. In a talk with the British Ambassador, Sir Eric Phipps
Eric Phipps
Sir Eric Clare Edmund Phipps, GCB, GCMG, GCVO, PC was a British diplomat.-Family and early life:Phipps was the son of Sir Constantine Phipps, later British Ambassador to Belgium, and his wife Maria Jane...

, Bonnet attacked Beneš for ordering Czechoslovak mobilization without informing France first and criticized Prague's for its "hasty action", though at a meeting with the Czechoslovak Minister to Paris, Štefan Osuský
Štefan Osuský
JUDr. Štefan Osuský was an Austro-Hungarian born Slovak politician and diplomat.-Life:In 1902 he began his studies at the Lutheran Lyceum in present-day Bratislava...

, on 21 May, Bonnet did not criticize Prague as he had promised Phipps he would do. Phipps urged Bonnet to use the crisis as an excuse to renounce the Franco-Czechoslovak alliance of 1924, but this Bonnet refused to do unless France could secure a stronger commitment from Britain to come to France's aid in the event of war with Germany. During the crisis, Bonnet issued a cautiously worded press statement supporting Prague, but refused to issue a démarche in Berlin. At a subsequent meeting with Phipps on 22 May, Bonnet was informed not to interpret the British warnings to Berlin during the May Crisis as a blank cheque for British support for either Czechoslovakia or France. Bonnet took "copious notes" on the British message, and stated that "if Czechoslovakia were really unreasonable, the French Government might well declare that France considered herself released from her bond". On 25 May 1938, Bonnet told the German Ambassador to France, Count Johannes von Welczeck, that France would honour her alliance with Czechoslovakia should Germany invade that nation and highlighted his main foreign policy goals when he declared, "if the problem of the minorities in Czechoslovakia was settled peacefully, economic and disarmament problems might be considered".

On 31 May 1938, Bonnet refused a British request for an Anglo-French démarche to Beneš demanding concessions to the Sudeten German Heimfront, but promised to commit the French Minister in Prague, Victor de Lacroix, to do more to pressure the Czechoslovaks. In his instructions to Lacroix for the démarche, Bonnet instead merely asked for more information and stated: "The information that you have transmitted to me on the state of the negotiations between the Prime Minister and the representatives of the Sudetens does not allow me to pronounce as fully as the British Government believes itself able to do on the character and substance of M. Henlein's proposals...I ask you, therefore to obtain urgently the necessary details on the proposals submitted to M. Hodža...". The British discovery of Bonnet's instructions, which Lacroix inadvertently revealed to the British Minister in Prague, Sir Basil Newton, led to much Anglo-French recrimination. Throughout the spring and early summer of 1938, Bonnet refused to apply pressure through official channels, and instead used unofficial emissaries to carry the message that France might not go to war in the event of a German invasion, leading Prague to place more assurance on French statements of public support that was warranted. Bonnet had his friend, the journalist Jules Saurerwein, tell Beneš in an interview that "Victory is not a state that endures forever" in the summer of 1938. Not until 17 July 1938 did Bonnet issue a set of instructions to Lacroix which explicitly warned Beneš and his Prime Minister, Milan Hodža
Milan Hodža
Milan Hodža was a prominent Slovak politician and journalist, serving from 1935 to 1938 as the Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia and in December 1935 as the acting President of Czechoslovakia...

 that because of the attitude of the British, France could not risk a war in 1938, and Prague should do its utmost to reach a settlement with Germany.

Starting with the May Crisis, Bonnet began a campaign of lobbying the United States to become involved in European affairs, asking that Washington inform Prague that in the event of a German-Czechoslovak war the "Czech government would not have the sympathy of the American government if it should not attempt seriously to produce a peaceful solution...by making concessions to the Sudeten Germans which would satisfy Hitler and Henlein". In a meeting with the American Ambassador William C. Bullitt on 16 May 1938, Bonnet stated his belief that another war with Germany would be more dreadful then any previous war and "he [Bonnet] would fight to the limit against the involvement of France in the war". As part of his effort to gain Bullitt's trust, Bonnet showed the American notes received from the British government during the Czechoslovak crisis. In a radio broadcast sent directly to the United States on 4 July 1938, Bonnet proclaimed his belief in the "common ideals" that linked France and the United States as a way of pressuring for greater American interest in the crisis in Central Europe.

In June 1938, there was a major dispute between Daladier and Bonnet over the question of continuing French arms shipments to the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

. The Italian intervention in the Spanish Civil War had created a major strategic problem for French policy-makers. Because of Germany's greater population, it was considered crucial in France to tap the vast manpower of North Africa to compensate for it. This strategy required French control of the western Mediterranean to ensure that no inference would be possible with troop convoys from Algeria
Algeria
Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

 to Marseilles. As a result of the Italian intervention in Spain's civil war, a number of Italian bases had been set up in the strategic Balearic Islands
Balearic Islands
The Balearic Islands are an archipelago of Spain in the western Mediterranean Sea, near the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula.The four largest islands are: Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera. The archipelago forms an autonomous community and a province of Spain with Palma as the capital...

. It was widely feared in France that the Italians would at a minimum receive permission from the Spanish Nationalists to make their presence in the Balerics permanent, and at worst, would ask for and receive the cession of the Balearics. The prospect of a Franco-German war breaking out with the Italians siding with the latter and using the Balearics to make naval and air attacks on French troop convoys was considered to be highly undesirable by French decision-makers, and a major objective of French foreign policy in the late 1930s was to remove the Italians from the Balearics. Daladier was in favor of continuing arms shipments to the Spanish Republicans as long as the Italian forces were in Spain, whereas Bonnet argued for ending arms supplies as a way of improving relations with Italy, and went so far as to tell the British Ambassador, Sir Eric Phipps
Eric Phipps
Sir Eric Clare Edmund Phipps, GCB, GCMG, GCVO, PC was a British diplomat.-Family and early life:Phipps was the son of Sir Constantine Phipps, later British Ambassador to Belgium, and his wife Maria Jane...

, that his country should "lay great stress with Daladier on the importance to the Pyrenees frontier remaining closed". It was Bonnet's hope that ending arms supplies for the Spanish Republic would be reciprocated by a total Italian withdraw from all Spanish territory, especially the Balearics. Bonnet was successful in having the frontier closed.

Following reports from General Joseph Vuillemin of the French Air Force
French Air Force
The French Air Force , literally Army of the Air) is the air force of the French Armed Forces. It was formed in 1909 as the Service Aéronautique, a service arm of the French Army, then was made an independent military arm in 1933...

 after a visit to Germany about the strength of the Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

, and a memo from André François-Poncet
André François-Poncet
André François-Poncet was a French politician and diplomat whose post as ambassador to Germany allowed him to witness first-hand the rise to power of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, and the Nazi regime's preparations for war.François-Poncet was the son of a counselor of the Court of Appeals in...

, the French Ambassador to Germany, on 18 August 1938 stating it was quite likely that Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 planned to attack Czechoslovakia sometime soon, Bonnet began quite insistent that a joint Anglo-French warning be sent to Berlin against plans to invade Czechoslovakia. On 22 August 1938, Bonnet had Charles Corbin
Charles Corbin
Charles Corbin was a French diplomat who served as ambassador to Britain before and during the early part of the Second World War, from 1933 to 27 June 1940.- Life and career :...

, the French Ambassador in London, press for an explicit British commitment to come to France's side in the event of war breaking out in Central Europe and used the ensuing British refusal as a reason to justify France's lack of intervention in a German-Czechoslovak conflict. Starting in August 1938, Bonnet started to become hostile towards what he felt was Daladier's excessive belligerence and lack of willingness to compromise with the Germans and often urged in private that Daladier change his stance. In early September 1938, as part of his effort to prevent war through a mixture of threat and conciliation, Bonnet had a series of meetings with Count Welczeck, telling him that France would honor the terms of the Franco-Czechoslovak treaty should the Germans invade Czechoslovakia, while insisting that his government was quite open to a compromise solution.

During a speech delivered on 4 September 1938 at the unveiling of a commemorative plaque at Pointe de Grave honoring the La Fayette's
Gilbert du Motier, marquis de La Fayette
Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette , often known as simply Lafayette, was a French aristocrat and military officer born in Chavaniac, in the province of Auvergne in south central France...

's departure to America in 1777 and the arrival of the A.E.F
American Expeditionary Force
The American Expeditionary Forces or AEF were the United States Armed Forces sent to Europe in World War I. During the United States campaigns in World War I the AEF fought in France alongside British and French allied forces in the last year of the war, against Imperial German forces...

 in 1917, Bonnet stated in an oblique way that France would go to war if Germany attacked Czechoslovakia and expressed the hope that the U.S. would fight on France's side. During the same ceremony, Ambassador Bullitt stated that "France and the United States were united in war and peace", leading to a storm of criticism by American isolationists and a statement from President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt , also known by his initials, FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war...

 that it was "100 per cent wrong" the U.S. would join a "stop-Hitler bloc". Roosevelt's statement had the effect of confirming Bonnet in his course of seeking to avoid a war with Germany. In addition, a highly exaggerated estimate of the strength of the Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

 presented by Charles Lindbergh
Charles Lindbergh
Charles Augustus Lindbergh was an American aviator, author, inventor, explorer, and social activist.Lindbergh, a 25-year-old U.S...

 in August 1938, supplemented by a highly negative assessment of the ability of the Armée de l'Air
French Air Force
The French Air Force , literally Army of the Air) is the air force of the French Armed Forces. It was formed in 1909 as the Service Aéronautique, a service arm of the French Army, then was made an independent military arm in 1933...

by the Air Force's General Joseph Vuillemin to survive a war had the effect of reinforcing Bonnet's determination to avoid a war with Germany.

When it appeared quite likely in mid-September 1938 that war could break out at any moment in Central Europe following Hitler's violent speech blasting Czechoslovakia on 12 September, and then a failed revolt in the Sudetenland
Sudetenland
Sudetenland is the German name used in English in the first half of the 20th century for the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans, specifically the border areas of Bohemia, Moravia, and those parts of Silesia being within Czechoslovakia.The...

, Bonnet become quite frantic in his efforts to save the peace. Bonnet told Phipps: "I repeated all this with emotion to Sir Eric Phipps telling him that an no price should we allow ourselves to be involved in war without having weighted all the consequences and without having measured in particular the state of our military forces. On September 14, Phipps was informed by Bonnet: "We cannot sacrifice ten million men in order to prevent three and half million Sudetens joining the Reich". Bonnet went on to advocate as his preferred solution to the crisis the neutralization of Czechoslovakia with wide-ranging autonomy for the Sudetenland, but he was prepared as a "last resort" to accept a plebiscite on the Sudetenlanders joining Germany. During the same talk, Bonnet "expressed great indignation with the Czechs who, it seems, mean to mobilise without consulting the French...he has therefore given a broad hint to Beneš that France may have to reconsider her obligations", and that "we are not ready for war and we must therefore make the most far-reaching concessions to the Sudetens and to Germany". At a summit meeting in London with the leading British ministers on 18 September, Bonnet and Daladier agreed formally to the idea of ceding the Sudetenland to Germany, but pressed strongly as the price for making such a concession, a British guarantee of the remainder of Czechoslovakia. On his return to Paris, in a meeting with Osuský
Štefan Osuský
JUDr. Štefan Osuský was an Austro-Hungarian born Slovak politician and diplomat.-Life:In 1902 he began his studies at the Lutheran Lyceum in present-day Bratislava...

, Bonnet was very vehement that Prague agree to the Anglo-French plan agreed to in London at once. In a letter to Daladier on 24 September 1938, Bonnet wrote: "If France declared war against Germany, her position would be weaker than at any time since 1919. In fact, France in this case would have to stand alone on land the force of the combined German and Italian armies, without counting Japan, which in the Far East, will doubtless attack Indo-China...For five months, night and day, in the course of our confident collaboration, we have struggled for peace. I beg you to continue in this course. It is the only one which can save the country...". At the same time, Bonnet's relations with René Massigli
René Massigli
René Massigli was a French diplomat who played a leading as a senior official at the Quai d'Orsay, and was regarded as one of the leading French experts on Germany.-Early career:...

, the Quai d'Orsay's Political Director, began to deteriorate quite rapidly as Massigli felt that Bonnet was too anxious to avoid a war at any price.

On 25 September 1938, Daladier and Bonnet returned to London for another set of meetings with British leaders; during this summit, Bonnet said almost nothing. When Britain rejected Hitler's Bad Godesberg ultimatum on 26 September, Bonnet sought to prevent the news of the British rejection appearing in the French press, as it now appeared that British were pushing the French towards war, and deprived Bonnet of using British pressure as an excuse. As the crisis reached its climax in late September 1938, Bonnet called upon his "peace lobby", which comprised a collection of various politicians, journalists and industrialists to pressure the Cabinet against going to war for Czechoslovakia. Some of the prominent members of Bonnet's "peace lobby" were the politicians' Jean Mistler
Jean Mistler
Jean Mistler was a French writer born in Sorèze, Tarn. In 1966 he was elected to the Académie Française.Mistler, whose father's family had left Alsace in 1871, did his schooling in Sorèze, before preparing for the entrance examination of the Ecole Nationale Supérieure at the Lycée Henri IV, where...

, Henri Bérenger, Jean Montigny, Anatole de Monzie
Anatole de Monzie
Anatole de Monzie was a French administrator, encyclopaedist , political figure and scholar. His father was a tax collector in Bazas, Gironde where Anatole - a name he disliked from an early age - was born in 1876...

, François Piétri
François Piétri
François Piétri was a minister in several governments in the later years of the French Third Republic and was French ambassador to Spain from 1940 to 1944 under the Vichy regime....

, Lucien Lamoureux, Joseph Caillaux
Joseph Caillaux
Joseph-Marie–Auguste Caillaux was a major French politician of the Third Republic. The leader of the Radicals, he favored a policy of conciliation with Germany during his premiership from 1911 to 1912, which led to the maintenance of the peace during the Second Moroccan Crisis of 1911...

, the industrialist Marcel Boussac
Marcel Boussac
Marcel Boussac was a French entrepreneur best known for his ownership of the Maison Dior and one of the most successful thoroughbred race horse breeding farms in European history....

, and the journalists Jacques Sauerwein, Emile Roche, Léon Bassée, and Emmanuel Berl
Emmanuel Berl
Emmanuel Berl was a French journalist, historian and essayist. He was born at Le Vésinet in the modern département of Yvelines, and is buried in the Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris. In 1937 he married the singer, composer and film actress Mireille Hartuch; she had nicknamed him "Théodore"...

. Together with Bonnet, the "peace lobby" sought to influence the government both within the corridors of power and by appealing to public opinion. In this regard, Bonnet especially valued the contribution of his close friend Bassée, who served as the political director of the Havas
Havas
Havas is the second largest advertising group in France and is a "Global advertising and communications services group" and the sixth-largest global advertising and communications group worldwide, operating on the communications consulting market through three main operational divisions:*Euro RSCG...

 news agency. Another unofficial member of the "peace lobby" was Phipps, whose dispatches to London often reflected Bonnet's influence. The most celebrated of Phipps's dispatches was a message on 24 September 1938 which claimed that "all that is best in France is against war, almost at any price" and that they were opposed by a "small, but noisy and corrupt, war group".

In the aftermath of the British rejection of the Bad Godesberg ultimatum, Daladier stated at a Cabinet meeting that if Hitler persisted with the terms of the ultimatum, then France "intended to go to war". At a Cabinet meeting on 27 September, Bonnet spoke out against French mobilization, and threatened to resign if the Cabinet were to order such a step. The atmosphere at the Cabinet meeting was very tense as Daladier insisted upon mobilization; this led to many heated words between the Premier and his Foreign Minister. The crisis was suddenly averted on 29 September, when Chamberlain announced that he had received an invitation from Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism....

 for a four-power conference to be held on 30 September in Munich
Munich
Munich The city's motto is "" . Before 2006, it was "Weltstadt mit Herz" . Its native name, , is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks' place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat...

 to settle the crisis. Bonnet was very much in favor of the Munich conference of 30 September, which averted the war Bonnet labored against, but was not part of the French delegation to it. After the Munich Conference, Bonnet visited his hometown of Périgueux, where he was greeted with a deluge of flowers and shouts of "Vive Bonnet!" and "Merci Bonnet!"

From Munich to Danzig


Relations between Bonnet and his officials at the Quai d'Orsay, especially René Massigli
René Massigli
René Massigli was a French diplomat who played a leading as a senior official at the Quai d'Orsay, and was regarded as one of the leading French experts on Germany.-Early career:...

 were very poor, leading to Bonnet to condemn Massigli quite strongly in his memoirs. In turn, Massigli was to accuse Bonnet of seeking to alter the documentary record in his favor. In the aftermath of Munich, relations between Bonnet and Massigli, which were poor to begin with, declined even further. On 24 October 1938, Bonnet had Massigli sacked as the Quai d'Orsay's Political Director and exiled him by having him serve as Ambassador to Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

. Massiglii first learnt of his sacking by reading his morning newspaper. On the same day that Massigli was exiled, Pierre Comert, the Director of the Quai d'Orsay's Press Service, whose news releases during the Czechoslovak crisis were not in accord with the line that Bonnet wanted to hear, was sent off to the American department. Bonnet had also wanted to sack the Quai d'Orsay's Secretary-General Alexis Saint-Legér Léger
Saint-John Perse
Saint-John Perse was a French poet, awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1960 "for the soaring flight and evocative imagery of his poetry." He was also a major French diplomat from 1914 to 1940, after which he lived primarily in the USA until 1967.-Biography:Alexis Leger was...

 and replace him with a man more in tune with Bonnet's views, but Saint-Legér Léger's increasing friendship with Daladier served to protect him. A popular legend has it that Saint-Legér Léger was not fired because he knew too much about stock market speculations that Bonnet was alleged to have engaged in during the war crisis of September 1938, but there is no evidence to support this story. In the aftermath of the purge, Bonnet was congratulated by Phipps for removing the "warmongers" Massigli and Comert from the Quai d'Orsay, but Phipps went on to complain that Saint-Legér Léger should have been sacked as well. In response, Bonnet claimed that he and Saint-Legér Léger saw "eye to eye", leading to Phipps, who knew about the true state of relations between the two to remark drily, "in that case the eyes must be astigmatic".

On 19 October 1938, at the last meeting between the French Ambassador to Germany André François-Poncet
André François-Poncet
André François-Poncet was a French politician and diplomat whose post as ambassador to Germany allowed him to witness first-hand the rise to power of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, and the Nazi regime's preparations for war.François-Poncet was the son of a counselor of the Court of Appeals in...

 and Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

, the former had suggested to the latter that a Franco-German Declaration of Friendship might offer a way of improving relations between the two countries and avoiding a repeat of the crisis of September 1938. When François-Poncet reported to Paris Hitler's favorable attitude towards such a declaration, and his willingness to send his Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop
Joachim von Ribbentrop
Ulrich Friedrich Wilhelm Joachim von Ribbentrop was Foreign Minister of Germany from 1938 until 1945. He was later hanged for war crimes after the Nuremberg Trials.-Early life:...

, to Paris to sign the proposed declaration, Bonnet enthusiastically embraced the idea. Bonnet felt that such a declaration might open the way for a series of economic and cultural agreements that would end forever the prospect of another Franco-German war. In addition, Bonnet was jealous over the Anglo-German Declaration of 30 September that Chamberlain had forced upon Hitler after the Munich Conference and wanted his own declaration.

Throughout his career, Bonnet was widely respected for his intelligence, but often inspired great mistrust in others, in part because of his highly secretive methods of working and his preference for verbal as opposed to written instructions. During his time as Foreign Minister, Bonnet was distrusted by the British, Daladier and by the senior officials in the Quai d'Orsay, all of whom suspected that he was in some way not quite being honest with them. Neville Chamberlain
Neville Chamberlain
Arthur Neville Chamberlain FRS was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from May 1937 to May 1940. Chamberlain is best known for his appeasement foreign policy, and in particular for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938, conceding the...

 described Bonnet as "clever, but ambitious and an intriguer". Georges Mandel
Georges Mandel
Georges Mandel was a French politician, journalist, and French Resistance leader.-Biography:Born Louis George Rothschild in Chatou, Yvelines, was the son of a tailor...

 proclaimed his belief that "His long nose sniffs danger and responsibility from afar. He will hide under any flat stone to avoid it". The French columnist André Géraud, who wrote under the pen-name Pertinax, stated that Bonnet was only capable of pursuing the line "of least resistance". Sir Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 described him as "the quintessence of defeatism". In December 1938, Lord Halifax's private secretary Oliver Harvey
Oliver Harvey, 1st Baron Harvey of Tasburgh
Oliver Charles Harvey, 1st Baron Harvey of Tasburgh GCMG GCVO CB , was a British civil servant and diplomat....

 referred to Bonnet as "a public danger to his own country and to ours". In December 1939, the British Chief Diplomatic Advisor Robert Vansittart
Robert Vansittart, 1st Baron Vansittart
Robert Gilbert Vansittart, 1st Baron Vansittart GCB, GCMG, PC, MVO was a senior British diplomat in the period before and during the Second World War...

 wrote: "As to M. Bonnet he had better trust to time and oblivion rather than to coloured self-defence. He did a lot of really dirty work in 1938...if I ever had to play cards with M. Bonnet again I would always run through the pack first, just to make sure that the joker had been duly removed". And throughout Berlin Diary
Berlin Diary
Berlin Diary is a first-hand account of the rise of the Third Reich and its road to war, as witnessed by the American journalist William L. Shirer...

 the author William L. Shirer
William L. Shirer
William Lawrence Shirer was an American journalist, war correspondent, and historian, who wrote The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, a history of Nazi Germany read and cited in scholarly works for more than 50 years...

 referred to him as "the insufferable Georges Bonnet".

Others were more sympathetic to Bonnet. Lord Halifax
E. F. L. Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax
Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax, , known as The Lord Irwin from 1925 until 1934 and as The Viscount Halifax from 1934 until 1944, was one of the most senior British Conservative politicians of the 1930s, during which he held several senior ministerial posts, most notably as...

 wrote in response to Vansittart's memo that "I am disposed to think but I know it is a minority view that M. Bonnet is not so black (or so yellow) as he is often painted". Joseph Paul-Boncour
Joseph Paul-Boncour
Augustin Alfred Joseph Paul-Boncour was a French politician of the Third Republic.-Career:Born in Saint-Aignan, Loir-et-Cher, Paul-Boncour received a law degree from the University of Paris and became active in the labor movement, organizing the legal council of the Bourses du Travail...

, a political opponent of Bonnet's, spoke of his great "kindness and help". The editor of the Le Petit Parisien
Le Petit Parisien
Le Petit Parisien was a prominent French newspaper during the French Third Republic. It was published between 1876 and 1944, and its circulation was over 2 million after the First World War.-Publishing:...

, Élie J. Bois, felt that Bonnet had "the makings of a good, perhaps a great, foreign minister". On another occasion, Bois, who disliked Bonnet, wrote of Bonnet's "features...instinct with...the intelligence of a fox on the alert". Bonnet's friend and follow "peace lobby" member, Anatole de Monzie
Anatole de Monzie
Anatole de Monzie was a French administrator, encyclopaedist , political figure and scholar. His father was a tax collector in Bazas, Gironde where Anatole - a name he disliked from an early age - was born in 1876...

, commented that "Whilst very courageous in the long run, he is much less so in the heat of the moment...Because he is reticent, he is accused of lying or of deceit. False accusation...Bonnet is discreet so that his policy may be successful...There is in him an obvious ability, an excessive flexibility. He jumps too quickly, on to the bandwagon, on to all bandwagons. What does it matter to me?...If he aims for the goal and means to reach it by devious means, I care only for the goal. Now I note that having adopted the peace party, he is sticking to it with all the foresight of a statesman". The French historian Yvon Lacaze has argued against the popular image of Bonnet as a slick and amoral opportunist, and instead attributes Bonnet's views about avoiding another war with Germany to his memories of service in the trenches of World War I.

In the fall of 1938, Bonnet started to advocate the ending of the French alliance system in Eastern Europe, and ordered his officials at the Quai d'Orsay to start preparing grounds for renouncing the French treaties with the Soviet Union and Poland. Speaking before the Foreign Affairs Commission on the Chamber of Deputies in October 1938, Bonnet spoke of his desire to "restructure" the French alliance system in Eastern Europe and of his wish to "renegotiate" treaties which might bring France into a war "when French security is not directly threatened". In his efforts to end the eastern alliances, Bonnet found his hands tied by opposition from other members of the French government. As he noted during talks in October with a group of Deputies who had formally asked the Foreign Minister to end French commitments in Eastern Europe: "If I was free, I would carry out your policy; but I am not: I would have against me the majority of the Cabinet, led by Reynaud and Mandel, and I cannot count on Daladier, for Gamelin believes that in the event of war Polish military assistance would be indispensable". As part of his general tendency towards seeking to weaken the French eastern alliances, Bonnet did his best to put off giving the international guarantee to Czecho-Slovakia that France had promised in the Munich Agreement
Munich Agreement
The Munich Pact was an agreement permitting the Nazi German annexation of Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland. The Sudetenland were areas along Czech borders, mainly inhabited by ethnic Germans. The agreement was negotiated at a conference held in Munich, Germany, among the major powers of Europe without...

. On 25 November 1938 Bonnet informed the French Ambassador to Poland, Léon Noël
Leon Noel
Léon Philippe Jules Arthur Noël was a French diplomat, politician and historian.-Biography:He is the son of Jules Noël, conseiller d'Etat, and Cécile Burchard-Bélaváry. He received a Doctor of Laws in 1912 and then became Conseiller d'État...

, that France should find an excuse for terminating the 1921 Franco-Polish alliance
Franco-Polish Military Alliance
The Franco-Polish alliance was the military alliance between Poland and France that was active between 1921 and 1940.-Background:Already during the France-Habsburg rivalry that started in the 16th century, France had tried to find allies to the east of Austria, namely hoping to ally with Poland...

, but found that his views on this issue created considerable opposition within the Quai d'Orsay, where it was argued that Poland was too valuable an ally to be abandoned, and that if France renounced the Polish alliance, then Warsaw would align herself with Berlin (the Polish Foreign Minister Colonel Józef Beck
Józef Beck
' was a Polish statesman, diplomat, military officer, and close associate of Józef Piłsudski...

 was widely, if erroneously, believed in France to be pro-German). In December 1938, during the visit of the German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop
Joachim von Ribbentrop
Ulrich Friedrich Wilhelm Joachim von Ribbentrop was Foreign Minister of Germany from 1938 until 1945. He was later hanged for war crimes after the Nuremberg Trials.-Early life:...

 to Paris to sign the largely meaningless Declaration of Franco-German Friendship, Ribbentrop had conversations with Bonney that he later claimed included a promise to him that France would recognize all of Eastern Europe as Germany's exclusive sphere of influence. This led to a long war of words between the two foreign ministers in the summer of 1939 over just what precisely Bonnet actually said to Ribbentrop. Ribbentrop was to use Bonnet's alleged statement to convince Hitler that France would not go to war in the defence of Poland in 1939. Both Bonnet and Saint-Legér Léger were quite vehement in insisting that no such remark was ever made.

In January 1939, Bonnet commissioned a study for the French Cabinet which concluded that for all intents and purposes the 1935 Franco-Soviet alliance was now defunct, and hence there no grounds for hope about help from the Soviet Union. Moreover, rumors in the French press over the winter of 1938–39 that France was seeking the end of the eastern alliances generated concerns both in the Chamber of Deputies and in the press, leading Bonnet to state in a speech to the Chamber on 26 January 1939: "So, gentlemen, let us dispose of the legand that our policy has destroyed the engagements that we have contracted in Eastern Europe with the USSR and with Poland. These engagements remain in force and they must be applied in the same spirit in which they were conceived". In response to Bonnet's speech, Ribbentrop summoned the French Ambassador to Germany, Robert Coulondre, on 6 February 1939 to offer a formal protest over his speech. Ribbentrop told Coulondre that because of Bonnet's alleged statement of 6 December 1938 accepting Eastern Europe as Germany's zone of influence meant that "France's commitments in Eastern Europe" were now "off limits".

Besides seeking to end the cordon sanitaire, Bonnet's major initiative in foreign policy after Munich was a series of economic agreements he sought to negotiate with the Germans. Bonnet's economic diplomacy was intended to achieve four goals:
  • Alleviate the effects of the Great Depression in France;
  • Like many other appeasers on both sides of the Channel, Bonnet believed that German foreign policy was driven by economic grievances, not by Nazi racial theories about Lebensraum
    Lebensraum
    was one of the major political ideas of Adolf Hitler, and an important component of Nazi ideology. It served as the motivation for the expansionist policies of Nazi Germany, aiming to provide extra space for the growth of the German population, for a Greater Germany...

    , which Bonnet thought were so farfetched that he felt that the Nazis themselves did not take their ideology seriously. Thus, arrangements that offered Germany greater prosperity would tame German complaints against the existing international order, and thereby reduce international tension.
  • In common with many other economic experts around the world in the 1930s, Bonnet was disturbed by the implications of the increasing tendency in Germany towards protectionism
    Protectionism
    Protectionism is the economic policy of restraining trade between states through methods such as tariffs on imported goods, restrictive quotas, and a variety of other government regulations designed to allow "fair competition" between imports and goods and services produced domestically.This...

    , currency manipulation, use of "blocked accounts" for foreign businesses in Germany and foreign holders of German debt, autarky
    Autarky
    Autarky is the quality of being self-sufficient. Usually the term is applied to political states or their economic policies. Autarky exists whenever an entity can survive or continue its activities without external assistance. Autarky is not necessarily economic. For example, a military autarky...

    , a growing etatism in the German economy, and the German drive to create their own economic zone in Europe. At minimum, Bonnet felt that Franco-German economic agreements would ensure that France would not be locked out of the German economic sphere of influence, and might moderate some of the more worrisome German economic practices.
  • Lay the groundwork for a Franco-German friendship that would both banish the prospect of another war, and end the arms race that had placed such a burden on the French economy.

However, during the winter of 1938–39, negotiations with the Germans proceeded slowly, in large part because the Germans did not wish to abandon the economic practices that caused such concern. In the atmosphere following the German destruction of Czecho-Slovakia (as Czechoslovakia had been renamed) on 15 March 1939 was not considered conductive for France to be pursuing any sort of agreements with the Germans, and the talks were called off, never to be resumed.

In October 1938, the French opened secret talks with the Americans to start buying American aircraft to make up productivity deficiencies in the French aircraft industry. Daladier commented that "If I had three or four thousand aircraft Munich would never have happened". Major problems in the Franco-American talks were the issue of how the French were to pay for the American planes and the implications of American neutrality acts. In addition, the American Johnson Act forbade loans to nations that had defaulted on their World War I debts. In February 1939, the French offered to cede their possessions in the Caribbean and the Pacific together with a lump sum payment of ten billion frans.

On 30 November 1938, there were "spontaneous" demonstrations in the Italian Chamber of Deputies organized by Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism....

 and his Foreign Minister, Count Galeazzo Ciano
Galeazzo Ciano
Gian Galeazzo Ciano, 2nd Count of Cortellazzo and Buccari was an Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Benito Mussolini's son-in-law. In early 1944 Count Ciano was shot by firing squad at the behest of his father-in-law, Mussolini under pressure from Nazi Germany.-Early life:Ciano was born in...

 demanding that France cede Tunisia
Tunisia
Tunisia , officially the Tunisian RepublicThe long name of Tunisia in other languages used in the country is: , is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area...

, Corsica and French Somaliland
Djibouti
Djibouti , officially the Republic of Djibouti , is a country in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Eritrea in the north, Ethiopia in the west and south, and Somalia in the southeast. The remainder of the border is formed by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden at the east...

 to Italy. In response, Bonnet sent out a message to André François-Poncet
André François-Poncet
André François-Poncet was a French politician and diplomat whose post as ambassador to Germany allowed him to witness first-hand the rise to power of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, and the Nazi regime's preparations for war.François-Poncet was the son of a counselor of the Court of Appeals in...

, who by this time was now the French Ambassador in Rome, to inform him that he should see Count Ciano to complain that "Such behavior may appear rather unusual in the presence of the French Ambassador and immediately following the unconditional recognition of the Italian Empire". At the same time, Bonnet ordered Charles Corbin, the French Ambassador in London to tell Chamberlain and Lord Halifax during their scheduled visit to Rome in January 1939 that they should not allow any weakening of Anglo-French relations at the expense of improved Anglo-Italian relations. During a meeting between François-Poncet and Count Ciano, the Italian Foreign Minister claimed that the demonstrations were purely "spontaneous" and did not reflect the views of his government. As part of an effort to gain British support against the Italian campaign, Bonnet issued a statement that France would always rush to Britain's aid in the event of aggression out of the hope that his statement might lead to a similar British statement. In early January 1939, Bonnet and Daladier approved of the idea of sending the banker Paul Baudoin
Paul Baudoin
Paul Baudouin was a French banker who became a politician.-Early years:Paul Baudouin was born into a wealthy family in Paris, and served as an artillery officer during The Great War in the French Army. In 1930 he became the Deputy Director and General Manager of the Bank of Indo-China...

 as an unofficial diplomat to find out just what exactly the Italians wanted from France. The reasoning for the Baudoin mission was if the price of Italian friendship was not too expensive, then it might be worth paying as a way of detaching Italy from Germany, and thus reducing France's potential enemies. When Baudoin visited Rome in February 1939, he reported that the Italians were only asking for some economic concessions from the French in the Horn of Africa
Horn of Africa
The Horn of Africa is a peninsula in East Africa that juts hundreds of kilometers into the Arabian Sea and lies along the southern side of the Gulf of Aden. It is the easternmost projection of the African continent...

 and for Italian representation on the board of the Compagnie universelle du canal maritime de Suez
Suez Canal Company
The Universal Suez Ship Canal Company was the Egyptian corporation which was formed by Ferdinand de Lesseps during 1858, constructed the Suez Canal between 1859 and 1869, and owned and operated it for many years thereafter...

. But before any decisions were made in Paris about accepting the Italian demands or not, the news of Baudoin's secret visit was leaked to the French press, thereby forcing Bonnet to disavow Baudoin. In response to furious complaints from François-Poncet about Baudoin's mission, which he had first learned about after the story had been leaked, Bonnet replied to François-Poncet that: "The rumors you are telling me have no basis in fact. You are fully aware that any conversation, any Franco-Italian negotiation official or unofficial could only be handled by you, and that no direct or indirect transaction could not be considered outside your purview".

In January 1939, negotiations were opened between the French and the Turks
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 over resolving the Hatay dispute. Leading the French team were Gabriel Puaux, the High Commissioner of Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

 and Massigli, the French Ambassador in Ankara
Ankara
Ankara is the capital of Turkey and the country's second largest city after Istanbul. The city has a mean elevation of , and as of 2010 the metropolitan area in the entire Ankara Province had a population of 4.4 million....

. The continuing feud between Massigli and Bonnet was reflected in Bonnet's habit of refusing Massigli negotiating instructions for weeks on end, thereby placing Massigli in an embarrassing situation when he attempted talks with the Turks. During the talks, Bonnet had first backed Puaux, who was opposed to any weakening of French control over the Sanjak
Sanjak
Sanjaks were administrative divisions of the Ottoman Empire. Sanjak, and the variant spellings sandjak, sanjaq, and sinjaq, are English transliterations of the Turkish word sancak, meaning district, banner, or flag...

of Alexandretta
Iskenderun
İskenderun is a city and urban district in the province of Hatay on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. The current mayor is Yusuf Hamit Civelek .-Names:...

 before deciding upon settling the dispute in favor of the Turks as a way of potentially winning Turkish support in the event of a war with Germany. Despite efforts to maintain some sort of French presence in Alexandretta, the Franco-Turkish talks were to end in June 1939 with the Turks being given total control over the disputed region.

By early 1939, it was clear that the days of the Spanish Republic were numbered, and Bonnet felt it was time for France to recognize the Spanish Nationalists as the legitimate government of Spain (until that time, Paris had recognized the Republican government as the legitimate government). On 20 January 1939, Bonnet had a meeting with the former president of Mexico, Francisco León de la Barra
Francisco León de la Barra
Francisco León de la Barra y Quijano was a Mexican political figure and diplomat, who served as interim president of Mexico from May 25 to November 6, 1911....

, who was living in exile in Paris, and asked that de la Barra serve as an unofficial French diplomat in talks with the Spanish Nationalists. In response to reports from de la Barra that ties between General Francisco Franco
Francisco Franco
Francisco Franco y Bahamonde was a Spanish general, dictator and head of state of Spain from October 1936 , and de facto regent of the nominally restored Kingdom of Spain from 1947 until his death in November, 1975...

 and the Axis powers were strained, Bonnet then sent out Senator Léon Bérard
Léon Bérard
Léon Bérard was a French politician and lawyer.He was Minister of Public Instruction in 1919 and from 1921 to 1924, and Minister of Justice from 1931 to 1932 and was elected to the Académie française in 1934.Bérard was the Ambassador from Vichy France to the Holy See from 1940 to 1945.-Léon Bérard...

 to sound out the Nationalists about establishing diplomatic relations. Bonnet told Bérard to inform General Jordana, the Nationalist Foreign Minister that provided that General Franco was willing to promise that all German and Italian forces were to be withdrawn after the end of the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

, then Paris would recognize the Nationalists. The major dispute during the talks between Bérard and Jourdana concerned whatever the recognition of the Burgos government would be de jure, as Franco wanted, or de facto, as Bonnet wanted, and if Franco would promise to remain neutral should a Franco-German war occur. However by February 1939, Bonnet believed that the rapid collapse of the Republican war effort made recognition of the Burgos government imperative if France were to have any hope of having influence with General Franco, and on 28 February 1939 France broke diplomatic relations with the Republican government in Madrid
Madrid
Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain. The population of the city is roughly 3.3 million and the entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area is calculated to be 6.271 million. It is the third largest city in the European Union, after London and Berlin, and its metropolitan...

 and recognized the Nationalist government in Burgos
Burgos
Burgos is a city of northern Spain, historic capital of Castile. It is situated at the edge of the central plateau, with about 178,966 inhabitants in the city proper and another 20,000 in its suburbs. It is the capital of the province of Burgos, in the autonomous community of Castile and León...

. Much to the relief of Bonnet, General Franco kept his word about ensuring the withdrawal of Axis forces from Spanish territory, especially the departure of the Italians from the Balearic Islands
Balearic Islands
The Balearic Islands are an archipelago of Spain in the western Mediterranean Sea, near the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula.The four largest islands are: Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera. The archipelago forms an autonomous community and a province of Spain with Palma as the capital...

.

In early 1939, the British Embassy in Paris was bombarded with a series of reports that public opinion in France was highly dejected and demoralized, and that unless Britain made the "continental commitment" (i.e. unequivocally linked British security to French security and commit to sending a large British Expeditionary Force to France like the one ultimately sent in World War I), then the French would resign themselves to becoming a German satellite state. These reports, which secretly originated with the French government, hoped to pressure the British into making the long-sought "continental commitment". The French were assisted in a conspiracy of convenience by the leadership of the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

, which disliked the funding implications of Chamberlain's "limited liability" doctrine that held that in the next war, British efforts were to be largely limited to the sea and air, with the British Army playing an ancillary role at best. The French effort for a British "continental commitment" was given a huge and unexpected boost by the "Dutch war scare" of January 1939. In response to the "Dutch war scare", which gripped London in late January 1939 when the British government received false reports of an imminent German invasion of the Netherlands, Lord Halifax had Phipps inquire what the France would do if such an invasion were to take place. According to the misinformation, the Germans planned to overrun the Netherlands, and then use Dutch airfields to launch a bombing campaign meant to achieve a "knock-out" blow against Britain by razing British cities to the ground. The French attitude towards a German invasion of the Netherlands was crucial, because France was the only country in Western Europe that possessed an Army large enough and modern enough to save the Dutch. Moreover, the importance of France to British security had increased following a violent anti-British propaganda campaign launched in Germany in November 1938, which had led the Chamberlain government to perceive German foreign policy increasingly as anti-British. The effect of this was combined with rumors that Bonnet was secretly attempting to negotiate a Franco-German "special relationship" that might leave Britain facing a hostile Germany without any allies who possessed the large armies that Britain lacked. In response to Phipps's message, Bonnet had Corbin inform Lord Halifax that the French attitude towards German aggression towards the Netherlands would depend upon what the British attitude towards France was if the latter were the victim of aggression. The British response to Bonnet's message was Chamberlain's statement to the House of Commons on 6 February 1939 that any German attack on France would automatically be considered an attack on Britain, thereby leading the British to make the "continental commitment" to send a large army to the defense of France that successive French diplomats had struggled to obtain since 1919.

In March 1939, following the German destruction of the rump state of Czecho-Slovakia and the proclamation of the Reich Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia
Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia
The Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia was the majority ethnic-Czech protectorate which Nazi Germany established in the central parts of Bohemia, Moravia and Czech Silesia in what is today the Czech Republic...

, Bonnet had Hervé Alphand of the Ministry of Commerce, who was in Berlin to negotiate a trade treaty, recalled in protest. The German move badly damaged Bonnet's creditability, and as part of the aftermath, the Union des Intellectuels francais sent out a letter signed by 17 intellectuals calling for an inquiry into Bonnet's conduct of foreign affairs. Ties between Daladier and Bonnet were strained when in protest over the German coup Daladier ordered the recall of Robert Coulondre, the French Ambassador to Germany, without consulting Bonnet, who was much offended by Daladier's act. In April 1939, Bonnet in turn went behind Daladier's back in suggesting that Britain apply pressure on the French Premier to make more concessions to Italy regarding the Franco-Italian disputes over influence in the Mediterranean
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

 and the Red Sea
Red Sea
The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez...

 regions. The differences in opinion between Daladier and Bonnet over the question of making concessions to Italy, which Daladier was firmly opposed to, led Daladier increasingly to take control of foreign policy by dealing directly with the Quai d'Orsay's Secretary-General Alexis Saint-Legér Léger
Saint-John Perse
Saint-John Perse was a French poet, awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1960 "for the soaring flight and evocative imagery of his poetry." He was also a major French diplomat from 1914 to 1940, after which he lived primarily in the USA until 1967.-Biography:Alexis Leger was...

, and pushing Bonnet aside from April 1939 onwards. In April 1939, Daladier told the Romanian foreign minister Grigore Gafencu "he was going to get rid of Bonnet quite shortly", and on 6 May, Daladier stated to Bullit he had a great deal of "...mistrust of Bonnet and said that he might replace him in the immediate future". As Count Welczeck noted in May 1939: "Bonnet was ...a man who would go to the utmost limits to avoid a European war up to the last moment. He regretted therefore that foreign affairs were so much more in the hands of M. Daladier than M. Bonnet".

During the "Romanian war scare" of March 1939, when the Romanian government as part of an effort to enlist British support against German demands for the control of the Romanian oil industry, had the Romanian Minister in London Virgil Tilea make a series of highly misleading statements to the British government to the effect that they were under the verge of an immediate German invasion, Bonnet happened to be in London as part of the company accompanying the state visit of President Albert Lebrun
Albert Lebrun
Albert François Lebrun was a French politician, President of France from 1932 to 1940. He was the last president of the Third Republic. He was a member of the center-right Democratic Republican Alliance .-Biography:...

. The importance of Romania
Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

 was due to the fact that Germany possessed no oil of its own and was highly dependent on oil imported from the New World (the coal carbonation plants that were to supply Germany with oil during World War II were not in operation in yet). As such a naval blockade of Germany would have had highly damaging effects on the German economy, and conversely, a German seizure of Romania would undermine the effectiveness of a blockade. When the "Romanian war scare" began on 18 March 1939, Bonnet's first response was to inform the Romanians that they should accept aid from the Soviet Union as there was nothing France could do to save them. The Romanians rejected the French advice while Jakob Suritz, the Soviet Ambassador to France, stated the Soviet Union would take no initiatives in resisting German aggression in Eastern Europe, and that France must show the way. During an emergency meeting with Lord Halifax on 20 March, Bonnet sought to shift responsibility to dealing with the crisis onto British shoulders, and strongly suggested that the ideal state for saving Romania and its oil was Poland. In particular, Bonnet argued that Britain should take the lead in persuading the Poles to come to Romania's aid, and furthermore suggested that if Poland were involved, then perhaps the Romanians might be persuaded to accept Soviet aid as well. Bonnet's reasons for arguing that Britain should take the lead in persuading Poland to come to Romania's aid were due to his fear that if France should make such an effort, the price of Polish support would a tightening of the Franco-Polish alliance, which was counter to Bonnet's general policy of seeking to weaken France's eastern alliances. On 23 March 1939, in another meeting with Lord Halifax, Bonnet mentioned that he had received a series of messages from François-Poncet claiming that it would create a highly negative impression on Mussolini and would hamper efforts to detach him from his alignment with Germany if Britain and France would align themselves with the Soviet Union only. Bonnet's statement was to lead the British government into considering the idea of making a "guarantee" of Polish independence as the best way of securing Polish support for Romania. In this way, Bonnet played a major, if indirect role in the progress leading to the British "guarantee" of Poland on 31 March 1939.

Following the British "guarantee" of Polish independence on 31 March 1939, followed by the announcements that London wished to build a "peace front" to resist aggression in April 1939, Bonnet felt there was now a great opportunity of building an Anglo-French-Soviet combination that might deter Germany from war. On 14 April 1939, Bonnet had a meeting with the Soviet Ambassador to France, Jakob Suritz, and asked "in a form to be determined" for the Soviet Union to provide military support for Poland and Romania
Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

 should those nations be attacked by Germany. Bonnet suggested to Suritz that an Annexe to the Franco-Soviet Pact of 1935 should be added stating that the Soviet Union would go to war if Germany attacked either Poland or Romania. In particular, Bonnet stated that "It was obvious that there had to be an agreement between the USSR and Romania or the USSR and Poland for the Franco-Soviet Pact to come usefully into play". Suritz commented that unless the Poles and Romanians allowed the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 transit rights, there was little the Soviet Union could do for those nations, leading Bonnet to reply that he felt he could pressure both nations into agreeing to provide the desired transit rights. Bonnet commented that he felt it was time to "begin immediate discussions between France and the USSR in order to precisely determine the help the USSR could provide to Romania and Poland in the event of German aggression".

In contrast to his enthusiasm for improving ties with Moscow in the spring of 1939, Bonnet felt the opposite about relations with Warsaw
Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly from the Baltic Sea and from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population in 2010 was estimated at 1,716,855 residents with a greater metropolitan area of 2,631,902 residents, making Warsaw the 10th most...

. In May 1939, during talks in Paris with the Poles aimed at strengthening the political and military aspects of the Franco-Polish alliance, Bonnet sabotaged the negotiations by bogging down the talks on the political accord on procedural details, and ensured that no political accord was signed, which was the precondition for the military accords (not until 3 September 1939 was the political accord finally signed). Bonnet's reasons in seeking to block the signing of the Franco-Polish political accord were a way of applying pressure on the Poles to grant the Soviets transit rights, and because in case, the negotiations for the "grand alliance" failed, Bonnet did not wish to see France any more committed to Poland's defense. In June 1939, Bonnet's reputation was badly damaged when the French agent of the Dienststelle Ribbentrop, Otto Abetz
Otto Abetz
Dr. Heinrich Otto Abetz was the German ambassador to Vichy France during World War II.-Early years:Abetz was born in Schwetzingen on May 26, 1903. He was the son of an estate manager, who died when Otto was only 13...

, was expelled from France for engaging in espionage, two French newspaper editors were charged with receiving bribes from Abetz, and the name of Madame Bonnet was prominently mentioned in connection with the Abetz case as a close friend of the two editors, though it should be noted that despite much lucid speculation in the French press at the time, that no evidence has ever emerged linking Bonnet or his wife to German espionage or bribery.

During the ultimately failed talks for an Anglo-Franco-Soviet alliance in the spring and summer of 1939, Bonnet together with the rest of the French leadership pressed quite strongly for the revived Triple Entente
Triple Entente
The Triple Entente was the name given to the alliance among Britain, France and Russia after the signing of the Anglo-Russian Entente in 1907....

, often to the considerable discomfort of the British. In the spring and summer of 1939, Bonnet was a very strong advocate of the revived Triple Entente concept, believing that a "grand alliance" of the Soviet Union, Great Britain and France would deter Germany from attacking Poland. At a meeting with Lord Halifax on 20–21 May 1939 in Geneva, Daladier, Bonnet and Saint-Legér Léger pressured the British Foreign Secretary quite strongly for a "grand alliance" as the only way of stopping another world war. In the spring of 1939, Bonnet went so far as to inform Moscow that he supported turning over all of eastern Poland to the Soviet Union regardless of what the Poles felt about the issue, if that was to be the price of the Soviet alliance. On 2 June 1939, when the Soviet government offered up its definition of what constituted "aggression", upon which the intended alliance was come into play, Bonnet sided with the Soviets against the British, who felt that the Soviet definition of "aggression", especially "indirect aggression" was too loose a definition and phrased in such a manner as to imply the Soviet right of inference in the internal affairs of nations of Eastern Europe. On 1 July 1939, in response to a message from the Soviet Foreign Commissar Vyacheslav Molotov
Vyacheslav Molotov
Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov was a Soviet politician and diplomat, an Old Bolshevik and a leading figure in the Soviet government from the 1920s, when he rose to power as a protégé of Joseph Stalin, to 1957, when he was dismissed from the Presidium of the Central Committee by Nikita Khrushchev...

 about what nations the intended "grand alliance" was meant to protect, Bonnet sent a telegraph in reply stating the purpose of the "grand alliance" was "the mutual solidarity of the three great powers...in those conditions the number of countries guaranteed is unimportant". Besides working for the "peace front" with Britain and the Soviet Union, Bonnet tried to enlist Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 in the "peace front" in July 1939 by arranging for the French and British treasuries to provide financial support to Ankara
Ankara
Ankara is the capital of Turkey and the country's second largest city after Istanbul. The city has a mean elevation of , and as of 2010 the metropolitan area in the entire Ankara Province had a population of 4.4 million....

.

By early July 1939, Bonnet grew increasingly irritated over what he regarded as British foot-dragging in the talks with the Soviets, and with the Poles for refusing to grant transit rights to the Red Army. Bonnet wrote to Lord Halifax at this time stating "We are reaching a critical moment, where we find it necessary to do everything possible to succeed". As part of an effort to save the talks, Bonnet wrote up and presented to both London and Moscow the text of a joint communiqué stating to the world their determination to resist aggression and that they "agreed on the main points of the political agreement". Bonnet's effort was blocked by Molotov, who stated his government had no interest in issuing such a communiqué. In August 1939, Bonnet took up a Turkish effort of mediation between the British and the Soviets as part of an attempt to break the deadlock.

When the Anglo-Franco-Soviet talks were on the verge of breaking down in August 1939 over the issue of transit rights for the Red Army in Poland, Bonnet instructed the French Embassy in Moscow to inform the Kremlin falsely that the Poles had granted the desired transit rights as part of a desperate bid to rescue the alliance talks with the Soviets. At the same time, immense French diplomatic pressure was applied in Warsaw for the Poles to agree to the transit rights for the Red Army, but the Polish Foreign Minister Colonel Józef Beck
Józef Beck
' was a Polish statesman, diplomat, military officer, and close associate of Józef Piłsudski...

 was very firm in refusing to consider such an idea. On August 19, 1939, Colonel Beck stated in a message to Paris: "We have not got a military agreement with the USSR. We do not want to have one". The conclusion of the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, named after the Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov and the German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, was an agreement officially titled the Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union and signed in Moscow in the late hours of 23 August 1939...

 of 23 August 1939 left Bonnet highly dejected, believing the prospect of Soviet economic support for Germany would undermine the effectiveness of a British naval blockade of Germany (which was widely assumed in France to be a prerequisite of defeating Germany), and hence his return to advocating renouncing the Polish alliance as the best way of avoiding war for France. After the Non-Aggression Pact, Bonnet urged Daladier that the French should inform the Poles that they should allow the Free City of Danzig
Free City of Danzig
The Free City of Danzig was a semi-autonomous city-state that existed between 1920 and 1939, consisting of the Baltic Sea port of Danzig and surrounding areas....

 (modern Gdańsk
Gdansk
Gdańsk is a Polish city on the Baltic coast, at the centre of the country's fourth-largest metropolitan area.The city lies on the southern edge of Gdańsk Bay , in a conurbation with the city of Gdynia, spa town of Sopot, and suburban communities, which together form a metropolitan area called the...

, Poland) to rejoin Germany, and if the Poles refused, then the French should use that refusal as an excuse to renounce the alliance with Poland.

At a Cabinet meeting on 22 August 1939, Bonnet spoke against French mobilization and argued that France should seek to find a way to end the alliance with Poland. Bonnet supported by St. Léger-Léger and Daladier argued for making one more attempt to win the Soviet alliance. Reynaud and Mandel both spoke for French mobilization, which Bonnet argued would increase Polish "intransigence"; Bonnet's comment about mobilization was "I do not ask for this". At a meeting of the Standing Committee on National Defence, which comprised the Premier, the Ministers of Defence, the Navy, the Air and Foreign Affairs and all of the top French military officials on 23 August 1939, Bonnet sought to pressure General Maurice Gamelin
Maurice Gamelin
Maurice Gustave Gamelin was a French general. Gamelin is best remembered for his unsuccessful command of the French military in 1940 during the Battle of France and his steadfast defense of republican values....

 into stating that France could not risk a war in 1939, and stated that France should find a way of renouncing the 1921 alliance with Poland. Bonnet argued that Poland could only be saved with Soviet support, and the Non-Aggression Pact had ended that prospect. Moreover, Bonnet asserted that oil-rich Romania, helmed by Germany and the Soviet Union would now lean towards the totalitarian states, and that the Soviets would allow Turkey to enter the war if Germany attacked a state in the Balkans. At that meeting, Bonnet's arguments for abandoning Poland were countered by General Gamelin, who argued that if war came, there was little France could do for the Poles (whom Gamelin felt could hold out for about 3 months), but that to abandon Poland would be equivalent to abandoning Great Power status for France. As Bonnet continued his efforts against going to war for Poland, Daladier increasingly came to feel that appointing Bonnet to the Qui d'Orsay had been a mistake, and increasingly came to be consumed with hatred for Bonnet. Juliusz Łukasiewicz, the Polish Ambassador to France, accused Bonnet of "preparing a new Munich behind our backs".

On 31 August 1939, Bonnet was the leading spokesman for the idea of using the peace mediation proposals of Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism....

 as a pretext for ending the alliance with Poland, but was overruled by the French Cabinet led by Daladier. Prior to the meeting, Bonnet together his close ally, the Public Works Minister, Anatole de Monzie
Anatole de Monzie
Anatole de Monzie was a French administrator, encyclopaedist , political figure and scholar. His father was a tax collector in Bazas, Gironde where Anatole - a name he disliked from an early age - was born in 1876...

, sought to pressure some of the more hesitant hawks in the Cabinet such as Charles Pomaret, Henri Queuille and Jean Zay into endorsing accepting Mussolini's offer. At that meeting, Bonnet stated that French should accept the Italian offer while rejecting the British precondition for acceptance, namely the demobilization of the German Army. Daladier, who was strongly supported by General Gamelin, argued that Mussolini's proposed peace conference was a trap, and that the French should find a reason not to attend Mussolini's proposed conference.

After the German aggression against Poland began on 1 September 1939, Bonnet continued to argue against a French declaration of war, and instead urged that the French take up Mussolini's mediation offer; if the Poles refused to attend Mussolini's conference (which was widely expected since Mussolini's revised peace plan on 1 September called for an armistice, but did not call for the removal of German troops from Poland, which was the major Polish precondition to accepting the Italian plan), then the French should denounce the Polish alliance. When Bonnet first learned of the German attack on Poland at 8:20 am on 1 September 1939, his first reaction was to contact the Italian Ambassador to France, Baron Raffaele Guariglia, and informed him that France had accepted Mussolini's mediation offer. Bonnet then ordered François-Poncet to see Mussolini about when the peace conference could be begin. Later that same day Bonnet ordered the Ambassador in London, Charles Corbin, to tell the British that Mussolini's peace offers had been accepted. Corbin in turn reported that now that war had begun, the British were starting to lose interest in the Italian mediation offer. Likewise, Ambassador Leon Noel in Warsaw was instructed to see if the Poles would agree to attending Mussolini's proposed conference, only to receive an angry reply from Colonel Beck about when France proposed to honor the Franco-Polish alliance by declaring war on Germany. Owing to strong British pressure for a warning to be delivered in Berlin, Bonnet reluctantly ordered Ambassador Robert Coulondre late on the afternoon of the 1st to warn Ribbentrop that if the Germans continued with their aggression, then France would declare on Germany. At midnight on 1 September, Bonnet had Havas
Havas
Havas is the second largest advertising group in France and is a "Global advertising and communications services group" and the sixth-largest global advertising and communications group worldwide, operating on the communications consulting market through three main operational divisions:*Euro RSCG...

 issue a statement saying:"The French government has today, as have several other Governments, received an Italian proposal looking to the resolution of Europe's difficulties. After due consideration the French government has given a "positive response"".

On the morning of 2 September, an angry scene occurred at the Quai d'Orsay when the Polish Ambassador Juliusz Łukasiewicz marched in and during a stormy interview with Bonnet demanded to know why France had not declared war yet. Later that same day, Bonnet during a phone conversation with Count Ciano made a great point of insisting that the French demarche of 1 September was not ultimantum, and urging that the Italians call the peace conference as soon as possible. Through both Bonnet and the Italians were serious about the conference, the proprosed conference was blocked when Lord Halifax stated that unless the Germans withdrew from Poland immediately, then Britain would not attend. During a phone call to Halifax later on 2 September, Bonnet attempted to persuade Halifax to drop the pre-condition about a German withdraw, only to be refused. At 5:00 pm on 2 September Bonnet had another tempestuous interview with Łukasiewicz, who pressed very strongly for a French declaration of war and accused Bonnet of plotting to keep France neutral. As part of an effort to gain British acceptance of the Italian plan, Bonnet sought to see if it were possible for the Germans to stage a "symbolic withdrawal" from Poland, only to learn from Lord Halifax that a "symbolic withdrawal" was not acceptable and from Ribbentrop that the Germans had no interest in any sort of peace conference.

Bonnet together with his allies in the "peace lobby" both within and without the government such as Anatole de Monzie
Anatole de Monzie
Anatole de Monzie was a French administrator, encyclopaedist , political figure and scholar. His father was a tax collector in Bazas, Gironde where Anatole - a name he disliked from an early age - was born in 1876...

, Jean Mistler
Jean Mistler
Jean Mistler was a French writer born in Sorèze, Tarn. In 1966 he was elected to the Académie Française.Mistler, whose father's family had left Alsace in 1871, did his schooling in Sorèze, before preparing for the entrance examination of the Ecole Nationale Supérieure at the Lycée Henri IV, where...

, Marcel Déat
Marcel Déat
Marcel Déat was a French Socialist until 1933, when he initiated a spin-off from the French Section of the Workers' International along with other right-wing 'Neosocialists'. He then founded the collaborationist National Popular Rally during the Vichy regime...

, Paul Faure, Paul Baudoin
Paul Baudoin
Paul Baudouin was a French banker who became a politician.-Early years:Paul Baudouin was born into a wealthy family in Paris, and served as an artillery officer during The Great War in the French Army. In 1930 he became the Deputy Director and General Manager of the Bank of Indo-China...

, Pierre Laval
Pierre Laval
Pierre Laval was a French politician. He was four times President of the council of ministers of the Third Republic, twice consecutively. Following France's Armistice with Germany in 1940, he served twice in the Vichy Regime as head of government, signing orders permitting the deportation of...

, René Belin, Adrien Marquet, and Gaston Bergery, all spent the days 1–3 September lobbying the Daladier government, the Senate and the Chamber against going to war with Germany. On 3 September 1939, Britain declared war on Germany, which had the effect of resolving the debate in Paris, and led to Daladier finally having the French declaration of war issued later that same day. For a week after war was declared, Daladier avoided having the cabinet meet in order to ensure that Bonnet would not have a chance to put forward his views about seeking peace with Germany. Bonnet was demoted to minister of justice with the coming of war on 13 September 1939.

Later career


In the latter half of March 1940, Bonnet together with his "peace lobby" allies such as Anatole de Monzie
Anatole de Monzie
Anatole de Monzie was a French administrator, encyclopaedist , political figure and scholar. His father was a tax collector in Bazas, Gironde where Anatole - a name he disliked from an early age - was born in 1876...

, Pierre-Étienne Flandin, Pierre Laval
Pierre Laval
Pierre Laval was a French politician. He was four times President of the council of ministers of the Third Republic, twice consecutively. Following France's Armistice with Germany in 1940, he served twice in the Vichy Regime as head of government, signing orders permitting the deportation of...

, Jean Montigny, Jean-Louis Tixier-Vignancour, Georges Scapini, René Dommanage, Gaston Bergery, René Chateau, and René Brunet, made a major lobbying effort to have Laval appointed foreign minister as a prelude to making peace with Germany. Besides for chairing meetings of the "peace lobby", which met six times during the Drôle de guerre, Bonnet otherwise remained silent as Justice Minister. On 21 June 1940, Bonnet together with Pierre Laval
Pierre Laval
Pierre Laval was a French politician. He was four times President of the council of ministers of the Third Republic, twice consecutively. Following France's Armistice with Germany in 1940, he served twice in the Vichy Regime as head of government, signing orders permitting the deportation of...

 helped to pressure President Albert Lebrun
Albert Lebrun
Albert François Lebrun was a French politician, President of France from 1932 to 1940. He was the last president of the Third Republic. He was a member of the center-right Democratic Republican Alliance .-Biography:...

 into changing his mind about leaving for Algeria
Algeria
Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

. Bonnet supported the Vichy government
Vichy France
Vichy France, Vichy Regime, or Vichy Government, are common terms used to describe the government of France that collaborated with the Axis powers from July 1940 to August 1944. This government succeeded the Third Republic and preceded the Provisional Government of the French Republic...

 and served on the National Council from December 1940, but since the council never met, Bonnet's role in Vichy was not a large one. Bonnet spent most of World War II living on his estate in the Dordogne and attempting to secure himself an office in Vichy, though Bonnet was later to claim to have been involved in the Resistance
French Resistance
The French Resistance is the name used to denote the collection of French resistance movements that fought against the Nazi German occupation of France and against the collaborationist Vichy régime during World War II...

. According to Gestapo
Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

 records, Bonnet contacted the Germans once in February 1941 to see if it were possible if the Germans would pressure Laval to include him in the Cabinet, and again in June 1943 to reassure them that he had no intention of leaving France to join the Allies. On 5 April 1944, Bonnet left France for Switzerland, where he was to stay until March 1950. After the war, proceedings were begun against him but eventually dropped, though he was expelled from the Radical Party in 1944. During his time in exile, Bonnet was to write a five-volume set of memoirs. Bonnet throughout his career had been very much concerned with his reputation, and during his time as Foreign Minister had a team of journalists to engage in what is known in France as Bonnetiste writing, namely a series of books and pamphlets meant to glorify Bonnet as the defender of the peace and Europe's savior. After leaving the Quai d'Orsay, Bonnet took with him a large number of official papers, which he then used to support the claims made in his voluminous memoirs, where Bonnet depicted himself as waging a single-handed heroic battle to save the peace. Many have charged Bonnet with "editing" his papers to present himself in the best possible light, regardless of the facts. In particular, criticism has centered some of the contradictory claims in the Bonnet memoirs. At various points, Bonnet claimed it was British pressure that driven France towards Munich in 1938, and that his government would very much liked to gone to war for Czechoslovakia. At other times, Bonnet states the military and economic situation in 1938 was such that France could not risk a war that year. In the early 1950s, Bonnet had a celebrated debate on the pages of the Times Literary Supplement with one of his leading critics, the British historian Sir Lewis Bernstein Namier
Lewis Bernstein Namier
Sir Lewis Bernstein Namier was an English historian. He was born Ludwik Niemirowski in Wola Okrzejska in what was then part of the Russian Empire and is today in Poland.-Life:...

 over some of the claims contained in his memoirs. At issue was the question whether Bonnet had, as Namier charged, snubbed an offer by the Polish foreign minister Colonel Józef Beck
Józef Beck
' was a Polish statesman, diplomat, military officer, and close associate of Józef Piłsudski...

 in May 1938 to have Poland come to the aid of Czechoslovakia in the event of a German attack. Bonnet denied that such an offer had been made, which led Namier to accuse Bonnet of seeking to falsify the documentary record. Namier was able to establish that Bonnet had been less than honest in his account, and concluded the debate in 1953 with words "The Polish offer, for what it was worth, was first torpedoed by Bonnet the statesman, and next obliterated by Bonnet the historian". Beyond the narrow question of whatever a Polish offer in May 1938 had been made or not, the real significance of the debate was over Bonnet's freedom of maneuver. In his memoirs, Bonnet claimed that he had been often forced by circumstances beyond his control to carry out a foreign policy that he may not have necessarily wanted to carry out. By contrast, Namier charged that Bonnet had other options, and was merely carrying out the foreign policy he had wanted to carry out.

In 1953, an amnesty for those convicted of "national disgrace" allowed him to run for office again, and in 1956, Bonnet returned to his old seat in the Dordogne. Readmitted to the Radicals in 1952, he was once again expelled in 1955 for refusing to support Pierre Mendès France. Nevertheless, he was once again elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1956 and continued to serve in that body until 1968, when he lost his seat.