Trial and error: De Gaulle's foreign policy, 1958-1964
University of New Brunswick
Examining key events between 1958 and 1964, this report reassesses General Charles de Gaulle’s foreign policy during his early years in power. De Gaulle returned to office as president aiming to restore France’s grandeur after a humiliating Nazi occupation and subsequent troubles after 1945. Several historians have stressed that in doing so he pursued a consistent policy of pursuing French international autonomy during the Cold War, culminating in improved relations with the Soviet Union. This report argues that de Gaulle’s foreign policy was in fact significantly characterized by a trial and error approach. He first attempted to reconfigure relations with the United States and Britain, and then sought to deepen relations with West Germany. De Gaulle’s strong preference was towards the Western allies; it was only after these initiatives fell short that Franco-Soviet relations truly improved. The coherence of his foreign policy during this period should not be overstated.