59. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State1

3056. French Defense Minister Chaban Delmas gave luncheon December 18 for Secretary McElroy, Quarles, Sprague,2 Yost, General Twining, Dr. Killian3 and French officials. Most of discussion centered around IRBM question. Minister began with expression of general satisfaction re outcome morning session of Foreign and Defense Ministers on defense questions. Secretary asked Minister what he envisaged next step should be on IRBM’s, assuming heads of government approve decisions of Ministers.

Minister replied essential that bilateral arrangements be worked out regarding conditions for use. Minister cited same arguments he has used in past: i.e. problem is basically political; France in agreeing to stationing IRBM’s in its territory must be assured that it will have voice in decision as to their use and there is danger that Communist propaganda could exploit successfully any arrangements without this.

Secretary stressed importance of coming to rapid conclusion bilateral arrangements on IRBM’s so that there would be no delay in actual deployment. Said he understood France was anxious to receive IRBM’s at same time as British. Understood SACEUR was prepared recommend deployment to France so that weapons would arrive at approximately same time as in UK. Therefore hoped there would not be prolonged bilateral negotiations on use question. Other matters also, such as choosing sites, financing, and training, would require preparatory work. Therefore important reach prompt agreement on use question.

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Minister replied that he recognized need for prompt agreement use question, but was very important to reach good agreement which would meet political needs in France, citing again at some length dangers communist propaganda.

Secretary said he understood French political concerns, but emphasized again importance prompt agreement on use. Inquired whether his understanding was in fact correct that it was important to French that IRBM’s be deployed in France at same time as in UK. Secretary pointed out that we have problems on our side also. We are now going into production IRBM’s, and very important that they not remain unused. There are other places where IRBM’s might be deployed if France does not need them.

Minister replied that deployment in France at same time as in UK was important factor for France, although good settlement of “use” question also very important.

Secretary asked Minister what suggestions he had for settlement of “use” question.

Minister replied that problem divides itself in two parts.

In case of attack, SACEUR should have delegated to him authority to act promptly in certain specified cases. In such cases, there might be immediate bilateral consultation with French Government.
In cases where there is no attack, but there is serious threat of hostilities in Europe or in other parts of world, decision should be based on NATO Council consultation.

Discussion then turned to development and production new weapons and scientific cooperation. Minister stressed importance no discrimination in types of weapons which a country could produce. Cited recent French-German-Italian initiative re coordination arms production as very important step toward giving Europe capability to produce weapons which countries individually could not produce.4 Felt this could be worked out in manner consistent with broader NATO efforts.

Minister then stressed great importance of scientific cooperation and described at some length folly of allies withholding from each other technical military information already fully known to Soviets. To withhold such information could only mean great waste of time, money, and scientific brains while European countries make duplicating effort to catch up. This completely inconsistent with doctrine of need for greater effectiveness NATO Alliance. Minister said he was pleased to learn that U.S. Government was proposing amendment to [Page 211] McMahon act5 and that these amendments might be in effect in few months’ time.

Secretary fully agreed on desirability cooperation among European countries in development and production arms, in coordination NATO. Also agreed on desirability greater exchange scientific and technical information and confirmed that McMahon act changes were to be sought by U.S. Govt, although could not predict Congressional action. Pointed out that we are already instituting important programs in non-nuclear fields, such as cooperation in missiles production, and that much could be done in these fields without McMahon act changes.

Minister agreed on importance cooperation non-nuclear fields also, citing particularly missiles.

After further discussion, Minister agreed that should be possible work out quick agreement on IRBM’s. Felt this should be regarded as temporary or transitional agreement which could be broadened later in light McMahon act changes and further developments.

Discussion turned to procedure for reaching “quick” agreement, and was agreed that small U.S.-French group could meet December 19 to consider details. After consideration at working level, this might be followed by further conversations, either in Washington or Paris, soon after beginning of year. Purpose would be to settle any remaining differences with view to reaching agreement in shortest possible time. French agreed to prepare agenda for experts meeting. Results this meeting being reported.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751.13/12–2057. Secret; Limit Distribution. Repeated to London.
  2. Mansfield D. Sprague, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs.
  3. Dr. Thomas J. Killian, Deputy Director and Chief Scientist, Office of Naval Research.
  4. On January 21, 1958, France, Italy, and the Federal Republic of Germany formally agreed to proceed with joint development and production of weapons and equipment.
  5. The Atomic Energy Act of 1946 (Public Law 585, 60 Stat. 755).