229. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Kennedy0


  • Specific answers to your questions of May 29th (de Gaulle)1
On nuclear propulsion systems for submarines, the JCS view is not shared by the State Department, and emphatically disapproved by the JCAE. The argument of the State Department is that one thing merely leads to another, and that this would not do much good to the French; the argument of the Joint Committee is that the French really cannot keep secrets. At a guess I think the Joint Chiefs are more nearly right, but you will encounter opposition especially on the Hill, if you go ahead on this one with de Gaulle. A background memorandum is attached. (Tab 1)2
Attached at Tab 2 is the famous message of September 1958 from de Gaulle to Eisenhower. The French have somewhat backed off from the requirement of a formal tripartite organization, and have not pursued the notion of invoking Article 12 for revision of the North Atlantic Treaty.
On Sulzberger’s first point, parity of consultation with the British, the Department concurs in feeling that you can and should repeat to [Page 660] de Gaulle the basic assurance on nuclear weapons which Eisenhower gave the British and which you have confirmed to them. This understanding is “that the United States would, of course, in the event of increased tension or the threat of war take every possible step to consult with Britain and our other allies.” This is understood to mean consultation in advance of the use of nuclear weapons. We have a supplementary understanding with the British under which there must be joint agreement on the use of nuclear weapons based in the UK, but there is no occasion for parity here because we have no nuclear weapons based in France. So in the current circumstances, the general offer of consultation is equal to what the British have.
On the question of providing inertial guidance systems to the French, I am still unable to get clear information after a day of telephone calls. I am giving this to Paul Nitze as an item of first priority for a full report, and he will bring it to the plane tomorrow.
The attached memorandum (3) gives the background of the French decision on withholding jets to Morocco. It appears that the French were simply annoyed at some earlier difficulties with the Moroccans. The State Department points out that this is an illustration of French failure to consult with us, and if we had known of their decision, we might have been able to act in time to prevent acceptance of the Soviet offer.
What we want to persuade the French to persuade the Portuguese to do in Angola is a matter of some argument in the Department, but on the whole the dominant view is that we should simply ask de Gaulle himself to communicate in his own way to Salazar the importance of reform and gradual decolonization. Since de Gaulle himself has exemplified this policy in his relations with former French colonists in Africa, it seems wise to us to leave the initiative to him in framing precise proposals to Salazar. In any event, we have nothing very precise to propose. I will have the latest cables from our Consul in Angola tomorrow if you want them.
On the Moroccan bases, our position is clearly stated in the annexed cable to Ambassador Bonsal. (4) In essence, this cable tells Bonsal to make a real study of the whole matter with the King and his Ministers. We are currently committed to a withdrawal by the end of 1963, and Bonsal is authorized to explore both special arrangements that may be desirable and possible before and after this deadline. He is also instructed to press for the withdrawal of Soviet technicians in Morocco, in accordance with assurances from the King and his grandfather.
On an arms embargo in Africa, the view of the State Department is mainly negative, in contrast to that of Senator Fulbright in a letter which I attach at Tab 5. The State Department believes that for us to attempt an external agreement on arms limitation would be resented in [Page 661] most of the African states as a form of paternalism and neocolonialism. They also believe the initiative would fail and that Khrushchev is quite capable of using the UAR or Ghana as a conduit. Further, Khrushchev would probably reply by proposing a nuclear-free Africa, and until we can dispense with our bases in Morocco and Libya, this would be a good ploy for his side. De Gaulle has occasionally hinted at an arrangement under which the United States and the USSR would refrain from shipping arms, while former colonial powers continued their kindly relations as suppliers—but no one else seems to think this has any chance of success with any party. There seems to be no alternative to a careful policy of ad hoc decisions aimed at avoiding both arms races and Soviet penetration wherever possible.
On the preferences between the European Common Market and the Brazzaville group, and the effect of these preferences on Latin America, the first memorandum from the Department is unintelligible, and Walt Rostow is rewriting it.
American aid as against French aid to Africa—Williams is preparing a new memorandum which will be at hand tomorrow. He misunderstood your request the other day and supposed that the quantitative material on French aid in the briefing papers was what you wanted.
On French flights over Libya, there is an appendix in the briefing papers which explains that they have been a matter of reconnaissance in connection with the Algerian struggle. As far as we know, they are not going on now, and none are scheduled for the next several weeks, but they could be restarted at any time if the French become suspicious about nationalist activity on the Libyan side of the frontier.
The present consulting machinery with the French in relation to Africa is being improved, we think, by the efforts of Assistant Secretary Williams and his associates. He has arranged a meeting at the Assistant Secretary level for the latter part of this month, and the Department also hopes that DAG will be increasingly helpful in this area as its members exchange information. A comment on this point may be helpful, because in the past France has often been the least communicative member of DAG.
Finally, I enclose copies of the memoranda of conversations between Eisenhower and de Gaulle at meetings of September 1959, April 1960 and May 1960.3
There is no formal agenda for the de Gaulle session, and we hope you may be willing to work one out with de Gaulle in your first [Page 662] short session before lunch on Wednesday. Gavin has earlier reported that de Gaulle is interested in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe. He has also expressed particular interest in Berlin, and some concern for economic relations between the United States and Europe.
We are sending for de Gaulle’s press conference on the UN and for the full text of his War College speech about NATO and the French Army. Meanwhile, the Department assures me that the best quotations from both are in the French briefing book at Background Paper B.
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, President’s Office Files, France. Top Secret.
  2. No list of questions has been found.
  3. No tabs were attached to the source text.
  4. For records of these conversations, see Foreign Relations, 1958–1960, vol. VII, Part 2, pp. 255 ff., 343 ff., and 364365.