36. Letter From Secretary of State Rusk to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1

Dear Mac:

I have received a copy of Glenn Seaborg’s letter to you of November 23, 1964, which invites my comment on two cases involving exports to France.2 While the cases both require evaluation within the terms of NSAM 294, I will comment on them separately because somewhat different considerations are involved in the two.

Let me first however state my understanding of the policy embodied in NSAM 294, as that policy bears on France. For the purposes before us, I can perhaps best do this by recalling that the policy has always had positive as well as negative aspects. In negative terms, it was the intent of the NSAM that we take pains to deny to France (1) whatever will significantly assist her in acquiring an independent strategic nuclear capability, whether that capability be thought of in terms of nuclear weapons or the means to deliver them or (2) whatever will identify the U.S. as a major supplier or collaborator in the French effort. In positive terms, it was the intent of the NSAM that we take equally great pains not to deny to France things which would not so assist her, and that to the extent possible we continue to cooperate with France as with any other friend and ally. Finally, when NSAM 294 was issued last April, it was not for the purpose of setting new policy, but instead to clarify and re-affirm existent policy, with the aim of furnishing the concerned Departments and agencies with an authoritative expression of that policy to be used as a guide in their implementation of it.

There have been numerous developments since last April in U.S.-French relations and the world scene generally, not all of them favorable, unfortunately. I do not however see in them anything to change the basic evaluation given above, or to cause us on our own initiative to adopt a more restrictive policy toward France in terms of implementing NSAM 294.

As regards the pending French request for 63 kilograms of U-235, made under the 1959 Agreement for Cooperation for Mutual Defense Purposes,3 I have carefully considered the available evidence. I accept the AEC conclusion as to the marginal importance to the French program [Page 60] of the requested amount, and it seems quite clear that U.S. denial of the request would cause the French only minor technical inconvenience.

In political terms, on the other hand, the consequences of denial could be very serious. We do have an agreement, made in 1959 in good faith. We are already publicly associated with this particular program, by virtue of the agreement made in accordance with U.S. law and regulations, and by virtue of deliveries previously made under that agreement. To deny the pending request could and probably would be viewed by the French Government as reneging by the U.S. on a firm commitment, and in view of the determination that must necessarily be made in event of denial, as a deliberate U.S. intimation that France is no longer contributing to the common defense.

As is only too obvious, we have a sufficiency of serious problems with the French Government already. I do not believe it is in our basic interest to add to the list by denying this request, or by delaying further in deciding it. It has been pending since June, and to delay much longer would be tantamount to refusal, since the French must proceed within the next few weeks to take action of one kind or another. I therefore urge a quick affirmative decision.

As regards the computer cases, there is no comparable political aspect, of course, since no government-to-government agreement is involved, and the issue is largely that of deciding whether the inhibiting effect on the French program would be great enough to justify governmental intervention in U.S.-French trading relationships by blocking the two sales. This is not the sole issue, however, since an evaluation must be made also of the extent to which providing either or both these computers would identify the U.S. as a major supplier or collaborator in the French weapons program. The whole matter is a complex and difficult one, in which I would like to sort things out somewhat further before putting a recommendation of any kind to you.


Dean Rusk 4
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, S/S-NSC Files: Lot 72 D 316, NSAM 294. Secret. Drafted by George and cleared by Tyler and in L and MC.
  2. See Document 35.
  3. This agreement was signed with France July 20, 1959. The text is classified.
  4. Printed from a copy that indicates Rusk signed the original.