77. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State 1
9453. I went this afternoon to pay my farewell call on Pompidou 2 and the following points emerged from our discussion:
After my telling Pompidou how much I personally regretted leaving Paris and how appreciative I was of the many acts of kindness and consideration I had received from him and from other members of the French Govt, I told him that insofar as official matters were concerned I was very sorry to see the present state of Franco-American relations and that I honestly did not feel that it was due to anything that the U.S. Govt had done or not done, leaving aside Vietnam which of course did not touch any direct French interest.
Pompidou did not disagree with me but said that Vietnam, while not affecting French interests directly nevertheless was a larger question affecting almost every country in the world. I told him Vietnam was a widely complicated subject but he could be sure that no one wished to find a reasonable and decent solution more than the U.S. and I thought he would find more interest among the oriental countries in what the U.S. was trying to do there. I then went on to tell him that I couldn’t honestly foresee any great improvement, even if Vietnam was settled, in the relations between the U.S. and France, and one of the reasons was that I felt the attitude of the French Govt, including [Page 148] that of De Gaulle, was obsessed with the power of the U.S., particularly economically and financially; that their attitude, particularly the General’s, was that nothing could be done about it and that it was inevitable that sooner or later the U.S. would develop all the character and action of a country with too much power. In the circumstances I could not see—since obviously we could do nothing to diminish our power—how there could be any genuine improvement in our relationship.
Pompidou said that no one expected the U.S. to do anything to diminish its power but the manner in which the power was used might be important. I said there were certain limits in regard to the use of power which would apply in any nation and I frankly did not see—again leaving aside Vietnam—in what manner the U.S. could have applied its powers more benignly than it had. Pompidou replied that this might be true from the point of view of the govt but that speaking from his experience in private business he felt that the action of American companies was very calculated and assertive, mentioning particularly the aviation business in which he said that every time France or England attempted sales in other countries they ran into overriding competition from American firms. I pointed out to him as a general rule the U.S. Govt practically never got into these matters involving these companies, which I did not think was always the case in France.
I then told Pompidou that I had been very much disturbed at the state of public opinion in the U.S. in regard to France: that I thought this was in part due to the simple fact that the American public did not understand many of the foreign policy acts of the French Govt and I also said that the attitude of the General toward Israel and in his last press conference apparently toward the Jews in general3 had caused a certain reaction in the U.S. I mentioned that the French position in the Middle East was by no means clear to many people and that it was matters of this kind, including of course the departure from NATO, the establishment of which I personally recalled had been very much a French desire and even insistence back in the early 50’s, was very easy to interpret as anti-American.
Pompidou then asked me whether I really seriously thought that if President Johnson had wanted to use his full influence with Israel there would have been any war (in this he was parroting De Gaulle’s attitude, Paris 3931).4 I told him from everything that I knew, both from personal conversations in Washington and from the documents in the case, it seemed entirely clear that President Johnson had gone just as [Page 149] far as it was conceivable to go in an attempt to dissuade the Israelis, pointing out that there was a limit beyond which you could not go in dealing with a smaller country. Pompidou made no reply.
In turning to the recent American balance of payment measures Pompidou said approaching this from an economic point of view it seemed perfectly clear to him that we were taking measures which would not be unpalatable to American public opinion in an election year but were perhaps somewhat more indifferent towards the interests of others. I said that I frankly didn’t agree with this observation since many of the measures undertaken would not be a bit palatable to American business, American tourists, or other elements in American life. I pointed out to him that insofar as the interests of others was concerned there was no discrimination involving any other country despite what he, Pompidou, had said on television. Pompidou said he did not use the word discrimination and did not mean to imply it (sic), but had merely pointed out that since there was a difference of treatment towards Great Britain and the European countries it was obvious the U.S. did not consider England a European country. I told him I thought if England had been admitted to the Common Market and had really meshed its finances with other Common Market countries, the result might have been different, but in the circumstances there could hardly be any question since England was in balance of payments difficulties whereas Common Market countries were not.
After some more discussion of “hegemony” as applied to the modern world the conversation ended with mutual compliment.
Comment: I have always known that Pompidou was one of those who more strongly believed in the overwhelming power of the U.S. vis-á-visothers and the expressions along this line noted above were not a bit out of character, but I think are generally held by most of the French Govt. He did not disagree when I mentioned that De Gaulle’s remarks on the Jews had created a reaction, possibly for the reason that they created an equally strong reaction in France. It was interesting to note that he did not disagree with my statement that in the circumstances I foresaw very little chance of any basic change in Franco-American relations.
- Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL FR-US. Secret. Repeated to London.↩
- Bohlen left post on February 9. President Johnson appointed R. Sargent Shriver to succeed him on April 22. Shriver presented his credentials on May 25.↩
- ”An elite people, sure of itself and dominating.” For text of his November 27, 1967, press conference, see De Gaulle, Discours et Messages, Vol. 5, pp. 227-247.↩
- Not found.↩