38. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State 1

3682. Ref: NATUS 3605, Dec 23, 1965; Embtel 3636, Dec 28, 1965;2 Deptel to Paris 2893, Dec 28, 1965.3 Subject: Possible US-European Space Cooperation.

Erhard communiqué has stimulated French speculation on significance and implications of proposal for international space cooperation. Embassy plans probe present thinking both of French space people and of Paris-based European space research experts on possible useful US-European multilateral space research projects. Following interim comments refer to organizational aspects.
As Department aware, only viable international space research organization in existence in Europe is the European Space Research Organization (ESRO) which has survived a difficult birth to become an effective basis for a collective European space effort in the face of advanced US and Soviet space technology. We assume any multilateral program of US-European space research cooperation would have to take account of this institutional framework.
ESRO constitutes the only space program of most if its members, and it enjoys their strong support, without exception. It enjoys the additional advantage of having no military connection, involvement, or image. Moreover, ESRO has succeeded in surmounting such difficult organizational problems as the apportionment among its members of ESRO research laboratories and test sites and has reached agreement on the distribution of contracts among the industries of its members.
ESRO therefore is a natural candidate as an institutional framework through which multilateral international space research cooperation could take place. Although sometimes criticized for establishing unrealistically ambitious goals in terms of its present technical and financial capabilities, such a phase of development is to be expected in the evolution of any new space program, and the US has had a similar experience.
Since ESRO is a European endeavor with no direct US participation (although US is already engaged in cooperation with ESRO), it [Page 80] provides a framework within which European countries could work collectively with US on partnership basis; this might be preferable to arrangement in which one member (US) of a multilateral organization held such a dominant role as to discourage effective participation by other.
We would add that because initiative by French professor Pierre Auger, Director of ESRO since its creation, has played very important role in organization’s formation, suggestions of extra-ESRO organizations as cooperative instrumentalities for international space research are likely to meet unfavorable reception from French as well as from other Europeans. In particular, NATO possibility discussed in NATUS 3605 suffers drawbacks of military image, exclusion of several members of ESRO (European members), and probable opposition of French who are strong ESRO supporters and whose views on NATO are well known. In addition, absence of space research capability makes NATO less suitable vehicle for such a program and encourages speculation that in so proposing it, the US would be using the appeal of space cooperation as an artificial mechanism with which to bolster NATO.
Relevant to the above, we note that Arnold Frutkin, in his book International Cooperation in Space comments on past suggestions that a cooperative space program be based on NATO, OECD or another existing body, as follows:

“Of primary concern is the fact that the European Community has itself selected the machinery through which it wishes to conduct civil space research and exploration, namely ESRO and ELDO.

In the face of this fact, advocacy of an alternate base for cooperation, however commendable in itself, could be viewed only as inimical to the express choice of the European nations.”4

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Records of the Department of State, Central Files, 1964–66, SP 1–1 EUR-US. Confidential. Also sent to London, The Hague, Bonn, Rome, Brussels for USEC, Stockholm, Bern, Vienna, Madrid, and Luxembourg.
  2. Documents 36 and 37.
  3. Dated December 28. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Records of the Department of State, Central Files, 1964–66, POL GERW–US)
  4. Arnold Frutkin, International Cooperation in Space (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1965).