7. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The President, General De Gaulle, Mr. Andronikov, Major General Walters

[Here follow brief opening remarks.]

The President said that he would like to have an understanding with General De Gaulle that if either of them wished to communicate directly with the other they could do so by private letters and such relations need not necessarily pass through the usual diplomatic channels. For any private matters below the Chief of State level, General De Gaulle could have his people communicate with Dr. Kissinger.

General De Gaulle asked whether Dr. Kissinger himself would bring the letters.

[Page 17]

The President said that this would not necessarily be so, but he might find the need at some time to send Dr. Kissinger over. He said that sometimes it was useful to avoid communications that were too formal in nature.

General De Gaulle agreed and said he would bear this in mind.

The President said that, insofar as discussions on monetary matters were concerned, he felt that the suggestion that these could be handled privately and discreetly through a special representative was a good one, and we would be prepared to talk with whoever the General might designate to represent France on such matters.

General De Gaulle said that after the President returned to Washington he would let him know who the French would appoint. This person, of course, would have an unofficial mission and would not be charged with settling matters but rather to take contact with his American counterpart.2

The President agreed to this.

General De Gaulle then asked whether the President had made similar arrangements with the British and the Germans.

The President said that this had not been done. We would talk with them in a more formal way. Both the British and the German Finance Ministers would be coming to the US, but he wondered whether the General felt it might be better to handle these matters with them in the same way as the French.

General De Gaulle said that he did not see any reason to do this.

The President then said that it was better if the conversations were conducted somewhat discreetly as formal discussions gave rise to speculation on the price of gold and so forth. The discussions would be initially exploratory.

[Page 18]

General De Gaulle then repeated that he would notify the President, after his return to Washington, who the French representative would be and reiterated that this man would be an unofficial representative.

The President said he felt that one could not make much progress when one was working in a goldfish bowl. On other matters of consultation, our Secretary of Commerce, Mr. Stans, would soon be coming to Europe. His discussions would be strictly on matters of trade and in a broad sense. He would not get into matters such as the Common Market and who should belong to it. Rather he would discuss such matters as trade and restrictive practices which we or others might have. His policy would be not to have our Government play as active a role as in the past in attempting to determine the shape and form of Europe. We had ideas which we would submit, but we felt that this was essentially a matter for Europeans.

General De Gaulle said that there was GATT and it was normal for our Ministers to speak of this agreement and its application.

[Omitted here is a lengthy discussion of Vietnam.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Presidential/HAK Memcons, Box 1023, De Gaulle 2/28-3/2/69. Secret. The meeting was held at the Elysee Palace; the time is taken from the Daily Diary. (Ibid., White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary) The two Presidents also met on February 28. Their discussion touched on economic issues, and President Nixon told De Gaulle that he thought “it was clear that both the USSR and the US would like to reduce the financial burden [of defense expenditures] on themselves. He wished to make clear that on this matter he would not make the decision in this matter on a financial basis, the US had to be able to afford whatever security required.” (Ibid., NSC Files, Presidential/HAK Memcons, Box 1023, De Gaulle 2/28-3/2/69) The two also met on March 1; a record of that meeting is ibid. President Nixon traveled to Belgium, the United Kingdom, the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, and France February 23-March 2.
  2. No record of an appointment of a special representative has been found, although continuing expressions of French interest periodically surfaced. On February 5 Houthakker wrote in a memorandum of a February 4 dinner conversation with the Financial Counselor of the French Embassy, George Plescoff, of the latter’s “pitch” for bilateral U.S.-French conversations “on the entire range of international monetary problems.” (VG/LIM/69-12; Washington National Records Center, Department of the Treasury, Volcker Group Masters:FRC 56 86 30, VG/LIM/1-VG/LIM/30) During Plescoff’s introductory call on Treasury Under Secretary Volcker on February 19, Plescoff said he had not sought to have regular official contact with Treasury in recent years due to policy differences but that he now wished to develop a close and regular working relationship. Volcker thought conveying this message was the main purpose of his call. (Ibid., Files of Under Secretary Volcker: FRC 56 79 15, France) During his March 18 introductory, courtesy call on Treasury Secretary Kennedy, French Ambassador Charles Lucet said that “France hoped the United States would eventually take the initiative to arrange some quiet, unpublicized talks on the problem of international monetary reform.” (Ibid.) In an April 19 memorandum to Secretary Rogers, reporting on his April 9 conversation with French Foreign Minister Debre during the April 10-11 NATO Ministerial meeting in Washington, Kissinger reported: “Debre raised the possibility of very confidential US-French conversations, recalling that this idea had been broached previously at the time of the President’s visit to Paris.” (Ibid.)