360. Memorandum From the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Eliot) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • French Desire to Sell Transistor Technology to Poland

In your conversation with Foreign Minister Schumann he referred to problems France has had with COCOM over the sale of strategic materials and technology to Eastern Europe.2 He noted that the French Government is currently considering a proposed transaction with Poland whereby licenses would be sold to Poland for technology to manufacture silicon transistors (the transaction would also include integrated [Page 908] circuit technology). France did not wish to proceed without COCOM approval for the sale and US support, which he hoped would be forthcoming through bilateral discussions with us at the expert level.

The French first mentioned the possibility of this sale in conversations with us in February.3 At that time and in subsequent conversations Ambassador Shriver and Embassy officers have had with Foreign Ministry officials, the French were urged to submit the case to the Coordinating Committee with full technical information about the equipment and technology involved. Such detailed information would permit the US Government and the Governments of other participating countries to give thorough consideration to the French request.

The French were told, however, that the US Government has always denied applications from US firms to export transistor and integrated circuit technology to Poland and other Eastern European countries. US intelligence estimates indicate that the West is well ahead of the Soviets and the other Eastern Europeans in both technology and manufacturing knowhow with respect to silicon transistors and integrated circuits. Since these items are used in the manufacture of advanced communications equipment and computers, they are in the US view among the more critical areas of the COCOM embargo.

There have been several instances in which France has been anxious to export to Eastern Europe equipment or technology which had originally been included in the COCOM embargo list with French approval. In these cases the French had approached us seeking our support for the proposed transactions, which would then be followed by proforma approval in COCOM. Last December the French opened discussions with the US on a proposed sale of computer technology to Romania by means of a personal call by the Minister of Science on the Ambassador. The US responded by sending a high level team to discuss the matter but found the French-Romanian contracts to be advanced and apparently beyond recall. Subsequently the French proceeded with this contract without prior COCOM consultation. In 1967 the French exported computer technology to Czechoslovakia over US objections.

In the present case, French failure to deal with COCOM places the US in the difficult position of being made privy to French contracts not reported to COCOM as required by the COCOM rules. The British were especially irritated over French actions in the Romanian computer case. While the U.S. and possibly one or two other participating countries would have great difficulty in approving this transaction, no firm position can be taken until full technical information about the technology involved and the delivery schedules has been supplied and studied by us. Although the French indicated on July 5 that they would prepare a technical memorandum, which we would be willing to study even in advance of its submission to COCOM, they have not yet provided anything further to us.

We have noted Ambassador Shriver’s recommendations in his telegram 118504 and plan to instruct him to convey to Foreign Minister Schumann (1) assurances that we wish to work out a mutually satisfactory solution, (2) that on the basis of preliminary information it is clear [Page 909] that some items are on the embargo list and should therefore be submitted now for COCOM consideration; (3) but that in light of Mr. Schumann’s comments we are willing to examine informally technical or any other information bearing on the case which they may wish to supply us in advance of their COCOM submission; and (4) after review of this additional information we will advise the French of our views on the strategic significance of the technology concerned and related COCOM considerations.5

Theodore L. Eliot, Jr.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Country Files-Europe, Box 675, France, Volume III Jan 69-10/31/69. Secret. Attached to an August 8 memorandum from Bergsten to Kissinger recommending he approve the State Department approach.
  2. Telegram 11787 from Paris, August 4, reported on Kissinger’s meeting with Schumann. (Ibid.) Additional documentation on East-West trade and COCOM is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, Eastern Europe; Eastern Mediterranean, 1969-1972.
  3. Not further identified.
  4. Dated August 5. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Country Files-Europe, Box 675, France, Volume III Jan 69-10/31/69) In his transmittal memorandum to Kissinger, Bergsten summarized Shriver’s views: “Ambassador Shriver is leery of prior bilateral talks…. He argues that the other COCOM members may say we have made a special deal if we agree to the sale before COCOM discussions, reducing COCOM to a formality. On the other hand, if we do not agree, the French may bypass COCOM and make the sale anyway, as they did in a similar Rumanian sale in December. Since the Rumanian transaction still rankles Shriver, he prefers no bilateral consultations.”
  5. A draft cable, dated August 8, is ibid. Kissinger initialed his approval for bilateral conversations on Bergsten’s August 8 transmittal memorandum on August 12.