379. Editorial Note

In a March 28, 1972, letter to President Nixon, British Prime Minister Heath reviewed his views of the security issues regarding British export of integrated circuit technology to Poland, and wrote:

“The COCOM system has survived now for some 22 years and I think that all its members would agree that it has served a useful purpose. I am sure it will continue to do so provided it operates, and is seen to operate, on strictly relevant and up-to-date criteria. I am convinced that there will be no increase in the Warsaw Pact threat to the West as a result of the Ferranti proposal.

“Bearing these various factors in mind, I have come to the conclusion that I could not justify withholding an export license from the firm, at a time of high unemployment in this country. Accordingly, I have decided to authorize the issue of an export license on 30 March.

“I am sorry that we have been forced to go ahead on this, but I am sure you will appreciate that I have come to this decision only after the most careful consideration.”

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Prime Minister Heath had first raised British interest in the export to Poland in a February 11 letter to the President. His two messages were sent to Kissinger in a March 29 memorandum from Sonnenfeldt, along with a letter from French Foreign Minister Schumann; see footnote 2, Document 381. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Country Files-Europe, Box 678, France, Volume IX 1/72-7/72)

Haig approved for Kissinger a telegraphic message to Prime Minister Heath, and a notation on Sonnenfeldt’s March 29 memorandum indicates it was transmitted on March 29. Following a quick response by Heath on March 30 on the export of integrated circuit machinery, President Nixon in his reply of April 4 wrote that Heath had now given his “views on the assurances that we consider necessary. I believe that this aspect, which has longer range control implications, should be handled at the COCOM level.” Both messages are ibid., NSC Files, Presidential Correspondence, United Kingdom, Heath.