269. Memorandum of Conversation1

    • Georges Pompidou, President of the French Republic
    • Interpreter
    • Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to oil.]

[Kissinger:] With regard to energy and oil, I believe that we are only at the beginning of a resolution of the problems between industrialized and developing countries. If the western powers exhaust themselves in internal squabbles, these problems will never be solved. I was struck by the fact that before we approached any Arab country, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Kuwait took the initiative to inform us that they were favorably disposed to the energy proposal that I put forth in London.2 I believe that is because the Arabs recognize that a competitive struggle for oil among the consumer countries will facilitate the consolidation of the radical Arab regimes. We are in no way opposed to the European identity, but we would like to establish a growing framework of relations with it. We are mindful of the difficulties of the past. We would prefer, certainly, to focus this dialogue with France and the United Kingdom, as opposed to Luxembourg, Belgium or the FRG.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to oil.]

[Pompidou:] You brought up the problem of energy. If we are talking about a dialogue between consumers and producers, we can discuss the modalities of such a dialogue without any problem. I would not concur, however, in establishing a consortium of consumers that would seek to impose a solution on the producers. You only rely on the Arabs for about a tenth of your consumption. We are entirely dependent upon them. We can’t afford the luxury of three or four years of worry and misery waiting for the Arabs to understand the problem. I won’t be able to accept, no matter what conditions are established, a situation which requires us to forego Arab oil, for even a year. I would like to be able to take advantage of the resources of Texas and Venezuela, etc., but I don’t have that option.

[Page 772]

Kissinger: If there is one thing which we want to avoid, it is the weakening of European governments because we recognize that the consequences of such a situation, particularly in Germany, would be very bad. Thus, it is very much in our interest that nothing happens to Europe, as a result of the energy crisis, to weaken the current governments—particularly that of France. There remains a practical question—how do we assure that oil begins to flow as quickly as possible? It is easy for us to talk about it because we possess reasonable resources from Texas and elsewhere, and we are not suffering the pressures to which you refer. Nevertheless, my experience, and I could be wrong, with Arab countries, leads me to say that oil will never flow as a function of our requirements, but of theirs. When Yamani was in Washington he tried to extract the conditions of peace that we could accept.3 I refused to answer him and stated that we have our own dignity, just as he has his. The only interest of Saudi Arabia is to not reinforce radical governments. I know how to deal with them, and I made that clear to King Faisal. Afterwards he became much more reasonable. As a result, I believe that the immediate crisis can be overcome within two months. This is the impression that I have drawn from my discussions, especially with Faisal. It is terribly important that this remain a matter of confidence.

Further, with regard to energy, we would like to establish an effective dialogue between consumers and producers. But not the creation of any syndicate. At the same time, with regard to other sources of energy besides oil, if you believe that the consumer countries should coordinate their efforts, I would agree completely. That corresponds to our common interests and we are ready to share our technology. This is the objective of our proposal on oil—a dialogue between producers and consumers—on other sources of energy, a more constrained relationship between consumers.

Pompidou: When I received Yamani and Abdesselam, he asked that Europe and France attempt to exert pressure on Israel, breaking relations and so forth. I answered, just as you did, that we will maintain our dignity.

Kissinger: That is very important over the long term. One of the reasons for which, in the Middle East, we have publicly declared that Europe cannot force us toward certain acts is in part to avoid precisely the Arab pressures on Europe.

Pompidou: You didn’t entirely succeed.

Kissinger: I have the impression that Saudi Arabia is looking for a formula to extricate itself from the problem.

Pompidou: You understand that a lot better than we do, even though our relations with the Arab countries are quite good.

[Page 773]

Kissinger: It is very important that this remain confidential. In my government, I have told no one except the President, and I have told no other government except yours. In effect, it will be necessary for Saudi Arabia to obtain the agreement of the other countries.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to oil.]

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, TS 26, Geopolitical Files, France, Chronological File, 19 July–20 Dec 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. The meeting took place at the Elysée Palace. Kissinger also met with Jobert December 19. (Ibid.)
  2. See Document 264.
  3. See Document 263.