232. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Conversation following Dinner hosted by French Foreign Minister Jean Sauvagnargues


  • (See Guest List attached)2

[Omitted here is discussion of matters other than the European security conference or MBFR.]

Sauvagnargues: How do you see the CSCE Conference developing? Are you pressing for a summit? The Soviets seem keen to have one.

Secretary: We are not particularly interested in a summit. We are not pressing anyone on this. If we wanted to press anyone on it, we would do it in a straightforward way.

Sauvagnargues: This whole debate seems to be useless. We probably should support the détente forces in the Soviet Union.

Secretary: What I am saying is this. Every Western leader has been saying that he is willing to go to the summit if the results of this conference warrant it. What we have to determine is what results would warrant a summit. No country knows what it wants. We should do two things: 1) We should decide among ourselves if there is any result that we could imagine that would justify a summit; and 2) we should write down what it is we want so that we can discuss it sensibly with the Soviets. We are willing to say that no outcome justifies a summit, but we ought to take into consideration that there may be broader collateral benefits to having a summit. But no European government has been asked by us to go to a summit.

[Page 687]

Sauvagnargues: I can’t see that there is anything in Baskets I or III which would make it worth having such a meeting but perhaps it is unavoidable.

Secretary: But we should speak with some clarity in Moscow.

Sauvagnargues: Perhaps we can’t prevent it.

Secretary: We have not decided to go to a summit.

Sauvagnargues: Whether we pass on to Stage III we should agree to define the results. There has been some small progress and the whole exercise is not completely in deficit. We should define the minimum results obtainable, but my staff doesn’t like to do this and give it to the Soviets in advance.

Puaux:3 The danger is putting it in writing. We may lose from that tactic.

Secretary: Why should we keep our objectives from the Soviets? Why don’t we give a piece of paper to them?

Puaux: They know very well what we want.

Secretary: There is the trouble. We need to put down point by point what we want. So that the Soviets can see what we are asking. What the totality of our position is.

De Courcel: I don’t think there is any result that justifies a summit.

Secretary: Why don’t we write the 10, 15 or 6 major things that we want to come out of the conference and give it to the Soviets. I see two possibilities which could come out of this: a suspicious atmosphere if you think we have already agreed to a summit and I can see a deterioration in our relations with the Soviets.

Sauvagnargues: I think the whole thing is a mistake.

Secretary: If your President tells us that he does not wish to see a summit meeting, we would accept that and then consider how to conclude this whole exercise.

Sauvagnargues: We must avoid a permanent organization.

Secretary: As you know, we opposed this whole conference from the beginning. I believe that we should decide now if we don’t want a summit and then we should decide how to conclude below the summit level. The worst situation I foresee is one of total stalemate. So you should just tell us what you want.

Sauvagnargues: We should finish this up as soon as possible and treat détente as a continuing process.

[Page 688]

Secretary: The question is how to conclude. We have to exercise some leadership. No Foreign Minister has ever read the papers that have to do with Basket III, certainly I have not.

Sauvagnargues: I have not.

Secretary: Frankly we opposed this conference and we certainly never liked the idea of a summit but we have the feeling that others have already given this away. I don’t know if President Pompidou made a commitment but I am pretty sure Brandt did.

Sauvagnargues: I think that’s true.

Secretary: We have never asked anyone to go to the summit. What we need is a common strategy; the worst outcome would be a stalemate.

[Omitted here is discussion of matters other than the European security conference or MBFR.]

Sauvagnargues: I told the Germans that we should find some way to finish this exercise in the CSCE. It would be dangerous and senseless to have a stalemate. If we don’t want a Summit we should tell the Soviets so.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1029, MemCons—HAK & Presidential. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Hartman. The meeting took place in the Quai d’Orsay.
  2. Attached but not printed. The dinner guests from the French side included Sauvagnargues; Geoffroy de Courcel, Secretary General of the Quai d’Orsay; Claude-Pierre Brossolette, Secretary General of the Elysée; Serge Boidevaix, Chef de Cabinet for the Prime Minister; Maurice Ulrich, Director de Cabinet of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and Raoul Delay, Director of Information and Press Services at the Quai d’Orsay. The dinner guests from the American side included Kissinger, Irwin, Sonnenfeldt, Hartman, and Ambassador Robert Anderson, Special Assistant to the Secretary of State for Press Relations.
  3. Francois Puaux, Director of Political Affairs at the Quai d’Orsay, was among the after-dinner guests.