116. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State1

486. Dept pass immediate USUN eyes only for Ambassador Shriver.

1. When Chargé saw Pompidou today (Jan 13) on another matter (see septel)2 Pompidou very clearly indicated he expects “return to power” probably as chief of state within next year. Although he did not say so directly he indicated his belief that de Gaulle would quit or be out of power with coming year, and that he would be called by broad spectrum of political forces to take over. Pompidou said he arranging his own activities accordingly. He making series of visits throughout France. (His latest was to area west of Marseille.) He wants to insure that these visits do not receive so much publicity as to make him a political target. Nevertheless, he wants French leaders in Paris and in provinces to be aware of his ideas about what is wrong in France, while avoiding open clash with de Gaulle.

2. Pompidou said he also plans to make series of visits to other countries to establish himself in public eyes as authority on foreign affairs. His first trip will be to Italy where most important part of trip will be visit to Pope. He leaves for Rome on Jan 15. Thereafter he plans to visit several other European countries, including Soviet Union, and also hopes to visit US later: in latter connection he said it important for him that nothing be said about trip to US at this time.

3. Pompidou quite pessimistic about way France being governed today. He thinks maximum firmness should be used to control students, workers and economic speculators at this time, but he says that for reasons which completely escape him, de Gaulle not reacting with necessary firmness. He predicted that unless firmer measure taken to control dissident elements and to give confidence to French people, “I will be faced by a France with fascist tendencies and fascist demands for strong government by time it comes my turn for power, and that is something which must be avoided at all costs.”

4. Pompidou said that Edgar Faure making major mistake in application of educational reform. He, Pompidou, 100 percent in favor of [Page 444] university reforms, but he opposed role assigned to students. He added that he being careful not to say too much on this subject for fear of getting into fight with de Gaulle, but said most French leaders know his position.

5. Comment: Pompidou was amazingly outspoken in his remarks about his political ambitions, althought most French leaders believe, without knowing for sure, that Pompidou is working hard to be France’s next President. Probable reason for Pompidou’s frankness with us is his desire that we know of his plans so that we may take them into consideration in our own thinking. It extremely important that what Pompidou has told us be held in complete confidence.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 674, Country Files—Europe, France, Vol. I. Secret; Immediate; Nodis.
  2. Telegram 485 from Paris, January 13. (Ibid.)