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

2957. Subj: Gas centrifuge. Ref: State 56541.2

1. In course of conversation on another subject, Quai Political Director de Beaumarchais said de Gaulle very interested in President Nixon’s reactions on question of gas centrifuge when de Gaulle raised subject during Washington meeting.3

2. De Beaumarchais asked if we had more information on subject. I said by chance I had appointment tomorrow to see Martin on subject. De Beaumarchais said he very interested and asked that I give him (and Martin) our views without waiting until tomorrow. He then called Martin in and I gave both of them substance of reftel. Neither de Beaumarchais nor Martin posed further questions on the scientific side and only one political question: de Beaumarchais asked whether the United States is really unconcerned about the possibility of German misuse of gas centrifuge process to produce enriched uranium for nuclear weapons.

3. I said that as reftel made clear, we have confidence in the German Government of today. What would happen if another German Government not oriented to the West and frustrated on political and defense problems came into power, it would be impossible to say. Thus our concerns were general and longer-ranged.

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4. De Beaumarchais said he extremely grateful for information and for confidence represented in US making known its frank views on so delicate a subject.

5. I asked whether French had held any further talks with gas centrifuge partners and particularly with Germans. Reports of acute French concern about program were certainly already reaching Germany. Wouldn’t it be better to discuss the matter frankly with the partners? De Beaumarchais said French had tried to discuss the program with British but had received only perfunctory reply (famous question and answer exchange reported London’s 1990 and Paris 2173).4 So far de Gaulle has thought it untimely to discuss problem with Germans but this might come later.

6. Dept repeat as desired.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 674, Country Files—Europe, France, Vol. II. Secret; Immediate; Exdis.
  2. Dated April 12. It transmitted the text of a statement to be read to the French Government on the issue of “U.S. Views on European Gas Centrifuge Cooperation.” (Ibid.)
  3. See Document 120.
  4. Telegram 1990 from London, March 14, reported British views on the impact of the gas centrifuge project on relations with France. Telegram 2173 from Paris, February 13, summarized a discussion with French officials on this issue. (Both National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, AE 11–1)