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

6056. For Secretary from Shriver.

1. Odds are so close as to be unmeasurable on the referendum. Thus it is well within the range of possibility that de Gaulle will no longer be President of France on Monday morning.2 If he is still President on Monday, it is likely that he will have won without carrying a majority of French voters with him. What do we do under these circumstances?

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2. If de Gaulle loses, I believe he will resign for good despite possible efforts of the ultra Gaullists like Debré to organize a stay-in-power draft or a new de Gaulle candidacy for President. A Communist move for power or student-labor unrest aimed at establishing a left-wing control with Communist participation is, in my view, not ready to get off the ground. So we would probably be faced with a France governed by Senate President Alain Poher, a friend of the West, for the 30 days before a new Presidential election is held. In those elections Pompidou is the front-runner and a man with whom we can work. Other candidates may well be Giscard d’Estaing, Poher himself, probably someone from the non-Communist left and a Communist candidate probably Waldek-Rochet, unless of course Pompidou proved to be successful in pulling most of these elements together in a broad national unity coalition, a tough political task.

3. If de Gaulle loses President Nixon should send a friendly message immediately assuring the Government of France the full support of the United States in the important pre-election period and should ask for France’s continuing help in efforts to re-establish peace. Nothing should be said which could be interpreted as an endorsement for Poher as President. No personal written message from President Nixon to de Gaulle should be sent until the situation settles down some, assuming he wins or loses by a narrow margin, but a personal and oral message would probably be desirable under either circumstance.3

4. A run-on-the-franc is possible but not likely unless there are left-wing disturbances which we do not expect in the immediate future. However, we should be ready immediately and publicly to offer our full monetary support along with the IMF to maintain the franc’s integrity if a crisis should come.

5. We are giving considerable thought to what, if anything, the U.S. should do (a) if disorder breaks out or (b) what our interests are if a new Presidential campaign should start next week. For the moment I do not see how any U.S. action impinging upon French internal affairs is desirable as long as a non-Communist government is the most likely result, but we are keeping this question under review.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 674, Country Files—Europe, France, Vol. II. Secret; Immediate; Nodis.
  2. April 28. The referendum took place on April 27.
  3. The President sent both an official and an informal message to de Gaulle on April 28 following his resignation. The texts of both messages and de Gaulle’s reply are in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 751, Presidential Correspondence, France President DeGaulle Corres. The text of the President’s official message is printed in Public Papers: Nixon, 1969, p. 326. A summary of Nixon’s message and the text of de Gaulle’s reply are in Nixon, RN, pp. 385–386.