131. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Ambassador Shriver
  • Henry A. Kissinger
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt
  • Mr. Tanguy

Invitation to President Pompidou to Visit the United States

Ambassador Shriver gave his view that it would be in the U.S. interest to invite President Pompidou to visit the United States in the near future. The Ambassador pointed out that Pompidou does not know our country at all from first-hand experience except for a brief visit to New York City several years ago. The Ambassador also noted that several months ago, Pompidou had made plans to come to the United States as a private citizen and spend one month here visiting different parts of the country including one or two important campuses. The Ambassador concluded that all things considered, it would be desirable if the President could invite Pompidou to come to the United States early next fall even though Pompidou, because of his preoccupation with domestic questions, might not be able to make the visit that soon.

Mr. Kissinger agreed that it would be highly desirable for Pompidou to visit the United States in the near future and he was sure that the President would support the idea. It was pointed out that the in[Page 478]terim NSC report on U.S. policy toward post-de Gaulle France2 contemplated an official invitation from the President to Pompidou.

As to the timing, Mr. Kissinger thought that September might be a little early for the President in view of his existing and anticipated obligations at that time. The simplest solution would be simply to substitute Pompidou, as the new President of France, for former President de Gaulle, who had accepted the President’s invitation and had planned to come to the United States sometime in January 1970. However, it might be possible to arrange for Pompidou to come sooner if he was able to.

In response to Ambassador Shriver’s suggestion, Mr. Kissinger agreed to speak to the President in the next few days about authorizing the Ambassador to sound out Pompidou with respect to visiting the United States3 sometime in the coming months at the invitation of the President. If the President approved, this preliminary, informal inquiry would enable us to judge when it would be best to send Pompidou a formal invitation. Mr. Kissinger told the Ambassador that he would inform him of the President’s reaction after the Ambassador returned to Paris.

Military Cooperation

Mr. Kissinger said that he did not think that the President had made up his mind yet about military cooperation with France although he was well disposed to explore the possibilities. In approaching the question the President would not let “NATO theology” stand in the way of whatever advantages might accrue to U.S. security through an increase in French military cooperation with the United States.

Mr. Kissinger said that he was less clear about the President’s thinking on possible nuclear cooperation with France. However, Mr. Kissinger would not exclude the possibility that the President might be interested in developing a certain amount of cooperation in this field. Mr. Kissinger thought that the President would just as soon have it as not to have it. Moreover, Mr. Kissinger felt that the President would be highly sympathetic to French-U.K. cooperation in the nuclear field. He did not think that the McMahon Act would be a serious impediment.4

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U.K. Entry

The President continues to favor British entry into the Common Market but he does not want to spend a great deal of U.S. political currency to achieve this objective.

The French Role in the Middle East

In answer to a question by the Ambassador, Mr. Kissinger said the United States is happy to approach the Middle East problem through the four-power talks provided France supports what the United States is trying to achieve. On the other hand, if the French try to play us off against the Soviets, then we will concentrate our efforts in two-power talks with the latter.

We do not need the French in order to negotiate with the Soviets. It is easy to talk with them directly. The French should realize therefore that there is no brokerage role for them between us and the Soviets. The French should try to get back in a position where they can exert some influence over the Israelis. The United States is not going to allow itself to be put in a position where it has the entire onus for putting pressure on the Israelis to accept proposals agreed upon by the four powers.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 675, Country Files—Europe, France, Vol. III. Secret. The meeting took place in Kissinger’s office. Shriver was in the United States for consultations.
  2. See Document 127 and footnote 2, Document 128. The report was transmitted to the Embassy in telegram 87840 to Paris, May 30. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 674, Country Files—Europe, France, Vol. II)
  3. In a July 9 memorandum to Kissinger, Sonnenfeldt stated that no decision on an invitation had been made prior to Shriver’s departure for Paris. He further reported that Pompidou had informed the Ambassador that he would not undertake any State visits before 1970. (Ibid.)
  4. Reference to the Atomic Energy Act of 1946, modified by the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, regulated U.S. control and management of nuclear technology, including the sharing of technology with other nations.