133. Response to National Security Study Memorandum 601


[Omitted here is the table of contents.]

I. Summary

A basic United States interest is a stable and democratic France—a return to weak and frequently changing French governments will be perilous not only for France but for all of Western Europe. In addition to a cohesive, progressive French society with a workable government, our interest is to have a France willing to play a constructive and cooperative role in both Europe and the third world. Where cooperation between us is not attainable, it would be of modest benefit to have a France which refrains from being deliberately unhelpful. Right now the present French Government looks like the best achievable likely to provide the elements which will meet our interests; consequently we should frame our policies and adopt our attitudes with this in mind. At the same time we must not get our hopes too high. The French are not always easy to work with and can be, as they say, a difficult ally; at times it may not be possible to have a further improvement in bilateral relations without damage to other more important interests.

Despite continuing problems of adjustment to the new situation created by General de Gaulle’s sudden departure from power, France should be able to look forward to a period of relatively stable, moderately progressive government. However, the economy is in difficulty, confidence in the franc at home and abroad continues to be diluted, and inflationary pressure and labor agitation threaten the success of the government’s recovery program.

Behind this lies the more fundamental question of whether “Gaullism without de Gaulle” will lead back to the kind of political fragmentation and disputation that plagued the Fourth Republic. The Frenchman is not easily governable and his representatives generally prefer political combat to prove a point rather than unemotional give and take to avoid confrontation and resolve issues. The new government is a serious-minded, experienced group with a clear sense of purpose. But it will have to reckon with the urge of many politicians, [Page 483] including Gaullists, to play politics as an end in itself after 11 years of a confining, definitely secondary role.

The main lines of Gaullist foreign policy will continue but with changes in both style and substance where the new team judges desirable—as witness the surprise devaluation of the franc on August 8th and the less emotional, more businesslike approach to British entry to the Common Market. On the other hand, despite cautious indications of a more positive attitude towards NATO the French will not alter their conviction that their own independence and necessary freedom of action preclude a return of their forces to NATO or an alteration of their policy of complete independence for their force de frappe; similarly, they will also want to continue their own course in handling relations with Germany, the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe; and will continue to play an active, independent, and in some respects helpful role with respect to Viet-Nam, the Middle East and Africa. Despite the continuance of French independence in foreign policy, however, the removal of its political veto on British accession to the Common Market is important and could in the long run result both in British entry and meaningful U.K.-French cooperation in European problems. However, the political, economic and psychological obstacles are great and we can by no means be confident of ultimate U.K. success.

U.S.-French relations have definitely entered a new and more positive phase. The key element of mutual confidence and respect for each other’s point of view has been largely restored. As a result we are consulting frequently and in depth on the crucial issues, notably the Middle East, Nigeria-Biafra and Viet-Nam. We are also engaging in more effective consultations with the French on other matters, such as exports of strategic material to Communist countries, in a determined effort to narrow differences in our respective points of view.

In addition to this signal strengthening of the diplomatic side of our bilateral relations there has been a remarkable increase in high-level visits and other forms of practical cooperation. The desire of this Administration to revitalize relations with France through exchanges and other concrete actions has been matched by a manifest willingness on the French side to extend cooperation in many diverse fields.

There are diverse reasons for the French Government’s willingness to enter into a closer, more cooperative relationship with the United States. Among the more important are the weaknesses that have developed in the French political and economic situation, and the U.S. decision to hold peace talks in Paris and de-escalate the fighting in Viet-Nam. Another important factor is that we now respect their right to disagree with us just as they accept our right to attempt to change their point of view in the interest of more effective cooperation toward [Page 484] common aims. For years the French resented our tendency to take offense whenever they differed with us on an important question. They insisted that it was perfectly natural for two strong and independent allies to disagree from time to time, without in any way impairing their close relationship. The French Government is deeply gratified that we have accepted its point of view on this cardinal point. They no longer feel inhibited in working with us in at least a number of common causes even though our approach or our evaluation of the factors or indeed our interests may differ somewhat.

As we pursue this new course of expanding bilateral relations with France, we should keep in mind our basic long-term interest in NATO and our need for solutions satisfactory to Europe as a whole. Most allied statesmen recognize in fact that good working relations between France and the United States contribute to the health of the Alliance and a broader French point of view toward European questions.

We should also bear in mind that the manner in which the United States deals with possible issues arising from the so-called “special relationship” with the U.K. can have an important influence on the French attitude toward the U.K.’s entry into the Common Market as well as toward the United States.

In sum, the prospects for a stable France and the reweaving of a cooperative and beneficial French-U.S. relationship look promising but by no means certain. France is too important a country to be considered only in the bilateral context—and necessarily a good number of the major points in our relationship deal with other areas and countries beyond the borders of France and the U.S. The experience of later years has shown us that we can operate with an indifferent or even a hostile France; but we also know that poor French-U.S. relations make our tasks more difficult and distress our allies. We should use the present opportunity to establish a more productive and communicative relationship.

The options available to the United States in its bilateral and multilateral relations with France are predicated on the expectation that despite pressures and problems in the economic-financial, labor and political areas Pompidou will be able to avoid a prolonged, major crisis which would prevent him from operating a reasonably effective government. Should this expectation prove false we would have to reassess this report and decide what additional options, if any, should be brought before the NSC and the President.

Issues for Decision

The choices involve both substance and variations of the diplomatic style and tactics. In the military sub-report are posed the basic [Page 485] nuclear issues. Generally speaking, the options derive from the trend of the guidance, e.g., work for good bilateral relations, consult with the French more often and in greater depth, but accept the fact that French policies will by no means always be in accord with our own.

1. Bilateral Relations Between France and the United States—Options for the United States

a. Mount a major diplomatic effort to strengthen U.S.-French relations and assign equal or higher priority to such an effort than to other aspects of U.S.-European relations.

b. Take initiatives and take full advantage of French initiatives to increase exchanges of visits and practical cooperation in the scientific, technological, cultural and informational, military and other fields, consistent with NATO solidarity and other high priority U.S. interests in Europe.

c. Be responsive to French initiatives or willingness to cooperate consistent with our own interests, but continue where appropriate to make clear that our priority remains effective cooperation among all the major interested countries of Western Europe, both in and out of NATO, on questions of mutual interest.

d. Adopt a negative or skeptical attitude toward the increase of practical cooperation in a number of fields.

2. France and NATO—Options for the United States

a. Take no initiatives to draw France back into NATO and respond to any French overtures, whether bilateral to us or to NATO itself, by advising them they should resume full cooperation with NATO.

b. Evaluate any French initiatives on their individual merits; and explore means of increasing French cooperation with military and non-military aspects of NATO. Look for initiatives we might take.

c. Mount a major diplomatic effort to get France back into the integrated military commands.

3. French Attitudes and Policy Towards British Accession to the EEC—Options for the United States

a. Encourage France directly to move ahead on British entry.

b. Be prepared to respond to inquiries from French officials or private persons as to what our policy is; but stay in the background, take no initiatives with France.

4. French-German Relations—Options for the United States

a. Foster closer Franco-German relations by public statements and diplomatic activity.

b. Indicate discreet approval and support for French and German statements and actions aimed at maintaining close relations.

c. Stay completely in the background and play a discreet watching role.

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5. French Relations with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe—Options for the United States

a. Take a hard line with the French and attempt to prevent their carrying on a unilateral approach to détente with the Soviets.

b. Indicate understanding for French approaches to the Soviets but continue to point out to the French the desirability of NATO consultation on the subject of East-West relations.

c. Make our views known to the French and cooperate with them on improving relations with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

6. French Policy in the Middle East—Options for the United States

a. Restrict consultation with France and attempt to exclude France from talks by the major powers.

b. Maintain the close consultation now existing with France but avoid any concerting of policy.

c. Seek to concert U.S. and French policies in the Middle East.

7. French Policy Towards Viet-Nam—Options for the United States

a. Continue to encourage French cooperation in probing the positions of the other side, in offering moderating counsel in the interests of inducing a more realistic Communist negotiating position, in providing us with accurate information on North Vietnamese positions, and in moderating the previously hostile tone of French media on the United States and South Viet-Nam.

b. Cease consultation and reduce our contacts with the French on Viet-Nam to a minimum.

8. French African Policy—Options for the United States

a. Pursue an African policy independent of the French with no attempt to coordinate or consult on matters of common concern.

b. Stay in touch with the French in a limited fashion, where the circumstances appear advantageous to us, but go on the premise that our interests and judgment on key problems will often diverge from the French.

c. Recognize French interest and presence in Francophone Africa as a positive, stabilizing factor and consult and exchange information on matters of mutual concern.

8a. France and Nigeria—Options for the United States

a. Avoiding cooperation or consultation with the French on Nigeria.

b. Be receptive to French willingness to exchange views on possibilities for humanitarian relief efforts.

c. Cooperate with France in encouraging the two parties to the conflict to negotiate a peaceful settlement as well as in promoting relief efforts.

8b. France and the Maghreb—Options for the United States

a. Avoid any consultation or cooperation with France.

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b. Respond positively to French initiatives for consultation.

c. Seek detailed consultation and cooperation with the French.

9. Military Relations with France

Various specific options are available in developing more extensive bilateral military relations with France, and in bringing France closer to NATO. At present the French Government is considering the context of its next five-year military procurement program, which is to be presented to Parliament next year. It has apparently given little consideration to new initiatives or new directions in French military policy. The only approach it has initiated with us to date relates to NATO TACSATCOM, which is discussed at length in the military paper. Most of the U.S. options discussed in this paper were mentioned on a personal basis by Ambassador Shriver to President Pompidou in July, but there has been no French reaction as yet regarding any of these possibilities. The principal question, therefore, remains whether the U.S. should take further initiatives with the French, or await further movement within the French Government regarding any innovative steps.

In the meantime, there is no real impediment to an expansion of existing forms of cooperation, which emphasize exchanges of military students and other personnel, visits by military commanders, participation in joint exercises, and exchanges of intelligence and research and development data, and certain contingency war planning between French and NATO commanders in Germany.

Options for the United States

a. Resume tactical nuclear weapons support for French forces in Germany.

b. Seek French participation in or association with the NATO Nuclear Planning Group and the Nuclear Defense Affairs Committee.

c. Seek to coordinate the targeting of French strategic weapons with the U.S. SIOP and/or with SACEUR’s nuclear strike plan.

d. Seek tripartite arrangements for targeting of strategic weapons among U.S., U.K. and France.

e. Assist French nuclear weapons development and production.

f. Encourage U.K.-French nuclear cooperation.

g. Support French entry into NATO TACSATCOM project.

h. Seek to initiate contingency planning with the French concerning possible use of French facilities in case of war.

i. Seek a settlement of U.S. and NATO claims arising from forced relocation from France in 1966–1967.


The foregoing is simply a recapitulation of the key options open to the United States in the field of military relations with France. It does not reflect any gradations in the options or any of the pros and cons. [Page 488] These and other details are covered in the attached sub-report on military relations with France.2

[Omitted here is the body of the 65-page report.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–153, National Security Study Memoranda, NSSM 60. Secret; Nodis. NSSM 60 is Document 130.
  2. Not printed. See Document 132.