140. Minutes of a National Security Council Meeting1

Minutes of Meeting on Post-DeGaulle France


  • The President
  • Vice President Agnew
  • Secretary of State Rogers
  • Secretary of Defense Laird
  • Director of the Office of Emergency Preparedness, General Lincoln
  • Director of Central Intelligence Helms
  • General Earle Wheeler, Chairman, JCS
  • Under Secretary of State Richardson
  • Assistant to the President Henry A. Kissinger
  • Assistant Secretary of State Martin Hillenbrand
  • William Watts

At the start of the meeting, following some brief comments on recent Israel/Arab air action,2 the President asked CIA Director Helms his estimate of the Mirage fighter.

Helms: It is very good.

Wheeler: They have had practice against Migs.

Laird: It is a cheaper plane. On tactics it is ready for the Mig 21s. On simulated flights we have had in St. Louis, the Mig 21 should take care of the Mirages, but the Israel pilots are much better.

Helms: The Chinese Communists are well ahead of the French in nuclear development. They have exploded three thermonuclear weapons, while the French have not exploded any.

RN: What about the United Kingdom?

Helms: They have what we gave them.

Wheeler: One or two of the top Chinese nuclear scientists were trained at Berkeley.

Laird: Debré feels he must represent DeGaulle. He is the top Cabinet Minister. He is giving interest rates of 3¾–4¼% over 15–20 years. He has a mission to sell equipment. He is now in Latin America and will sell everything.

[Page 500]

Our sales are going down while French sales are going up. They have a goal of having arms sales represent 10% of all their export sales.

(Mr. Kissinger then outlined the military issues in our relations with France, as set forth in his talking points in the attached NSC book.)3

Richardson: That was a very clear exposition.

Let me give the general reactions at State:

(1) Nuclear Planning Group—French participation should be encouraged. We don’t need to go back and start all over.

(2) Targeting—We would prefer this through SACEUR, but will they be willing? This should be explored.

(3) Concerning tactical nuclear warheads, there is no way we can supply them.

(4) On general nuclear support, we would like to give assistance to their development. We would take a cautious and reserved position on computer sharing. TACSATCOM may come up. We believe that we should encourage French participation. Dave Packard would add SATCOM to this list. There should be a sharing of costs.

On the question of financial claims, should you bring this up? This is a close one. The United States has claims of $378 million, and NATO has claims of another $293 million. Martin Hillenbrand thinks we should leave this to working levels. Dave Packard wants to bring it up. Perhaps we could best determine this in the light of discussions.

RN: What is the feeling about the Mediterranean and Middle East policy?

Richardson: We view the French interest in the Western Mediterranean as constructive. We will need to keep in close touch on this, of course, and we will be discussing it with the Spanish. It is useful to think of a broad area including Italy, France, Spain and the Maghreb. We should show a willingness to accept this kind of thinking. Libya and the Arab countries show a real sympathy to the way the French attempt to limit Soviet influence. We should encourage Libya to look toward the Maghreb, not the UAR.

RN: What about the weapons sale to Libya?

Richardson: I should think you would want to indicate unhappiness over the way the deal was handled, and the incomplete pieces we kept getting. But there is no point in hitting them hard on this. Even with the US and the UK out, this is still a Western deal. We don’t see any change in the arms balance for two years.

Laird: It is not a matter of just hustling. The French would just as soon see the U.S. out of the area. This sale further embarrasses us. There [Page 501] is a whole Mediterranean policy, and Debré has a mission complex. He is persuading the Cabinet to go along with it.

Wheeler: The military wants to cooperate. They want the 6th Fleet included in their thinking. This is a political decision on non-cooperation.

Rogers: I agree.

Richardson: While Debré wants some kind of French hegemony, we should still try and convert the French. We need to go out of our way with the Spanish and develop a dialog. We also need to deal with the Tunisians and the Moroccans.

Laird: But the French Foreign Minister didn’t even know about the military sale until late in the game.

Helms: That is right. The news broke through the intelligence community.

RN: When are we going to have a discussion of Greece and Italy in the NSC?4

Kissinger: In the middle of March.

Agnew: There is pressure to get the French to break away from an internal isolationist push. They move toward withdrawal on one side but see an international role on the other.

Kissinger: They have come to the conclusion that we must protect them. With their fine gallic logic they have cut through the NATO verbiage. They want to get out of any formal commitments, and the symbolism of this is very bad. In point of fact, the chain of command goes through national channels in peacetime anyway.

We handled the French very badly in 62 and 63. When De Gaulle was getting out of Algeria he tried to give a real sense of purpose. He played a rough, brutal, and cynical game.

Richardson: The French could exercise a greater degree of grandeur by disassociating themselves from the U.S. and going against any policy of blocs.

Kissinger: Yes, and try to break East Europe away; but Czechoslovakia ended all that.5 The French now must go to Moscow, but Bonn has more to offer than Paris. If Pompidou wants to race to Moscow, he wants something to offer. He could use the Middle East as a lever.

RN: How does the UK feel about all this?

Laird: They won’t say much. They are trying to sell tanks. At the Nuclear Planning Group, everybody disagreed with us on arms sales to the Arabs. I am not quite sure about French participation in the Nuclear [Page 502] Planning Group. I do agree that they should be in, but on their own initiative. We shouldn’t raise the issue. There is no seat there, but it could be reopened.

One thing I am continually pressed on is about hitting the French on money they owe us. I can handle it, but each time I go to the Hill I am asked why we get no reimbursement on facilities.

Kissinger: Aren’t you seeing Pompidou Wednesday morning?6

Laird: Yes, for breakfast.

RN: I would like to hear some comment on French/German relations.

Hillenbrand: There is a growing resentment of Germany, especially among the Gaullists. There is a fear of German expansionism. There is more and more thinking of the UK as a counter-weight in the Common Market. There is also concern over Germany’s Eastern policy. The French see that the Germans have more to offer than they do.

The French are worried that the Socialists will be led down the garden path by the Russians. They basically resent the German socialists.

Kissinger: I agree. The more actively the Germans go toward the East, the more the French will countermove. The French are also worried about our Berlin overtures. This could lead to the French moving closer to the UK, and even to France/UK nuclear collaboration.

Lincoln: Could this also move them more toward the United States?

Hillenbrand: I don’t think so. There is a growing European acceptance of the removal of the U.S. They are hedging their bets and they foresee a weakened NATO.

RN: I was recently talking to Wayne Hays,7 who said he finds in Europe an almost pathological concern about the United States and our declining support to NATO. Take a look at the map—it is a pretty sorry picture.

Spain—Nothing much will happen unless someone shoots Franco.

Scandinavians—Just look what they mean to us.

Italians—We are opening them to the left.

Greeks—OK, says everybody, they are bad and it is the wrong kind of government.

Turks—They are coming here, and maybe we can save them.

[Page 503]

So the French are going to work on the Southern Mediterranean, taking an all-Mediterranean view. We must examine Israeli policy in the light of all this.

Look at the welcome being given to Pompidou. Lester Wolff8 has said he will walk out of Congress. The conduct on the part of the New Yorkers has been miserable. I have asked the Vice President to go to New York.

If Daley9 is staying away from Chicago, I’ll go there myself. This is incredible; when Kosygin comes around, everybody tries to play up to him.

By the way, I saw a decision paper recently on Spain.10

Kissinger: Yes, you approved it. We have agreed within the government to try and keep all the bases. But we have a priority list. DOD has its own list.

RN: The Mediterranean is really one pie. It is tough to divide it up.

Richardson: Concerning Spain, I think we must do more in trying to establish better relations with the rest of Europe. We need to make out an arrangement with the Spanish as to who will do what. On the Common Market there is a problem, since any special preference for Spain would be a violation of GATT.

RN: I want a policy which moves toward Spain. There is the opening to left of Italy. I am dubious about Greece. And the Arab world is a disaster area—not just because of Israeli policy. Nobody tries to go toward Spain.

We could wind up with a situation where the 6th Fleet could be in the middle of a large unfriendly area.

There are many people who don’t like dictators and are not willing to work with them. I can’t subscribe to that. Concerning Italy, nothing will happen there unless we take leadership. We have to try to do something with the Algerians. On Libya, the situation is sort of hopeless. I am sure they will furnish some of the planes to the UAR.

We need to look at the whole Mediterranean basin and see where we go. And we need a new relationship with Spain.

Richardson: On the question of GATT, I would like to send Nat Samuels to Europe to see what arrangements can be worked out.

Laird: I would like to visit our bases in Spain.

RN: I ask you now to visit U.S. bases in Spain, and you should go to Madrid and talk with them there.

[Page 504]

By the way, what is the situation on the plane sabotage/blowup?11 Do we have sophisticated equipment to check baggage? Can this equipment be made available to all carriers? Will the airlines stop going in to Israel? The Israelis can’t accept this.

Helms: We don’t know all the details on the explosion yet. We will find out from the Swiss.

RN: Again, I say we need to look at the whole area. We should go piece by piece.

Pompidou understands that. The French are thinking of the whole area. We need some strong regional thinking.

Lincoln: Those in New York who are against the French are in fact hurting themselves.

Richardson: We have done two recent memos on the Mediterranean which I would like to bring to your attention. One is on the Western Mediterranean, the other is on the area as a whole.12

RN: I would like a more extended meeting on the whole Mediterranean area which would include the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa.

Laird: Mr. President, I would like to ask General Wheeler to comment on his recent discussions with French General Fourquet.

Wheeler: Fourquet was very reserved and clammed up completely on NATO. But he had much to say on French relations and interest in North Africa. He said that Napoleon and the Israelis have the same fatal urge. They kept reaching until they over-reached themselves.

He did tend to be critical of NATO strategy. He referred to a speech he had made which said the French would reserve to themselves decisions on when, where and how they would use nuclear weapons in response to attack on NATO. When I talked with him in Norfolk, he said the French would be willing to talk on maneuvers, exercises, etc., but would never join an integrated NATO organization.

RN: It could well be in our interest to have the French, rather than the Soviets, in this area. The French are there for their own interests. Let’s us look at our interests and see where some deals can be made.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–110, NSC Meeting Minutes, NSC Minutes Originals 1970. Secret.
  2. During the winter of 1969–1970, Israel and Egypt clashed repeatedly along the Suez Canal Zone. On February 4 air forces from both sides launched air raids. On February 8–9, aerial dog fights took place over the Canal Zone. Israel launched air attacks on Egyptian targets on February 12 and 15–19.
  3. Not found.
  4. The discussion took place on June 17. See Document 43.
  5. Reference to the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, August 20, 1968.
  6. February 25.
  7. Representative Wayne Hays (D–OH).
  8. Representative Lester Wolff (D–NY).
  9. Mayor of Chicago Richard J. Daley.
  10. Document 291.
  11. On February 21, an explosion aboard a Swissair flight en route to Tel Aviv from Zurich caused the plane to crash, killing all 47 passengers and crew members.
  12. Apparent reference to papers responding to NSSM 87, “Trends and U.S. Options in North Africa,” and NSSM 88, “US Policy on Italy and the Northern Mediterranean,” both of which were in preparation. On February 26, NSSM 90, “US Interests in and Policy Toward the Mediterranean Area,” directed preparation of a policy paper covering the entire region. For NSSM 87 and the summary of the response, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–5, part 2, Documents on North Africa, 1969–1972, Documents 5 and 9. NSSMs 88 and 90 are Documents 30 and 31, respectively. The response to NSSM 88 is Document 195; the response to NSSM 90 is Document 33.