146. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1


  • President Pompidou’s Visit to the USSR

The political results of President Pompidou’s eight day visit to the USSR were rather ambiguous and inconclusive.2 While given much publicity, including Pompidou’s attendance at a space and missile launching, Franco-Soviet relations are no longer quite so important for either side. Pompidou himself made no effort to match the performance of De Gaulle in 1966 (which he could hardly have done had he tried). The Soviets, for their part, gave the President the full treatment, but it is evident that they consider Germany, not France, their main interlocuter in Europe.

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The major substantive development of the trip was the signature of a protocol on political consultation.3 The document calls for regular as well as emergency consultations in the event of international crisis. This is a new commitment for the French (not dissimilar from what was contemplated by LBJ in SALT but then discarded under Allied pressure) but qualified by a reference that existing obligations to third countries are not affected.

Both sides want to maintain the concept of a special relationship, but in fact, neither seems to think much more can come out of France-Soviet relations, now that extreme Gaullism is fading under Pompidou.

The French were, however, as forthcoming as possible on the idea of a European security conference. Pompidou’s endorsement was more positive than previous French formulations. And the French have accepted the Soviet language with regard to “recognition of the inviolability” of present European frontiers. They also accepted a general European renunciation of force agreement as one of the topics for a conference. It was to be expected that, as German-Soviet relations have come to predominate European politics, the French would become more interested in broader conferences where they can play a role.

In this vein, Pompidou took a firm line on the need for a sound agreement on Berlin, which of course, has the effect of slowing down the German-Soviet rapprochement. Brezhnev, however, is reported to have argued that there could be no connection between the ratification of the new treaty with Bonn and the outcome of Berlin negotiations. Moreover, the Soviets insisted they made this clear to Brandt just as Bahr keeps claiming he and Brandt made their position clear to the Soviets. (This issue looks like it is becoming a major one between Bonn and Moscow and we need to be more careful than ever not to get caught in the middle.)

Other parts of the final communiqué referred to continuing progress of Soviet-French collaboration, begun in 1964 and 1966, in the economic, scientific, and cultural fields. The French have undertaken to increase purchases of Soviet machinery and equipment. Mention was made of possible Soviet participation in construction of a steel mill in France. It was made clear that cooperation on the production of trucks in the USSR may involve other European countries as well. The two countries agreed to the opening in the near future of consulates in Marseilles and Leningrad. Brezhnev, Kosygin and Podgorny accepted a French invitation for a high level Soviet visit to France in 1971.

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Soviet-French agreement was also recorded on the problem of the Middle East and on Indochina. With respect to the latter, both sides agreed to continue their efforts to facilitate negotiations between “all interested parties.” The formulation is less negative than Soviet press response to your proposals,4 and at least admits the possibility of a negotiating forum broader than the Paris talks. On the Middle East, the Soviets apparently showed little interest in discussing with the French either four power consultations or the relaunching of the Jarring talks.

As far as our own interests are concerned the visit points up that our relations with France may be entering a period of somewhat greater difficulties. Much of the messy underbrush in our relations has been cleared away and you have established a good personal rapport with Pompidou. It is evident, however, that our differences remain as we come closer to bedrock policy issues—Vietnam, Middle East, European security and especially the growing deadlock between U.S. and the Common Market. The visit also points up the lingering influence of Gaullism on Pompidou who cannot afford to abandon the appearance of playing an independent role in the world, which means that from time to time the French will want to demonstrate they do not follow blindly the American lead.

A second aspect, perhaps more worrisome, is that Moscow is succeeding in stimulating the competition between Bonn and Paris that they have long wanted. While Pompidou has not gone beyond highly visible gestures, from what we know of French comments and views, there is a growing coolness between the Germans and French. The effect of this for us is that we may find ourselves aligned with the French because of the merits of issues, such as the Berlin negotiations, but which creates the impression that we are somehow colluding against Bonn (this was the impression created by the Pompidou rejection of Brandt’s Western summit).

In sum, we can conclude from this visit, as well as our general relations with France, that Pompidou has no intention of reverting to the pure Gaullist policies abroad, but that France will continue to display an independent position that can be a problem for us.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 677, Country Files—Europe, France, Vol. VII. Secret. Sent for information. A stamped notation on the memorandum reads: “The President has seen.”
  2. October 6–13. Talks with Soviet leaders took place October 6–7 and 12–13. Subsequently, Pompidou provided Nixon with a personal evaluation of the talks. The text of his undated letter and Nixon’s October 31 reply are ibid., Box 752, Presidential Correspondence, France Pompidou.
  3. The agreement was summarized in Bernard Gwertzman, “Soviet and France Sign Agreement To Deepen Political Consultations,” New York Times, October 14, 1970, p. 5.
  4. Apparent reference to the proposals outlined in the President’s October 7 national address. For text, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1970, pp. 825–828.