150. Minutes of a Senior Review Group Meeting1


  • Military Cooperation with France2


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
  • U. Alexis Johnson
  • Martin J. Hillenbrand
  • Ronald I. Spiers
  • Leon Sloss
  • Wreatham Gathright
  • Defense
  • Armistead I. Selden
  • John Morse
  • Glenn E. Blitgen
  • JCS
  • Vice Adm. John P. Weinel
  • Col. R. L. Whittington
  • ACDA
  • Spurgeon Keeny
  • NSC Staff
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt
  • William Hyland
  • Wilfrid L. Kohl
  • Jeanne W. Davis


It was agreed that:

—the consensus of the group, on balance, with a slight DOD reservation, was against lifting our restrictions on the provision of advanced computers to France;

—the group, with a possible DOD reservation, was opposed to providing assistance in the missile field; however, if some distinction [Page 536] between items was desired the line could be drawn between 1B and 1C on Page 20 of the Issues paper;3

—we should reopen with the French the discussion of nuclear safety begun in 1963; an NSDM will be prepared and circulated to the group for comment before promulgation;

—a memorandum will be prepared for the President on the operational issues of advanced computers and missile assistance with a minimal option in each category if the President wishes to do something;

—an NSC meeting will be required on the more fundamental issues such as coordinated targetting and Anglo-French nuclear cooperation;

—Defense will do a technical study of the planned British test in the U.S. with an estimate of the possible outcome; the issue will be discussed at a later SRG session in terms of whether or not to tell the British that we believe the test will fail and, if so, to tell them why.

Mr. Kissinger: Our first problem today is the set of issues related to French nuclear policy. Then I want to have a brief preliminary discussion on Pakistan.

Mr. Johnson: I was just telling them that at a luncheon today the CENTO4 Secretary General had made a speech indicating that everything was rosy in CENTO. The Pakistan Ambassador had replied with a “like-hell-it-is” speech, demanding equal treatment among CENTO members and pointing out, for example, that Iran and Turkey get F–4’s and Pakistan does not. It was quite a go-round but it did inject a note of sober realism into the discussion.

(Dr. Kissinger asked Mrs. Davis to check on invitations to staff personnel for the discussion of Pakistan. She ascertained from Col. Kennedy that it was understood that the Pakistan discussion would take place at the SRG meeting on the Middle East, not at today’s meeting on France.)

Mr. Kissinger: We have two sets of issues: (1) the operational issues of export of advanced computers, assistance for the French missile program and nuclear safety, and the possible quid pro quos for favorable action in this area; and (2) the more fundamental issue of where we want our relations with France to go. First, I want to point out that the President; when he spoke to Pompidou, said we wanted to be more forthcoming. Pompidou complained about discriminatory treatment of France, and the President said we should be more forthcoming but gave no specifics. In this connection, the President has ruled negatively [Page 537] on the French manufacture of integrated circuits in Poland.5 There seemed to be some doubt as to whether they were sufficiently “civilian.”

I suggest we look at these issues both in the bilateral context and the NATO context. We can go over them one by one, consider the extent of cooperation we should be prepared to extend on each issue and what, if any, quid pro quo we should ask for in connection with NATO. As I understand it, the French asked us to lift our restrictions on the export of “advanced” computers for use in French nuclear weapons programs.

Mr. Johnson: That is substantively correct. We are sending advanced computers to France for many purposes. The French have to give us a statement that these computers won’t be used in weapons laboratories. We have no means of enforcing this prohibition and we have made no effort to verify that it is observed. The issue is whether to continue to ask for the statement.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: Also, IBM wants a redefinition of an advanced computer in the hopes of distinguishing between the 360 and 370 series.

Mr. Johnson: We should also consider whether to raise the level at which we ask for a statement.

Mr. Kissinger: There are two issues: whether or not to cease the requirement for a statement, and whether to change the definition of an advanced computer. Is it true that the 370 series is not now approved?

Mr. Johnson: Yes.

Mr. Kissinger: So the French get nothing for their weapons laboratories. The 360 is approved with the certificate that it won’t be used in such laboratories, and the 370 is not approved at all.

Mr. Hillenbrand: This is true on a worldwide basis. IBM needs an export license for all 370’s.

Mr. Kissinger: Do we grant them for others and refuse them for France?

Mr. Hillenbrand: This is a new computer that is just coming on the market.

Mr. Blitgen: There are some computers above the restricted level in France but they are not in their weapons laboratories.

Mr. Kissinger: Suppose we give up the requirement for certification that the computers are not being used in weapons laboratories. [Page 538] Could the French then get an advanced computer? Are there not two sets of limiting conditions: the certification on use in laboratories and the fact that we won’t grant an export license for computers above a certain level.

Mr. Gathright: We do grant export licenses for computers above the level, provided the French give us the statement.

Mr. Kissinger: So there are no specific restrictions on the 370.

Mr. Sloss: None except for the export license.

Mr. Kissinger: We don’t require an export license for the 360?

Mr. Johnson: It takes an export license to sell a 370 to anybody. This is a separate issue and largely for the convenience of IBM.

Mr. Sloss: If we change the definition of an advanced computer, we will either have to raise the level of computer that can be sent to France or discriminate against France.

Mr. Kissinger: So provision of the 360 to France requires a letter saying it will not be used in weapons laboratories. Provision of the 370 requires both an export license and the letter.

Mr. Hillenbrand: There is some question of the ability of the French to use their advanced computers for their weapons laboratories. We don’t know for sure, but we suspect they are so using them.

Mr. Johnson: Also, I suspect that if we should remove the letter requirement, the French would make it as tough as they could for us by asking for the 370 specifically for their weapons laboratories.

Mr. Kissinger: And that would be considered a violation of the test ban treaty?

Mr. Johnson: Yes.

Mr. Blitgen: Our information indicates that they could use as many as four advanced computers in weapons work.

Mr. Johnson: And this would involve us.

Mr. Kissinger: Are they asking for the 370?

Mr. Blitgen: So far they are asking for the CDC 6600.

Mr. Kissinger: If we remove the requirement for the letter on the 360 or an equivalent, we wouldn’t have to say anything about it since it doesn’t require an export license. (to Alex Johnson) Your fears would apply only to the 370. Suppose we abolish the requirement for an export license? They couldn’t put us on the spot if it didn’t require an export license.

Mr. Sloss: The CDC 6600 is above the restricted level and needs an export license.

Mr. Kissinger: What is the point to be decided—whether or not to remove the requirement for the letter if no export license is required, or to remove it in all cases?

[Page 539]

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: The question of discriminatory treatment relates only to the letter. The requirement for the export license is universally operable.

Mr. Kissinger: What do we do with the UK?

Adm. Weinel: They are our competitors; they build their own.

Mr. Kissinger: Can the French get these computers from the British?

Mr. Hyland: Yes, and from the Germans and Japanese.

Mr. Blitgen: They are particularly interested in the 6600 as being better suited to laboratory work.

Mr. Johnson: Do the British or Japanese make a comparable computer?

Mr. Keeny: No.

Mr. Kohl: They make comparable computers in the lower range but not in the 6600 range.

Mr. Gathright: The British have an accelerator which is equivalent to the 6600, but the French prefer to do business with us so as not to complicate their software problems.

Mr. Morse: Whatever decision we make now will only be good for two years.

Mr. Kissinger: Why?

Mr. Morse: They can get it from other countries by then.

Mr. Blitgen: You understand that the French are not asking to buy whole computers. They want to assemble the computers in France from components bought in the U.S., then put them in their weapons laboratories.

Mr. Kissinger: (to Johnson) What is State’s view?

Mr. Johnson: It is hard to be categorical on this issue. The French can be expected to make it tough for us in relation to the test ban treaty, and there is strong legal opinion that we cannot change our position by executive decision without violating the treaty. I assume that we are “being nice” to the French in order to influence French policy. With regard to NATO, the French, for their own reasons and in their own interests, are already making mild changes in such areas as communications and air defense. In other words, they are already taking small steps toward NATO although we are not being “nice” to them. I’m pretty disillusioned over the effects of being nice to the French after their most recent statement on the Laos operation6 despite our repeated attempts to get in touch with Pompidou.

[Page 540]

Mr. Kissinger: Did Pompidou know we were trying to get in touch with him?

Mr. Johnson: I think so. Their outrageous statement doesn’t encourage me to think that nice gestures, which will probably cause us serious trouble with our allies and with the Congress, will have any material effect on their position. On balance, I favor continuing to hold off in this area—not to change our policy. We can look for other areas in which to be nice rather than the most sensitive nuclear field.

Mr. Kissinger: What does Defense think?

Mr. Morse: Our views have been coordinated through DOD but have not been personally checked with Mr. Packard, although I know of no reservations on his part. Although I hate to suggest it, we might ask another study group to take a look at the computer issue to see if we could put some negative restrictions on the new computers which would still meet treaty objections.

Mr. Kissinger: Like what?

Mr. Morse: I don’t know, but there might be something.

Mr. Kissinger: Do you object to giving them computers as long as they are not useful for weapons?

Mr. Morse: Or not useful for testing. There might be a way in which we could appear to be more forthcoming.

Mr. Johnson: Wouldn’t that be awfully transparent?

Mr. Morse: Maybe, but we haven’t got a better idea.

Mr. Kissinger: And if it can’t be done?

Mr. Morse: Then we believe the treaty aspect is so binding that we would get serious criticism if we tried to go ahead.

Mr. Johnson: Do you see political gains with the French? I’m sure we can find ways of doing it if we saw the likelihood of significant shifts in French attitudes resulting from it.

Mr. Morse: Personally I do see some political gain, but this opinion may not be shared in the Defense Department.

Mr. Kissinger: Like what?

Mr. Morse: Coordinated targetting, for example, and possibly other NATO issues.

Mr. Kissinger: (to Morse) So you believe the legal difficulties are serious but you can see some political advantage, although possibly not an overriding one.

Mr. Morse: I have had some experience with our system of restrictions on exchange of sensitive information, and I am aware of how difficult it is to convince the Congress and others on the desirability of being forthcoming. It would be bound to lead to serious criticism and [Page 541] I’m not sure the President would want to risk it. Of course, the legal point can be stretched depending on the policy decision.

Mr. Kissinger: (to Johnson) You don’t see enough political gain. (to Gen. Cushman) How do you feel about it?

Gen. Cushman: [2½ lines not declassified]

Mr. Johnson: [1 line not declassified]

Gen. Cushman: [2 lines not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: [3 lines not declassified]

Gen. Cushman: The Russians already have access to this information.

Mr. Kissinger: Are we granting export licenses on the 370’s as long as the French provide the certification concerning use?

Mr. Sloss: This hasn’t come up yet.

Mr. Kissinger: How about the CDC 6600’s?

Mr. Spiers: Yes, it’s already been done.

Gen. Cushman: But computers are not a security problem.

Mr. Spiers: It’s a question of removing a minor irritant for some political advantage. There are few security issues on computers or on the missile question.

Gen. Cushman: It varies with the specific request. I agree that we should think of what other things we might do to be nice to the French.

Mr. Keeny: We agree with State that we don’t think it will help our relations with the French. Also, our legal people think it is a violation of the test ban treaty.

Mr. Johnson: What about third country transfers?

Mr. Keeny: This comes up on the missile question, but the basic issue is political.

Mr. Spiers: There is no question that the relation of the computer issue to the test ban treaty could be used against us. We can get around the issue if desired for political reasons but we will be criticized.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: The only thing between us and such criticism now is the letter from the French.

Mr. Hyland: And we violate the principle of the agreement by allowing them to use lesser computers in their weapons program. The prohibition is against advanced computers—the 360/65 and the CDC 6600. Below that level they can use them in their programs.

Mr. Kissinger: Do we require both an export license and a letter? Does everything that requires an export license require a letter?

Mr. Hyland: No.

Mr. Kissinger: Does anything that requires a letter require an export license?

[Page 542]

Mr. Hyland: Yes. We have American computers in the French weapons program but not the most advanced kind.

Mr. Kissinger: As I understand the issue, the consensus is against lifting our restrictions on the provision of advanced computers to France. The President will have to decide whether he wants to do it on political grounds. Lifting the requirement for the letter concerning use in the weapons program is the least we can do. It would be the best thing to do if we have to do something. But this group, on balance, is against it, with a slight Defense reservation.

Mr. Spiers: If the President decides to go ahead, the problem would be containable.

Mr. Johnson: I agree.

Mr. Kissinger: Can we turn to the question of missile assistance. Are there various degrees of assistance or must we accept or reject completely?

Mr. Hyland: There are various degrees.

Mr. Johnson: State believes that, as far as the particular items which they have requested go, they aren’t particularly sensitive. We question, though, whether we should start down the slippery slope.

Mr. Spiers: This is particularly relevant to SALT and the question of third country assistance.

Mr. Keeny: It is relevant to SALT particularly now, since we may be able to get some general treatment of the transfer issue. If we force the issue through some assistance to the French, we may get a more restrictive Soviet reaction than if we were able to treat it in a more general way.

Mr. Johnson: We would also get a reaction from the Joint Atomic Energy Committee.

Mr. Kissinger: How about security?

Gen. Cushman: It is a factor to be considered. It is significant in some items and not in others. I agree that it is a question of starting down the slope.

Mr. Kissinger: Is the package broken down in degrees of sensitivity?

Mr. Spiers: Different items are identified in the report.

Mr. Sloss: On page 20–21 of the Issues paper there is a list of the categories as discussed with Johnny Foster last June. Of those, we believe 1A and 1B could be discussed in some detail. 1C could not. 1A and 1B could be discussed without going into information controlled under the Atomic Energy Act.

Mr. Morse: Foster believes a lot could be obtained from the open literature.

[Page 543]

Mr. Kissinger: But not the whole business?

Mr. Morse: No, just in the areas of 1A and 1B.

Mr. Johnson: Would any of this information be relevant to development of a booster for non-military use? I’ve just spent three days on the question of provision of a launch capability to the French and others. Could this help them develop their own independent launch capability for a communications satellite?

Mr. Morse: Yes.

Mr. Johnson: They are being most uncooperative on Intelsat. They want us to furnish them with unrestricted launch capability, either by giving them launchers or agreeing unconditionally to provide launch facilities as a quid pro quo for their participation in the post-Apollo program. In other words, they want all the advantages of the agreement without paying for them.

Mr. Kissinger: I agree the French haven’t been a joy to work with. And no one has been more eager to get along with them than this President. Is it correct to say that the view of this group, with a possible DOD reservation, is against providing assistance in the missile field on the grounds that it starts us down the slope and we would be subject to major criticism in terms of SALT and other things? If we want to make a distinction among items, we could make it on the line between 1B and 1C—or on the grounds of information available in the open literature, or information not under Atomic Energy Act restriction, or information otherwise available to the Soviet Union. We are agreed that there is no Restricted Data information in 1A or 1B and that the Soviet Union probably already has access to the information. Is that a fair statement?

All agreed.

Mr. Morse: We could tell the French that we have decided in principle to provide certain information within certain limits.

Mr. Kissinger: If we do it, we should be sure we do not start down the slope in terms of principle. The only information we should consider giving them would be that not considered Restricted Data.

Mr. Sloss: 2A would give them a more accurate weapons system which would only be used as a counterforce. This is inconsistent with the French role.

Mr. Keeny: 2A and 2B would be useful to the Soviets. Even the more limited items might raise questions with regard to SALT. We would hope to get some general formulation which wouldn’t preclude giving the French some help in some fields.

Mr. Kissinger: I understand the problem. But I want to give the President an option in each category to do something minimal if he wants to do something. I realize this will involve SALT.

[Page 544]

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: This would get us involved in programs with the British, which raises the issue of discrimination.

Mr. Spiers: One is an on-going program. This is new program.

Mr. Kissinger: Can we turn to the question of nuclear safety? This issue becomes current since we have offered to discuss it with the Soviets in SALT.

Mr. Johnson: We have no problem with nuclear safety if it can be talked about without going into design questions.

Mr. Morse: The French are not talking about classified information. They have in mind the same thing AEC Commissioner Ramey offered them in 1963. In fact, Mr. Johnson wrote a finding to AEC at the time saying this was okay. AEC sees no real problem, nor do members of the Joint Atomic Energy Committee whom we have approached informally. This would be the safest move if we want to go forward in some way.

Mr. Johnson: It requires no new decision. We could fall back on the 1963 memoranda.

Mr. Kissinger: We can do it. There would be no Restricted Data involved?

Mr. Morse: No. If we give the French an unofficial indication that an overt approach wouldn’t be turned down, they would request that the talks resume where they left off in 1963.

Mr. Kissinger: Does anyone have any objection?

Mr. Johnson: No, but I want to review what I said in my memorandum in 1963.

Mr. Keeny: Do the NATO people think there is any information available that we haven’t given them?

Mr. Morse: The Atomic Energy Commission thinks so.

Mr. Kissinger: (to Johnson) Why don’t you review your 1963 memorandum.

Mr. Spiers: (to Morse) It would be useful to see the briefing material on this.

Mr. Kissinger: We will draft an NSDM on the issue of nuclear safety7 and give everyone a crack at it before it is issued. Do you all agree?

All agreed.

Mr. Kissinger: On the operational issues, I suggest we do it by memorandum to the President. On the more fundamental issues, such as targetting and Anglo-French nuclear cooperation, I think they should go to an NSC meeting.

[Page 545]

Mr. Johnson: But they aren’t ready yet.

Mr. Kissinger: I agree they aren’t ready now. I was making a distinction between NSC and non-NSC issues. Am I correct that the question of joint strategic targetting doesn’t require an operational decision now?

Mr. Spiers: Our paper reviews the options but there is no early operational decision required.

Mr. Kissinger: Do we know what we want?

Mr. Spiers: Different people want different things. I would like a coordinating arrangement between the French and SACEUR, although this would be the hardest for the French to accept. The British forces are now targetting within SACEUR. It would be wrong to handle the French differently from the British. Any attempt to work out a quadrilateral arrangement—NATO, the US, UK and France—would pull the British out of the SACEUR arrangement.

Mr. Kissinger: I will review the President’s discussion with Pompidou. I believe they agreed they were not ready to discuss joint targetting.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: There are two issues: the channel to be used and whether or not French forces are worth coordinating—what do you coordinate?

Mr. Kissinger: Are they technically able to target flexibly with their missiles?

Adm. Weinel: They have so few warheads that they are not difficult to target.

Mr. Spiers: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: I assume if we coordinate with them as part of SACEUR we will want them to hit some tactical targets. Can they do it?

Mr. Spiers: I’m sure we could find some targets the French could handle within SACEUR. Whether they would or not is a different question.

Mr. Morse: We have asked the British and French if they are interested in coordination. The British have indicated that they are not moving toward cooperation with the French at the moment.

Mr. Hillenbrand: During the Heath visit,8 Lord Home said the British kept hearing rumors that the French were interested but they never made any move. The British are waiting for the French to take the initiative.

Mr. Spiers: This may be an internal British problem. Heath may now see it as a more complex issue.

[Page 546]

Mr. Morse: The French aren’t anxious to move on this. Everyone is waiting for everyone else.

Adm. Weinel: This is a matter of extreme sensitivity for the French. This is their independence from NATO.

Mr. Kissinger: Theoretically the British are not inhibited from having any number of other strike plans. If the French weren’t so Cartesian about it they would realize that, by coordination with SACEUR, they would only have to add one option which they would then be free not to execute. If, of course, they have the technical ability to do what they want to do.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: Are there some security aspects of sharing targetting data with the French?

Mr. Spiers: There is no problem.

Mr. Kissinger: If the issue came up, do we have a checklist of our options? Do we understand what we want them to do from a military point of view?

Mr. Morse: Yes.

Mr. Kissinger: There is one other issue. The British are planning a test in Utah or Nevada, of which we already know the outcome.

Mr. Morse: Johnny Foster has sent a memorandum to Mr. Packard on this which he wanted to have better staffed in DOD. Foster personally favors cooperation with the British.

Mr. Johnson: In what way?

Mr. Kissinger: We need to know whether it is true that we already know the test result. Then we need to make a political decision whether or not to tell the British they are wasting $2.5 million. Do we want them to test or should we tell them the test will fail?

Mr. Spiers: We want to know more about the whole subject.

Mr. Gathright: There is a broader question here. This is the beginning of a series of steps that we know won’t work. Some of our technical people think the British are going off on a tangent.

Mr. Kissinger: If the first test fails, will they run others?

Mr. Gathright: There may be additional test requirements which other people think are wrong.

Mr. Kissinger: I realize the agencies are not prepared to discuss this issue.

Mr. Spiers: Some experts believe the tests will fail, will cost the British $2.5 million and will delay their work two years. Others feel the British may succeed.

Mr. Johnson: We don’t know enough about it.

Mr. Spiers: Let’s wait for Mr. Packard to have a chance to focus on it.

[Page 547]

Mr. Kissinger: (to Morse) Let’s get a technical study of this and an estimate of the probable outcome. If we are certain the test will fail, or have serious doubts, then the question is whether or not we tell the British. If so, do we tell them why? We will have another session on this.

[Omitted here is discussion of Pakistan.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–112, Senior Review Group, SRG Minutes (Originals) 1971. Top Secret; Nodis. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room.
  2. NSSM 100, Document 144.
  3. Document 148.
  4. Central Treaty Organization.
  5. The President made the decision on February 25. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume IV, Foreign Assistance, International Development, Trade Policies, 1969–1972, Document 371.
  6. In a February 2 statement, in the wake of increased U.S. bombing of North Vietnamese supply trails, Pompidou expressed concern about widening the conflict in Southeast Asia and France’s interest in Laotian neutrality and independence.
  7. See Document 154.
  8. December 16–18, 1970. See Document 335.