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160. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to Secretary of Defense Laird 1

SUBJECT

  • Meeting with French Defense Minister Debré

My conversation with Debré yesterday lasted about 35 minutes and he then had a chat with the President for another 15–20 minutes.2 This was quite general and dealt very broadly with the progress in U.S.-French relations.

1. In my conversation Debré expressed great satisfaction about the U.S.-French talks on technical subjects. He stressed the good actions and frankness, and I told him that our people had been impressed with the high quality of the French performance. Debré noted that Blancard would be coming shortly to continue talks.3

2. Debré then expressed at some length the well-known reservations about MBFR, arguing in particular that it would result in a “drop in the spirit of defense” all over Europe. I told him that the tendencies he fears were not in view, that they were reinforced more by pressure from the European Security Conference than by our efforts to have a serious and well-thought out MBFR negotiation. In the latter connection, I stressed the danger of proposals which were put together simply for negotiability and pointed out that we wanted to put together packages that would not weaken Western defenses. I told Debré we would welcome intellectual contributions in this, and he did not react one way or the other. The French Ambassador defended French advocacy of the European Conference by saying that the French did not intend it in any way as undercutting defense efforts. I stressed the point that in connection with any MBFR negotiation, but as a general matter also, the West must have a coherent defense strategy in Europe, one that is credible and that people believe in. This Administration will not reduce its forces unless the threat is reduced and would be able to withstand Con[Page 580]gressional pressures; however, this requires realistic contributions from the Europeans.

3. Debré also raised the Soviet point about British and French submarines in the SALT talks. I emphasized that we had not accepted the Soviet position, and we will not accept any Soviet effort to acquire an additional submarine should the French wish to add to their forces. Debré stressed that French strategic forces will be based on submarines and they might at some point want to consider a sixth boat.

4. Debré expressed his concern about possible German interest in nuclear weapons stemming from their efforts in uranium enrichment for civilian purposes. I said we would do nothing to help or encourage the Germans in this direction.

5. Finally, Debré mentioned that we were approaching an accord in principle regarding port calls by nuclear-powered vessels in French ports. I said I had not heard of this but it sounded encouraging.

Henry A. Kissinger 4
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 678, Country Files—Europe, France, Vol. IX. Secret. Drafted by Kissinger, Haig, and Richard T. Kennedy on July 8. A notation on the memorandum reads: “By messenger to Adm Murphy (OASD Cable Branch to hold for Murphy).”
  2. Kissinger’s meeting with Debré, July 7, took place at 9:50 a.m., at the Western White House, San Clemente, California. A memorandum of conversation is ibid. The portions on the European security conference are printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXIX, European Security, Document 101. No record of the Nixon-Debré discussion was found.
  3. Blancard arrived July 16. No record of the meetings was found.
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.