2. Memorandum From Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • French Fears of US-Soviet Collusion and “Neutralization” of Germany

Several recent reports relating to Pompidou’s visit to Brezhnev highlight two current French concerns and Pompidou’s efforts to deal with them. These concerns are:

—that the U.S. and the Soviet Union have been colluding against West European, specifically French, interests in MBFR, CSCE, and the German question; and

—that the end result of what the French conceive to be US-Soviet MBFR deals and of the implementation of the West German-East German treaty will be a neutralized Germany

The four reports (attached at Tabs A–D) deserve your attention, revealing as they do Pompidou’s apprehensions and the stratagems with which we will have to deal.

Tab A

In [less than 1 line not declassified] mid-December, [less than 1 line not declassified] the well-connected [less than 1 line not declassified] in Paris, reports the French government fears that the bonds being established between the two Germanies and MBFR negotiations together may lead to a neutralized belt in Central Europe. This accounts for Pompidou’s antipathy to arms reductions in this area, as expressed in his interview with Reston.

[less than 1 line not declassified] also comments that Pompidou thinks Europe may have to pay the price for the Soviet-American dialogue, with which it has not been associated. He sees the visit to Brezhnev as a way for Pompidou to keep in touch with Moscow in order to guard against such dangers.

Tab B

At the Franco-German Political Directors’ consultations, (Von Staden on the German side, Arnaud on the French), the Germans tell [Page 5] us, the French hammered away on what they called the “Kissinger-Gromyko deal” on the MBFR/CSCE procedural scenario. They warned the Germans that US “insistence on restrictive formulations” for force reductions is part of this implicit deal, and will result in both bilateral super-power hegemony in Europe and neutralization of the FRG. They said that France would be vigilant during CSCE against US-Soviet dealing and would speak up to defend European interests.

Tab C

Much of this surfaced in a clearly backgrounded Le Monde story from Moscow published on the day before Pompidou’s visit. It complains that although the Russians had courteously kept France informed of the Summit talks in May, this had changed after your visit to Moscow in September, and the French are no longer being kept au courant on US-Soviet talks. The deal on scenarios and your “intervention” in the Four Power Berlin declaration in October is a triumph of bipolarity. The U.S. and the Soviet Union make all the key decisions and then invite the Europeans to sign.

But France can assert itself, since Pompidou remains the only possible European partner for Moscow and because there have been signs of recent troubles in the Soviet-US relationship (Le Monde cites: Vietnam, delays in the natural gas deal, and a SALT issue). Even so, Pompidou knows that the Soviets give priority to relations with Washington, not Paris.

Tab D

A Paris cable quotes Pompidou as saying at a January 12 press conference in Minsk that Brezhnev had asked France to participate in MBFR, that France could not change her position suddenly, but that he had “noted with interest” both the “detailed conception” of Soviet views on MBFR and Soviet reasons for wanting French participation. Tatu adds that this translates into an increase in flexibility in the French MBFR position. The Soviet Union’s pleas on MBFR had had some effect on Pompidou.

French Motivations

By putting out this line prior to his visit to Brezhnev, Pompidou was posturing again as Russia’s only European intolocuteur valable, the champion of Europe’s interest against the two superpowers, and as the only statesman capable of convincing Brezhnev that he should alter his deplorable propensity to bilateralism with Washington. Such a pose enhances Pompidou’s prospects with the electorate.

More important for us, he may be signalling a demand that we cut him into our decision-making on European security issues at an early stage if we want his support in CSCE and MBFR. The alternative is a [Page 6] Franco-German alignment against us on some of them, something our Embassy in Bonn senses (last paragraph of Tab B) is already beginning. This comes through most clearly in his press conference remark that Brezhnev had provided him with a detailed explanation of the Soviet position—the implication evidently being that it was better than any we have given him. (This is disingenuous in view of your extensive talks on this matter with Debré, Schumann and him.)

  1. Summary: Sonnenfeldt discussed French fears of U.S.–USSR collusion and the “neutralization” of Germany.

    Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 679, Country Files, Europe, France Vol. X (Aug 72–Apr 73). Top Secret; Codeword; Sensitive. Sent for information. Attached but not published are Tabs A through D. Kissinger initialed the memorandum.