24. Message WH31863 From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to French Foreign Minister Jobert1

Dear Mr. Minister:

I have carefully read your recent letter to me. Indeed, I have reread it a number of times to be as certain as possible that I have fully understood the meaning and intent of its subtle phrases.

I am not surprised, nor unduly disturbed, that you should have found the two working documents I gave you in San Clemente perhaps too optimistic. They were not intended as finished drafts; nor were they meant to be in any sense an opening bargaining position. They were the beginning of a common effort to establish terms that could find general acceptance among the parties concerned. It was for this reason that I had awaited with so much interest your own ideas concerning the contents of a declaration which you had on several occasions indicated you would seek to set on paper.

And I must say that I would still be eager to see those ideas, regardless of how distant they might be from ours, because it seems to me that a dialogue can be conducted only if both partners speak.

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It would be wholly inappropriate for me to speak to you of French interests. But I cannot help feeling that if you were to try to set forth in writing the goals, purposes and opportunities of the states of the Atlantic area, the French perspective would not be all that divergent from what we attempted to articulate. At any rate, we would have a basis for discussion, perhaps even “fierce” discussion, with a good chance, I believe, of a positive outcome.

As I told your Chargé, I was somewhat disturbed by your references to some recent developments that you say have added preoccupations to our relations. I believe it would be helpful, if only in terms of our bilateral relations, if you could be more specific with regard to these matters. Especially since I now anticipate seeing your colleague, the Defense Minister, in the near future, it would be of particular value to me to have a more precise understanding of the causes for your evident pessimism.

We have, as you know, consulted with some of our other Allies in regard to the contents of a declaration and the procedures for completing it. I conveyed to them the texts I had given you in San Clemente only after not hearing from you for many weeks and only on the same terms: that they were working documents to advance the discussion toward an outcome acceptable to all. As we informed your Ambassador we provided the texts to the British and Germans; we have now also given them to the Italians. We described them as working papers. We shall make no other distribution.

Our sole purpose remains the strengthening of the West at a time when many pressures and dangers threaten to push us in the opposite direction. By definition that goal cannot be achieved without the consent and participation of all concerned. Specifically, neither the unity of Europe, which we support, nor the reinvigoration of transatlantic relations, which both of us desire, can occur without the leading role of France. It is on that basis that I have conducted our talks and will continue to do so.

I cannot help closing this message without striking perhaps as pessimistic a note as I detected in your own letter. It seems to me that all of us will suffer, and Europe perhaps more than we, if it turns out that we can engage in multilateral conferences and bilateral meetings, and sign agreements and reach understandings, with the East, such as CSCE, MBFR, SALT, etc., but are unable to do so among ourselves. I say this as a historian more than as one concerned with current affairs, because in the latter capacity one can always find ways to muddle through. But that, it seems to me, is not what is called for today if we are concerned with shaping the future together.

With warm regards.

  1. Summary: Kissinger replied to Jobert’s letter on the Year of Europe.

    Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 56, Country Files, Europe, General, French Exchanges (2 of 2). Top Secret; Immediate; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only.