312. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Dr. James R. Schlesinger, Secretary of Defense
  • Dr. John S. Foster, Jr., Director, Defense Research and Engineering
  • Martin R. Hoffman, Special Assistant to Sec. of Defense
  • Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs


  • Visit of French Defense Minister Galley; Strategic Programs

Kissinger: Let’s talk about the French program. We are having massive problems with the Europeans. This is a totally cynical exercise. But we don’t want them to duplicate our mistakes, and if they price themselves out of the nuclear business... If they are going to build a deterrent, it ought to be good.

[Talked about current problems with the Europeans]

We are going to try to bust the Europeans. The French can be useful in this. We will hit the British, ignore the French and deal with the Germans and Italians.

What we would like with Galley is what looks like a step forward but doesn’t give them anything yet. I think that if we could give Galley an explanation of their problem and how we might tackle it. We do want to be helpful though. We want a point-by-point analysis. Get the testing in Nevada approved. For October. I want to tell them in August.

Schlesinger: They will want monitoring equipment for the test. We could give them something here which wouldn’t cost much.

Foster: It is of advantage to us to have them keep testing in the atmosphere.

The French program is the worst nuclear program in the world. The Chinese one is the best. Progress from test to test has to do with the quality of the people.

[Page 956]

Kissinger: Can we speed up their rate of progress?

Foster: Yes. The best thing would be to look at their designs, without a commitment.

Kissinger: Galley said he would like to have us tell them if they are on the right track.

Foster: One thing would be to get them to refine their objectives and give them ideas to reach it.

Kissinger: We want to whet their appetites in August.

Hoffman: They are being driven by the technicians. They don’t have their strategic objectives clear.

Foster: If you would agree to spend six months so they would understand the existing capability and its limitations and how to fix it, and of alternatives for the future, and which one makes sense and is working....

One of their needs is tactical warning. The solution is either to build their own radar and give up because of the expense, or else we give them the satellite readout from our capability.

For the Year of Europe, you might want to offer this down. Link it to all of NATO.

Kissinger: If we can use the French and break their unity, we can deal with the Europeans.

I wouldn’t agree with the down link. It would be a conceptual presentation, just to say this might be available.

Is it possible to have a presentation part for me, part for Jim and Foster? I’ve studied your paper. Tell them: “This is what we think of your capability.” I would say we are not against the French deterrent and it should be a useful one. We would first discuss its strategic doctrine, and second, its vulnerabilities and how to relieve them.

How do we proceed? Jim, you would discuss measures to cope with the vulnerabilities. We wouldn’t give them anything but tidbits.

We should look more competent than they. Give them the idea it is attainable and we can make progress.

Foster: For example, their missiles might be vulnerable to ENP. We could test this for a few million dollars.

Kissinger: Don’t say “if we were going to help” or “we are going to help.” Just give them the impression.

Foster: The problem is no matter how careful I am, they turn it later into an implied commitment.

Kissinger: We must be fully cold-blooded. Tell them they have an overall strategic urgent problem and we could help them to overcome it. Then there are vulnerabilities and there are things which can help them.

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We would like them to be over the hump by ’76. If the program is a failure by the next election, the French might get a neutralist government.

We must break up the Europeans. And the French are essential.

Schlesinger: We could always use the Germans.

Kissinger: That is dangerous. The Germans would use it for nationalist purposes.

Could we have an outline of a presentation by Monday?

Foster: Yes.

Kissinger: I start with a conceptual presentational approach, Jim will discuss strategy, and Foster the technical part, with some things we could do which might help.

Foster: Could we indicate that we don’t mind their atmospheric testing?

Kissinger: We didn’t object to others’ tests.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to U.S.-French nuclear cooperation.]

  1. Summary: Kissinger, Schlesinger, Foster, and Hoffman discussed an upcoming visit by Galley and U.S.-French nuclear cooperation.

    Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1027, Presidential/HAK Memoranda of Conversation, Memcons, April–Nov 1973, HAK + Presidential (3 of 5). Secret. All brackets are in the original except those indicating text omitted by the editors. The memorandum incorrectly identifies the location of the meeting as the Western White House; the meeting took place in the Pentagon from 12:15 until 2:22 p.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, Record of Schedule) Scowcroft forwarded Kissinger the meeting materials he requested, as well as the French requirements list, under cover of an August 30 note. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 56, Country Files, Europe, General, French Exchanges (1 of 2))