315. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Secretary Schlesinger’s meeting with French MOD Galley in SecDef office, 25 September 1973


  • US
  • Secretary Schlesinger
  • Ambassador Hill
  • Major General Wickham
  • Lt. General Vernon Walters
  • French
  • Minister of Defense Galley
  • Ambassador Kosciusko-Morizet

1. LOC

SecDef proposed that staffs meet on developing contingency plans for use of LOC facilities through France. He emphasized that effectiveness of the NATO deterrent depends in large part on the perception by the USSR of the availability of LOC through France.

Galley said that there are two different attitudes on this matter. First, is that the availability of the LOC for conventional war purposes over several months just doesn’t make sense. However, the French are and will be good allies. It would, of course, be impossible to fight a war against the USSR and not allow the use of the French LOC for supplying allied forces which would be fighting along side French forces. I can give assurances that all facilities in France would be available in the event of war. We can have staff contacts to see how this can be arranged. However, I cannot envisage the use of LOC facilities for a long war as the briefings this morning suggested.

SecDef replied that it would be better not to forecast any circumstances for use of LOC. Rather, staffs should examine simply what could be done if circumstances warranted use of the LOCs. It would be important in our planning to know what would be available, in order to save time and confusion after the outbreak of hostilities.

[Page 972]

Galley: I would prefer this simple staff approach to planning. Also, if the French are to build new depots, why not build them in a way to satisfy both needs? However, there should be no US troops stationed there, and we know now that US forces are gone certain bases no longer are targets for Soviet attack.

SecDef pointed out that the staff work would merely identify facilities and not involve construction or presence of US forces.

Ambassador Kosciusko-Morizet supported the idea of staff contacts, although the principal responsibility would be that of the French in determining availability of facilities. The French organization would have to be developed to coordinate facilities made available to the allies in time of war. However, this must not pre-judge French reactions because, bluntly speaking, the French do not believe in flexible response.

2. NATO Strategy

SecDef noted that when we talk of a 90-day war, we do not necessarily mean a war limited to that period of time or a longer war. The Soviet logistical position is a peculiar one and their strategy is to come on in a big rush. Their sustaining capability is limited. What I am saying is that the Soviets should perceive no opportunities for them to reach conventionally for gains in the West on the supposition that NATO would be afraid to use nuclear weapons and does not have the power to resist conventionally. We want to present the Soviets with no easy temptations. If they perceive a solid deterrent, they won’t undertake aggression. The availability of the LOC through France would add to that perception.

Galley replied that there is a great doctrinal difference between the US and France on this point. He recognized that the lives of US soldiers are at stake, but the Soviets are only 300 kilometers from the French border and, therefore, there is a higher urgency on the part of the French to use nuclear weapons quickly. The French cannot allow the Soviets to attack.

Galley went on to explain the importance of resolve by indicating that the FRG had refused to allow pre-chambering of bridges and passes (although this is required by law in France). He felt that this curious attitude of the FRG reflected a lack of will which would be apparent to the Soviets. Thus, if they commit French troops they will fight immediately under nuclear weapons. That resolution on our part would be the strongest deterrent, we believe. This is what governs our whole attitude on the matter.

SecDef: The French position does contribute to deterrence and the Soviets must recognize the declared French policy. But I would point out that there are circumstances where a nation may hesitate to use nuclear weapons despite its declared policy. Therefore, the better one’s [Page 973] conventional capabilities, the better one can plug the hole which the Soviets may perceive. I can understand the necessity for Soviet recognition of your willingness to employ nuclear weapons. However, the presence of US forces in Europe and the flexible response strategy calls for a credible conventional defense capability. Our Congress is in no mood to maintain a large conventional force in Europe if nuclear war is to occur quickly and the conventional defense option is not viable.

Galley: You must look at this from the European point of view. We believe that the nuclear deterrent is tied to a large presence of US troops in Europe.

SecDef: To maintain large US forces in Europe, which you want to stay and as you say are necessary for an effective deterrent, you must tolerate the conventional defense basis for their staying in Europe. The Congress will not tolerate $2.5 billion annual expenses to maintain a large US military establishment in Europe if nuclear war is considered to occur early in hostilities.

Galley: It is possible that within 6 to 12 hours or maybe 24 hours French forces would be in contact with invading Soviet troops. We would use nuclear weapons at that time. It is more important that the Soviets believe this than for your Congress to be persuaded.

SecDef: There appear to be two aspects of the deterrent. First, is the Soviet conviction that the French will use nuclear weapons early. The other is the presence of US forces in Europe. Both have deterrent effects. Your desire is to have both.

Galley: For the moment both are necessary. We do not have a strategic deterrent capability.

SecDef: Withdrawal of US forces would lead to collapse of the Alliance. I can conceive of circumstances where US forces have been removed, NATO collapses, and the Soviets move relatively unopposed to the French borders. I hope you will recognize that if there is no consensus that conventional forces contribute to deterrence, they will be withdrawn in whole or in part.

Galley: OK.

SecDef: The LOC through France would contribute to deterrence regardless of the length of war.

Galley: As to the discussions concerning the LOC, they can begin on a bilateral basis of perhaps two officers from Admiral Moorer’s staff and two officers from Gen. Maurin’s staff.

Amb. Hill: Are the French media reflecting Congressional attitudes reasonably accurately? It is not that we seek to blame Congress with difficulties we face in maintaining forces in Europe but we are in a critical position—almost a touch and go situation.

[Page 974]

SecDef: I believe the mood of Congress is changing. My preference is for a stalwart conventional defense and a coherent NATO strategy. We must have a common perception of the threat and of the strategy for defense. For example, the FRG wants early use of nuclear weapons but doesn’t want to use them on FRG soil.

Galley: I recognize this, and in our talks with the Germans they mention the need for using all weapons, except on the matter of nuclear weapons where they say this must be a matter for discussion between French and FRG Governments.

SecDef: I am delighted to talk with you on contingency plans for the LOC. We understand your attitudes and it would be helpful to indicate to our Congress that we have this understanding with you on the use of the LOC facilities. Quite candidly, when we talk of US troops in Europe, Congress says that the allies are not doing enough. If we can say that we are discussing the LOC matter privately, it would be helpful.


Galley: If you tell Congress, it will be in the news promptly and lead to opposition problems in France with a worse result than if we had not mentioned the discussions. A better signal to your Congress would be the FRELOC reimbursement issue. I propose to you that in the months ahead we discuss reimbursement issue. In this connection, my Prime Minister proposes to put in the 1973 budget 50 million francs for partial payment to the US by the end of 1973.

SecDef: If the sum is too small, you must recognize that we will have a greater problem with Congress.

Galley: This would be merely a down payment while we discuss the matter of establishing an agreed residual value.

SecDef: As you know, the original value is estimated to be $378 million. Were we to accept your offer, it would be necessary to be clear that the discussions would be on the basis of determining a residual value and that the 50 million franc initial contribution would be regarded only as partial payment.

Amb. Kosciusko-Morizet: That is correct. The 50 million would be an initial payment until we reach agreement on the final value. However, initiation of discussions does not necessarily mean that we agree with the $300 million level.

Galley: In summary, let me say that we prefer the phrase ally of the US rather than ally of the allies.

John A. Wickham, Jr. Major General, USA
Military Assistant
  1. Summary: Schlesinger, Hill, Galley, and Kosciusko-Morizet discussed LOC, NATO strategy, and the FRELOC claim.

    Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Kissinger-Scowcroft West Wing Office Files, Box 12, France—Nuclear Matters (1) (8/15/72–12/6/74). Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Wickham on September 28. The meeting took place in the Secretary of Defense’s office. In telegram 203419 to Paris, October 12, the Department noted “that until the total amount of a settlement is agreed to, it is premature to discuss in any detail arrangements for payment (such as down payment or timing of payments.)” France had originally proposed a one-time lump settlement and so “therefore the principal question at issue is the total amount of that settlement.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 679, Country Files, Europe, France Vol. XI (2 of 2))