320. Memorandum From the Deputy Director of the Office of Strategic and Space Systems, Department of Defense (Walsh) to Secretary of Defense Schlesinger1


  • Missile Cooperation With France

This is in response to MGen Wickham’s request for a memorandum summarizing current status of our ballistic missile cooperation [Page 985] with France, considering the possibility of suspension of the missile and nuclear safety programs with France, suggesting possible mechanisms available for implementation, and including comment as appropriate.

Current status of the missile cooperation program is that no action has been taken to implement any of the six new initiatives you discussed with M. Galley. The existing program has continued in line with the guidance in Dr. Kissinger’s March 9, 1973, memo. Principal topics at present relate to nuclear hardening [3 lines not declassified]

On nuclear safety, the U.S. consensus is that there is very little of technical value to be gained by us in future exchanges. We also are convinced that French safety designs and practices are adequate, and that we have gone as far as practicable, under current ground-rules, in assuring ourselves thereof. The French consider their safety designs to have profited by the exchanges, and would like to continue in greater depth. They also have suggested expansion of the scope into operational matters, including items such as military personnel training and noninterference between strategic submarines.

French technical circles clearly recognize the extensive information potentially available to them from us, the value thereof to their missile programs, and the fact that we have yet but scratched the surface. At the meeting in Paris last October they recognized the need, based upon our inputs, [1½ lines not declassified] They suggested informally that they would like the U.S. to assist essentially as a design partner. On the other hand, based upon recent appearances, it is not clear that the value has been appreciated by French political and diplomatic circles.

Potential Courses of Action

To continue business as usual without some reaction, after the Washington Energy Conference, could encourage a French view that the security component of our relationship can be isolated from all others, or that recalcitrance is cost-free, and even has its rewards. Two courses of action suggest themselves:

(a) Suspend the entire program.

(b) Suspend any consideration of new initiatives, and serve warning on suspension of both the ongoing missile program and the safety program. For the present, though, we would continue these ongoing programs as planned.

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If we choose option (a), then a straightforward letter of notification would seem appropriate. I would suggest letters from Dick Barse and Don Cotter to M. Brunet and M. Baron, the points of contact on missiles and safety respectively. (A letter from you to Galley would put you personally up front and give the French MOD no place to go if they want to appeal the decision and offer reasons for our reconsideration.) We can expect the Defense letters to be relayed to responsible French political levels and we may be asked for “clarification” either in high political channels or in Defense channels. We can decide how to respond if it comes.

If we adopt (b), a verbal exchange seems more appropriate. It would sharpen the sense of potential loss among the technical people, and give them added incentive and strength to press their case at the political levels. To implement it, I would suggest placing it in the hands of Barse and Bartholomew, to hold a meeting in Paris with Brunet, Baron and Seilliere (Galley’s diplomatic advisor). This course still reserves direct contact between you and the French as a court of higher authority.

Possible French Reactions

Either action might surprise some Frenchmen. In the most hard-headed French view, the U.S. security commitment to Europe is in U.S. interests; therefore, they feel they do not need to “compensate” us for it in other areas, and indeed, can pursue their own interests in them, however abrasively, without concern for the impact on our security connection. Similarly, they may see our help for the French nuclear force as primarily a matter of U.S. interest in the contribution it makes to the Western deterrent; certainly the U.S. has made positive noises about this, unlike past American condemnations.

For the more Gaullist among the French, our action probably would be cited as another piece of evidence that the U.S. will not tolerate a truly independent France (or Europe) and has hegemonic designs on the continent. And if and when the French learn of our recent decision to help the UK with the Polaris Improvement Program, this could further sharpen their reaction.

As to the specific steps the French might take politically, they could:

• Tell the other EC members of our decision, citing it as an example of U.S. pressure and designs (with a flavor of U.S. double-dealing, since NATO was not informed of the programs).

• Take an even more rigid stance on the Atlantic and U.S.–EC declarations (though probably not to the point of breaking them off).

• Create difficulties concerning the President’s visit to Europe.

In the military and defense area, it is quite possible that the French would:

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• Put the FRELOC claim into an even deeper freeze than it now is.

• Suspend or further slow down the LOC talks.

• Be less cooperative in (or cancel) the SACEUR talks on expanding the Lemnitzer-Ailleret agreement on the role of French forces and their cooperation with NATO in various contingencies.

• Suspend the discussions with NATO’s 4th ATAF on collocated operating bases.

How far the French will go in these directions will depend on just how deep a break with us, and return to the Gaullist era, they are prepared to tolerate. Their recent actions and the current pressures of French domestic politics suggest a pessimistic prediction, albeit a cautious one.


Choosing option (b) keeps these programs open as potential incentives and levers that can be worth something if the French come to their senses—and conceivably may even help them regain some of their senses through holding out the potential loss of something which their technical circles have come to realize is quite valuable. Also, this option puts the onus squarely on the French and denies the Gaullists an opportunity to capitalize on our “unreliability.”

From a practical standpoint, the French can cause us additional problems this spring. They could block or further disrupt the Atlantic and USEC–9 declarations and could oppose—or refuse to participate in—the President’s trip. They could well take these actions whatever we do, but keeping our programs partially alive at this time might help deter them. It seems worth the try, in any case.

On balance, option (b) seems best at this time. It holds back definitely on some important things the French want (new initiatives) and serves warning on the rest. If their behavior this spring continues downhill, with no sign of recovery, then we always have available the unilateral option of taking the second step of total suspension. In effect, this gives us a more flexible position, since the effectiveness of this second step will not have been diluted by adoption now of option (b).


I recommend adoption of option (b) now, for suspension of new initiatives and warning on the remainder of the programs. In accordance therewith, I further recommend we task Mr. Barse and Mr. Bartholomew to travel to Paris to implement the option, as discussed above. Don Cotter concurs.

John B. Walsh Deputy Director
Strategic and Space Systems
  1. Summary: Walsh discussed the status of U.S.-French nuclear cooperation and potential U.S. actions in light of France’s posture during the Washington Energy Conference.

    Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–78–0010, France 471.94 6 Mar 74. Top Secret; Sensitive. Prepared by George Barse and Bartholomew. A stamped notation on the memorandum reads, “Sec Def Has Seen.” Wickham wrote at the end of the memorandum, “I opt for (a). Firm, clear message. Also, as the paper indicates, French political authorities do not regard the on-going program of safety and warhead handling as particularly valuable.” Schlesinger did not indicate his preferences with respect to either recommendation. For Kissinger’s March 9, 1973 memorandum to Richardson, see Document 305. In a March 13 memorandum to Schlesinger, Bartholomew discussed the DOD plan “to implement the guidance to hold off new initiatives with France and freeze/slow down current efforts in the missile assistance and nuclear safety programs.” (Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–78–0010, France 471.61 13 Mar 74)