322. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • The New French President

Valery Giscard d’Estaing has been elected President of France by some 50.7 percent of the vote. He will enter office as the leader of a loosely allied center-right coalition with a mandate for social and economic change.

The timetable for the new government is as follows:

—election results will be officially announced on May 24;

Giscard will take office on May 27;

—he has declared that he will announce his Prime Minister on May 27 and his new government shortly thereafter; (Giscard has said that his choice for Prime Minister will be a major surprise and that his Cabinet will reflect youth and change.)

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—his first Cabinet meeting is scheduled for May 29;

—when his government has been formed, the French Parliament will resume its Spring session and the new Prime Minister will make a general policy statement.

—Thus, by the end of this month, the new government should be ready to take up the important business before France, Europe and the Atlantic Alliance.

Giscard’s coming to power marks a new phase in the Fifth Republic and a weakening of Gaullist control. Nonetheless, his coalition is dominated numerically by his reluctant Gaullist supporters and they will undoubtedly seek to maximize their influence on him. Giscard is unlikely to change the broad outlines of French foreign and defense policy. U.S.-French relations may improve in tone but substantive changes, if any, will be minimal. He will not reenter the NATO military command. Neither will he make any immediate change in France’s policy of non-signature of multilateral disarmament agreements. He will maintain the nuclear strike force.

Despite the broad powers of his office, Giscard can, in the long run, govern effectively only with Gaullist support. His own power base is small; his Independent Republican Party holds only some 55 of the 490 National Assembly seats. In view of the closeness of the race, he will have to move quickly and perhaps further in these fields than he would like in order to avoid the possibility of serious social unrest. Communist Party Secretary General Marchais has already stated that the opposition would hold Giscard to his campaign promises.

  1. Summary: Kissinger briefed Nixon on the new French President, Valery Giscard d’Estaing.

    Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 680, Country Files, Europe, France GE SNECMA 1972 (Jan 74–Jul 74) (1 of 1). Confidential. Sent for information. Scowcroft initialed the memorandum on Kissinger’s behalf. A stamped notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it. In telegram 12295 from Paris, May 21, the Embassy offered its assessment of the likely attitude of the Giscard government toward the U.S. and Europe. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1974)