325. Briefing Memorandum From the Counselor (Sonnenfeldt) and the Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Lord) to Secretary of State Kissinger1


Giscard will almost certainly raise missile assistance at Martinique, probably under the “nuclear cooperation” heading the French have placed on the agenda. We should in any event play this card as part of our overall strategy for the meeting. This memorandum develops an approach for doing so. It is based on:

—A Defense report (Tab A) on missile assistance sent to Scowcroft.

—A more comprehensive and analytical paper (Tab B) we have prepared (and strongly recommend you read) examining: a) the French strategic objectives that shape their requests; b) what the French want and its worth to them; c) what we could give them and the possible constraints.

Where We Stand With the French

We agreed with Brossolette shortly after Giscard’s election that any contacts on new missile assistance should come from him through White House channels before any exchanges at the technical level. We have not heard further from Brossolette. But on a few occasions this autumn French technicians at their initiative have informally told their Defense counterpart what further help they would like, including some new and sensitive areas. We have gotten an informal read-out of these contacts from the Defense man which is more complete and precise than the Defense report and have incorporated it in our paper (Tab B). We have had no other contact with Defense about missile assistance and the Defense man who gave us this information should be protected.

On 7 November, Francois Delpech (the Ministerial Delegate for Armaments) told the Defense man that he had just recently briefed Gis [Page 999] card about US assistance. He said Giscard was “very happy” about the program and gave him a “completely free hand” in it, which Defense Minister Soufflet confirmed in a subsequent conversation with Giscard. Giscard told Delpech he wanted no formal reports to him, only periodic informal briefings, and that neither Prime Minister nor Foreign Minister were to know for security. Delpech sketched several areas of expanded assistance that interested him and spoke of discussing them further and more formally in the next US-French missile assistance managers meeting in mid-January. He was unsure whether Giscard would raise the matter at Martinique, but now we understand one of his men coming here for technical meetings starting 10 December may bring “agenda details”.

In a 5 December talk which touched on Martinique topics, Soufflet told Rush he hoped for a step-up in cooperation on nuclear weapons to avoid costly duplication, and said the French were particularly interested in MIRV technology.

Our assistance to France has, of course, been limited since the Summer 1973 meetings and your February 1974 guidance. As you will recall, Jobert told Irwin in June that Pompidou felt he had been misled in his expectations of US willingness to cooperate in the defense area, particularly after mid-1973, and that this “great disappointment” had seriously affected Pompidou’s attitude during his last year. Be that as it may, the French did get some valuable help over the past year, particularly in [1½ lines not declassified] and the French on the hook within strict limits.

Though some of the areas addressed in the Summer 1973 meetings appear overtaken, clearly the French Defense and Atomic Energy officials now are eager to expand our assistance and will press for as much as they can get to achieve their strategic objectives (Tab B, pp. 1–2). They have shown particular interest in nuclear effects hardening, underground testing and MIRV technology, and in advanced computers (CDC 7600) for weapons programs, updated Soviet ABM information, and guidance and accuracy information (Tab B, pp. 3–7). There is little they can offer directly in return, but as a “token of gratitude” for past help (and stimulant for more) [3 lines not declassified]

Our Approach at Martinique

There is much we could do of considerable value for the French though exactly how much, in what areas, and the limits involved would have to be worked out with Defense and AEC, and we would first need to pin the French down more precisely (Tab B, pp. 7–12). Thus, missile assistance should be an incentive for Giscard to be more cooperative and to think twice about the costs of opposing us. Giscard could be wary of casting himself as demandeur, given our brake on assistance following the Summer 1973 meetings. Giving Delpech a “free-hand” smacks of [Page 1000] marking his distance and leaving it to the technicians to get as much as they can (as we said, Brossolette has not followed up on earlier contacts). But the odds clearly are that the French will raise the question at Martinique and perhaps even ask for help in specific categories, possibly underground testing and MIRV technology. Soufflet’s remarks to Rush could mean this.

In any event, the basic message we should convey at Martinique is that:

—Our general approach in missile assistance, as with other subjects, will depend on the kind of overall relationship we establish.

—We cannot make a general commitment to provide help across the board or in any specific category of assistance, given the sensitivity and possible security and legal restraints involved, which the French understand.

—But if broad cooperation is the guiding concept for our overall relationship, we will consider specific French requests for missile assistance in that spirit and context.

We should avoid a blanket commitment to any catalogue or category (e.g., MIRV technology or underground testing) of assistance the French may come up with at Martinique or after, or any implication that we are ready to do everything they ask. What we can offer is an understanding on general approach rather than specifics that will let us adapt what we actually do to the state of things between us without leaving us open to the charge of backing-off specific commitments. If we move ahead in missile assistance our strategy should be to open-up gradually and spin-out over time whatever we do for them, rather than committing ourselves to a general program of assistance at the outset.

We should also leave the French with the understanding that:

—It is up to them to make the first move and tell us what further assistance they would like.

—But the matter is not to be left to the technicians; there must be prior political agreement at the political level setting the framework for any technical exchanges.

—This should be done through the Brossolette-White House channel.

This will give the business the necessary political context and control and help ensure that the Elysee appreciates what they are asking for or getting—and curtail the shot-gunning tactics of the technicians.

One last consideration: the French may try to link specific missile assistance to specific quids, particularly underground test help from us for French participation in our proposed nuclear suppliers conference. The French AEC has responsibilities in both areas and Giraud has talked about both with Dixie Lee Ray with some suggestion of linkage. Moreover, Soufflet’s remarks to Rush on nuclear non-proliferation safeguards and their juxtaposition with his talk of expanding missile assistance imply the same. We should avoid any direct and explicit linkage [Page 1001] because it is inconsistent with our broader missile assistance strategy; the French have their own stake in non-proliferation; and broad underground test help is worth more to them and could pose some problems for us (e.g., a possible TTB connection). If the French try to make any such connection, we should reiterate our line relating our general approach to missile assistance (as opposed to specific commitments) to broad cooperation across the span of our relationship.

  1. Summary: Sonnenfeldt and Lord discussed the status of U.S.-French nuclear missile cooperation.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Helmut C. Sonnenfeldt, 1955–1977, Entry 5339, Box 14, Unfiled material. Top Secret; Nodis; Exclusively Eyes Only. Sonnenfeldt did not initial the memorandum. Bartholomew initialed the memorandum on Lord’s behalf. Drafted by Bartholomew on December 9. Attached but not published is Tab A, a December 6 information memorandum from Walsh to Schlesinger entitled, “Ballistic Missile and Nuclear Safety Programs;” and Tab B, a November 30 paper drafted by Bartholomew entitled, “Missile Cooperation with France.”