326. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Valery Giscard d’Estaing, President of the French Republic
  • Jean Sauvagnargues, Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Jean-Pierre Fourcade, Minister of Economy and Finance (Second Half)
  • President Gerald R. Ford
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • William Simon, Secretary of the Treasury (Second Half)
  • Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs


  • Defense Cooperation; CSCE; F–104 Replacement; Monetary Issues

Defense Cooperation

Giscard: Should we discuss security matters?

[General Scowcroft left the room for about one minute and then returned.]

[Page 1002]

President: There are other issues, not always directly involving you—MBFR, F–104 replacement, logistics through France. Anything else?

Kissinger: NATO military cooperation, nuclear cooperation, a possible nuclear suppliers conference to prevent proliferation. This is the general area related to military matters.

President: Then there is the FRELOC settlement issue. Then I could give you my appraisal of Valdivostok. We hope an agreement would be ready for signing next June. There must be additional give by both sides in units and numbers in MBFR. We think there must be percentages, not equality in numbers. You are not directly involved.

On F–104 replacement, we don’t think the decision should be political, but rather a technical military one. You have yours, we have ours. We will decide on ours after the first of the year. The arrangement with our NATO allies on maintenance, supply and part of the assembly process. It is a major procurement of approximately 2,000 aircraft for replacement of our obsolescent aircraft and should be made on a military basis.

The overall strength of NATO has to be maintained, in equipment also. There is pressure from the Congress to withdraw 50–100,000 people. I am strongly opposed to this, as I was when I was in the Congress. It will be a tough fight, but I will vigorously oppose it. But it does provide the impetus for MBFR because that would relieve some of the pressure. The new Congress looks like it will be more difficult to get through the military appropriation.

I am now making decisions for our Defense budget. On research and development (R&D) and long-range weapon development we must be prepared for the present and get ready for the future.

We made progress in Vladivostok in putting a cap on the strategic arms race. We omitted forward-based systems and the British and French nuclear forces from the calculation. There was some disagreement on counting long-range air-to-surface missiles. But I want to assure you I will make sure our budget provides for adequate strategic forces.

Giscard: How do you explain Soviet agreement not to include forward-based systems?

President: We were very firm.

Kissinger: They had to deal with President Ford as the new President. He has a reputation for favoring a high defense budget. They had to plan on maybe six years and with a President maybe not committed to détente. The President told them he hadn’t made his decisions yet on the defense budget. They were concerned at the prospect of Senator Jackson having a radical anti-Soviet position, and they wanted to de [Page 1003] fend against it. If there is not an agreement in ’75, ’76 was an election year and the interim agreement lapsed in ’77.

At one meeting in June with President Nixon in the Crimea, they had two generals who kept jumping up behind Brezhnev whenever he seemed to be making a concession. They always jumped up at precisely the point when our generals would have jumped up if they had been there.

I think these were the major reasons. Our worry now is our domestic debate, with Jackson now on the side of a low defense budget. It was helpful to have him on the right, but it is worrisome now.

President: Jackson is critical of SALT I because the Soviets had more launchers and we had more MIRVs. Now we have equality of both, so now they are alleging the numbers are too high. It’s pure demagoguery.

Kissinger: At the level of 1320 for MIRVs, it leaves us in a better situation anyway. The Soviets have to decide how to allocate their missiles, between land and sea. The land ones will be more vulnerable.

Giscard: How many warheads are there?

Kissinger: There are 10 on our SLBM’s, three on our Minuteman but it can have seven. They have four and six on theirs.

President: Our critics argue because they have more throw weight, its a bad deal. But we can increase it if needed.

Kissinger: Don’t believe the Herald Tribune—it publishes all the demagogic articles. The agreement shows the value the Soviets put on détente.

Giscard: And the desire to limit military expenditures.

Kissinger: Yes. With fixed numbers you can’t demonstrate strategic superiority. And we have a much more versatile force: Theirs is 85% land-based; ours is 25% land-based. Of course, even 75% can do tremendous damage.

President: Brezhnev, I think, came with a desire to stabilize the military balance in a worldwide context. If SALT I had expired in ’77 and both had gone on without limitation, the financial burden would have been staggering—at least $2–5 billion a year.

Kissinger: Probably more for them. We estimate their MIRV force will cost $35 billion.

President: By any standards it was successful. It was not a victory for either but an advantage for the world as a whole. We hope then to move into MBFR.

Giscard: Brezhnev reported to us. He was pleased but without any impression of a victory over you. He presented 2400 as the ceiling below what they had planned to make.

[Page 1004]

Kissinger: It is 200 below the present and way below what they planned.

Giscard: He looked pleased but not victorious.

We are not a military member of NATO. We have a national military nuclear force. It was looked at skeptically for years. I was impressed by our ability. Our submarines are of the same class of yours—though not your latest. Each one has 16 launchers. We are giving them longer range so they can launch from just outside Brest. We are working on MIRV—we call it the M–4. We just started. It will also be on our land-based force. We stopped our land-based force at 18. We will have six submarines, giving us four always on station.

The British will have submarines with American launchers. For our force it would be useful to have American cooperation. Under your predecessor there were contacts. The difficulty is on your side because of your laws. It was interrupted last fall. There have been some technical contacts recently. We are interested in the question of MIRVs—the warheads, hardening of the warheads. We are interested also in the warhead itself—which may be a problem with your Congress. There is also the question of underground testing—either information on instruments or using your facilities before we start our own site. And the question of the disposition of Soviet missiles.

Kissinger: That we gave you.

Giscard: Some.

Kissinger: The ABM locations.

Giscard: We know it is a problem with the Congress, and it is one-way cooperation because we have nothing in return.

President: I believe some of the discussions over the past several months are aimed at the possibility of that cooperation. I suggest they proceed.

Kissinger: May I raise one point? On the sensitive or policy aspects of any nuclear cooperation, it should go through the White House. Otherwise we lose control and it ends up in Aviation Week. In the field of strategic forces, the first approach is through...

Giscard: Currie and Barse were the ones.

Kissinger: Yes. Routine matters like safety can continue.

But let me review what happened last year. President Nixon held the view, which I share, that a strong Europe and a strong France are in our interest. He told President Pompidou we didn’t exclude nuclear cooperation. He sent Galley to meet me out to San Clemente. Now this gives us two problems: Congress and our other allies. France sometimes is our most fractious ally; it could look like we were rewarding recalcitrance. Also there is a small Soviet problem, but that is manage [Page 1005] able. Negative guidance was an important aspect of what we were doing.

Then came the October war and Jobert made a number of inflammatory statements—about condominium and so on. In November there was a series of unremitting differences. France was telling our allies, “You cooperate and you are taken for granted; we don’t and we are rewarded.” We were ready to go ahead in December but the energy imbroglio started and Jobert went on a trip through the Middle East criticizing us. That is the history. We never asked for a quid pro quo for our cooperation, but we couldn’t move under such constant criticism.

We believe that as long as France has a nuclear force it should be a good one, and it is senseless for you to have to spend billions learning what the Soviets already know. President Nixon didn’t ask for total agreement.

Giscard: It will not change our program but it will save money and time. Some will be ready in 1981, 1985, and will make a contribution to the West. We will send our technical expert to meet with your people.

Kissinger: On these matters use the direct White House line. But keep it quiet or the Soviets may want to count your forces.

Giscard: I didn’t ask why Brezhnev didn’t count us.

Kissinger: He gave up on FBS in October but wanted to count you. We said since they are not MIRVed, why should we? He gave up about midnight, and we don’t know why. We gave no quid pro quo.

President: Not on MBFR or any other.

Giscard: The British have MIRV prospects.

Kissinger: The British have made every wrong decision. We offered them the warhead but they refused on cost grounds. It was a short-sighted decision. They are testing a warhead we had ten years ago.

Giscard: We are working on a 7–8-warhead design. The number is not definitely decided but we have the capability definitely for 6 or 7.

Kissinger: What yield?

Giscard: I don’t know off-hand.

You mentioned cooperation with NATO on technical cooperation. Pipeline sharing has been solved. Logistical supplies and air defense are close to agreement. On FRELOC we suggested $100 million. If you agree, we are ready to start payment.

President: We agree.

Giscard: Then the only question is of starting payment. You can use our logistic facilities in case of a conflict, in case we are implicated, but it must be kept secret. We will agree within Article 5 [of the North Atlantic Treaty] on us being implicated.

[Page 1006]

Kissinger: We understand there is some chance of coordinating your First Army plans with NATO. We would propose Haig as the contact with your Chief of Staff as a technical, not a legal problem. Haig understands the political context better than Goodpaster.

President: He is an outstanding person with hard understanding. He will do an outstanding job in NATO as he did in the White House during a terrible time. To have come out of that with an impeccable reputation is terrific.

Giscard: We will probably have to engage in a discussion with the Germans on tactical nuclear weapons for the 40-kiloton Pluton. If it is moved forward, they could be used on Czechoslovak or Polish soil. I don’t know the form the agreement will take but probably we’ll move forward.

Next, the environment is not as secure as it was 5 years ago. Portugal, for example, is confused and unstable. I am convinced we will have problems in Spain and Spain is much more violent. Italy is unpredictable—there is no authority of any kind. We are in an unstable environment, so we have to give more value to defense—not for strategic purposes but for social stability. So we will try to improve our own forces. We should enhance our mobility. This should help the West have part of a navy from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean: It adds two aircraft carriers and others to the Western Mediterranean.

President: We are concerned about the northern Mediterranean also. I am encouraged by what you say. We are in touch with Spain and if they had competent military leaders, but they don’t... I am not confident Juan Carlos has the ability or the strength. Franco’s successor has only a limited chance to survive.

Kissinger: You would find in Spain like in Portugal that the Communist Party is the best organized force except for the Army.

Giscard: They don’t have a colonial problem, but the upper classes have taken advantage of the situation.


Giscard: Let me turn to CSCE for a moment. I had a long talk with Brezhnev on this. I studied it before, and was not confident about our claims that the Basket III problems—education, information—I am not sure the thing can be solved this way. The same practical technical solution can be made without having to have the principle of free access. What irritates Brezhnev is the linking of inviolability of borders with peaceful change.

Kissinger: As I understand the German position, the sentence as written is okay if it follows the inviolability of frontiers. If it is in the section on security, then they want a change. I think it is absurd. No frontier will change on the basis of a sentence in a document.

[Page 1007]

Giscard: We did not commit ourselves to a summit meeting, but I said we would try to find a solution to the several problems. I don’t know why Brezhnev would like a summit in April...

Kissinger: He wants it before the anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

President: We had a 45-minute presentation by Gromyko on CSCE. We feel strongly about SALT. He went into great detail. On CSCE we think we must move in conjunction with our allies. We told them June–July.

Kissinger: We would prefer after the anniversary; they want a joint celebration. They want to reenact the meeting of American and Soviet troops on the Elbe. We have refused a celebration on German soil.

On the whole, we think it is better to end in May or June rather than April, but not to say that—just to conduct the negotiation so it works out that way.

Giscard: They think this is the final price of the war, and that is why they want it before May. It is for him the last price of détente also.

Kissinger: We could finish Phase II in April and announce it for June.

Giscard: We need to work it out with the allies...

Sauvagnargues: We did not enter into specific drafting on peaceful change.

Kissinger: The Soviets say you did. This is a case where consultation would help.

Sauvagnargues: We will give you the notes of the meeting.

Kissinger: If we just move so that Phase II ends in April.

Giscard: Yes, it would take at least a month to set it up. I asked Brezhnev how he envisaged the signature. He said he would speak five minutes. He is afraid of reopening the negotiations so he wants just a formal meeting.

[General Scowcroft left the room for a minute, and then returned together with Secretary Simon and Minister Fourcade.]

F–104 Replacement

Giscard: It is difficult to resolve this question [F–104 replacement] on technical grounds. There are areas where there is no edge of one over another. There will be resentment in Europe that it doesn’t have its own aircraft. There is pressure by American companies. If there was some possibility of some kind of cooperation. Market sharing is difficult and I have nothing specific to suggest. It is difficult for American companies not to compete because on two out of four points the American planes are ahead.

[Page 1008]

President: I agree that market sharing is not practical for your reasons, as well as deciding who would get the inferior plane. Let’s see what can be done as things go on.

Giscard: Keep in mind the usefulness for Europe to have an aircraft industry. The American share is now very high.

President: Your Concorde is the only SST available. I bled for our SST in the Congress.

Giscard: We should keep in touch on this question. We think our aircraft industry is entitled to have some independent development and market.

President: As the decision gets closer, let’s keep in contact. I am not in a position now to see how we could mollify any adverse reaction.

Giscard: Perhaps some could do helicopters, some the “air bus”... I would prefer to push the aircraft industry to sell its products. On the military side, I am trying to moderate the export sale of military aircraft.

President: Generally I think the Concorde created a favorable impression except for those who are opposed to any SST at all. The Federal Government doesn’t control noise, etc., but I think the SST has a future.

[Omitted here is discussion of monetary issues.]

  1. Summary: Giscard, Ford, Kissinger, and Sauvagnargues discussed defense cooperation, CSCE, the F–104 replacement issue, and monetary issues.

    Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversation, Box 8. Secret; Sensitive. All brackets are in the original except those indicating text omitted by the editors. The meeting took place in the Hotel Meridien. For the portion of the conversation dealing with monetary issues, see Document 80 in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XXXI, Foreign Economic Policy, 1973–1976. For a December 15 discussion between Ford and Giscard on energy cooperation, see Document 24 ibid., vol. XXXVII, Energy Crisis, 1974–1980. A memorandum of conversation recording a December 16 discussion between Ford and Giscard on European unity and nuclear proliferation is in Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversation, Box 8.