333. Memorandum From Jan Lodal of the National Security Council Staff and the Counselor (Sonnenfeldt) to Secretary of State Kissinger1


  • Cooperation with France

The missile and nuclear safety cooperation programs with France have been progressing under the new instructions approved by the President in June (Tabs A and B). A meeting on nuclear safety and underground testing was held on July 21–24 with the next meeting on these subjects scheduled for mid-October.

The first meeting on missile cooperation under the new guidance is tentatively planned for the first week in October. We have received a proposed agenda for this meeting from DOD (Tab C); the meeting will be devoted principally to a French description of their new M–4 missile system and the results of recent missile tests. The memo from DOD implies that unless they hear differently from the White House, they will proceed under the proposed agenda. In order to establish the precedent that explicit White House approval is required for the agendas for these meetings, we have drafted a memo from Scowcroft to Wickham (Tab D) which formally approves the agenda for the upcoming meeting. However, before transmitting this approval we plan to insist that DOD provide:

—A more complete description of their scenario for implementing the President’s instructions on missile cooperation.

—An analysis of the assistance which could be provided in the area of submarine survivability.

—A detailed legal analysis of the issue of assistance in RV component and materials testing at the Nevada Test Site (see discussion below).

We requested that they provide this information over a month ago, but it has not as yet been received.

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Tests of French RV Components and Materials

The Presidential guidance on missile cooperation precludes testing of French RV components and materials at the Nevada Test Site. We decided not to undertake such tests because of our concern about the legal issues with respect to the Atomic Energy Act.

DOD is currently in a somewhat awkward situation with the French since they accepted some French RV components and materials samples about nine months ago in anticipation of receiving authority to expose these samples in Nevada. (At the time, DOD did, however, inform the French that they could not guarantee that authority to expose the samples would be received and that in either case the samples would not be returned.) The French have been inquiring about these samples and the more general question of RV materials and components tests in Nevada, but we have informed them that as yet we have no authority to proceed with such tests and that there are problems under the Atomic Energy Act.

In October there will be an opportunity to test these samples in the radiation environment of a nuclear weapon of unique design—an opportunity which is unlikely to arise again for 4–5 years. Since this test would be particularly relevant to the survival of French RVs against Soviet ABM systems and may provide some technical information of interest to the US, DOD is recommending that we go ahead and expose the materials samples which we have in hand, without telling the French we have done so. (A memo from Wickham to Scowcroft on this subject is at Tab E.) DOD argues that their legal review shows no conflict with the Atomic Energy Act or the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and thus, that reconsideration by the President could lead to a future decision to provide the test results to the French.

Since future authorization for release of the desired test information remains a possibility, we believe it would be acceptable to take advantage of the opportunity to expose the French RV samples to the October test. (DOD needs to be notified by September 19 in order to insure that the samples are inserted in the test hole.) A memorandum from Scowcroft to Wickham approving exposure of the samples is at Tab F. It also directs DOD to submit their legal review of this issue to the White House for independent examination. The memorandum also admonishes DOD that under no circumstances should the French be told that the samples have been exposed, much less the results of the tests.

Regarding this issue you should be aware that all the French need is a simple confirmation of the acceptability of the material and components for use in RVs. As a consequence, it will be extremely difficult to insure that the results of the tests are not passed to the French by an overenthusiastic DOD staff member. This could be a particular problem since DOD is already on the hook to the French for accepting the [Page 1023] samples and pushed hard to get authority to expose these samples in the new guidance which went out in June. However, even if the French were covertly informed of the results of the test, it is very unlikely that this would leak to the public so that the risk is very small.

Sale of a CDC–7600 Computer for Use in the French Nuclear Weapons Design Program

Another issue regarding cooperation with the French which falls outside the scope of the guidance contained in Tabs A and B is the sale of a CDC–7600 for use in the French nuclear weapons design program. There has been much confusion about this issue since last year when you indicated to the French that we would give sympathetic consideration to a request for this computer. On this basis, along with an indication from DOD that there would be no problem with the purchase of this computer, the French went ahead and ordered the computer through a French Control Data Corporation (CDC) affiliate. Somewhere along the line IBM got wind of this deal and raised strong objections since they had been told consistently that sale of advanced computers to the French for nuclear weapons design was forbidden. (The Vice-Chairman of IBM confronted Ingersoll on this issue.)

In July, CDC requested an export license for the 7600 through normal channels; however, the bureaucracy in State, ERDA and Commerce is balking at granting the request since the only guidance they have on such matters, the Fowler-Debre arrangement (Tab G) and NSAM 294 (signed in April of 1964, at Tab H), is very explicit in stating that advanced computers should not be exported to the French for use in nuclear weapons design. In the Fowler-Debre exchange of letters, the Limited Test Ban Treaty and prevailing US policy were cited by the US as barriers to assistance to the French nuclear weapons development program.

The LTBT article (I.2) which Fowler claimed could be interpreted as prohibiting export of advanced computers to the French nuclear weapons development program reads as follows:

2. Each of the Parties to this Treaty undertakes furthermore to refrain from causing, encouraging, or in any way participating in, the carrying out of any nuclear weapons test explosion, or any other nuclear explosion, anywhere which would take place in any of the environments described, or have the effect referred to, in Paragraph 1 of this Article.

We see little basis for interpreting this article as prohibiting the desired export of advanced computers. However, the position taken by Fowler on the French request for advanced computers did have a strong basis in prevailing US policy as put forward in NSAM 294 which explicitly prohibited assistance of any type to the French nuclear weapons program.

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If we decide to relax the current restrictions on computer exports to the French nuclear weapons program, new guidance will have to be issued to free up this issue in the bureaucracy. There are three alternatives:

—Formally modify the current policy through a Presidential directive which lifts the current embargo on exporting advanced computers to the French nuclear weapons program. (In effect, terminate the Fowler-Debre arrangement and the policy set forth in NSAM 294.)

—Make the CDC sale a one-time exception to the prevailing guidance.

—Decide to approve the export of a large computer to the French nuclear weapons program, but leave it up to the French as to whether it is a CDC computer, an IBM computer, etc.

The first approach has the disadvantage of representing a major change in US policy toward the French nuclear weapons program, with no obvious rationale for this change. The second approach (which the State bureaucracy favors as indicated in the memorandum at Tab I) would provide the least exposure politically but it is probably not feasible since IBM is certain to get wind of the decision and protest loudly. For these reasons, we favor the third approach as a means of avoiding criticism from IBM while at the same time offering the French the opportunity to purchase an advanced computer for their weapons program. A draft Presidential directive along these lines with a cover memo to the President is at Tab J.

On a related issue, there has been strong interest in the bureaucracy in linking any relaxation of the current restrictions on computer exports to the French nuclear weapons program to either:

—French signing of the Limited Test Ban Treaty, or

—A more forthcoming French position on civil nuclear exports in the Nuclear Suppliers Conference.

The LTBT linkage is favored by the bureaucracy as a vehicle for mitigating any political objections which might arise when existence of the computer sale becomes public as it undoubtedly will. However, we believe that it is extremely unlikely that the French would accept such linkage since signature of the LTBT is a much larger issue than sale of a single computer. A linkage to the French position at the Nuclear Suppliers Conference is potentially of greater feasibility, although again there is probably not enough leverage in the sale of one computer to effect any significant change in the current French position at that Conference.

Sale or Use of US Plasma Generators for Testing of French Materials

The French have also indicated that they would like either to purchase or to use US plasma generators for French RV tests. While these [Page 1025] generators are not explicitly covered in the Presidential decision on missile cooperation (Tab A), they do fall within that guidance since the President authorized extension of assistance in the area of RV hardening to nuclear effect which is the purpose of the plasma generators. As a consequence we believe that DOD can be informed that French purchase or use of these generators falls within the scope of the approved Presidential guidance on missile cooperation. There remains the possibility, however, that sale of these generators may be subject to normal export regulations so that approval may be required through normal Commerce Department channels.

Cover Story for the Missile Cooperation Program

The French are continuing to express a strong interest in having a cover story for the talks on missile cooperation. This will be very difficult because of the association (strategic missile development) of the individuals involved in the discussions. The only idea that shows any potential feasibility is that, when necessary, these discussions could be described as an extension of the Currie-French discussions on tactical missile development. However, this is still a very thin disguise and we will continue to discuss this problem with the French.


That you authorize Scowcroft to sign the memo at Tab D approving the proposed agenda for the October meeting with the French on missile cooperation. (This approval would be withheld pending receipt of related information from DOD on their scenario for the cooperation program, how they plan to handle assistance in submarine survivability, and a legal analysis of the RV materials and component testing issue.)

That you authorize Scowcroft to sign the memorandum at Tab F approving the exposure of the French RV samples in the October test at the Nevada Test Site, on the condition that no information on the test is passed to the French.

That you authorize Scowcroft to inform DOD that sale or use of US plasma generators is permissible under the new guidance on missile cooperation with France.

That you sign the memo at Tab J requesting Presidential approval of the export of a single advanced computer to the French nuclear weapons program.

  1. Summary: Lodal and Sonnenfeldt sought Kissinger’s approval of several recommendations concerning U.S.-French nuclear cooperation.

    Source: Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box 60, NSDM 299—Cooperation with France (2). Top Secret; Sensitive; Completely Outside the System. Sent for action. Tabs A and B are Documents 330 and 331. Tab H is Document 30 in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. XII, Western Europe. Attached but not published are Tabs C through G and I through J. Kissinger initialed his approval of the first, second, and third recommendations, writing in the margin next to the second recommendation, “See me.” Kissinger initialed his disapproval of the fourth recommendation.