220. Message From British Prime Minister Heath to President Nixon1

Dear Mr. President,

I have sent you a separate message dealing with the main topics which I covered in my talks with President Pompidou. But I thought that I ought also to let you know, before you met him at the end of the month, that, in accordance with the understanding which you and I reached when we last discussed the subject, I took advantage of my visit to Paris to open up with him, in a very general and preliminary way and in the context of a more efficient system for the defence of Europe, the subject of possible Anglo/French collaboration on the nuclear deterrent.

I told him that, as he knew, we ourselves should shortly have to make up our minds about the next generation of British weapons and that one of the factors which we should have to take into account was the possibility of Anglo/French collaboration thereafter. And I explained to him that, if collaboration of this kind was to be related to the viability of our respective nuclear forces, it would probably have to begin around 1975 if it was to come to fruition in the form of a further generation of weapons at the right time.

President Pompidou agreed—and made it clear that this represented a change in the French attitude—that it was not in the interests of either of us to evade the issue which I had raised and that there was perhaps scope for exchanges between our respective experts in certain fields, if not by the exchange of information, at least in terms of developing a possible joint research effort. But he was emphatic about the need to avoid any reference to this subject in public; he was very alive to the possible German reaction to any Anglo/French initiative in this field; and I noted that he said nothing about the kind of tripartite arrangement (which you and I have mentioned from time to time) [Typeset Page 716] whereby the United States might be involved to some extent, perhaps through ourselves, in any Anglo/French exchanges.

We shall now have to consider how we are to follow up the President’s suggestion of discussions between British and French experts. I will keep you in touch with developments; and I hope that, if this message is of any help to you in preparing for your Reykjavik meeting, you will let me know if anything emerges from that meeting which is relevant to this subject. I know that you will not give President Pompidou any indication that you are aware of my discussion with him; and we, here, will, of course, continue to take every precaution to ensure complete secrecy in this field.

With warmest personal regards,

Yours sincerely,

Edward Heath
  1. Summary: Heath discussed his recent talk with Pompidou on the possibility of UK-French nuclear collaboration.

    Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 949, Pompidou/Nixon Mtg. Iceland PM JOHANNESSON, May 31–June 1973 (1 of 3). Top Secret. Nixon underlined the first three words and the last four words of the first sentence of the third paragraph; he also underlined the phrase “about the need to avoid any reference to this subject in public” in the same paragraph. Kissinger forwarded this message to Nixon under cover of a May 29 memorandum, in which he also provided talking points for Nixon’s Reykjavik meeting with Pompidou. Kissinger forwarded the separate message from Heath concerning his non-nuclear discussions with Pompidou to Nixon under cover of a separate May 29 memorandum. (Ibid., Kissinger Office Files, Box 64, Country Files, Europe, General, Exchanges with the UK—Other, July 12, 1973 (1 of 3))