319. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1

SUBJECT

  • French Cabinet Shuffle

On the morning of February 27, President Pompidou accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Pierre Messmer’s government. Only a few hours later Pompidou renamed Messmer as his new Prime Minister.

The announcement of the other French Cabinet appointment is not expected until Friday morning, March 1; however, the current indications are that Foreign Minister Michael Jobert and Finance Minister Giscard d’Estaing will be renamed to their current posts. With no major changes expected in the shuffle, it would appear that the French President may have made this move:

—to demonstrate to an increasingly disenchanted French public that his Government is effective and able to meet current problems. It is possible that he will name a new Minister for Energy, and he may take this opportunity to drop Interior Minister Marcellin who has been linked publicly to the bugging of a French newspaper’s offices.

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additionally, to demonstrate in the face of continuing speculation about his failing health that he, Pompidou, is firmly in control and that his Ministers’ actions are subject to his approval.

Both of these possible motives are supported by the tone of Messmer’s statement on his reappointment:

“The President of the Republic has again appointed me Premier. It is an honor of which I am proud. At the same time, the President of the Republic gave me his directives for the formation of the new government. It is his wish that it be a small ministerial team. A team with the best possible cohesion and effectiveness to decide and take action. This is the government I shall now form.”

There had earlier been speculation that President Pompidou would move to name d’Estaing Prime Minister to prepare him for a bid for the French Presidency. With the reappointment of Messmer, it would appear either that the timing is not yet right for this move or that Pompidou has not yet decided how to counter opposition to d’Estaing within the Gaullist Party where former Prime Minister Chaban-Delmas remains the first choice as Presidential candidate. Additionally, Messmer’s reappointment leaves open the question as to whether President Pompidou will be forced for reasons of health to call for early elections.

There are no indications that the Cabinet shuffle will involve any change in French foreign and defense policies.

  1. Summary: Kissinger discussed the implications of Pompidou’s cabinet shuffle.

    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.