328. Telegram 2935 From the Embassy in France to the Department of State1

Geneva for CSCE Del. Subject: Giscard’s foreign policy after eight months.

1. Summary: Eight months of Giscard’s policy of “change without risk” have shown the general outlines of how he proposes to bring “change” to French foreign policy without “risking” the independence and authority of France. While much of the basic thrust conforms to sixteen years of Gaullist foreign policy, Giscard has brought a new spirit of compromise, pragmatism, and relaxation to the description and implementation of his foreign policy. Particularly since the Martinique and EC summits, this new style has produced some effect on the substance of French foreign policy. This evolution indicates that it should be easier and more fruitful for us to engage the French in a comprehensive pattern of bilateral, informal and candid consultations now than at any previous period since 1958. End summary.

2. Sixteen years of Gaullist foreign policy: The object of French foreign policy under de Gaulle was to establish France as the predominant power in Western Europe. His particular vision of France’s “independence” and its “grandeur” was designed to support that objective. Under de Gaulle, France opposed the political integration of Europe, posed as the sole legitimate spokesman for “Europe,” sought to mini[Typeset Page 1011]mize the role of the United States in Europe (except in defense), and avoided multilateral diplomacy. While Pompidou tailored French goals to a somewhat more realistic appraisal of French resources and interests, his foreign policy conformed to the main thrust of de Gaulle’s. Under both de Gaulle and Pompidou the French frequently went out of their way to stimulate mistrust of U.S. objectives in Europe and the world. Beneath their [less than 1 line not declassified] preoccupation with U.S. “domination” was the Gaullists’ concern that the United States opposed their fundamental objective of France’s becoming the predominant power in Europe. Ironically, France’s strident anti-American tone helped to insure that France could never dominate Europe. Rather than cementing French leadership in Europe, it often fragmented Europe by forcing the other Europeans to choose between Washington and Paris on major issues where the Europeans had to choose Washington. How has Giscard changed this Gaullist approach?

3. Object of Giscard’s foreign policy: Eight months of Giscard’s government suggests that he has not abandoned several aims of Gaul-list foreign policy: Maintaining France’s independence and strengthening its leadership role in Europe. His method of pursuing these objectives, however, is quite different. Where style and substance are so interwoven, as in France’s policies toward the U.S. and toward Europe, Giscard’s changes in style may also mean changes in substance. In addition, there is a greater equilibrium between domestic and foreign policies in Giscard’s stewardship than in de Gaulle’s. In fact, a case could be made for the argument that Giscard’s major priority since taking office—the need to redress France’s economy—has been as much a factor in his foreign policies as the continuing Gaullist objective mentioned above.

4. Franco-American relations: Giscard recognizes that France cannot establish French leadership in Europe through confrontation with the United States. Consequently, he has moderated the anti-American style of his Gaullist predecessors, and adopted a conciliatory stance. This was borne out by the French performance at Martinique. Since then, he and his Foreign Minister have been under great pressure to criticize U.S. policies that—in the past—would have drawn rapid and acerbic GOF condemnations. When baited by the Foreign Relations Committee of the National Assembly and by a Le Monde interviewer to criticize Secretary Kissinger’s Business Week statements on possible military action in the Middle East, however, Sauvagnargues’ responses were remarkable in their balance and restraint. One cannot imagine Jobert resisting such an opportunity to blast the United States. Similarly, our recent experience with U.S. Marine training in southern France (Paris 2034) showed that the GOF is prepared to confront hostile political opposition in its pursuit of Franco-American cooperation. Finally, [Typeset Page 1012] Giscard is replacing some key Gaullists at the Quai (e.g., Jobert, Puaux, Brunet), generally with moderates. Consequently, at the working level we find a growing appreciation by our Quai counterparts that Franco-American relations are improving.

5. Franco-European relations: Here again, Giscard has significantly reduced Franch dogmatism. His “initiatives” on European Union (European Council, direct election of European Parliament, and relaxed EC voting procedures) suggest a commitment to a united—if confederal—Europe. This contrasts with the endless series of phony issues conjured up in the past by the Gaullists to defeat Europe’s hopes for political union. Moreover, France’s self-annointed role as spokesman for “Europe” has atrophied. To be sure, vestiges survive: Chirac continues to confuse Dassault with the “European aircraft industry,” and the French may have toyed with the December EC summit communiqué after it had been approved by heads of government. But these patterns are increasingly the exception, not the rule. Furthermore, America’s role in Europe is no longer an emotional focal point for GOF sniping because Giscard has a more profound understanding of the realities of interdependence than his predecessors even though his definition of “interdependence” may vary from ours. While Giscard maintains that France has a legitimate interest in many areas around the globe, he has shorn this globalism of much of the “grandeur” which de Gaulle had manufactured and which was often focused against the U.S. His global style is more pragmatic, much less hortatory, but always ambitious. In relations with his key neighbors in Europe—FRG, USSR and UK—his policies seem generally indistinguishable from Pompidou’s, with the important exception that Giscard is seeking to establish Bonn as its privileged partner in Europe, while the London-Paris axis is waning.

6. Giscard’s energy policy: On energy questions, the Giscard government came to office with fewer illusions than its predecessors that it would receive preferential access to oil as a result of its Middle East policy. At the same time, it seemed more disposed to cooperate in the establishment of consumer solidarity. Its consequent initial openness toward the international energy agency was, however, diminished through Giscard’s subsequent realization that important long-term French interests were served by remaining on particularly close terms with developing countries; by its wish to maintain an “honest broker” role between oil producers and consumers; and by domestic political considerations. Although they have decided not to join the IEA, the French had made clear even before Martinique that they would not obstruct its work. They have adhered so far to the agreement reached in Martinique on timing for a producer-consumer conference, and have recognized—both bilaterally and with their EC partners—that satisfactory progress toward consumer cooperation must be reached before a [Typeset Page 1013] preparatory conference can be held. This is, of course, a question of simple necessity, since the French know that a producer-consumer conference without U.S. participation is impossible. They have tried to influence the IEA’s work through prior consultation with their EC partners, but we have no reason to believe that they intend to use this channel to obstruct the agency’s work. In fact, in bilateral contacts with us they have shown considerable understanding of the agency’s goals and have expressed interest in finding ways to coordinate French energy policies with IEA objectives. We believe that they can be expected to continue seeking parallel progress with that of the IEA as long as they perceive that the agency is working toward a non-confrontational negotiation with the oil producers.

7. Giscard’s monetary policy: Following the Martinique summit, we have been able to set up new mechanisms of financial solidarity within the framework of efforts to deal with the energy problem. The French gave measured endorsement to our safety net proposal. Even the GOF’s presentation to the French people and world opinion of its gold revaluation carefully avoided language that might have stirred up gold and exchange markets. On both issues, their behavior was fully consistent with the Martinique agreement on the desirability of close financial cooperation.

8. Domestic impact: Giscard’s foreign policies do not appear to have hurt him domestically. On the contrary, despite a deepening recession and growing unemployment, Giscard’s popularity has gone up in the opinion polls since the key summit meetings with the Soviets, Europeans and Americans in December. In his monthly fireside chat for January, Giscard emphasized the importance of his initiatives with the oil producing states in seeking a solution to France’s economic problems. Essentially, Giscard is telling the French people that France’s major internal problems are externally caused, and his foreign policy is designed to solve those problems as quickly as possible. Problem solving can only take place in an atmosphere of conciliation, and Giscard’s emphasis on conciliation during the December summit meetings has clearly had a favorable impact on the majority of Frenchmen.

9. Speculation on the future: In coming months—and barring political reversals in France that would undercut his political strength—we expect Giscard to pursue his goal of a strong, independent France exercising the predominant leadership role in Europe. Like his Gaullist predecessors’ he will be more comfortable in bilateral relationships than in multilateral ones where he could be more easily outgunned. Reflecting his natural pragmatism, he is likely to be prepared to search for bilateral detours around potential multilateral confrontations. This is clearly one of the messages in my series of frank meetings with Gis[Typeset Page 1014]card, Chirac, Sauvagnargues and other governmental leaders. For example, while we do not foresee France’s direct association with the IEA, bilateral routes offer opportunities to achieve a higher degree of cooperation than would otherwise be the case. The same is true for attempts to associate the French with urgent non-proliferation efforts: the bilateral path may offer solutions that are unavailable multilaterally. (For example, see Sauvagnargues’ remarks to me concerning French approach to safeguards in Egyptian case—Paris 2551 Limdis Notal.) In defense affairs, Giscard recognizes the sweeping inconsistencies between Gaullist defense theory and the realities of today’s world. Any Giscardian changes to key elements of Gaullist defense policy are unlikely to weaken France’s freedom of action or move France closer to multilateral answers to defense problems. Nevertheless, if we accept the parameters of Giscard’s pragmatic and relaxed form of cooperation—no dramatic changes and a preference for bilateralism—we can expect a higher degree of real cooperation from France on political, economic and defense issues.

10. Recommendation: To foster this atmosphere of Franco-American cooperation, we should construct a broad, habitual pattern of bilateral consultations with the French—here and in Washington—designed to avoid the pitfalls of misunderstanding, to endure the strains of disagreement and to buttress the interdependence that binds us together.

  1. Summary: The Embassy assessed Giscard’s foreign policy after 8 months.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1975. Confidential; Noforn; Immediate. Sent for information to Ankara, Athens, Bonn, Brussels, Copenhagen, Lisbon, London, Luxembourg, Oslo, Ottawa, Reykjavik, Rome, The Hague, the Mission to NATO, Dublin, the Mission to the EC, the Mission in Geneva, Moscow, the MBFR delegation in Vienna, USCINCEUR, CINCUSAFE, CINCUSAREUR, USNMR SHAPE, and the consulates in Bordeaux, Lyon, Marseille, Strasbourg, and Nice. In telegram 5534 from Paris, March 4, the Embassy provided a more detailed discussion of Giscard’s changes by geographic region and functional area. (Ibid.)