298. Memorandum From Acting Secretary of State Christopher to President Carter1


  • Multilateral Restraint in Conventional Arms Transfers

Over the past year, we have made progress with the Soviets and with recipients in seeking cooperation on restraint in conventional arms transfers. However, with the Europeans, we have achieved none of our objectives, mainly because of the French. It will be difficult to produce further results without support from the Europeans, because both the Soviets and recipients will take their cue from European attitudes before committing themselves to real restraint measures. Therefore, we must now make a concerted effort to bring the Europeans along.

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French participation is the key: with it, the British and Germans are likely to be forthcoming. Over the past year, the French have put two major conditions on their willingness to participate in discussions on restraint: demonstration of Soviet willingness to cooperate, and the development of indigenous regional restraint efforts. Giscard himself has elaborated these conditions publicly and has indicated the possibility of a positive French attitude toward restraint should these conditions be met. We believe there has been progress toward meeting both these conditions. (Of course, French objections may go deeper—to basic questions of economic competition—and the French may therefore be unwilling to take part in arms restraint at this time.)

Having tried to persuade the French at lower levels, we now believe that any appeal to be effective needs to go to Giscard himself in order to increase the limited chances of getting a positive response. This approach may fail. However, the alternative of doing nothing would definitely be a serious weakening of the whole arms restraint effort. I therefore recommend that you sign the attached letters, urging another quadrilateral meeting on conventional arms transfers2 and, particularly in the case of the French, holding out the option of bilateral talks as well.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Global Issues, Mathews Subject File, Box 5, Arms Transfers: 8–10/78. Secret; Nodis.
  2. Talks between the United States, the United Kingdom, the Federal Republic of Germany, and France on conventional arms transfers had been scheduled for June 22–23, 1977. No memoranda of the talks have been found. (Telegram 10061 from Bonn, June 15, 1977; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770213–1206)