The French Factor in U.S. Foreign Policy during
the Nixon-Pompidou Period
WHEN RICHARD NIXON took office as president of the United States in early 1969, he and his national security advisor Henry Kissinger wanted to put America's relationship with France on an entirely new footing. Relations between the two countries in the 1960s, and especially from early 1963 on, had been far from ideal, and U.S. governments at the time blamed French President Charles de Gaulle for the fact that the United States was on such poor terms with its old ally. But Nixon and Kissinger took a rather different view. They admired de Gaulle and indeed thought of themselves as Gaullists.1 Like de Gaulle, they thought that America in the past had been too domineering. “The excessive concentration of decision-making in the hands of the senior partner,” as Kissinger put it in a book published in 1965, was not in America's own interest; it drained the alliance of “long-term political vitality.”2 The United States needed real allies—“self-confident partners with a strongly developed sense of identity”—and not satellites.3 Nixon took
This paper, which was originally written for a conference on Georges Pompidou and the United States held in Paris in 2009, was published in the winter 2010–11 issue of the Journal of Cold War Studies. Copyright © Journal of Cold War Studies, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Reprinted by permission. A much shorter version of the paper is due to come out in a volume of conference papers being put out by the Association Georges Pompidou. A version of this article with links to copies of most of the documents cited is available at http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/polisci/faculty/trachtenberg/ffus/ FrenchFactor.pdf.
1 See, for example, Nixon-Pompidou meeting, May 31,1973, 10 a.m., p. 3, Digital National Security Archive (http://nsarchive.chadwyck.com/home.do), Kissinger Transcripts collection, document KT00742; henceforth documents from this source will be cited in this form: DNSA/KT00742. Note also Kissinger meeting with Rusk, Bundy McCloy et al., November 28, 1973, p. 8, DNSA/KT00928; and Henry Kissinger, Years of Up heaval (Boston: Little, Brown, 1982), p. 919.
2 Henry Kissinger, The Troubled Partnership: A Re-appraisal of the Atlantic Alliance (New York: McGraw HiU, 1965), p. 233.
3 Ibid., p. 235. See also Henry Kissinger, White House Years (Boston: Little, Brown, 1979), pp. 86, 106. This had been Kissinger's view for some time. See, especially, his important article “NATO's Nuclear Dilemma,” The Reporter (March 28,1963)—an article which President John F. Kennedy at the time referred to as a “disaster.” Richard Neustadt notes of a conversation with Carl Kaysen, June 1, 1963, Richard Neustadt Papers, box 22, folder “Memcons—US,” John F. Kennedy Library [JFKL], Boston.