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Digital Archive International History Declassified

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French Nuclear History

 Documents on the history of French nuclear development, focusing on secret technical assistance provided by the United States in the 1970s and 1980s. See also Nuclear Proliferation, and the related collections in the Nuclear Proliferation International History Project. (Image, Kissinger, Schlesinger, and Galle, 1975, US Office of the Historian, Office of Secretary of Defense)

  • January 09, 1971

    Memorandum from Helmut Sonnenfeldt to Henry A. Kissinger, 'Interim Report on NSSM 100: US–French Military Relations'

    Sonnenfeldt describes and criticizes National Security Study Memorandum (NSSM) 100, an issue paper on potential US military aid to France's ballistic missile program. He states that the current version of the study "does not adequately explore" the broader policy implications of such aid, especially in regards to "the direction we wish to take in Europe in the 1970s."

  • March 19, 1971

    Memorandum from Helmut Sonnenfeldt to Henry A. Kissinger, 'Decisions on Military Cooperation with France'

    Sonnenfeldt summarizes the options for providing France with more advanced computers and missile assistance, recommending "a minimal response."

  • March 25, 1971

    Memorandum from Henry A. Kissinger to President Nixon, 'Military Cooperation with France'

    Kissinger summarizes the issues and options involved in three areas of potential aid to the French: 1) advanced computers, 2) technical assistance for their ballistic missile program, and 3) nuclear safety. He makes recommendations for each of the three areas, suggesting limited assistance for the first two.

  • March 29, 1971

    National Security Decision Memorandum 103, 'Military Cooperation with France'

    Outlines President Nixon's decisions regarding France's request for military aid with their nuclear program. The restrictions on exporting advanced computers will be loosened, allowing France to import more powerful models. Limited technical assistance for their ballistic missile program will be offered, but only in areas that won't jeopardize US security or "provide France with a distinct new capability."

  • April 08, 1971

    Memorandum from Helmut Sonnenfeldt to Henry A. Kissinger, 'Follow-up on Military Cooperation with France'

    Sonnenfeldt reports on issues with implementing the decisions made in NSDM 103 and 104 to offer military aid to France. Information was leaked to the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy about the offer of more advanced computers and technical assistance with France's ballistic missile program. The Department of State had not yet informed the French and was waiting on various decision to be made. The issues of whether or not to inform the British was also raised.

  • April 10, 1971

    MAE Cable on French proposal for uranium enrichment

    Note concerning uranium enrichment plant proposed by the French government.

  • April 10, 1971

    MAE Cable on US-France cooperation for uranium enrichment

    Note on CEA CEO A. Giraud visit to the US to explore chances of US-French cooperation in the realm of uranium enrichment.

  • April 15, 1971

    Memorandum from Henry A. Kissinger to Melvin R. Laird and William P. Rogers, 'Military Cooperation with France, NSDM’s 103 and 104'

    Kissinger sends a follow up memorandum to the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense regarding NSDM 103 and 104, on military assistance to the French nuclear program. Kissinger reiterates the classified nature of these decisions to offer aid and instructs them to inform the French "as soon as possible." They must also prepare guidelines for use in the event that the assistance becomes public.

  • April 27, 1971

    Letter from Henry A. Kissinger to John S. Foster Jr., Memos and Letters on Offers to French of Military Cooperation

    Memorandum and letters confirming that the French have been informed of the United States' offers of military assistance with their nuclear program.

  • May 25, 1971

    Letter from David Packard to Henry A. Kissinger, Possible US Assistance to the French Ballistic Missile Program

    Packard describes Foster and Blancard's meeting to discuss US assistance to the French ballistic missile program, stating that it "went exceedingly well." Blancard was appreciative of the US's assistance and understood the limitations that had been set. The next step would be a visit to France of top level personnel from US nuclear projects.

  • July 29, 1971

    Letter from Melvin R. Laird to Henry A. Kissinger, 'Summary of Agreement for US Assistance to French Missile Program'

    Report on a meeting between US nuclear personnel and a French delegation in Paris. Ground rules were drawn for future US ballistic missile assistance. The French also gave a detailed technical overview of their missile program. Attached to the letter are the agreed ground rules, "Understanding Between U.S. and France Concerning the Substance and Procedures of Ballistic Missile Cooperation Paper."

  • August 10, 1971

    Memorandum from Helmut Sonnenfeldt to Henry A. Kissinger, 'Status Report on Missile Cooperation with France'

    Sonnenfeldt reports on the status of the US assistance to the French ballistic missile program. The talks are going well, but he notes that the French will likely soon raise the issue of hiring US contractors for direct assistance.

  • November 15, 1971

    Cable from William P. Rogers to American Embassy Paris, 'Military Relations with France'

    Text of a letter from Foster to Blancard discussing an exchange of nuclear safety information between the United States and France. Foster goes into detail about the specific procedures and systems which could be discussed. The US could not exchange any information classified as Restricted Data or Formerly Restricted Data.

  • November 16, 1971

    Memorandum from Theodore L Eliot Jr. to Henry A. Kissinger, 'Joint Committee on Atomic Energy Hearings on Projected Nuclear Safety Talks with the French'

    Description of a hearing held by the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy to discuss sharing nuclear safety information with the French. Issues raised included the effect of the talks on US-Soviet relations, the question of who initiated the talks, and the type of information which could and could not be shared. Overall the hearing was successful and most of the Committee (aside from Senator Symington) was in favor of the information exchange.

  • December 07, 1971

    Memorandum from Theodore L Eliot Jr. to Henry A. Kissinger, 'Briefing the British Regarding Our Special Defense Programs with the French'

    Eliot forwards a letter sent to William J. Galloway of the American Embassy in London, containing information for the British Foreign Office about US nuclear assistance to France. The letter describes the current status of cooperation between the US and France, including the preparations for nuclear safety talks and the first meeting with the French ballistic missile project.

  • May 03, 1972

    Memorandum from Holsey G. Handyside, 'Status Report on Proposed Nuclear Safety Talks with the French'

    Holsey G. Handyside reports on a meeting with Christopher J. Makins, First Secretary of the British Embassy. Handyside informs Makins that organizational meetings for the US-French nuclear safety talks were planned for May 4-5. The talks will not include any Restricted Data that the French do not already have. Handyside reiterates that the French are not aware that the British have been informed of the exchange. He also asked Makins for his opinion on why the British government has repeated asked for status updates about the talks.

  • June 16, 1972

    Cable from Holsey G. Handyside to Ronald I. Spiers, 'Guidance on Nuclear Weapons Safety Talks with French'

    Handyside sends guidance for discussions with British diplomat Clive Rose on US nuclear assistance to France. The cable outlines points of discussion and emphasizes the secret nature of these talks as "we do not plan to inform French of fact that we are keeping UK generally informed."

  • July 01, 1972

    Briefing Book, 'Meeting of Dr. Kissinger and French Minister of State for National Defense'

    The Briefing Book provides guidance for Kissinger's meeting with French Minister of Defense Michel Debré in July 1972. Background and talking points are given for various topics, including US-French ballistic missile cooperation, nuclear safety exchanges, and French military coordination with NATO. The section on ballistic missile assistance gives a list of the specific technical problems France has consulted on to date.

  • July 06, 1972

    Memorandum from Helmut Sonnenfeldt to Henry A. Kissinger, 'Your Meeting with Debré: Additional Points'

    Sonnenfeldt briefs Kissinger on additional points for his meeting with French Minister of Defense Michel Debré in July 1972. There is new information about specific technical requests Debré may make for ballistic missile assistance as well as new information about Debré's views on nuclear strategy and cooperation with US and NATO forces.

  • July 11, 1972

    Memorandum for the Record from Helmut Sonnenfeldt, 'Meeting Between French Minister of Defense Michel Debré and Dr. Kissinger, July 7, 1972'

    Summary of Kissinger and French Minister of Defense Debré's meeting on July 7, 1972. They first discussed US-French nuclear cooperation and the recent US technical assistance to the French ballistic missile program. Debré requested information about Soviet missile defenses. The remainder of the conversation was about Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction (MBFR) and related nuclear security issues.