Kissinger Sought to make French "Drool" for Nuclear Aid
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 346
Posted - May 26, 2011
For more information contact:
William Burr - 202/994-7000
Washington, D.C., May 26, 2011 - The U.S. government secretly helped France develop its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program, and much earlier than previously realized, according to declassified documents compiled and edited by National Security Archive senior analyst William Burr and published jointly with the Nuclear Proliferation International History Project, an Archive partner.
Over twenty years ago, Princeton University political scientist Richard Ullman revealed the existence of this program in a headline-making article, "The Covert French Connection," published in Foreign Policy magazine. Drawing upon interviews with former officials, Ullman disclosed that the Nixon administration, believing that a more effective French nuclear force was in the U.S. interest, began a secret program in 1973 of information sharing on ballistic missiles, nuclear weapons technology, and nuclear weapons safety, which continued into the Ford administration and beyond. The documents published today move the timeline earlier, to 1970-71.
Ullman's most sensational revelation was that U.S. government officials had circumvented atomic energy laws by providing the French with indirect assistance to their nuclear weapons program. Through "negative guidance," Washington indirectly--20-questions style--helped the French perfect their nuclear warheads. Today's publication fills out, and goes beyond the record established by Ullman. Declassified documents indicate that:
Also included in today's publication are background documents on developments during the late 1950s and the 1960s, when U.S. government policy prohibited aid to the French nuclear program. When top Eisenhower and Kennedy administration officials discussed the possibility of nuclear cooperation with the French, some disclosed post-World War II suspicions arguing that it would "raise pressures from the Germans" for nuclear weapons. President John F. Kennedy made this connection explicit in a letter to British Prime Minister Macmillan, asserting that if the United States reversed its opposition to nuclear proliferation and aided the French nuclear program, the "likelihood that the Germans would eventually wish to acquire a nuclear weapons capability would be significantly increased."
The documents published today have a variety of sources. Many of them are from National Security Files at the Nixon Presidential Library, where they were declassified as a result of National Security Archive requests. Other documents are from collections of State Department records at the National Archives. Owing to legal restrictions at French archives, documents on France's role in the "covert connection" are unavailable.