Documents from Nixon and Ford Administrations Show U.S. Assistance for French Nuclear Forces Earlier Than Previously Reported

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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....

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