Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Couve de Murville, Jacques Maurice (1907–1999)

French diplomat, foreign minister (1958–1968), and premier (1968–1969). Born in Reims on 24 January 1907 to a prominent Protestant family, Jacques Maurice Couve de Murville studied literature and law in Paris and earned a diploma from the École des Sciences Politiques before joining the French civil service in 1932. After rising to a high position within the civil service, in 1943 during World War II he broke with the collaborationist Vichy government, fled to Algiers, and became a leader of the Free French movement and a close associate of General Charles de Gaulle.

In 1944 Couve de Murville began his diplomatic career by serving as the French representative to the Allied Consultative Council for Italy. In 1945 he entered the Foreign Ministry and during the Fourth Republic served as secretary-general for political affairs and ambassador to Egypt, the United States, and the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, West Germany).

In 1958, President de Gaulle chose Couve de Murville to be the first foreign minister of the newly established Fifth Republic, a post he occupied until 1968. As a faithful adherent of de Gaulle's enlarged vision of France's role in the world, Couve de Murville took the lead on such major initiatives as decolonization, the development of the European Community, diplomatic recognition of the People's Republic of China (PRC), and France's 1966 withdrawal from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) integrated military command. Couve de Murville shared de Gaulle's concept of a France capable of operating independently of the two Cold War blocs, a stance that often led to friction with Washington.

In May 1968, following the student riots that shook the Fifth Republic, de Gaulle transferred Couve de Murville from the Foreign Ministry to the Ministry of Economics and Finance. In July 1968, Couve de Murville was named premier, a post he held until June 1969 when Georges Pompidou was elected president. Couve de Murville was subsequently elected to the Senate in 1973, where he served until 1995. He died in Paris on 24 December 1999.

John Van Oudenaren


Further Reading
Kolodziej, Edward A. French International Policy under De Gaulle and Pompidou: The Politics of Grandeur. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1974.
 

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