Le Cercle is a secretive, invitation-only foreign policy forum. Its focus has been opposing Communism and, in the 1970s and 1980s, supporting apartheid when the group had intimate ties with and funding from South Africa. The group was described by British Conservative MP Alan Clark as "an Atlanticist society of right-wing dignitaries".
Le Cercle was established in 1952-53 by then French prime minister Antoine Pinay and French intelligence agent Jean Violet under the name Cercle Pinay. Konrad Adenauer and Franz Josef Strauss were co-founders and reconciliation between France and Germany was an important goal. Historian Adrian Hänni wrote that "The Cercle's founding vision encompassed the integration of a Christian-Catholic Europe, an aspiration reflected in the Cercle's personal membership and the countries represented in its early years." The other members of the original Cercle were from the Governments of Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands including a number of members of the Catholic Opus Dei and the Knights of Malta.
Political changes in 1969 led to the addition, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States with meetings held twice a year rather than three times a year as before. This led to a shift in objectives, which became an emphasis on forming a strong anti-Communist alliance between the United States and Europe. Hänni stated that "The leaders of the group increasingly considered strategies to target public opinion and, to this end, formed a "Cercle network" of associated organizations, institutes and think tanks, which attacked both the Soviet Union and the perceived "leftist" governments or opposition movements in Europe and the Third World." Its members were mainly elderly male conservatives, with many belong to anti-Communist organisations including the World Anti-Communist League. The Union of South Africa provided the only official delegation and the Cercle supported organisations such as Renamo, whose general secretary attended meetings, and Unita.
Le Cercle was mentioned in the early 1980s by Der Spiegel in Germany as a result of the controversy surrounding Franz Josef Strauss, one of the regular attendants of the Cercle. In the late 1990s, the Cercle received some attention after a scandal had broken out involving Jonathan Aitken, at the time chairman of Le Cercle. Members that were contacted by newspapers refused to answer any questions.
An agenda presented by Brian Crozier noted that its goal to change the British Government had been changed by the election of Margaret Thatcher and among others listed the following objectives: