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Research Last Updated: Mar 22, 2018 - 12:18:19 PM

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the German Nuclear Question Part II, 1965-1969
By William Burr, National Archive 22/3/18
Mar 22, 2018 - 11:11:02 AM

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During 1967, relations between two close NATO allies, the United States and West Germany, were relatively tense and difficult because Washington was urging Bonn to support the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which many conservatives in the ruling coalition opposed. Seeing the treaty as discriminatory by permanently denying West Germany a nuclear defense option, Chancellor Kurt Kiesinger worried about future threats from the Soviet Union. According to a U.S. Embassy message published for the first time today by the National Security Archive and the Nuclear Proliferation International History Project, Kiesinger told William C. Foster, director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) that even if Moscow did not “intend to use threats or blackmail against Germany, the situation could change” and Germany “must consider ‘how we could defend ourselves being ourselves defenseless.’”

Kiesinger’s concern about a “defenseless” Germany was not likely to lessen memories of German aggression and atrocities that shaped thinking in Washington, Moscow, London, Paris, Warsaw, and elsewhere where policymakers saw West Germany as a “special case” that needed to adhere to a nonproliferation agreement. Only a few decades after the end of World War II, public opinion in the West wondered whether West Germany would remain a stable and reliable ally and took for granted that an NPT signature was a necessary sign of dependability.[1] Leaders of the Soviet bloc held parallel views; at a February 1967 press conference in London Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin said, according to a State Department translation: “As to the Federal Republic of Germany, I must say that whether she wants this or not, such a document should be signed, because we will not allow the Federal Republic of Germany to possess nuclear weapons.”

This collection of documents concludes a two-part series on U.S.-West German interactions on nonproliferation from the late 1950s to 1969, when Germany signed the Nonproliferation Treaty. The declassified record on this topic is enormously rich and varied; it sheds light on U.S.-West German interactions, on U.S. official perceptions of West Germany, and the concerns that U.S. allies and adversaries had about West Germany’s nuclear potential.

Marking the 50th anniversary of the approval of the NPT by the United Nations General Assembly, today’s publication covers developments from 1963 to the late 1960s, beginning with 1963-1965, when policymakers saw the proposed Multilateral Force (MLF) as potentially valuable for tying West Germany closer to NATO while curbing proliferation risks. By mid-1966, however, Washington gave top priority to reviving the stalled NPT negotiations and abandoning MLF proposals. That development increased U.S.-West German tensions during 1966-1967, when congressional calls for cuts in U.S. force levels in NATO Europe were raising concern about the value of U.S. security guarantees.

The collection includes:

A 1965 memorandum of conversation in which Ambassador to West Germany George McGhee observed that, when U.S. nuclear deployments were taken into account, it was “often overlooked that Germany was actually the third largest nuclear country in the world.”
A record of a meeting with Dean Rusk in October 1965 during which Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Winiewicz objected to the MLF or “anything which would give the Germans any control of nuclear weapons or any substantial part in the decision to use them.”
The conclusion of a U.S. embassy report that if the Germans developed nuclear weapons without U.S. consent, it would “invalidate the basis of U.S. security guarantees and could lead to the removal of U.S. forces from Germany.” The United States “would never permit our troops to remain here as a hostage to a German government adventure in the nuclear field.”
A 1966 National Intelligence Estimate which found that the Federal Republic could produce enough fissile material within two years to produce a nuclear weapon but only if it violated safeguards on its nuclear reactors. West Germany was “unlikely” to make such a choice, but “will probably want to keep open what options it has for the eventual production of nuclear weapons.”
The U.S.-Soviet understanding reached during the fall of 1966 on no-transfer of nuclear weapons “whatsoever,” which ruled out MLFs, satisfied the Soviets that there were no “secret” arrangements providing “cover” for West German access to nuclear weapons, and met West German interest in a future nuclear-armed European federation.
ACDA official G.W. Moser’s conclusion, reflecting the lag in coordination with Bonn of changes in the U.S. position on the NPT, that “we are now victimized by our previous record of staunch and forthright support of German interests prior to last Fall.”
The message from President Lyndon B. Johnson that Vice President Hubert Humphrey was to convey to Kiesinger: The President did not intend “to do [the Germans] in,” but the NPT was a “high priority” for him.
An April 1967 memorandum of conversation in which Norwegian Ambassador Arne Gunneng and ACDA Director William C. Foster discussed Italian and West German inflexibility toward the NPT. According to the Ambassador, “if the two former Axis partners become responsible for blocking progress toward the NPT it would cost the two a great deal internationally.”
A telegram recounting a private statement by West German Social Democratic parliamentarian Erhard Eppler that his party was the only political force that could put “NPT policy onto a rational course, where Germany would gracefully accept the unavoidable and perhaps gain some good will” instead of feeding suspicions that the Germans wanted the bomb.

From the MLF to the NPT

After China staged its first nuclear weapons test in October 1964, the risks of nuclear proliferation received greater attention in Washington and so did interest in a nonproliferation agreement. By mid-1965 the U.S. delegation at the Eighteen Nations Disarmament Conference (ENDC) at Geneva was preparing the draft of a nonproliferation treaty. Even when it was submitted in August 1965, the draft was dead in the water for the same reason that the Kennedy administration’s early non-dissemination proposal had secured little traction: the draft left open the possibility of MLF-type arrangements. The Soviet Union objected, as it had before, because it saw the MLF and a competing British proposal for an Atlantic Nuclear Force (ANF) as risky projects that could bring West Germany closer to a nuclear weapons capability.

The angst that the MLF inspired was captured in 1965 by the satirist Tom Lehrer whose “MLF Lullaby” included these lyrics:

Heil— hail—the Wehrmacht, I mean the Bundeswehr

Hail to our loyal ally

MLF will scare Brezhnev

I hope he is half as scared as I.

The Johnson administration’s support for an MLF was less than full-throated, but it had enough influential supporters, especially at the Department of State and the White House, to keep it on the agenda. They too had World War II memories, but they feared that excluding West Germany from a role in NATO alliance nuclear decisions could lead a future nationalist-minded German government to seek an independent nuclear role of its own. Such concerns influenced the MLF proposal as well as proposals for creating formal institutions for NATO consultations on nuclear planning.[2] Also bearing on the matter was West Germany’s role as a deployment site for U.S. tactical nuclear weapons that would be available for use by West German armed forces if war broke out in Central Europe. The Soviets had been sharply critical of the U.S. deployments (as well as proposals for consultations), which U.S. policymakers saw as essential for giving West German forces a wartime nuclear mission.

While top U.S. officials had assured the West Germans of their support for an MLF, by the summer of 1966 thinking began to change.[3] Not only had the MLF proposal met strong objections from influential members of Congress, the Soviets, the French, and the British, U.S. support for it was causing the NPT negotiations to stagnate. That development facilitated a meeting of minds between U.S. and Soviet negotiators at Geneva on “no-transfer” language which would exclude “collective” options giving non-nuclear states, such as West Germany, indirect access to nuclear weapons and, at the same time, protect the most essential U.S. requirements (nuclear deployments and consultative arrangements), none of which involved actual transfers. At the same time, the language would preserve the option of a future European federation that owned and controlled nuclear weapons inherited from France or the United Kingdom, which U.S. officials saw as valuable for winning West German support.[4]

The no-transfer formulation was central to the NPT. Articles I and II covered the obligations of nuclear weapons and non-nuclear weapons states, prohibiting the transfer or receipt of nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices or assisting their manufacture or receiving any assistance towards that end. With the emphasis on proscriptions, ACDA and State Department officials argued that “what is not in the treaty is not prohibited.” Thus, U.S. nuclear weapons deployments in West Germany would be permissible as long as the weapons were not transferred to West German military units.

The U.S.-Soviet talks during September-November 1966 were a turning point in the NPT negotiations whose results caused anxiety in Bonn and tension in U.S.-German relations. According to an ACDA official, Washington was “victimized by [its] previous record of staunch and forthright support of German interests prior to [September 1966].” Rusk had not consulted Bonn until an understanding had been reached with Soviet negotiators. As important as good relations with Bonn were to Rusk, he gave top priority to reaching an understanding with Moscow, in substantial part to protect existing U.S.-West German nuclear arrangements. Thus, once a Moscow-Washington agreement was reached, Rusk moved to get talks with Bonn on track, as did the new Foreign Minister Willy Brandt. Chancellor Kurt Kiesinger called the shots, however, and he was vexed by the gap in consultations, among others concerns.

Taking a non-coercive, low pressure approach, Washington made assurances to Bonn that the NPT would protect existing nuclear weapons arrangements, permit nuclear consultations, and preserve the option of a future nuclear-armed European federation.[5] Believing that the NPT negotiations would fail, Bonn asked for more changes, including Soviet “concessions,” and expressed disagreement with the U.S.-Soviet understanding that the NPT would have an indefinite duration. Kiesinger sought to limit it to ten or twenty years, so that Bonn could evaluate the Treaty before committing to its extension. Also adding to delay was the months of U.S. negotiations with the Soviets and other parties before Article III, on the role of International Atomic Energy safeguards, was acceptable to Bonn.

The West Germans, like other non-nuclear weapons states, also pressed for treaty language covering the obligations of nuclear-weapons states to share peaceful nuclear technology and to undertake nuclear disarmament negotiations. Despite changes in the treaty text made to address such concerns, the coalition government was fractured, with Kiesinger and the moderate Christian Democrats highly critical of the NPT and others, such as Strauss, strongly opposed to it. Thus, Kiesinger postponed a decision to sign. It took the formation of a new government, headed by Willy Brandt, for West Germany to sign the treaty in November 1969. While Brandt was ambivalent, he believed that Bonn had to sign so that it could move forward on Ostpolitik with the Soviet bloc, avoid damage to relations with the United States and to the Federal Republic’s standing in the community of nations, and also give West Germany scope for developing a commercially-oriented nuclear industry.[6]

The NPT was not the last time that Germany’s nuclear status was the subject of international negotiations. In 1990 the “Two plus Four” agreement for German reunification included language renouncing “the manufacture and possession of and control over nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.” The nuclear question, however, has recently resurfaced. With trans-Atlantic relations now under stress during the Trump administration, troubling questions have emerged about the durability of long-standing U.S. security guarantees to Western Europe. In that context, some German defense experts have raised questions about nuclear weapons in the defense of Europe. A few have even raised the idea of a national nuclear weapons capability. [7]

Leaving aside the serious political and diplomatic conflicts that a German nuclear program would cause, the NPT and the 1990 agreement prohibited independent German nuclear forces unless Berlin renounces previous agreements.[8] Nevertheless, as U.S. officials recognized at the time of the negotiations, the NPT would leave open legal options for collective European forces as long as they did not involve a transfer of nuclear weapons to the hands of the German government.

During the NPT negotiations, West German diplomats sought, and U.S. officials made, assurances about the compatibility of the treaty with a future nuclear-armed European federation (which the Germans thought might be closer than turned out to be the case). The issue was whether a future European federation could inherit the nuclear forces of the member states, such as France, which had joined the federation. U.S. officials avowed that such a “European option” would be entirely consistent with the NPT because Germany had merged its defense policies with its European partners. No member nation, including Germany, would control the weapons. An option recently considered by experts working for the Bundestag--German financial support for French nuclear weapons programs used to protect Germany and Europe in general--would also be legal.[9] It would probably require drastic changes in the European security situation, however, before France considered “merging” its force de frappe into a European defense system.

Organization of the Collection

Part I: Documents 1 through 12: The MLF, West Germany, and a Nonproliferation Agreement

Part II: Documents 13 through 16A-B: The Negotiation of Non-Transfer Language

Part III: Documents 17 through 39A-B: The NPT and West Germany: Uneasy Accommodation


Read the Documents

Document 01
U.S. Embassy Bonn Airgram A-250 to State Department, “Secretary McNamara’s Conversation with Chancellor Adenauer,” 2 August 1963
Source: U.S. State Department FOIA release
In the months after the emergence of the MLF proposal, the Limited Test Ban Treaty soured U.S. relations with Bonn. During the summer of 1963, London, Moscow, and Washington made a breakthrough in the stalled nuclear test ban talks by reaching an agreement banning tests in three environments: the atmosphere, underwater, and outer space. Underground tests would be permitted. For the Kennedy administration, a limited test ban had a useful nonproliferation component, although not as effective as a comprehensive ban. To restrict German freedom of action in the nuclear field, over and above Adenauer’s 1954 declaration, codified in the Paris Treaties, the Kennedy administration expected Bonn to sign the LTBT, which did not sit well with Chancellor Konrad Adenauer.

Too polite to call the treaty “American appeasement” or a “Munich” as some of his colleagues did, Adenauer told Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara that it was a Soviet “success” that would “result in recognition of the Soviet Occupied Zone” of Germany, which was also signing the treaty. For Adenauer and his party, anything that hinted at recognition of the GDR was taboo, even being signatories on the same document. He also worried that the LTBT could lead to a relaxation of the West’s defense efforts, despite McNamara’s assertions about advances in U.S. nuclear forces, including a 60 percent increase in tactical nuclear weapons deployed in Europe and a doubling of U.S. strategic warheads.[10]

McNamara assured Adenauer that signing “did not imply recognition” of the GDR, but the latter was not convinced and said “with a trace of bitterness, that Germany had not been consulted in the drafting of the Treaty.” That would make it “difficult for Germany to adhere” to it. Nevertheless, Adenauer could not easily go against Washington on this point and after more U.S. reassurances about GDR non-recognition, Foreign Minister Gerhard Schroeder signed the treaty on 19 August 1963, although West Germany did not ratify it until 1964.

Documents 02 A-C
The Wilson Visit. December 1964

Document 02A: Memorandum of Conversation, 7 December 1964
Source: Record Group 59, Department of State Records, National Archives (RG 59), Presidential Memoranda of Conversations, 1958-1964, box 3, Pres M of C Nov.-Dec. 1964.
The MLF proposal remained in the policy mix during 1964, but British concern that it could whet German nuclear ambitions and lead to proliferation led the new Labor government, headed by Prime Minister Harold Wilson, to propose what it saw as a more palatable alternative: an Atlantic Nuclear Force (ANF) based on nuclear forces contributed by members, e.g., U.S. Minuteman missiles and British Vulcan bombers and (eventually) Polaris submarines. In a bow to the MLF, elements of the ANF would have mixed-manning. Controlling the ANF would be a nuclear command in which the U.S. and the UK would have vetoes as would non-nuclear weapons states participating in the project, such as West Germany. For the British, the ANF needed such features to attract West German support and thereby reduce the risk of the French-West German nuclear entente. To codify Bonn’s non-nuclear status, the ANF would go hand-in-hand with a European nonproliferation agreement.[11]

When Wilson visited Washington for talks in December 1964, both the ANF and the MLF were topics of discussions, as were nuclear proliferation generally and the implications of China’s recent nuclear test, as well as the British world role. When asking the British about the ANF, Secretary of State Rusk noted that the U.S. was concerned about nuclear proliferation and agreed that “Franco-German nuclear cooperation was equally bad.” On the MLF, Johnson was wavering, although he remained convinced that it was necessary to “[deter] the Germans from acquiring nuclear weapons.” On U.S. Minuteman missiles in an ANF, Secretary of Defense McNamara ruled that out because of their sensitivity.

The British plan involved shared control of nuclear use decisions, with Healey arguing that it was important for non-nuclear powers such as West Germany to participate in a “control system … so they could familiarize themselves with the nature and the problems” of strategic forces. Apparently, he believed that exposing NATO’s non-nuclear powers to the dangers of nuclear weapons would have a useful “educational” impact. This dovetailed with McNamara’s interest in machinery for NATO consultation and his later proposal for a NATO nuclear planning group, which would also have an educational role for members such as West Germany.

As the record of the Johnson-Wilson talks indicates, U.S. officials such as Under Secretary of State George Ball were strongly supportive of an MLF, although McNamara believed that it was up to the Europeans to determine whether they wanted it or not. Citing West German Defense Minister von Hassel’s support for mixed-manning in the MLF, McNamara said that Von Hassel had told him that the “German Government was afraid of its own people.” Without a role in a “multilateral mixed-manned force, elements within Germany would be pushing for more.” In any event, the Johnson administration gave the ANF scheme a positive response but that it would be for the British to see if Bonn could be enlisted. The Germans, however, were not interested, while the Soviets were as opposed to the ANF as they were to the MLF.

Document 02B
Untitled read-out for State Department of Johnson-Wilson conversation, circa 7 December 1964, Secret
Source: Source: RG 59, Executive Secretariat Conference Files, box 364, CF 2460 Visit of Prime Minister Wilson Dec 7-8, 1964 Admin.& Sub Misc & Memcons
Account of the first day of the Johnson-Wilson discussions prepared by State Department Executive Secretary Benjamin Read probably on the basis of an account by Secretary of State Rusk.

Document 02C
Memorandum of Conversation, The Cabinet Room, December 8, 1964, 10 December 1964
Source: RG 59, Executive Secretariat Conference Files, box 364, CF 2460 Visit of Prime Minister Wilson Dec 7-8, 1964 Admin.& Sub Misc & Memcons; excised version published in Foreign Relations of the United States
During this conversation Wilson, McNamara, Rusk, and Ball continued the discussion of the British proposal for an Atlantic Nuclear Force, including possible command arrangements.  Other topics included the impact of the Chinese nuclear test and a nonproliferation agreement.

Document 03
Memorandum of Conversation, “Nuclear Matters,” 4 June 1965, Secret
Source: RG 59, Conference Files, 1949-1972, box 379, CF 2521 Visit of Chancellor Erhard 6/4/65 Admin & Substantive Misc and Memcons
By shedding light on the scale of U.S. nuclear deployments in West Germany, the record of this conversation during the visit by West German chancellor Werner Erhard helps explain why U.S. policymakers were so determined that a nonproliferation agreement protect those arrangements. Erhard mentioned a briefing by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara that detailed U.S. nuclear weapons deployed in the Federal Republic. After Erhard wished that the numbers could be publicly disclosed, Ambassador George McGhee observed that it was “often overlooked that Germany was actually the third largest nuclear country in the world.” Referring to the deployments, Rusk observed that “there were hundreds of megatons on German soil alone today.”

Document 04
Memorandum of Conversation, “Nonproliferation,” 9 July 1965, Secret
Source: RG 59, Subject-Numeric Files, 1964-1966, Def 18-6
The broad discussion of nuclear proliferation that opened up after the October 1964 Chinese nuclear test provided the context for this meeting between Rusk and West German Ambassador Heinrich Knappstein. One of the topics of the discussion was the report on nuclear proliferation by a presidentially-appointed committee chaired by former Deputy Secretary of Defense Roswell Gilpatric. The Gilpatric report affirmed the importance of checking the spread of nuclear weapons but left open a controversial issue: whether a nonproliferation policy agreement should include provisions for MLF-type arrangements or eschew them.[12] Knappstein was worried that Washington had abandoned the MLF, but Rusk assured him that it was only “on ice,” and that there had been “no policy change.” Nevertheless, when the Ambassador wondered whether an emerging “theme” in U.S. thinking was that West Germany was an “obstacle to a non-proliferation agreement,” Rusk maintained that Washington had not given an agreement priority over r the “nuclear reorganization in the alliance.” Moreover, it did not accept Soviet arguments that an MLF was incompatible with a nonproliferation agreement. The “Soviets would do anything they can to stop the MLF, but we are not going to compromise or abandon our efforts because of Soviet objections.”

Document 05
State Department Policy Planning Staff, “S/P Consultants Discussion of Atlantic Affairs,” 9 July 1965, with cover memorandum from Walt Rostow to Secretary of Defense McNamara, Secret
Source: RG 59, Records of the Special Assistant to Secretary of State for Multilateral Force Negotiations (S/MF), box 12, Memoranda for Secretary of Defense
Proposals for “collective” European nuclear arrangements had just enough support from a coterie of State Department officials and advisers to give them a “zombielike existence,” as one historian has waggishly put it.[13] Some of those officials, including Policy Planning Staff Director Walt W. Rostow, participated in a meeting in July 1965 of members of the Policy Planning Staff’s board of consultants, including prominent members of the foreign policy establishment, John J. McCloy and Dean Acheson, but also such MLF enthusiasts as Gerard C. Smith and Robert Bowie, who made their policy preferences clear. Noting that Foreign Minister Schroeder had stated that Bonn would agree to a nonproliferation agreement only “if an atomic organization within the Western alliance is established … a multilateral nuclear force or something similar,” the consultants concluded that if the “Germans were ready to proceed” a collective European force “could do more to avert the spread of nuclear weapons than a non-proliferation agreement.” Moreover, the creation of a collective nuclear force could induce the Soviets to “reexamine their insistence that a nonproliferation agreement must be couched in terms which would preclude such a force.”

Recognizing “bitter” French and Soviet objections to a collective nuclear force, the consultants believed that over time it might be possible to “get both the force and the agreement.” Therefore, after the West German elections they recommended discussions on nonproliferation strategy with Bonn.

Document 06
U.S. Embassy, West Germany, memorandum, “German Attitudes on Nuclear Defense Questions,” 20 October 1965, Secret
Source: RG 59, Bureau of European Affairs, NATO and Atlantic Politico-Military Affairs. Records Relating to NATO, 1959-1966, box 6, Def 12 Nuclear NATO 1963-1965
An unnamed official at the U.S. Embassy in Bonn analyzed various West German nuclear and non-nuclear alternatives in the event of failure of the proposals for collective nuclear defense arrangements. An independent nuclear capability was ruled out as an alternative because “no responsible political leader in Germany of any party, any known private group, or any discernible body of Garman opinion … considers it desirable.” Among the varied reasons was that it “It would be generally concluded that the ‘bad’ Germans are back in the saddle.” Moreover, the Soviet Union and the Eastern European countries would “make it the occasion for every type of threat and sanction possible - perhaps even to sabotage or war.” If, however, the Germans developed nuclear weapons without U.S. consent, it would “invalidate the basis of U.S. security guarantees and could lead to the removal of U.S. forces from Germany.” According to the Embassy, in a view similar to President Kennedy’s in 1962, the United States “would never permit our troops to remain here as a hostage to a German government adventure in the nuclear field.”

Given the importance of West Germany’s nuclear status, Moscow and the Western Powers kept a close watch on any moves that Bonn made in the nuclear area or in the development of missiles. According to the Embassy, “our intelligence activities and those of the Soviets (who have an estimated 20,000 operatives in Germany), as well as those of other nations, are directed with great intensity toward discerning any such move [;] any covert development program would certainly become known.”

Document 07
Memorandum of Conversation, “Security, Non-Proliferation and the German Problem,” 23 October 1965, Secret
Source: RG 59, Subject-Numeric Files, 1964-1966, DEF 18-6
This wide-ranging discussion between Rusk and Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Jozef Winiewicz[14] on European security, nuclear weapons, and the problem of German reunification illuminated U.S. and Polish concerns about the future of Germany. Both Rusk and Winiewicz said they wanted to avoid another Hitler, but the former believed that European security arrangements, e.g., a Central European nuclear-free zone had priority, while Rusk argued “We were trying to guard against the reappearance of a Hitler by ensuring that the Germans are a part of the fiber of Europe,” which would require German reunification.

On Germany’s role in the nuclear question, Rusk argued that, as the target for hundreds of Soviet missiles, West Germany had legitimate interest in its security. Arguing that the Soviets did not even know what was in the MLF proposal, he tried to assure Winiewicz that “under no conditions would nuclear weapons be given to the Germans and under no conditions would a German government be in a position to give orders to a German soldier to fire nuclear weapons.” Despite Rusk’s insistence about tight control over nuclear weapons deployments, Winiewicz was doubtful both about the Germans and U.S. policy. Expressing anti-German views that were common in Warsaw, he said “the Poles understood the Germans better than the US. The Germans have one face for the East and one for the West.” He, like his Government, objected to “anything which would give the Germans any control of nuclear weapons or any substantial part in the decision to use them.”[15]

Winiewicz conceded that his government would study Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s concept of a “Select Committee,” the germ of the idea for a NATO Nuclear Planning Group. The “Select Committee” concept became known as a “software solution” as opposed to an MLF-type “hardware solution.”

Document 08
“The Danger from a Psychotic Germany,” Appendix to “The Case for a Strong American Lead to Establish a Collective Nuclear System That Would Help the Western World from Repeating an Old Mistake,” attached to George W. Ball to Secretary Rusk, Secretary McNamara, and Mr. Bundy, 27 October 1965
Source: RG 59, Executive Secretariat Briefing Books, 1958-1976, box 10, Book # 115, The Case for An American Lead to Establish a Collective Nuclear System, 1965
Under Secretary George W. Ball signed off on a fervent expression of his apprehensions about the direction of West German policy should the West fail to establish an MLF leading Bonn to feel “rejection and discrimination.” Ball saw three bad possibilities: a national nuclear program, a French-German nuclear deal, or “the real danger, a German political adventure.” By the last, he meant a revival of German nationalism, which could lead to a reunification deal with Moscow. That would be “catastrophic for us” by causing a “major shift” in the balance of power, the demoralization of the West, and a “new and greater struggle.”

Document 09
Thomas L. Hughes, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, to the Secretary, “Dobrynin’s October 29 Oral Statement on Nonproliferation,” 1 November 1965, Secret
Source: RG 59, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Reports, Coordination and Review Staff, Intelligence Reports, 1961, 1963-67, box 5, Chrons/Nov 1965 IN's
Like the British and the French and the Poles, the Soviets saw the MLF as a proliferation risk as far as West Germany was concerned and Moscow’s opposition to a nonproliferation agreement that validated MLF arrangements remained part of the diplomatic landscape.[16] The State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research [INR] necessarily paid close attention to Soviet policy language when Moscow made new statements on this issue and on nuclear proliferation. During a recent conversation with Rusk, Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin had criticized MLF proposals for potentially bringing nuclear weapons within West German reach. While he left “open” the issue of the McNamara Special Committee, Dobrynin made what INR saw as an “absurd” remark, by telling Rusk that “in no way can we be blamed for taking steps which even with a most fault-finding approach would look like disseminating nuclear weapons." INR saw that comment as ridiculous because recent information from an East German defector described Soviet arrangements for delivering nuclear weapons to GDR forces in the event of war, a practice forbidden by the most recent Soviet draft NPT.

INR commented that if blaming Washington for Soviet nuclear sharing arrangements with allies was “something besides mere effrontery, it suggests that Moscow is prepared quietly to wink at some of the provisions of its draft treaty as they might apply to existing arrangements in the Warsaw Pact and in NATO, too.” Nevertheless, it would take more revisions in the language of an NPT before Moscow and Washington believed that it would be possible to “wink” at nuclear sharing arrangements.

Document 10
Department of State Airgram A-168 to U.S. Embassy West Germany, “NIE 23-66: West German Capabilities and Intentions to Produce and Deploy Nuclear Weapons,” 9 March 1966, Secret
Source: RG 59, Subject-Numeric Files, 1964-1965, INT 2-2
At the request of Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, the agencies that belonged to the U.S. Intelligence Board began work on a National Intelligence Estimate to provide a “comprehensive analysis” of West German nuclear “capabilities and intentions.” The State Department asked the Bonn Embassy for its input; some weeks later, the latter replied with a detailed response. The Embassy reaffirmed the "judgment expressed in NIE 4-66 - that West Germany will almost certainly not embark on a program to develop or acquire her own nuclear weapons." Risks would materialize, however, if West Germany began to fear for its security. That would happen only in the event of a "radical change in the basic structure of the political relationships in the postwar world," such as a reversal in U.S. security policy toward Western Europe.

Document 11
National Intelligence Estimate 23-66, “West German Capabilities and Intentions to Produce and Deploy Nuclear Weapons,” 28 April 1966, Secret, excised copy
Source: CIA MDR release under appeal, final appeal pending at ISCAP
It took six weeks to prepare the NIE that McNamara sought. The drafters estimated that within two years Bonn could produce enough fissile material to produce a nuclear weapon, but only by violating safeguards on its nuclear facilities. Moreover, a German government would only make such a move “as part and parcel of a fundamental and dramatic change of the country's international orientation.” That was “unlikely,” however, because the political costs would be high: not only was West German public opinion opposed to a nuclear option, undertaking it would “involve the sacrifice of postwar respectability, the loss of US favor and a high risk of forfeiting US protection, strong Soviet hostility and possible retaliation, and the alienation of all the European states.” If Germany took such a course, it “would be playing a lone hand against the world.”

The estimators, nevertheless, believed that Bonn “will probably want to keep open what options it has for the eventual production of nuclear weapons.” It would move from hedging to playing the nuclear option only if “key German interests” had been frustrated, whether reunification, U.S. security guarantees, or if a breakup of the EC left “Germany isolated and facing an actively hostile France.” The estimators did not believe that the failure of a multilateral force would strengthen pro-nuclear sentiment in Germany; “broader trends of European politics” would have greater impact. Moreover, snowballing proliferation would have only a “marginal” impact on Germany’s policy unless the proliferant was Japan, “another previously defeated country” closely tied to the United States. Such a development could intensify pro-nuclear pressures in West Germany.

Document 12
Memorandum of Conversation, “Disarmament and Related Problems,” 1 July 1966, Secret
Source: RG 383, Subject Files 1961-1969, box 3, Germany: Disarmament and Related Problems, October 1963-June 1967
By 1966, from the U.S. perspective, MLF-type arrangements were still on “ice,” but Karl Carstens, the State Secretary at the West German Foreign Office (and later President of West Germany), thought otherwise. He told ACDA director William C. Foster that Bonn was still committed to a “hardware” solution, “if not in the form of an MLF than in some form.” Refraining from making any commitment, Foster wanted to leave the question “open.” Moreover, he noted that on the MLF the Soviets were causing “us some trouble” with their argument that with Washington placing such a “strong emphasis on its retention of the veto, we must obviously have plans to transfer the weapons.” Hinting that Bonn should consider being more flexible on hardware solutions, Foster observed that if the Soviets remained “obdurate” and an agreement was not reached, “then other countries could go nuclear with the result that the FRG, about which the Soviets seemed most concerned, could eventually be under stronger compulsion to acquire such weapons itself.”

Document 13
[Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs] U. Alexis Johnson to the Secretary of State, “Comments on the Proposed Revision of the Draft Non-Proliferation Treaty,” 11 July 1966, with enclosures
Source: RG 383, Director's Office NPT Files, box 8, Non-Proliferation, William C. Foster
With the NPT negotiations stalemated in Geneva during the summer of 1966, top U.S. officials began to drop the support for MLF-type arrangements which had blocked an understanding with Moscow.[17] Robert McNamara supported changing the U.S. position and Dean Rusk offered a proposal that McNamara endorsed, but from which others, including ACDA deputy director Adrian Fisher, dissented. Rusk’s proposed Articles I and II hinged on use of the language barring “physical access” to nuclear weapons by non-nuclear states, but Fisher argued that non-nuclear members of NATO already had routine “physical access” to nuclear weapons as part of the U.S. deployment system. According to Fisher, “under our existing arrangements, troops of our NATO allies actually transport U.S. nuclear weapons and even perform the physical work of attaching them to their own planes and missiles,” a procedure that was “safeguarded by PALs [permissive action links].” Given the realities, “it would be difficult to argue that the other nations do not have ‘physical access’ to the weapons, as that term is normally used.”

Fisher saw the 1954 Atomic Energy Act, with its prohibition of the “transfer of atomic weapons to any other country,” as providing model language for an NPT because it was compatible with the bilateral agreements with NATO members whose militaries were being trained to use U.S. nuclear weapons and delivery systems. The justification for those “custodial arrangements” was that there had been “no transfer of the weapons and that a transfer could take place only in connection with a Presidential decision to use the weapons in the face of actual or imminent hostilities.”

A negotiable NPT could include a non-transfer concept, but the Soviets would have to be brought along because their proposals emphasized “use,” “control,” or “ownership,” which were just as problematic as “physical access.” Fisher implied that non-transfer language would increase the treaty’s acceptability to Moscow because Washington would agree not to “transfer control of nuclear weapons to any non-nuclear state or to any group of states.” An agreement based on the transfer concept, however, would sanction “a federated [European] entity capable of succeeding to the nuclear assets of its constituent members,” what was called the “European option.”

Fisher proposed the following language for Article I, which would be modified through negotiations with Moscow:

Each of the nuclear weapons States party to this treaty undertakes not to transfer nuclear weapons to any non-nuclear-weapons State or to any group of States, or to take any action, by granting physical access or otherwise, that will contribute to the capability of any non-nuclear-weapons State to design develop or fabricate nuclear weapons.

Document 14
Adrian Fisher, Acting Director, ACDA, to Hays Redmon, Staff Assistant to the President, enclosing “Summary of Recent Soviet "Signals" on Non-Proliferation,” 23 September 1966
Source: RG 383, Director's Office NPT Files, box 8, Non-Proliferation, William C. Foster
ACDA Deputy Director Adrian Fisher’s report sheds light on Moscow’s growing interest in reaching a final agreement on an NPT, in part because of its recognition of “pressures growing in third countries for development of nuclear capabilities.” Moreover, Soviet diplomats were thinking along the same lines and insisted that treaty Article I should focus on barring the “transfer” of nuclear weapons to non-weapons states. Fisher, who was then in Geneva, received instructions to follow up on the “non- transfer” theme, but to act as if he was making a “personal suggestion.”[18] Accordingly, Fisher proposed a modified version of what he had suggested earlier in the month:

Each of the nuclear-weapons states party to this treaty undertake not to transfer nuclear weapons to any non-nuclear weapons state and not to assist, encourage, or induce any non-nuclear weapons state to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons.

The Soviets saw Fisher’s language as a “hopeful sign” but the matter could not go further until language excluding MLF-type arrangement had been agreed on. Moreover, the question of “existing U.S. bilateral agreements” covering nuclear deployments had to be resolved so the Soviets were satisfied that there were no “secret” arrangements providing a “cover” for West German access to nuclear weapons.

Document 15
[U.S. Permanent Representative on the Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Harlan Cleveland] “Notes on Washington Trip,” 17 October 1966, Secret
Source: RG 59, Subject-Numeric Files, 1964-1966, DEF 18-6
A series of meetings on 22 and 24 September 1966 between Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko produced agreement on the non-transfer language that had been discussed in Geneva. While top advisers initially persuaded President Johnson to reject the new language because of its implications for collective nuclear forces, a follow-up meeting with Gromyko on 10 October met his concerns as did subsequent discussion by advisers, although it would take weeks to negotiate the final language.[19]

To receive a briefing on the talks, U.S. ambassador to NATO Harlan Cleveland met with Rusk. According to the Secretary, the “Soviets should have no real difficulty in finding a common interest with us in signing a treaty which enshrines [the] two self-denying provisions” of no-transfer to non-nuclear weapons states and “no relinquishment of control by the US over US warheads.” Moreover, the Soviets had dropped objections to “institutionalizing consultation of the ''McNamara Committee" type in NATO. As for MLF arrangements, “joint ownership of nuclear warheads is out” and in testimony before Congress “he [Rusk] had come close to describing the MLF as dead.” Rusk was not altogether sure whether the Soviets would make a deal, but he would not brief the West Germans on the results of the talks until it was clear that Moscow found the negotiations “interesting” enough to pursue.

Documents 16 A-B
Final Language for Article I

Document 16A: Message to the President from Secretary Rusk, 26 November 1966, Secret
Source: RG 59, Subject-Numeric Files, 1964-1966, Def 18-4.
By the end of November, after a long process of negotiations, the Soviets had come up with a formulation for the non-transfer principle that Washington could accept: while it ruled out MLF-type arrangements (no weapons transfer to any recipient “whatsoever directly or indirectly”) it left open other European collective alternatives.[20] Rusk reported to President Johnson that it was a “good formulation” that would be “acceptable” to the incipient West German “Grand Coalition” government.

Document 16B
Adrian Fisher, Acting Director [ACDA] and Leonard S. Meeker, Legal Adviser to the Secretary, “Revised Draft Language for a Non-Proliferation Treaty,”28 November 1966, enclosing Memorandum for the President, “Suggested Language for the Non-Proliferation Treaty: Relationship to Existing and Possible Allied Nuclear Arrangements,” Secret [Sent to President Johnson on 28 November 1966]
Source: RG 383, Director's Office NPT Files, box 4, Non-Proliferation Treaty. United States, 1966
Further review by ACDA and State Department lawyers concluded that the language would “not disturb existing bilateral relationships,” that is, arrangements to provide U.S. nuclear weapons stockpiled in NATO countries for the use of West German forces and other allies in the event of war.

The draft article I “would have no bearing on the decisions of the NATO countries to go to war” because if that happened, the NPT would be irrelevant and the United States would be free to transfer weapons to its non-nuclear allies. Non-transfer would also apply to the United Kingdom, the U.S.’s closest nuclear ally, but would not disturb existing arrangements to share nuclear weapons information.  The language would not prohibit European multilateral arrangements involving sharing delivery systems, as long as nuclear weapons were not transferred. The language would also not “bar succession by a federated European state to the nuclear status of one of its former components.”

Document 17
Memorandum of Conversation, “German Concern Over Draft NPT Text,” 29 December 1966, Secret
Source: RG 59, Subject-Numeric Files, 1964-1966, DEF 18-4
Once Washington and Moscow had solidified agreement on the non-transfer language, the Johnson administration brought top West German officials into the picture. Washington was dealing with a new coalition government representing Christian Democrats, the Christian Social Union, and Social Democrats, with former West Berlin Mayor Willy Brandt as foreign minister. One of the first West German reactions was the alarm expressed by Ambassador Knappstein, who worried that the draft articles would foreclose “all of the available options for participation in nuclear defense,” including a “future MLF,” sharing delivery systems, “two-key” arrangements, and the ‘McNamara Committee’ (nuclear planning group).” That the “draft text could be used to stop the process of European integration” was another fear, because the “NPT as presently drafted could be used to prevent [a united Europeans state] from acquiring nuclear weapons.”

After Knappstein acknowledged that his “fears might be unfounded,” Rusk assured him that “we had no doubt at all that the NFT text we have in mind would not affect the two-key system, the McNamara Committee, or the right of a future federated European State to possess nuclear weapons.” Rusk also agreed with West German suggestions that U.S. and German experts meet to discuss the treaty so that all had a “clear common interpretation.”

Document 18
Memorandum of Conversation, “Draft Articles of Non-Proliferation Treaty,” with draft treaty attached, 13 January 1967, Secret
Source: RG 59, Subject-Numeric Files, 1967-1969, DEF 18-6
During mid-January, ACDA director Foster met with Ambassador Knappstein for an extended, if not exhaustive, discussion of the NPT. Topics included the treaty’s compatibility with a future European federation, consultations by the NATO Nuclear Planning Group, the definition of a nuclear weapon, and the prohibition of national control over “peaceful nuclear explosives.” Among the topics of interest to Knappstein was whether the NPT would prohibit a West German veto over U.S. nuclear weapons shot from German soil. Foster made the standard assurance that there would be no prohibition because “what is not in the treaty is not prohibited.” Any such veto would be a matter for agreement between the U.S. President and the West German Chancellor. The provision of such a veto would later be the subject of a U.S-West German agreement reached during 1968.

On the matter of a European federation, Foster and his colleagues made assurances that Knappstein found “impressive.” A central point was that the “draft does not prohibit non-nuclear-weapon states from joining with nuclear-weapon states to form a new state that would have its own nuclear weapons.”

Foster was careful to point out that there was “no agreed text,” and that everything “was subject to consultation.” This meeting was only the beginning of an often difficult U.S.-West German dialogue, which continued with more meetings, including discussions with Foreign Minister Willy Brandt, to address Bonn’s concerns and objections.

Document 19
Memorandum of Conversation, “Non-Proliferation Treaty and Other Arms Control Matters,” 17 January 1967, Secret
Source: RG 59, Subject-Numeric Files, 1967-1969, DEF 18-4
The subject of a European federation under the NPT came up in a discussion between U.S. negotiator George Bunn and Soviet diplomat Yuli M. Vorontsov. Information about the recent U.S.-West German discussions had leaked to the press and Vorontsov “wanted to know what we had told the Germans with respect to participation in a European nuclear force.” Bunn told him that the “Germans were concerned that nothing in the treaty stand in the way of steps which might ultimately produce a United States of Europe.” That meant that the NPT could not stop a European federation “from succeeding to the nuclear assets of France or the U.K. if they were consolidated into the new state.” That, Bunn argued, was a “small price” for Moscow to pay if it wanted West Germany to sign the treaty.

Vorontsov said he did not agree or disagree and was not sure what Moscow would say. But he did allow that “FRG agreement to a non-proliferation treaty would be a concrete action [that] the new government could take to evidence its desire to improve relations with its Eastern neighbors.”

Document 20
U.S. Department of State, “Interpretations Regarding Draft Non-Proliferation Treaty Formulations,” 22 February 1967, Secret
Source: RG 383, Director's Office NPT Files. box 3, Nonproliferation Treaty Germany Jan-Feb-March 1967
As an assurance to the Germans and other NATO allies, ACDA and the State Department drew up a memorandum on the interpretation of the draft treaty. In keeping with previous assurances and the general understanding with the Soviet Union, the State Department maintained that the NPT was consistent with transfer of delivery vehicles, nuclear consultations, the current arrangements for nuclear weapons deployments in NATO Europe, and the emergence of a nuclear-armed federated European state. In that respect, the key point was that the treaty “deals only with what is prohibited, not what is permitted.” Other interpretations related to anti-ballistic missile weapons, the application of IAEA safeguards, peaceful nuclear explosives, and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. With respect to the latter, the NPT “would not prohibit any non-nuclear weapons state from proceeding with the development of a fast-breeder reactor.” In other words, a non-nuclear weapons state could develop plutonium-fueled reactors under appropriate IAEA safeguards.

Document 21
G[ottfried] William Moser, ACDA/Bureau of International Relations, “Consultations with the FRG,” 1 March 1967, Secret
Source: RG 383, Director's Office NPT Files, box 3, NPT Germany Jan-Feb-March 1967
U.S. consultations notwithstanding, the NPT met strong criticism in West Germany. According to the authors of an INR report, which cited a variety of concerns, from U.S.-Soviet backroom deals to industrial espionage against its civil nuclear industry, many West German “observers are puzzled, piqued, and angered by what they consider the rapid turn-around in US policies and priorities -- from urging FRG participation in some kind of MLF to exhorting FRG accession to the NPT.” With West German chancellor Kiesinger arguing that Bonn had not been adequately informed, ACDA official G. William Moser looked deeply into the chronology of U.S.-West German interactions, including the “rapid turn-around.” Noting that Washington had “stood foursquare with [the FRG] on the question of maintaining the MLF option under a non-proliferation treaty,” he highlighted a decision made by Rusk on 18 October 1966 to defer consultations with Bonn until he was sure that the Soviets were “serious” about the new Article I language. Moser concluded that Washington could best respond to Kiesinger’s charges by explaining Rusk’s “rationale” in October 1966. Although consultations with Bonn have been as “continuous and as complete as circumstances will allow,” Moser acknowledged that “we are now victimized by our previous record of staunch and forthright support of German interests prior to last Fall.”

Document 22
U.S. Embassy Bonn telegram 10500 to State Department, “Ambassador Foster’s Meeting with Chancellor Kiesinger,” 10 March 1967, Secret
Source: RG 383, Director's Office NPT Files, box 3, NPT Germany Jan-Feb-March 1967
To try to strengthen West German confidence, ACDA director William C. Foster met with Chancellor Kiesinger, who expressed concern about the danger of “erosion” and “uncertainty” in U.S.-West German relations and the need for more time for consultations. Kiesinger’s “own idea was that it would have been better …to have discussed all aspects of non-proliferation ‘behind locked doors’ before any intention of signing the treaty had become public.” Acknowledging the “[unfortunate] misunderstanding” between Bonn and Washington, Foster tried to play down the problem and pledged close consultations on the NPT’s text. Yet, he wanted to “table a draft as quickly as possible” because non-aligned governments were “impatient and fearful that final drafts are being worked out behind their backs.”

Dismissing Foster’s apprehension about the neutrals, Kiesinger worried that even if Bonn signed the treaty Moscow “might continue to make the same accusations against the Germans,” referring to Soviet claims about West German revanchism and nuclear aspirations. While Kiesinger did not “believe that the present Soviet leaders intend to use threats or blackmail against Germany, the situation could change” and Germany “must consider ‘how we could defend ourselves being ourselves defenseless.’” Kiesinger’s reluctance to forswear a nuclear option was consistent with the 1966 intelligence estimate that Bonn “will probably want to keep open what options it has for the eventual production of nuclear weapons.” Kiesinger said that West Germany would rely on NATO and the United States, but he wanted to know how Washington “saw the future.”

None of this made Foster happy because the “revision of operative paragraphs” could cause “problems not only with the Soviets but with our other Western allies.” All the same, he signed off on a press statement declaring “the readiness of the American government to continue consultations with the Federal Republic and with all of the NATO members.”

Document 23
U.S. Department of State Airgram CA-6579 to U.S. Embassy Moscow, “Kosygin's Remarks on Non-Proliferation in London,”21 March 1967, Confidential
Source: RG 59, Subject-Numeric Files 1967-1969, DEF 18-6
When visiting London for meetings with the British, Soviet Prime Minister Alexei Kosygin gave a press conference that included a tough statement about the necessity for West Germany’s signature on the NPT. What he said surely represented the feelings of Soviet leaders shaped by bitter historical experience (and his British hosts expressed no disagreements.) With different translations available, from Pravda and the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), State Department interpreters used the Voice of America recording of the press conference to prepare the following:

As to the Federal Republic of Germany, I must say that whether she wants this or not, such a document should be signed, because we will not allow the Federal Republic of Germany to possess nuclear weapons. We will do everything necessary to ensure that she not possess them, and will take measures designed to prevent the possibility of her possessing nuclear weapons; we say this with all determination.

As earnest as it was, Kosygin’s heavy-handed remarks may have made some West German conservatives even more resistant. Soviet pressure notwithstanding, the West German government did not sign the NPT for more than two years after Kosygin's statement.

Document 24
Ambassador Foster’s Briefing of Vice President on NPT,” 27 March 1967, with enclosure, “Questions Most Likely to be Asked on NPT,” 25 March 1967, Secret
Source: RG 383, Director's Office NPT Files, box 4, United States Non-Proliferation January 3, 1967-March 29, 1967 Book # 3
In part to reassure West German leaders about the NPT, Vice President Hubert Humphrey traveled to Western Europe during the early spring of 1967. Before he met with Kiesinger, he received a briefing from ACDA director Foster. Foster said that he was willing to meet Germany’s concerns about such issues as protecting its civil nuclear industry and a future European federation but their understandings about them could not be formalized in a U.S.-FRG “bilateral treaty.” Moreover, noting that Washington had to discuss the NPT with other countries that could “otherwise go nuclear,” such as India, Japan, Sweden, and Israel, Foster worried that a long delay caused by consultations could “jeopardize the chance of the rest of the world getting signed up.”

Humphrey told Foster that President Johnson had instructed him to tell the Germans that he did not intend “to do them in,” but that the treaty was a “high priority.” According to Humphrey, Johnson wanted to “satisfy legitimate concerns” but it was not possible to “stall and stall.” Humphrey later commented that the Germans “did not wish to kill NPT but the coalition had produced a nervous government.”

A key problem was the role of safeguards. The Soviets had accepted the necessity for inspections of nuclear facilities, bur EURATOM, the European Community’s nuclear organization, wanted to do its own inspections in Western Europe, objecting to “anyone else looking over its shoulders.” Foster and Humphrey agreed on the need for the International Atomic Energy Agency to verify EURATOM inspections, so it would not be just a matter of “allies inspecting allies.” The language for Article III on safeguards was one of the most complex issues in the negotiations, with a final U.S.-Soviet agreement not reached until January 1968.

Document 25
U.S. Embassy Bonn telegram 11806 to State Department, “Vice President’s Visit III: Non-Proliferation Treaty,” 6 April 1967, Secret
Source: Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library, National Security Files, International Meetings and Travel, box 26
During this discussion with Humphrey, Kiesinger declared that the NPT was a “serious problem,” but said that he disagreed with some West German conservatives that it was “was not politically acceptable.” West Germany did not want “national control” of nuclear weapons and acknowledged that France “did not want Germany to have control over nuclear arms.” For Kiesinger, the problem was the Soviet Union, “which for years, and without any reason had attacked, slandered and threatened” West Germany. The latter wanted to improve relations with the Soviets and had made suggestions about doing so but “the only result had been a Soviet note accusing Germany of nuclear plotting and revanchist plans.” Moreover, Kosygin had said in London that Bonn would have to sign the NPT “whether it liked it or not.”

Humphrey agreed that the Soviet note was “vituperative” and that the Soviets may have used that tone to satisfy the East German government. Neither Humphrey nor Kiesinger acknowledged the possibility that by signing the treaty, Bonn could improve its relationship with the Soviet Union. In any event, the negative approach toward the NPT that Kiesinger and other Christian Democrats were taking led State Department intelligence to wonder whether Bonn was trying to “kill off the treaty project.”

Document 26
U.S. Embassy Paris telegram 15735 to State Department, “Vice President’s Visit: Meeting with General de Gaulle on April 7 – Nonproliferation Treaty,” 7 April 1967, Secret
Source: RG 59, Conference Files, box 438, CF 142 Vice President's Visit to Europe; March 1967 Vol. III Memoranda of Conversation
During his meeting with French president de Gaulle, Vice President Humphrey said that Washington knew the “French position” of opposition to the NPT, but wanted to know what de Gaulle thought the “German attitude” should be. De Gaulle said that each country had to decide for itself, but he saw two issues relating to Germany. France had “complete support” for the idea of a treaty “further limit[ing the] possibility of Germany acquiring nuclear arms.” Further, French policy toward Germany would “radically change” if West Germany acquired nuclear weapons. Yet, the discriminatory nature of the NPT created a “psychological” problem for Germany. He did not draw out the implications, but Humphrey could see it for himself.

Document 27
Memorandum of Conversation, “Non-Proliferation Treaty,”12 April 1967, Secret
Source: RG 59, SN 67-69, Def 18-6
Foster’s discussion with Norwegian Ambassador Arne Gunneng about the state of the NPT negotiations and the U.S. consultations with West Germany illuminated the role of historical memory in the thinking of policymakers. Not sure where the talks with Bonn would end up, Foster observed that the “FRG, in view of its past history, would pay a high price internationally if the NPT undertaking failed because of its attitude.” After Foster noted that Italy had also been “inflexible,” Gunneng observed “that if the two former Axis partners become responsible for blocking progress toward the NPT it would cost the two a great deal internationally” the Norwegian Government, he said, “would consider this a very serious development.”

Document 28
U.S. Embassy Bonn telegram 12582 to State Department, “NPT—Duration,” 20 April 1967, Secret [partly garbled transmission]
Source: RG 59, Subject-Numeric File 1967-1969, DEF 18-6
A message from the Bonn embassy highlighted an issue that had been raised by West German diplomats and which Ambassador McGhee correctly believed represented thinking at the top: Chancellor Kiesinger’s objection to an NPT “of unlimited duration.” According to McGhee, with his “deep-seated misgivings about the possible effects of [the treaty] on Germany’s long-range security interests,” Kiesinger believed that an unlimited duration treaty “would deprive Germany forever of the ultimate means of self-defense.” While Kiesinger saw no need for nuclear weapons under present conditions, should NATO ever dissolve, Germany would find itself in the “position of being exposed to the East and therefore deprived of the wherewithal of a great power.” If that accurately represented Kiesinger’s state of mind he was unlikely to sign the NPT and he did not.

Offering various arguments to overcome German objections, one of the Embassy’s suggestions was that in the unlikely event that “present day security arrangements [were] altered to Germany’s disadvantage it would have every right to invoke its withdrawal right,” because its “‘supreme national interests’ would obviously be involved.” The duration issue became highly important to the West German position on the NPT and U.S. counter-arguments would prove unavailing.

Document 29
The President’s Trip to Germany (Chancellor Adenauer's Funeral) April 1967 Background Paper, “The Non-Proliferation Treaty and Germany,” 21 April 1967, Secret
Source: RG 59, Conference Files, box 444, CF 167 President's Trip to Germany
During mid-April 1967, a West German delegation came to Washington for a series of discussions of the draft NPT. The talks produced detailed West German suggestions which Washington incorporated into the draft. The document reproduced here included changes in the preambular section responding to Bonn’s interest in the use of “black boxes” or “instruments” in the safeguards process that would minimize the role of human inspectors and protect commercial secrets. The Germans also influenced language in Articles III (safeguards) and IV (amendments and the NPT review conference). Supporting all of the new language, ACDA and the State Department wanted to present some of it later once a draft had been tabled.

The pithy cover memorandum reviewed the sources of West German discontent with the NPT. Acknowledging that accommodating Bonn was important, it was nevertheless “up to Kiesinger to decide whether German interests can be reconciled to the very concept of the Treaty” in the face of “a critical and vocal press … and an influential nucleus of hard core opponents to the Treaty.”

Document 30
Memorandum of Conversation, “Non-Proliferation Treaty,” 26 April 1967, Secret
Source: Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library, Francis M. Bator Papers, box 10, Non-proliferation Treaty April 1967 (1 of 4)
The death of former chancellor Konrad Adenauer brought President Johnson and Secretary of State Rusk to the funeral, which provided an occasion for more conversation on the NPT. Acknowledging to Rusk that Bonn had raised “too many issues,” Foreign Minister Brandt later said that “British Prime Minister Wilson had jokingly spoken to him yesterday of 52 amendments made by the Americans as a result of German objections,” but actually “there were only 25.”

Brandt mentioned that Kiesinger had brought up another problem: a specific duration for the treaty. With his concern about the NPT’s discriminatory nature, Brandt believed that it could be ameliorated by steps toward disarmament by the nuclear powers. With a five-year duration, “all participants would be under the obligation to use this time period for the purpose of developing disarmament measures further.” Rusk agreed that “limited steps” were possible but also suggested that when the Germans made a signing statement they “could agree that [the NPT] would have to be reconsidered in the event there was a change in the security arrangements of NATO.”

Proposing a short duration, Ambassador Knappstein argued against the view that if the treaty “expired in, say five, years, everyone would immediately start producing nuclear weapons.” But his case for a short duration was farfetched: if after 8 years “technological development had reached a stage [where] it would become possible to excavate the foundation for a house by means of a small nuclear charge,” West Germans would conclude that the NPT was a barrier to “[taking] advantage” of such a new development. He did not explain how “a small nuclear charge” differed from a nuclear weapon.

During this meeting, Brandt and Rusk discussed the French attitude toward a West German signature on the NPT. Brandt said that De Gaulle “expected” Bonn to sign but if that de Gaulle was asked for advice, he would recommend that Germany not sign (probably because he saw the treaty as discriminatory).

Document 31
Memorandum of Conversation, 26 April 1967, Secret
Source: Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library, National Security Files, Files of Walt Rostow, box 12, "Chrono [Adenauer Funeral], also available at Declassified Documents Reference Service; expurgated version in FRUS, 1964-1968, Volume XV, Germany and Berlin (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1999)
President Johnson and Chancellor Kiesinger held discussions before and after the Adenauer funeral. They followed up their first discussion on 24 April with a lengthy conversation on the state of U.S.-German relations, Johnson’s irritation with German critical press coverage and public opinion (“Once a wife started to believe that her husband might be unfaithful the situation was dangerous.”), Kiesinger’s worries about the NPT and the withdrawal of U.S. forces, Johnson’s concern about the high costs of keeping troops in Western Europe, and U.S. interest in a “different relationship with the Soviet Union.” On the NPT, Kiesinger’s brought up the problem of unlimited duration but a central objection was whether the “FRG could accept the treaty out of the consideration of its relationship with the Soviet Union.” Recalling that West Germany had forsworn nuclear weapons in 1954, his implication was that he did not mind making such commitments to the West, but the Soviet Union was a different matter.

Johnson also mentioned the 25 changes in the treaty text to show that Washington had gone far to accommodate West German concerns, but he allowed that the NPT needed more work and assured Kiesinger that he would consult with him before he considered signing it. Having advised Kiesinger to ignore both William C. Foster and Alexei Kosygin because “neither … was President,” Johnson said that Bonn was a “trusted ally” and pledged that the “US would stand by his side against any aggression by the Soviet Union.” Johnson “took the Chancellor’s hand and shook it.”

Document 32
Memorandum of Conversation, “German Views on NPT and NATO,” 10 May 1967, Secret
Source: RG 383, Director's Office NPT Files, box 3, Nonproliferation Treaty. Germany 5/9/67-12/27/67
A conversation between Rusk and Baron Guttenberg, a top official on Kiesinger’s staff and the CDU foreign policy spokesperson, demonstrated that accepting Bonn’s suggestions for the NPT draft had not made it more acceptable. Guttenberg emphasized the importance of a limited duration clause and the need for the Soviet Union to make a “counter-concession” in exchange for a West German signature on an NPT. CDU politicians would continue to make the “counter-concession” argument and Rusk disputed it, noting that “A great many people would interpret German intransigence on the nonproliferation treaty as an indication that there are some in Germany with ambitions for FRG to acquire national nuclear weapons.” Guttenberg denied that was so, to which Rusk responded that a limited duration NPT would “act as an incentive to various countries to get ready to go nuclear as soon as the treaty has run its course.”

Document 33
State Department telegram 50379 to U.S. Embassy Bonn, “NPT,” 6 October 1967
Source: RG 59, Subject-Numeric File 1967-1969, DEF 18-6
In the fall of 1967, with complex negotiations over the wording of the safeguards article still unfolding, the West German government continued to worry about an unacceptable NPT and asked Washington to “engage itself more actively for accomplishment of FRG requests considered essential if NPT to be acceptable to Germany.” Meeting with Deputy Under Secretary Eugene Rostow, West German Embassy official Georg Lilienfeld listed desiderata, including a limited y duration, assurances against Soviet blackmail, acceptable language for the safeguards article, “more balanced rights and obligations,” and non-recognition of the German Democratic Republic. For Bonn, the top priority was language on treaty duration and Rostow observed that Washington would be flexible and even the Soviets might compromise in the end, although Soviet negotiator Alexei Roshchin had said that it should be for a “1,000 years.” In January 1968, just before the treaty was tabled and issues such as safeguards language had been resolved, the Soviets agreed to a 25-year duration with a provision for renewal by a review conference.

Document 34
U.S. Embassy Bonn telegram 7557 to State Department, “FRG Defense Council Meeting on NPT,” 23 January 1968
Source: RG 59, Subject-Numeric Files 1967-1969, DEF 18-6
According to a Foreign Ministry source, the imminent tabling of the NPT at the ENDC produced a “heavy and despondent atmosphere” at the cabinet-level Defense Council. While recognizing that the agreement on Article III was “progress,” Kiesinger continued to criticize the treaty’s “inflexibility,” which he saw as a danger to West Germany’s “longer term” security interests. Kiesinger, however, professed willingness to consider signing the Treaty, even to be an early signer, if Washington could comply with a few basic “requests,” such as “safeguards against Soviet pressure” and some improvements in Article III. Yet, when he considered what kind of a speech he could make in the Bundestag to urge signing, he was “disappointed and frustrated that he is not in a position to report that the FRG succeeded in getting satisfaction on flexibility.” Finance Minister Franz-Josef Strauss remained a strong opponent of the NPT, arguing that if the U.S. pulled troops out of Western Europe, Bonn “could not afford to be without a nuclear defense.”

Document 35
U.S. Embassy Bonn Telegram 14922 to State Department, “Eppler on NPT,” 26 July 1968, Confidential
Source: RG 59, Subject-Numeric Files 1967-1969, DEF 18-6
With the UN General Assembly’s approval of the Treat in June 1968, signing ceremonies were held in London, Moscow, and Washington on 1 July. By November, over 80 countries had signed the NPT, although it would enter into force only when ratified by 43 nations, including the three nuclear weapons states (U.S., Soviet Union, United Kingdom). West Germany was one of the non-signatories. Erhard Eppler, a Social Democratic member of the Bundestag, gave embassy staffers his perspective on the political status of the NPT. Highly critical of Kiesinger for his “hold-back tactics” on signing and ratification, Eppler believed that the longer the delay the more likely that the treaty “would become entangled in election campaign politics.” In that connection, he saw Strauss and the German right’s opposition to the NPT as “motivated by a desire to outmaneuver” the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party for right-wing votes.

The Social Democrats, by contrast, were the only political force that could put “NPT policy onto a rational course, where Germany would gracefully accept the unavoidable and perhaps gain some good will” instead of feeding suspicions that the Germans wanted the bomb. Moreover, by signing, Bonn could move forward on Ostpolitik and weaken “Soviet exploitation of anti-German feeling.” In a published article, Keppler had made related points, including the argument that signing would benefit the Federal Republic as a “supplier to the underdeveloped world of power from nuclear energy sources.”

Document 36
Central Intelligence Agency, Directorate of Intelligence, “Prospects for the Nonproliferation Treaty,” 27 November 1968, Secret
Source: CIA declassification release
According to this CIA evaluation, the West German governing coalition was so divided and so antagonistic to the Soviet Union in light of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia on 20 August that action was “unlikely for the time being.” Opponents were “trot[ting] out” familiar arguments, such as lack of “substantive linkage” with disarmament and no assurances for West German security, but the NPT “still has friends,” including Willy Brandt who saw it as “as an important adjunct to their policies of détente.”

Document 37
Thomas Hughes, Director, Office of Intelligence and Research, to Secretary of State, “FRG - Further Delay on NPT Signature,” Intelligence Note-327, 30 April 1969, Secret
Source: RG 59, Subject-Numeric Files, 1967-1969, DEF 18-6
The election of Richard M. Nixon brought to power a president who was not strongly committed to the NPT, but did expect Bonn to sign it, although he would not exert any pressure towards that end. That did not change West German internal political dynamics. Divisions within the coalition government persisted; the Christian Social Union was strongly opposed while the Christian Democrats were split—and the Kiesinger government postponed a decision on whether to sign the Treaty (partly out of fear that signing would give votes to the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party [NPD], which also opposed the Treaty.[21] With even Social Democratic Foreign Minister Willy Brand taking a cautious approach, State Department intelligence ruled out the chances of a West German signature until after the parliamentary elections in the fall. If the Social Democrats and the Free Democrats won an “unexpectedly large vote … [,] an early signature [would be] much more likely.”

Noting that the same objections to the NPT remained, INR opined that some West German politicians were using them “to rationalize an opposition that is really based on nationalistic emotions and on the political advantages to be derived from playing upon these emotions.” A telling example of emotional nationalist objections was Christian Social Union leader Franz-Joseph Strauss’s statement that signing the NPT would “constitute a ‘Versailles of cosmic proportions.’" (His underlying fear was that a “Versailles” could lead to another Hitler.[22])

Document 38
Memorandum of Conversation, “US-FRG Consultations on NPT,” 30 October 1969, Memorandum Attached, dated 5 November 1969, Secret
Source: RG 59, Subject-Numeric Files 1967-1969, DEF 18-6
With his role in the National Socialist regime dogging him, among other problems, Kurt Kiesinger’s re-election bid failed. After the Social Democrats and Free Democrats won the votes to form a ruling coalition, Chancellor Willy Brandt was determined to move forward on the NPT.[23] In late October 1969, U.S. and German officials held a series of consultations in Washington to discuss interpretive and political issues, including unrestrained access to civilian nuclear technology and the need for a public U.S. assurance on the importance of NATO’s “continued existence.” The understandings would be embodied in a memorandum and a statement to be released to the State Department at the time of the signing. During the consultations, the chief West German official, Helmut Roth, Chief of the Foreign Office’s Disarmament Section, reviewed the progress of the talks with Secretary of State Rogers. Roth emphasized the importance of the “reaffirmation” of U.S. security commitments “at a time when [the Federal Republic] was signing a renunciation of nuclear weapons for its own defense.”

Documents 39 A-B
Signing the Treaty

Document 39A: State Department telegram 199360 to U.S. Embassy Bonn, “FRG and Swiss NPT Signatures,” 28 November 1969, Limited Official Use
Source: RG 59, Subject-Numeric Files 1967-1969, DEF 18-6
On 28 November 2969, West German Ambassador to the United States Rolf Pauls signed the NPT at the State Department and delivered a statement and a detailed note. At the signing Secretary Rogers spoke about the treaty’s value, the “historic” importance of the West German signature, the U.S. understanding that the UN Charter “confers no right to intervene by force unilaterally in the Federal Republic of Germany,” and a reaffirmation of U.S. security guarantees to NATO and the Federal Republic. Helmut Sonnenfeldt on the staff of National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger found Roger’s statement “painful in the extreme” because it referred to the NPT “with the rhetoric of the last administration,” but recognized that it was too late to change the language because the Germans had already agreed to it. This action in no way changed the thinking of German conservatives, who continued to resent the Treaty as U.S.-Soviet “atomic complicity

Document 39B
U.S. Embassy Bonn telegram 15293, “NPT – Text of FRG Note on NPT Signature,” 26 November 1969, Limited Official
Source: RG 59, Subject-Numeric Files 1967-1969, DEF 18-6
There was one more act in the drama; as noted, West German ratification of the Treaty depended on the results of EURATOM-IAEA safeguards negotiations. That was a complex process that was not resolved until 1973. Once West German experts had concluded that the safeguards agreement was consistent with national interests, the West German parliament ratified it in 1974. Nevertheless, ratification of the NPT itself was to be coordinated through parallel actions by the other EURATOM states. Owing to the Italian government’s hesitations about the NPT during 1974-1975, Bonn did not ratify it until the spring of 1975, when Rome finally took action.[24]


[1]. See Susanna Schrafstetter, “The Long Shadow of the Past: History, Memory and the Debate over West Germany's Nuclear Status, 1954-69,” History & Memory 16 (2004): 118-145.

[2]. See, for example, Susanna Schrafstetter and Stephen Twigge, Avoiding Armageddon: Europe, the United States, and the Struggle for Nuclear Nonproliferation, 1945-1970 (Westport: Praeger, 2004), 155.

[3]. For West German thinking and perceptions of U.S. policy, see Andreas Lutsch, “In Favor of ‘Effective’ and ‘Non-Discriminatory’ Non-Dissemination Policy: The FRG and the NPT Negotiation Process (1962-1966),” in Roland Popp, Liviu Horowitz, and Andreas Wenger, eds. Negotiating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (London: Routledge, 2017), 36-57.

[4]. For the negotiations over the “nontransfer” language, see George Bunn, Arms Control by Committee: Managing Arms Control with The Russians (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992), 59-82.

[5]. For an interpretation emphasizing coercive tactics, see Gene Gerzhoy, “Alliance Coercion and Nuclear Restraint: How the United States Thwarted West Germany's Nuclear Ambitions,” International Security 39 (2015): 91-129. For Jonas Schneider’s critique and Gerzhoy’s reply, see “The United States and West Germany’s Quest for Nuclear Weapons,” International Security 41 (2016): 182-185.

[6]. For West German objections and the strategy of delay, see Schrafstetter and Twigge, Avoiding Armageddon, 182-185, For Brandt and the NPT, see William Glenn Gray, “Abstinence and Ostpolitik: Brandt’s Government and the Nuclear Question,” in Carol Fink and Bernd Schaefer, eds., Ostpolitik, 1969-1974 (Washington, D.C.: German Historical Institute, 2009), 244-268. Also helpful for shedding light on West German politics and policy is Jonas Schneider’s, “The Diffusion of Non-Nuclear Postures among U.S. Allies – Explaining West Germany’s Nuclear Reversal,” Paper prepared for the International Studies Association Annual Convention, San Francisco, CA, April 3-6, 2013. Bonn was not the only European government with objections to the NPT; see Leopoldo Nuti, ‘“A Turning Point in Postwar Foreign Policy’: Italy and the NPT Negotiations,” 1967-1969,” in Popp, Horovitz, and Wenger, eds., Negotiating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, 77-96.

[7]. Tristan Volpe and Ulrich Kühn, “Germany's Nuclear Education: Why a Few Elites Are Testing a Taboo,” Washington Quarterly 40 (2017): 7-27.

[8]. For a review of the issues, see Ulrich Kühn and Tristan Volpe, “Keine Atombombe Bitte: Why Germany Should Not Go Nuclear,” Foreign Affairs96 (2017): 103-112, and

[9]. Max Fisher, “European Nuclear Weapons Program Would Be Legal, German Review Finds,” The New York Times, 5 July 2017.

[10]. For the test ban controversy, see Schrafstetter, “The Long Shadow of the Past,”131-132, and Marc Trachtenberg, A Constructed Peace, 394-395.

[11]. For the ANF proposal, see Schrafstetter and Twigge, Avoiding Armageddon, 145-154, and Matthew Jones, The Official History of the UK Nuclear Deterrent: Volume II: The Labor Government and the Polaris Program, 1964-1970 (London: Routledge, 2017).

[12]. For interpretations of the Gilpatric report, see Shane J. Maddock, Nuclear Apartheid: The Quest for American Atomic Supremacy from World War II to the Present (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010), 237-244, and Hal Brands, “Rethinking Nonproliferation: LBJ, the Gilpatric Committee, and U.S. National Security Policy,” Journal of Cold War Studies 8 (2006): 83-113.

[13]. Maddock, Nuclear Apartheid, 263.

[14]. According to Piotr Wandycz, Winiewicz was a “prewar journalist of rightist leanings, later an official of the Polish government in London specializing in German affairs, and in 1946-1955 Warsaw's ambassador to Washington, a career that smacked of opportunism. Winiewicz was undoubtedly an intelligent man, and foreign observers commented on his elegant manners, command of languages, and wide political horizons, as well as on his wit and occasionally mischievous behavior. They did not doubt his Polish patriotism.” See Piotr Wandycz, “Adam Rapacki and the Search for European Security,” in Gordon A. Craig and Francis L. Loewenheim, eds., The Diplomats (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), 294. Thanks to Douglas Selvage for the reference.

[15]. See Douglas Selvage, “The Warsaw Pact and Nuclear Nonproliferation 1963-1965,” Cold War International History Project Working Paper No., April 2001.

[16]. Soviet opposition had not been unflinching because during 1963-1964 Nikita Khrushchev considered the possibility of dropping objections to the MLF in exchange for a nonproliferation agreement, a possibility that Poland's communist leader, Władysław Gomułka, strongly opposed and ultimately beat back. Ibid, especially 3-4, 7, and 12-14.

[17]. For background, see Maddock, Nuclear Apartheid, 262-268.

[18]. George Bunn, Arms Control by Committee,73.

[19]]. Ibid.,78-79.

[20]. Ibid., 79.

[21]. Schrafstetter, “The Long Shadow of the Past,” 135.

[22]. Schrafstetter, “The Long Shadow of the Past,” 127.

[23]. See Gray, “Abstinence and Ostpolitik,” 251-258.

[24]. For the Italian debate and the implications for West Germany, see Leopoldo Nuti, “Italy as a Hedging State? The Problematic Ratification of the Non-Proliferation Treaty,” in Elisabetta Bini and Igor Londero, editors, Nuclear Italy: An International History of Italian Nuclear Policies during the Cold War (Trieste, EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste, 2017), 119-139

Source:Ocnus.net 2018

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