159. Aide-mémoire, January 101

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The Soviet Government to which considerations of the U.S. Government on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons were transmitted at the request of Secretary of State Dean Rusk, appreciates such step of the U.S. Government which it had taken in a preliminary and confidential manner before the discussion in the NATO Council. The Soviet Government has studied these considerations with all attention and would like, on its part, to give its view on this important question.

We understand the situation in such a way that the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. are in agreement in principle as to the necessity of preventing, in the interests of reducing risk of thermonuclear war, further proliferation of nuclear weapons. It is important that an agreement on this question should lead precisely to this aim and should not create possibilities for actual proliferation of nuclear weapons among other states under this or that pretext.

I. The American draft declaration speaks of the commitment on the part of the U.S., U.S.S.R., Britain and France “not to transfer any nuclear weapons—directly or indirectly through military alliances—into the national control of individual states not now possessing such weapons” and of the commitment not to render assistance to these states in the manufacture of nuclear weapons. The direction this wording gives corresponds in general to the aim which was meant in the course of the Soviet-American exchange of opinion. More attentively thus one should see to it that the aim of non-proliferation of nuclear [Facsimile Page 2] weapons among non-nuclear states is achieved in practice. But here we have several essential remarks to make in connection with the U.S. proposals.

At present there are two main nuclear powers—the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. A certain nuclear potential has been created by Britain. Some types of nuclear weapons are possessed by France. Judging from the mentioned text and commentaries on it the American draft does not prevent the U.S., Britain and France from placing nuclear weapons in the custody of units of “a multinational defense force” within the framework of NATO. In this way through the NATO machinery is [Typeset Page 414] allowed actual equipment with nuclear weapons of forces of the non-nuclear states of this military bloc and, above all, of those of the FRG which has the largest forces assigned to the NATO command and which especially seeks after nuclear weapons.

Reservations to the effect that nuclear weapons could not be deployed or used on the basis of national decision of any government not now possessing such weapons scarcely change the state of things because after all he commands the weapons who has them in his hands. Obviously no systems of paper or verbal control would provide adequate guarantee that, for instance, the FRG which openly expresses territorial claims to neighboring states and which takes a manifestly hostile position toward the GDR, the Soviet Union and other peaceful states would not commit to action nuclear weapons even if it had received them on the [Facsimile Page 3] so-called “multinational basis” when it considers the moment appropriate for realizing its plans of revision of the results of World War II.

For the Soviet Union these or those agreements within the NATO concerning nuclear weapons cannot serve as guarantee of its interests. And even those people in the West who set hopes on such agreements could be reminded of the perfidy committed not once in history by German militarist circles against peaceful nations. A striking example of that is the policy of the Hitlerit Germany which broke one international agreement after another and then unleashed World War II.

It is not difficult to see that the realization of the provisions, envisaged in the American draft declaration and in the commentaries on it would, in practice, mean further drifting away from the position of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons to the position of their actual proliferation, i.e. to the transfer of them into the hands of those who now do not have such weapons, and into the hands of West Germans as well. But this corresponds neither to the interests of security of both our powers, nor to the interests of the entire world.

It was more than once said by the American side that the U.S. also took into account the danger of growing expansionist tendencies in the policy of the FRG and the necessity to contain such tendencies. The U.S. Government, and governments of other Western countries as well, more than once stressed that the Paris Agreements allowing in certain framework arming the FRG, at the same [Facsimile Page 4] time set up restrictions for it in this field, especially with respect to weapons of mass annihilation and that in this sense the Soviet Union’s interests were even taken into account. The Soviet Government criticized the Paris Agreements pointing out that they opened gates for restoration of militarism in Western Germany.

But in fact the U.S. Government is going further and further away even from the principle of military restrictions for the Federal Republic [Typeset Page 415] of Germany declared by the Western powers in the Paris Agreements and more and more often one can hear talk in the NATO about “equal rights” for the FRG in military matters including nuclear armaments as well. Unfortunately, this is reflected in the American draft in question.

The Caribbean crisis indicated how thin is the line which in the present international situation separates humanity from catastrophe of rocket-nuclear war. Isn’t it clear that peoples and states may find themselves on the edge of abyss if militaristic and revanchist forces of Western Germany manage to acquire in fact, by whatever means, possession of nuclear weapons.

The Soviet Government deems it necessary to stress with all possible clarity that transfer of nuclear weapons to West German military forces disregarding the means of its realization would change the already existing situation in Europe in the field of armaments and would affect vital interest of the Soviet Union and other peaceloving states. The world would face a new series of dangers and a grave international crisis. One cannot but see that [Facsimile Page 5] in this case the nuclear arms race would be even more intensified accompanied by more aggressive attitude on the part of West German militarism and by growth of dangers for the European peace, and it would be difficult in such case to find ways and means to turn the arms race downward. The U.S.S.R., naturally, cannot reconcile itself to such situation and would be obliged without delay to undertake all ensuing measures.

2. If both sides begin to transfer their nuclear weapons to others, it is difficult to say when the movement in this direction will stop and whether there will remain any obstacles whatsoever against non-restricted dissemination of nuclear weapon in the world.

In the opinion of the Soviet Government—and this point of view of ours is well known to the U.S. Government—an indispensible element of an agreement between nuclear powers should be an obligation of non-transfer of nuclear weapons to the troops of non-nuclear states also in case when those troops make part of multinational armed forces of military alliances. This would be real non-transfer of nuclear weapons, indirectly as well. Thus the point is that in military blocs nuclear weapons should be only with the troops of the nuclear powers. The access to such weapons of military personnel of other countries should be completely excluded disregarding the fact whether it means permanent or temporary or even episodic access, such as rotation of [Facsimile Page 6] guards, watches etc. Indeed today one needs only several minutes if not seconds to unleash total war.

And reaching such accord would give necessary effectiveness to the agreement on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

3. The American draft seems to allow a possibility to exchange information on the manufacture of nuclear weapons and to exchange [Typeset Page 416] those weapons themselves among the U.S., Britain and France as nuclear powers that are allies in NATO while the U.S.S.R. actually would assume commitment not to transfer such information or weapons to its allies. This would be inequality in commitments. Exchange of such information or nuclear weapons among the U.S., Britain and France would lead to increase international tension and to change the balance of power, to which the U.S.S.R. cannot agree. Hence it is necessary that corresponding provisions of the agreement on non-transfer of nuclear weapons and information on their manufacture cover also the relations among nuclear powers themselves.

4. In the question of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and in other international questions the Soviet Union cannot speak in the name of other socialist states which themselves set forth their position. So far as the People’s Republic of China is concerned—as a result of the U.S. policy it has been deprived of a possibility to take part in the work of the U.N. and negotiations on disarmament including the questions related to nuclear weapons. That is why it is the U.S. that bears the responsibility for the consequences of such situation.

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5. From Mr. Rusk’s explanation one might get an impression that the U.S. makes the solution of the question of prevention of nuclear armament of the two German states dependent on the achievement of global agreement on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and accession to this agreement of one or another country. Seeking after achievement of general agreement on the non-transfer of nuclear weapons the Soviet side at the same time considers that if achieving comprehensive international agreement is protracted then regardless of such agreement commitment must be formally reaffirmed and fixed in an appropriate agreement on non-arming with nuclear weapons of the two German states.

6. As is seen from Mr. Rusk’s explanations, the American side stands for the right to deploy its nuclear weapons on the territory of countries—members of NATO even if now there are such weapons in those countries. In other words what is meant here is expansion, as compared to what exists now, of the sphere deployment of American nuclear weapons, in Europe included. It does not correspond to the line for reduction of rocket-nuclear bases which has been brought about now by life itself as one of the most important tasks persistently demanding its solution in the interests of securing peace.

It is true Mr. Rusk spoke of giving the same opportunity to the Soviet Union. But the Soviet side proceeding from the task of lessening international tension does not strive for this. And in general such development would not facilitate normalization [Facsimile Page 8] of the situation in Europe. On the contrary this might make the relations between NATO and Warsaw Treaty Organization even more acute.

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7. The Soviet Government is ready to continue to search for a mutually acceptable agreement which would prevent further proliferation of nuclear weapons in the world. One cannot permit such situation when, using the words of a prominent American journalist, as time passes, even Paraguay can trigger world thermonuclear war. And this is where it would lead if necessary measures are not taken. To prevent such development is in the interests of both the Soviet Union and the United States which shoulder special responsibility for the destinies of universal peace.

  1. Soviet Government views on American draft declaration on non-transfer of nuclear weapons. Secret. 8 pp. Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 77 D 163, More Pen Pals, 1963.