180. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Non-Proliferation Treaty


  • Americans
    • The Secretary
    • The Under Secretary
    • ACDA Director Foster
    • Under Secretary Rostow
    • Deputy Under Secretary Kohler
    • Assistant Secretary Leddy
    • Counselor Bowie
    • Ambassador McGhee
    • Ambassador Cleveland
    • Mr. Puhan
  • Germans
    • Vice Chancellor Brandt
    • Egon Bahr, FRG Foreign Office
    • Ambassador Knappstein, FRG Embassy
    • Minister von Lilienfeld, FRG Embassy
    • Counselor von Staden, FRG Embassy
    • Dr. Hans Arnold, FRG Foreign Office
    • Mr. Weber, Foreign Office
    • Mr. Soenksen, Foreign Office

The Secretary opened the meeting by welcoming Vice Chancellor Brandt and conveying the President’s greetings. He characterized the achievement of a Non-Proliferation Treaty as a very serious task facing the world. He called it tragic that the Baruch proposals of 1946 had not been accepted.2 We therefore, he said, now have five nuclear powers and that is five too many. He assured Brandt that we don’t yet have agreement with the USSR and, indeed, as far as draft language was concerned the Germans have seen more of the proposed American position than the USSR had. He added that we will see the Russians again at Geneva at the conference on February 21.3

Brandt was grateful for this early opportunity to meet. He pointed out that, while some reports may differ from what he was about to say, there were strong links between Germany and the United States. He referred to the Kiesinger policy statement4 and reiterated that Atlantic partnership was an essential of German policy.

[Page 436]

Brandt stressed that they had no objection to the idea of an NPT. What concerned Germany was to make peace safe. This did not mean less interest in solving the German problem. Their principal objective remained the solution of the German problem. Nevertheless, the FRG had problems with the treaty. He conceded that the US had [also] serious problems, domestic as well as with its allies. Brandt said he wanted to talk about those things which would gain the support of the Bundestag for the NPT. He noted that the FRG Embassy had communicated the main German concerns. He said the Germans wanted strong links with disarmament. They were concerned about nuclear blackmail. His main point, he said, was that the NPT should not be used as an instrument of discrimination against the FRG in the peaceful development of atomic energy. He mentioned in this connection a German firm which was on the verge of a sale of a reactor to another country but subsequently was told by the prospective customer that an American firm had raised the question of German ability to guarantee an adequate supply of reactor fuel. By contrast, the Americans could guarantee delivery. In Brandt’s mind this example raised the specter of potential unfair competition.

On controls, Brandt stated his understanding that the USSR would not accept Euratom controls and wanted the IAEA system. He pointed out that if we get IAEA controls over civilian fields, any advantages the Germans may have attained would be exposed. He was concerned about industrial espionage. In addition, Brandt wanted assurances that the FRG’s concerns regarding disarmament would remain in our minds, as well as problems which might develop with other allies.

Brandt said the Germans, in common with others, wanted a letter or some other document in hand setting forth our interpretation of the meaning of the draft treaty language. This would be needed for domestic reasons. If they had to wait until we explained the treaty to the Senate that would be too late. Brandt said he therefore wanted to ask again for a letter giving our interpretations of the NPT.

On the European clause, Brandt said that he and the Chancellor had agreed they could live with the American interpretation. Not all of his colleagues, however, were in agreement. By a united Europe he thought the United States meant a political organization which has common control over defense and political policy. Perhaps it would be best if we had some mechanism to cover the interim stage as well.

The Secretary said he would comment on Mr. Brandt’s observations. On problems of interpretation, the Secretary saw no great difficulty. He noted that, unless there was a meeting of the minds by the nuclear powers on essentials, there could be no treaty. If there are real differences on interpretations, there is no agreement in the long run. If significant disparities existed between the US and the USSR, we should know about [Page 437] them—if the Soviets denied our public position, then there would in effect be no agreement.

Mr. Foster noted at this point that almost all of the above points had already been made to the USSR and therefore constituted no surprise. He agreed to give the Germans a formal note which he hoped would cover their concerns and which the Soviets could see.

The Secretary said on the question of disarmament that all of us had undertaken the obligation to work toward disarmament. He thought a preambular statement on disarmament might be possible. He admitted that a downward trend in the arms race was not yet in sight. He mentioned as an example the ABM problem, which Brandt noted was a problem for Europe too. The Secretary said ABM production on both sides could lead to staggering multiplication of defense costs without a parallel rise in security for either side.

On nuclear blackmail, the Secretary thought that this question should not trouble our NATO allies or Japan, but could be a real problem to nonaligned states such as India. There was the question of how we could risk 200 million American lives without receiving something in exchange—commitment was really difficult without a treaty such as the NATO agreement under which an attack on one is an attack on all.

On peaceful uses, the Secretary said the treaty applied only to explosives and he didn’t see how nuclear explosives, since they are weapons, could be excepted. Outside of explosions, there would appear to be no problem. He wondered to what extent it was real to think of technological benefits flowing from weaponry. He added that he had recently raised this question with Mr. Foster and that the only positive answer he had received concerned some applications to metallurgy involving perhaps $50,000 worth of business a year. The Secretary added that he did not really see where the example Brandt had raised earlier involved the treaty.

Euratom controls, the Secretary recognized, were a genuine problem. Looking ahead to 1980, with plans by many countries for rapid use of nuclear power, the Secretary thought there would soon be enough material to make several nuclear weapons a day, adding that unless there was some control this was a danger for everyone. He said we were trying to work out parallel arrangements of IAEA and Euratom, recognizing that there would be a real problem if France objected.

In this connection the Secretary said he really did not know what French views were, quoting one high French source as saying that if a nation has the capability of making nuclear weapons it has the obligation to do so, but others say that while France may not join an NPT it would have no objection if others did.

The Secretary pointed out that happily no atomic weapon has been used in twenty-two years, adding that if proliferation continued, however, [Page 438] he was not sure this would always be so. He wondered whether a general acceptance of Euratom and IAEA controls might be helpful in providing a solution.

On the question of a European option, the Secretary pointed out that it was hard to talk about something that did not as yet exist and the shape of which was not clear. What he could understand and what he thought we should avoid would be to interpret participation in the treaty as an obstacle to an integrated Europe. The Secretary thought that European political unification could justify the invocation of the withdrawal clause of the treaty. He mentioned again that the principal adherence problems should not properly lie in an East-West context but rather with countries such as India. He hoped that the problems raised would be manageable.

Mr. Foster said he would like to give the Germans some suggestions on safeguards to allay their concern on questions such as technological spin-off.

Brandt asked whether a signed treaty would be presented to the ENDC or would it be an open draft subject to amendment.

The Secretary said there was no final view on this matter within the US Government as we were trying to interpret the results of our talks with the Soviets. He mentioned that we had not sought an “agreement” with the Soviets on Article I and thought that at Geneva the US and Soviet co-chairman would sit down to see where we both stood. He emphasized that we would not agree to language not previously circulated to NATO allies.

Mr. Foster said that the present plan was to hold discussions in Paris with other allies in each case before submitting new treaty language to the ENDC.

He assured Brandt on prior consultations in the event of any changes in the text that had been discussed.

The Secretary added that there were seventeen countries in Geneva, some of which had not been consulted yet. He believed that more consultation would be required as well as a period of private and public debate. He thought that there would be some time “before this ship could be brought into harbor.” He again pointed out that if there were different Soviet interpretations on significant points there could be no agreement.

Brandt thanked the Secretary for his comments, calling them very helpful. He wondered, however, since both the US and USSR had voted on a UN resolution to curb vertical as well as horizontal proliferation why it was so difficult for both sides simply to reaffirm this position.5 As [Page 439] for nuclear blackmail, Brandt stressed that this was a problem for non-nuclear states. It gave nuclear powers an opportunity to use methods to intervene on technological spin-off. He said that the problem of explosions mentioned by the Secretary was not the main problem and returned to the question of controls, specifically control of peaceful uses. As an illustration he mentioned the Soviet note of January 28,6 calling into question the peaceful purposes of the German nuclear program, and wondered if propaganda blasts of this kind would not be multiplied.

The Secretary thought that the IAEA system involved the acquiescence of the host country to the modalities. He asked Mr. Foster how IAEA dealt with the question of industrial secrets.

Mr. Foster confirmed that the country composition of the IAEA inspection team must be agreed to by the host country. He added there was no limitation on research for peaceful uses but that the controls were simply an effort to account for fissionable materials, either those remaining in the producing country or, if exported, subject to an end-use check to assure that they remained in the country of destination for the purposes intended. He saw little danger of a leak of industrial secrets, citing an American reactor in Massachusetts that had been subjected to voluntary inspection four times. A concurrent meeting of the Atomic Industrial Forum at that time concluded that no danger existed of diversion of industrial secrets. He added that a country can turn down an undesirable individual inspector if it so desires.

The Secretary returned to what he considered the kernel of the problem which he said has been raised by a number of countries—whether the option of becoming a nuclear power was ruled out by the treaty. He admitted this was an important question for any country but it was the heart of the matter.

Brandt wondered whether the treaty did not bring about nuclear discrimination by dividing the world into three groups, the nuclear states with two not signing, those who will sign, and a group of about twenty states like Germany which are capable of producing nuclear weapons and would be inhibited from doing so by the treaty.

The Secretary noted that the third group would grow as fuels become available. He noted that the possessor of a high school physics text and an ordinary reactor would soon be able to make a nuclear explosion. It was much simpler, however, if one did not have to start from the beginning.

The Secretary asked if Mr. Brandt wished to designate someone to discuss further the questions of industrial secrets, controls, etc.

Brandt thought that the experts might have some of these answers.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, DEF 18-6. Secret. Drafted by Alfred Puhan (EUR/GER) and approved by S, M, and G on February 17. The source text is labeled “Part 1 of 2.” The meeting was held in the Secretary’s conference room.
  2. For text of Baruch’s proposal, June 14, 1946, which was delivered in the form of a statement to the U.N. Atomic Energy Commission, see Documents on Disarmament, 1945-1959, Vol. I, pp. 7-16.
  3. During 1967, the Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee held two sessions in Geneva; the first from February 21 to March 23, and the second from May 18 to December 14. As in previous years, all the members of the ENDC except France participated in the work of the Committee.
  4. Given by Chancellor Kiesinger on December 13, 1966, before the Bundestag on the foreign policy goals of the Federal Republic of Germany. See Documents on Germany, 1944-1985, pp. 935-941.
  5. Presumably a reference to U.N. General Assembly resolution 2028 (XX) adopted November 19, 1965, by a vote of 93 to 0 with 5 abstentions (Cuba, France, Guinea, Pakistan, and Romania). For text, see Documents on Disarmament, 1965, pp. 532-534.
  6. Not further identified.