246. Telegram From the Department of State to the Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and European Regional Organizations1

170596. NATUS. Subject: Nuclear Planning Group, April 7, Agreed Minute.2

1. At their first meeting, Ministers of the Nuclear Planning Group considered matters related to:

Strategic nuclear forces—including Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems (ABMs).
Tactical Nuclear Forces—including Atomic Demolition Munitions (ADMs).
The role of Host Countries in the planning, storage and release for use of nuclear weapons.

Strategic Nuclear Forces.

2. The Ministers reviewed the strategic nuclear forces of the Alliance, and examined the present and prospective increases in the rate of deployment of Soviet ICBMs that had become apparent since the discussion in the Nuclear Planning Working Group in Washington in February 1966. They agreed that the existing and programmed strategic nuclear forces of the Alliance remain adequate for deterrence of large-scale attack by the Soviet Union. They noted further that there appears to be no way to prevent unacceptable damage to the West from a general nuclear exchange.

Anti-Ballistic Missiles.

3. On the basis of a detailed US briefing on anti-ballistic missiles, the Ministers concluded that, just as the US can be expected to react to ABM deployments in the Soviet Union by improvements in offensive missile forces, the Soviets could be expected to react similarly to ABM deployments in the West. This would greatly increase defense expenditures on both sides without improving the security of either, thus casting serious doubt on the value of ABM deployments against large-scale attack. In this connection, the Ministers expressed their appreciation of the willingness of the United States Government to consult closely in NATO with its Allies. They agreed on the importance of the proposed US discussions with the USSR in an effort to avoid escalation of the strategic arms race.

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4. The Ministers asked the Permanent Representatives to study, with the assistance of the NATO military authorities, the implications of anti-ballistic missiles for the NATO Allies of the United States. Specifically, the study should consider the political and military consequences of:

No deployment of ABMs by NATO countries;
Deployment of ABMs in the US only; and
Deployment of ABMs both in North America and Europe.

Tactical Nuclear Forces.

5. The Ministers also reviewed the conclusions on tactical nuclear forces reached by the Nuclear Planning Working Group at its meeting in London on 28th/29th April, 1966. They discussed a paper regarding these conclusions submitted by Italy and a paper submitted by Turkey on the use of Atomic Demolition Munitions on the South-Eastern flank. They accepted that tactical nuclear weapons available to SACEUR and SACLANT appear to be sufficient in quantity, but felt that both the mix of weapons and the circumstances in which they might be used required further detailed study.

6. In considering the role of tactical nuclear weapons the Ministers concluded that they constitute an essential element in a policy of deterrence by the threat of escalation. Since the advantages to the Alliance of initiating the use of tactical nuclear weapons would vary according to the terrain and the circumstances, Ministers stressed the importance of developing practical plans for the possible use of such weapons in particular circumstances in various areas of Allied Command Europe. Plans of this kind are particularly important since uncertainties, including the question of possible Soviet responses, make it difficult to predict when it would be of net advantage to NATO to initiate the use of tactical nuclear weapons in response to an aggression less than general war.

7. The Ministers felt that developments since SACEUR’s Scheduled Program was originally prepared have made it desirable to reexamine it as a basis for threatre nuclear operations. They propose to work toward the development of theatre plans for the most effective use of nuclear forces, with special reference to air forces capable of performing both conventional support and nuclear strike functions.

8. Ministers agreed to the following further studies relative to the use of tactical nuclear weapons (including very low yield weapons) in the Center as well as in the South.

Studies, including consideration of political and military factors, of the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons in various contingencies (1) in the Central Region and (2) in the Southern Region; such studies should include the use of war-games techniques.
Based on such studies, development with the Military Committee and SACEUR of a concept for the use of theatre nuclear weapons, [Page 558] within which military commanders would develop detailed plans for the employment of such weapons for deterrence and defense in various contingencies.
Development by the Military Committee and SACEUR for NPG consideration of plans for Atomic Demolition Munitions both in the Central and Southeastern regions of Allied Command Europe. (In view of the special features of ADMs, Ministers agreed that the studies to be undertaken on their possible use and on possible special release procedures should be carried out separately from those on the use of other tactical nuclear weapons.)

Role of Host Countries.

9. The Ministers considered a paper by the Federal Republic of Germany on the role of host countries with respect to planning, storage, and release of nuclear weapons. They agreed that:

There should be more effective arrangements for national participation in military nuclear planning. The Secretary General will arrange, with the assistance of the Military Committee, to present to the Nuclear Planning Group a proposal to make such participation possible.
Host countries should have adequate information concerning the stockpiling of weapons in their territory. The Federal Republic and other interested countries were asked to specify the kinds of information they would require on this subject.
On arrangements for release of nuclear weapons, the Ministers asked their Permanent Representatives to consider possible types of arrangements and report back at a later meeting.

Next Meeting.

10. Ministers agreed that the next Ministerial Meeting should take place in Ankara in September 1967.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, DEF 12 NATO. Secret. Drafted by Newlin, cleared by Baker, and approved by McAuliffe. Repeated to the other NATO capitals.
  2. For text of the communique of this April 6–7 meeting, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 285–286.