235. Memorandum From Edward Fried of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow)1


  • Germany and the NPT

From Embassy Bonn’s reports, and from the observations of Al Puhan, who has just returned from three weeks in the FRG, it is possible to state:

The NPT is not now an issue with much salience for German public opinion. The problem is too complicated to capture popular attention, and no politician has yet thought it worth his while to “simplify” it in a manner that would lend it salience. Puhan compares it with the MLF: few Germans really roused themselves to much concern about the MLF. In his travels about the country he noted that even people with considerable political sophistication did not often place the NPT high on their list of concerns.
Nevertheless, among the 50 or 60 top politicians and officials, Puhan says, there is not one who supports the NPT. Attitudes range from total hostility, represented by people like Stoltenberg, Strauss, and the Springer press, to distaste but grudging acceptance, represented by Kiesinger and now by Brandt. There is a general feeling that we have knowingly misled them by retreating from the position which we worked out in the NAC.
The principal source of dissatisfaction is no specific article, but rather the view, propagated by Strauss and many others, that the NPT [Page 594] symbolizes a U.S.-Soviet “deal” made behind Germany’s back and at her expense. Puhan noted that even left-wing student leaders with whom he talked, essentially pacifists and nuclear-disarmers, strongly objected to the NPT as a U.S.-Soviet “diktat.”
Article III2 has become an issue in part by default: because objection to the treaty in principle would be internationally awkward, German objections have focussed on Article III. Puhan attributes this in large degree to Schnippenkoetter himself, who is remarkably influential in shaping German attitudes at the highest levels on this issue.
The greatest danger we face is that a politician such as Strauss will choose to blow the NPT up into an explosive national issue, as the Springer press has been trying without much success to do. It is conceivable that Strauss could use opposition to the NPT as a means of splitting the CSU off from the CDU, and in so doing provide a much more “respectable” focus towards which nationalist Germans could rally.
The Germans do not place much faith in the tactic of threatening not to ratify the NPT as a means of assuring a satisfactory agreement between Euratom and the IAEA. They fear, with some reason, that the other four non-nuclear-weapon members of Euratom would not stand by them, leaving them isolated. Puhan believes that the chances of German ratification, even with a draft acceptable to them, are not much better than even.
We gave the Russians a revision of their draft Article III yesterday. It picks up some key language from the “illustrative” draft the Germans presented in the NAC. It is important, now, that our people at Geneva should dig in their heels on this version, and not give way to what will surely be a good deal of Soviet pressure. We should also put a lot of emphasis now on close and high-level consultation with the Germans.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Germany, vol. 14. No classification marking. Drafted by Richard Ullman.
  2. This article of the draft treaty dealt with safeguards.