405. Editorial Note

On March 7, 1977, Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher urged President Jimmy Carter to take advantage of West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt’s recent “flexibility,” displayed in a February 23 letter to Carter, in order to “forestall sensitive transfers to Brazil” without damaging the U.S.-West German relationship. (Memorandum From Christopher to Carter, March 7; National Archives, RG 59, Papers of Warren Christopher, Withdrawn Items, Box 5, Chronological Files, Memoranda to the Secretary, 1977)

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On March 8, Carter wrote Schmidt that he remained “profoundly concerned with the spread of sensitive enrichment and reprocessing facilities which are capable of producing materials which can be rapidly used in nuclear weapons.” In particular, Carter worried that despite safeguards, such materials could either be diverted to weapons production or agreements could be abrogated by “governments tempted by ready access” to nuclear materials. Transfers of nuclear material, the President argued, would “establish a very adverse global precedent at the very time when we should be moving to lessen the risk of nuclear explosions.” Carter instead urged Schmidt to defer “the enrichment and reprocessing elements of your nuclear agreement with Brazil pending joint examination of the alternatives,” and noted that Christopher would travel to West Germany at the end of the week to discuss non-proliferation. Carter, however, stressed that he sought neither “the abrogation of your agreement nor commercial disadvantage for Germany or Brazil.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, German Federal Republic: 1–3/77)

Brazilian President Ernesto Geisel, meanwhile, announced what Ambassador John Crimmins called Brazil’s “steadfast views on nuclear policy.” In particular, Geisel reiterated his government’s determination to develop a peaceful yet independent nuclear program. Crimmins warned that Geisel’s statement indicated that the “FRGGOB agreement is all or nothing, and a lack of equitable international nuclear cooperation could frustrate arms nonproliferation objectives by stimulating the development of unsafeguarded nuclear technology.” (Telegram 1898 from Brasilia, March 10; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770083–0431)

Carter raised the proliferation issue in a meeting with West German Foreign Minister Hans Dietrich Genscher on March 14, in which he repeated his call for “multilateral solutions” to the problem of nuclear non-proliferation and pledged that the United States was “prepared to do more than we have in the past.” Genscher replied that the Federal Republic of Germany had historically been committed to non-proliferation, and said that it would fulfill its agreement with Brazil. He also argued that “the more certain Brazil is” that Bonn would fulfill its nuclear agreement, “the greater will be Brazil’s willingness to abide by multilateral restraints.” The Federal Republic of Germany, he stressed, could be “more flexible if it is not perceived to be under United States pressure.” Carter promised that he would make “special efforts to indicate that we trust Brazil and regard non-proliferation as a world-wide problem. We do not distrust any nation, but we do not want to add another country to the list of those that can explode bombs.” (Memorandum of Conversation, March 14; Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 24, German Federal Republic, 1–3/77)