NSA: The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the German Nuclear Question: Part II, 1965-1969

21 March 2018 — National Security Archive

West German Conservatives Feared Signing NPT Would Leave the Federal Republic “Defenseless” against Moscow

But with U.S. Nuclear Weapons Deployments, the FRG was “Actually the Third Largest Nuclear Country in the World” – Ambassador George McGhee

A 1966 National Intelligence Estimate Declared West Germany Could Produce Enough Fissile Material within Two Years to Produce a Nuclear Weapon

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 622

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Washington, D.C., March 21, 2018 – The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), widely accepted today as a global standard for international nuclear policy, was in fact a source of significant tension between two staunch allies, the United States and West Germany, in the mid-1960s, as illustrated by declassified documents published for the first time today by the National Security Archive and the Nuclear Proliferation International History Project.

Washington’s urging that Bonn support the NPT faced opposition from many conservatives in the ruling West German coalition who saw it as discriminatory and liable to leave Bonn “defenseless” against possible Soviet “threats or blackmail.”  Such concerns were unlikely to find much sympathy in Washington, Moscow, London, Paris, Warsaw, and elsewhere, where memories of German aggression were still fresh.

It would take new elections to bring a government to power, under Chancellor Willy Brandt, that would eventually sign off on the treaty in November 1969.  

Marking the 50th anniversary of the NPT’s approval by the United Nations General Assembly, today’s posting concludes a two-part series on U.S.-West German interactions on nonproliferation from the late 1950s to 1969. 

Check out today’s posting at the National Security Archive


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THE NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVE is an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The Archive collects and publishes declassified documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A tax-exempt public charity, the Archive receives no U.S. government funding; its budget is supported by publication royalties and donations from foundations and individuals.

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