"The Impulse towards a Safer World"
40th Anniversary of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

Global Arms Control Agreement Achieved Despite Doubts by Key Regional Players

Australia's Prime Minister Wanted "Nuclear Option"

Brazil Saw Treaty as "Affront to Brazilian Sovereignty"

President Lyndon Johnson looking on as Secretary of State Dean Rusk prepares to sign the NPT, 1 July 1968. (Photo: Courtesy of Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library)

Washington, D.C., July 1, 2008 - Near the end of the protracted negotiations that produced the historic Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) 40 years ago, U.S. government officials warned that countries could legally reach "nuclear pregnancy" under the Treaty and then withdraw and quickly acquire nukes, according to declassified U.S. government documents published on the Web today by the National Security Archive (www.nsarchive.org).

The documents detail the well-known resistance to the NPT from countries like India ("China at her back, and Pakistan lurking on the sidelines") but also from more unusual objectors such as Australia (concerned that the Western Pacific security situation might worsen) and Italy (unhappy about the "second-class status" of non-nuclear states). The documents suggest that the current crisis in the NPT system has deep historical roots, but also that current headlines overlook the long-term achievements of the NPT regime.

During the mid-1960s, prior to the NPT, U.S. intelligence had warned that as many as 15 countries had incentives to become nuclear weapons states but after the Treaty was signed, only five additional countries have developed such weapons (Israel, India, Pakistan, South Africa, and North Korea, while South Africa has renounced them). How much of an impact the Treaty had on keeping the numbers low can be debated, but the non-nuclear standard that it set remains a central goal of the world community to this date.

On 1 July 1968, forty years ago today, the United States, the United Kingdom, the former Soviet Union, and over 50 other countries signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), one of the most significant multilateral arms control achievements of the nuclear age. Starting with the premise that nuclear war would produce terrible devastation and that the "proliferation of nuclear weapons would seriously enhance the danger of nuclear war," the Treaty's signatories, nuclear and non-nuclear state alike, pledged to refrain from transferring other countries weapons, technology, or materials that could create new capabilities to produce nuclear explosive devices. While permitting and encouraging peaceful uses of nuclear energy, the signatories agreed to an inspection system designed to prevent the diversion of nuclear materials for military purposes. With this agreement, the international community "established the diplomatic norm that gave nations a clear path to a non-nuclear future." (Note 1) To facilitate the deal, the nuclear weapons states agreed to general language about nuclear disarmament as a long-range goal. Even though five states, the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, France and China continued to possess nuclear weapons, all the signatories agreed that a world without additional nuclear powers would be a safer and better one.

Forty years later, the nonproliferation regime that the NPT created is in a state of crisis. One state, North Korea, has opted out and rejected the system (although it may come back in); others, such as Iran, are defying it. States that refused to sign the Treaty, Israel, India, and Pakistan, have developed nuclear weapons capabilities. The NPT's weaknesses, such as the lack of enforcement provisions, are more evident than ever. (Note 2) Nevertheless, it is worth looking back at the origins of the Treaty to learn how the international community negotiated it and came to support it. That can help deepen perspectives on the nonproliferation system's strengths and limitations, some of which were evident at time of its creation.

This collection of declassified U.S. government documents, almost all published for the first time, provides a cross-section of some of the problems encountered by many of the parties to the highly difficult and complex negotiations. Based on a relatively narrow search of records in State Department files at the National Archives, this briefing book cannot provide a comprehensive look at the treaty, which was an international process. Many of the records reflect only State Department perceptions, and do not take into account the views of officials at the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), who played a central role in making the NPT possible. Moreover, the White House perspective is generally absent from these documents. Nonetheless, by presenting the dialogue between and among U.S. officials (negotiators, diplomats, and policymakers) and representatives of Asian-Pacific, European, and Latin American governments, these documents highlight the range of problems that made the U.S., the Soviet Union, and other governments want to negotiate an NPT, but also which it so difficult to negotiate and to win unanimous adherence to the nonproliferation system. The documents included in this briefing book present evidence of:

  • The protracted effort to negotiate Article III providing for safeguards and international Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) inspection, which U.S. officials believed was a "key element in the effort to curb nuclear proliferation."
  • Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's opposition to the NPT because it would deny India a nuclear option: "With China at her back, and Pakistan lurking on the sidelines, she foresaw no alternative but to keep open her option on the production of nuclear weapons."
  • Brazilian objections to the Treaty as an "affront to … sovereignty" and as an obstacle to developing a capability to produce "peaceful nuclear explosive devices" that the Treaty prohibited.
  • The "chain reaction" problem:  because India would not support the Treaty, neither would Pakistan. Moreover, because Brazil would not sign the treaty, neither would Argentina or Chile.
  • The difficult problem of winning West German adherence to the NPT; special U.S. assurances and guarantees notwithstanding, Bonn remained on the fence during the months after the negotiations ended, although President Johnson jokingly observed that "the Germans had practically written the Treaty as it stands now."
  • Opposition to the NPT in Australia where the Atomic Energy Commission officials were confident in their ability to build a nuclear weapon "on short notice" and where the  Prime Minister opposed "giving up the nuclear option for a period as long as twenty-five years when [Australia] cannot know how the situation will develop in the area."
  • Internal U.S. government debates over whether to issue a declaration assuring the non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states.
  • Partly unsuccessful U.S. efforts to head off Mexican amendments to the NPT during the final stages of debate at the United Nations General Assembly.
  • As the NPT was nearing UN approval, a State Department analyst pointed out a weakness: states could legally reach "nuclear pregnancy" under the Treaty and then withdraw from the Treaty and quickly acquire a weapons capability. To reduce that risk, the United States had to maintain a global presence so that vulnerable countries would not feel pressure to make nuclear decisions.
  • Italy was another government that was not ready to sign in 1968; according to State Department intelligence, "unhappiness over the Treaty runs strong" because it gave the non-nuclear nations "second-class status."

A fuller picture of the negotiation of an international treaty such as the NPT would require extensive archival research, not only in Presidential Libraries in the United States but on significant research in archives around the world. Much of the relevant documentary record on the U.S. side is available, but significant documents remain classified at the National Archives (although declassification requests have been filed), as do major collections of records of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), which played a key role in pushing the NPT forward. Significant material can also be found in overseas archives. Although a number of historians (cited below) have produced important and valuable work on parts of the NPT's early history, the absence of a comprehensive international history of the NPT negotiations is conspicuous.

As British Ambassador Sir Patrick Dean and ambassadors from non-aligned states look on, Soviet Ambassador Anatoli Dobrynin signs the NPT. (Photo: Courtesy of Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library)

The creation of the NPT was a complex process, in which many governments had an impact on the final result. The late 1950s was a formative period, when intelligence analysts around the world wondered which country would be the "4th" (beyond the U.S., U.K., and Soviet Union) or the "Nth" (after France tested a bomb in 1960) country to develop a nuclear weapons capability. To stem a possible tide of proliferation, in 1959 Ireland took the lead in putting on the table at the United Nations a resolution supporting a nonproliferation treaty. Increasingly, U.S. officials began to associate a successful comprehensive nuclear test ban with the possibility of checking the spread of nuclear weapons. Even before the agreement on a Limited Test Ban Treaty, however, the Kennedy administration had begun talks with the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union about the possibility of an international nonproliferation agreement. Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Macmillan were concerned about the possibility of a nuclear West Germany, but Kennedy and his British allies also worried about the emergence of nuclear states, from Israel to India to China. The concern about a nuclear Germany influenced the stillborn proposal for a Multilateral Force (MLF), which the Kennedy administration saw as a way to give Bonn a role in nuclear decision-making, without unilateral control over the weapons.

The October 1964 Chinese nuclear test increased global concern that India and Japan, among other states, might follow Beijing. Not long before the Chinese test, the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency was arguing that an international agreement was necessary to "develop … political inhibitions against the development of further national nuclear capabilities" because "a world in which there are ten and then possibly twenty states having national nuclear capabilities …would be a world of the greatest danger and insecurity." (Note 3) Nevertheless, Washington could not move on an international treaty until it had decided to jettison the MLF, which the Soviet Union and almost all European states opposed (because it might give Germany too much of a nuclear role). By August 1965, the MLF was becoming a non-issue and it was possible for Moscow and Washington to start tabling draft treaties in the context of the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee (ENDC), which both chaired. By November 1965, an NPT received broad global support when the UN General Assembly passed a resolution declaring that it would be a "step toward the achievement of general and complete disarmament and, particularly, nuclear disarmament."

Serious drafting of the NPT, however, did not begin until 1967 and even an agreed U.S.-Soviet draft that was tabled in August 1967 (Document 5B) did not include language on safeguards or a specific article on nuclear disarmament. In the months that followed, however, Washington and Moscow worked closely with allies and leading non-aligned states (such as Mexico) in developing treaty language that reflected a broad consensus on proliferation, with agreed language on safeguards and an article on disarmament. Even after the superpowers had tabled a new draft in January 1968, they faced pressure from West Germany and the non-aligned countries to revise the language so that it met their concerns. While the internal negotiations unfolded, the United States and the Soviet Union made a concerted effort to win support for the Treaty when the General Assembly voted for it.

On 12 June 1968, the General Assembly voted to "commend" the NPT and requested the "Depository Governments," those states which would keep copies of the original, to open the Treaty to signature.  95 members voted for the resolution, including states that would build nuclear weapons, or move in that direction, in the years ahead, including Israel, Taiwan, and South Korea. Other states abstained from the resolution, including France, Argentina, and Brazil, because of their strong objections. In any event, the signing process began on 1 July 1968, with major ceremonies in London, Moscow, and Washington. The process unfolded over the decades, with some states, such as France, China, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, finally signing during the 1990s.

What made some states refuse to sign the treaty, or delay their signature, was that countries like Israel, India, and Pakistan wanted freedom of action to develop nuclear weapons capabilities. That the Treaty created a two-tier system of nuclear and non-nuclear states was an objection made by a number of governments, not only India, but also European governments such as Italy, where policymakers spoke of a "second-class" status. Another target of criticism was Article VI, the commitment by the nuclear weapons states: to "pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament." As Fred Kaplan has noted, Article VI "is so loosely constructed" that it is "amazing that anyone ever took it seriously." The degree to which the nuclear powers have actually taken the necessary "good faith" measures moving toward nuclear disarmament is a matter of controversy; according to Steven E. Miller, the non-nuclear weapons states strongly believe that "good faith" has not been sufficiently evident. "This is a political reality that affects the commitment of non-nuclear weapons states to the regime." (Note 4) Whether the next president takes steps to implement the Shultz-Kissinger-Nunn nuclear disarmament initiative may have a significant impact on the incentives of non-nuclear states to abide by the Treaty.

As defense analysts and journalists have noted, the treaty has other loopholes, for example, the lack of enforcement procedures and the broad scope provided by the Treaty to develop capabilities to produce fissile materials. Even before the Treaty had been signed, a State Department analyst argued (see document 27 below) that an unscrupulous country could legally move far toward developing capabilities to produce weapons-grade materials, declare that it had quit the treaty, and then build weapons openly. While an "Additional Protocol" added to the NPT in the late 1990s authorizes the IAEA's role to conduct inspections of any suspect site on short notice, the case of Iran shows how difficult it is to stop a determined nation from acquiring a capability to produce fissile material, even if it is not actually building weapons. (Note 5)

Even with the system's flaws, scholars of the nonproliferation system generally believe that the Treaty has made a difference. Enshrining a non-nuclear norm in an international treaty created a disincentive for states to develop independent nuclear weapons capabilities. For example, according to Norwegian analysts M. Maerli and S. Lodgaard, the "non-proliferation norm established by the NPT, the long-term efforts by the United States and others to gain acceptance for it, and the international inspection system developed under the NPT" created a world in which only nine states have nuclear weapons capabilities. "Without the treaty, this figure would have been much higher." A recent study by Etel Solingen makes a more limited claim: the nonproliferation regime that the NPT facilitated "can be credited with some successes"; nevertheless, she argues that domestic considerations, especially the "political survival" of states, may have had a more compelling impact on nuclear weapons decisions than international constraints. Thus, how much a difference the nonproliferation regime has made and what steps are necessary to make it more effective, will remain subjects of debate and discussion among scholars and policy analysts for years to come. (Note 6)



Document 1: Analyzing the Problem
U.S. Department of State Policy Planning Council, "The Further Spread of Nuclear Weapons: Problems for the West," 14 February 1966, Secret

Source: National Archives, Record Group 59, Records of the Department of State (RG 59)., Records of Policy Planning Council, 1965-1968 Subject, Country and Area Files, box 384, Atomic Energy-Armaments (2 of 4)

This report, prepared in the very early stages of the NPT discussions, provided an overview of the nuclear proliferation problem through a distinctly State Department view. The author began with a survey of the nuclear weapons potential of a number of key states, including India, Japan, West Germany, Israel, and Sweden and reviewed ways and means by which Washington and allies could "meet the disparate political and security interests which generate pressures for proliferation." The need for an international agreement was taken for granted as a means to create a consequential "moral, legal and political barrier to proliferation." Nevertheless, because countries like India and West Germany were likely to oppose an NPT, the author believed that a broader program was necessary to address the security needs of such critically important countries, e.g. military aid and security guarantees to assuage Indian concerns about China, or stronger alliance relationships with Japan and West Germany. With respect to Israel, the author optimistically believed that Washington had enough "leverage" to contain that country's nuclear ambitions. In keeping with the interests of State Department Europeanists in multilateral force (MLF)-type solutions, the author took it for granted that "collective" nuclear sharing arrangements would be necessary to subsume West German ambitions and to alleviate concerns about a "second-class" non-nuclear status. This may have been one of the last gasps of the State Department advocates of "hard-ware" solutions to the German nuclear problem. Increasingly, officials at the Defense Department and elsewhere believed that "software" solutions, arrangements like NATO's Nuclear Planning Group (NPG), were more realistic answers to the German nuclear issue.

Document 2: "Those Things Which Were Not Prohibited Were Permitted"
State Department cable 121338 to U.S. Embassy, Bonn, "Non-Proliferation Treaty," 18 January 1967, Secret

Location of original: National Archives, Record Group 59, Records of the Department of State, 1967-1969 Subject-Numeric Files, DEF 18-6 [All of the following documents are from this file series unless otherwise noted]

One of the most complex and difficult problems facing U.S., British, and Soviet negotiators was the German nuclear question. The remote possibility that the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) might develop an independent nuclear weapons capability concerned American and European, but especially Soviet, policymakers; from the Soviet standpoint, one of the purposes of an NPT was to prevent that from happening. While many in West Germany were willing to sign a self-denying ordinance, they wanted to ensure that the Treaty was compatible with U.S.-German defense arrangements, such as the NATO nuclear stockpile system which would provide West German military forces with access to nuclear weapons if war broke out in Europe. Some U.S. officials had seen the nuclear stockpile as a way to divert the interest of the FRG and other European allies in independent national nuclear forces; the United States would have custody of the weapons, but the Germans would have the delivery systems and the training to use them in emergency circumstances. Worried that, somehow, the NPT could weaken the U.S. nuclear commitment to West Germany, German politicians and diplomats peppered U.S. officials with questions to ensure that that the Treaty left the stockpile system intact.

As this record of a meeting between ACD director William C. Foster and West German ambassador Knappstein suggests, key U.S. officials wanted to assuage those concerns by making the point that the NPT permitted "those things which were not prohibited," but they also wanted to avoid "rubbing" the noses of Soviet officials in nuclear weapons arrangements directed at targets in the Soviet bloc. That applied to another question which bothered the Germans: whether, under the NPT, a future European union could inherit British and French nuclear weapons assets. Washington supported such an interpretation, but some German leaders wanted perpetual assurance on this point. (Note 7)

Document 3: Safeguards
State Department cable 127754 to U.S. Embassies in Canada, United Kingdom, Italy, et al., "Non-Proliferation Treaty Safeguards Article," 30 January 1967, Secret

Another difficult problem concerned safeguards of nuclear power facilities to prevent diversion of nuclear materials into military or other suspect uses. The Johnson administration took it for granted that an effective nonproliferation system required safeguards (which were also a useful precedent for arms control verification), but what complicated negotiating a safeguards article was that the members of the European Atomic Power Authority (EURATOM) believed that their own inspection and safeguard arrangements were effective and did not require the intrusion of the IAEA. While the Soviet Union initially opposed safeguards arrangements, it finally agreed to them as long as they applied to EURATOM (of which Moscow was deeply suspicious because all of its members belonged to NATO). To compromise the differences, the U.S. State Department proposed ways and means by which EURATOM could be folded within the IAEA inspection system. This did not satisfy the Europeans and it would take another year before EURATOM, Moscow and Washington could compose their differences on this central issue.

Document 4: "Sobering Responsibilities"
Memorandum from Herman Pollack, Deputy Director,Office of International Scientific Affairs, to Secretary of State Dean Rusk, "IAEA Preparations for NPT Safeguards Responsibilities," 12 May 1967, Limited Official Use

Location of original: National Archives, Record Group 59, Records of the Department of State, 1967-1969 Subject-Numeric Files, AE 13 IAEA

During the early phases of the NPT discussions, some observers worried that the IAEA had a too "conservative appraisal of its mission," but it developed that the agency's leaders was taking a serious look at the work-load requirements of an international safeguards system as well as the need for systematic research on the "technological basis for safeguards operations."  State Department officials saw those developments as encouraging news that the Agency was preparing itself for the "sobering responsibilities" required by the NPT. 

Documents 5a and b: Draft Treaty
Document 5a: Memorandum of Conversation, "Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,".23 August 1967, Secret
Document 5b: Draft Treaty:  State Department Instructions CA-1545 to Diplomatic Posts, "Aide-Memoire on the Draft Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)," 24 August 1967, Secret

The forum for the NPT negotiations was the Geneva-based Eighteen Nations Disarmament Committee (ENDC), but the two co-chairman of the Committee, the Soviet Union and the United States, met privately to negotiate a treaty draft which both sides could live with. With the two superpowers slated to table identical drafts on 24 August 1967, U.S. and British officials met in Washington to discuss the treaty's outlook. ACDA official Adrian Fisher, who played a key role in the negotiations, noted that there would be "hard negotiations" over the still-disputed safeguards article. Moreover, British diplomat Edward Tomkins worried that there would be a "free-for-all" as other countries raised their objections. One problem was a proposal by Italian Foreign Minister Amintore Fanfani for an agreement by non-nuclear states to renounce nuclear weapons unless the nuclear powers failed to make progress in disarmament and in providing safeguards against nuclear attack. Seeing the Fanfani proposal as a "competitor" to the NPT, Fisher opined that Rome might be looking for a way "to drop it."

The next day, the Johnson administration began to circulate the draft NPT around the world, along with an aide-memoire which explained U.S. support for the Treaty. One article was left blank, however: Article III on safeguards because the superpowers could not agree on a draft which was mutually acceptable. As Fisher told the British, however, it should be possible to persuade the Soviets that the IAEA could and should use the safeguards of an organization, EURATOM, "which is in being." Moreover, except for some general language in the preamble, the draft did not include a separate article about the arms control and disarmament responsibilities of the nuclear weapons states. Such an article would be brought about by the intervention of Mexico and other non-aligned states during the following months.
Document 6: U.S. Proposal on Safeguards
U.S. Mission Geneva Cable 1503 to U.S. Department of State, "NPT Safeguards Article," 3 November 1967, Secret, Exdis

In early 1967, the U.S. attempted to break the stalemate with Moscow over nuclear safeguards with a proposal for Article III that it had coordinated with EURATOM members.  That same day, ACDA Deputy Director Adrian Fisher had handled the draft Article to Alexei Roshkin, the Soviet Representative to the ENDC talks. The article required non-nuclear states to accept safeguards and negotiate appropriate arrangements with the IAEA.  Acknowledging the realities of regional groups such as EURATOM, non-nuclear states would meet the safeguards requirements "either individual or together with other countries."

During a meeting with Ambassador Dobyrnin, ACDA director Foster emphasized the importance of the proposal and suggested that Soviet objections to the U.S. language did not touch upon the key point which both Moscow and Washington accepted, that "agreements between the IAEA and Parties to the Treaty would have to be concluded. (Note 8)

Document 7: Indira Gandhi Wants to Keep India's "Options" Open
U.S. Embassy New Delhi Airgram A-540 to Department of State, "Canadians Warn GOI on NPT," 12 December 1967, Secret

A complex issue like the problem of nuclear proliferation issue required supporters of the treaty to keep each other informed about the thinking of key governments. A key supporter of the NPT, Canada tried to use its resources, such as foreign aid and nuclear energy exports, to back its lobbying efforts on behalf of the Treaty. U.S. diplomats in New Delhi had good sources at the Canadian Embassy and learned that Ottawa was becoming more and more worried that India, another Commonwealth member, was taking a more and more inflexible approach toward the Treaty. As demonstrated by this record of discussions with Prime Minister Gandhi, among others, Otttawa took a fairly tough line to encourage India to support the NPT. High Commissioner James George told Gandhi that "Should India decide not to sign the Treaty, Mrs. Gandhi should be under no illusions that the … Parliament probably would promptly demand a review of Canada's economic aid program to India and her cooperative nuclear program." Gandhi replied that she had thought about that possibility, but argued that Canada and the nuclear powers did not "really understand her dilemma": "With China at her back, and Pakistan lurking on the sidelines, she foresaw no alternative but to keep open her option on the production of nuclear weapons."

Other senior Indian officials also took a hard-line; according to the Embassy report, Foreign Secretary Dayal "said India would never give up an iota of its hard-fought independence by signing the NPT." Noting that one Indian official had suggested that Vikram Sarabhai, the Chief of India's Atomic Energy Commission, was highly influential in Indian government thinking about the Treaty, the Embassy thought it might be possible to sway him by appealing to his "vanity." For example, it might be possible to modify Sarabhai's "emotional and somewhat irrational position on NPT," by inviting him to Geneva or Washington for the "full treatment" by ACDA director Foster.

Documents 8a and b: Soviet Objections to the U.S.'s Article III
Document 8a: U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Memorandum of Conversation, "NPT," 16 December 1967, Secret/Limdis
Document 8b: U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Memorandum of Conversation,"Soviet Views on NPT," 3 January 1968, Secret

The protracted U.S.-Soviet debate over Article III surfaced during conversations between Soviet diplomat Yuli Vorontsov and ACDA officials Lawrence Weiler and Samuel DePalma, Weiler argued that an agreement between IAEA and EUROATOM would ensure that safeguards were effective and that the Agency would "have to satisfy itself that no diversion of materials was taking place." Not persuaded, Vorontsov argued that EURATOM countries, as U.S. allies, wanted "special treatment" so they could evade IAEA inspections; a problem that created a bad impression for Moscow's allies. Noting that top officials in Moscow believed that the U.S. position on Article III was an "ultimatum," Vorontsov suggested he did not quite believe that: "we are trying to soften that impression in Moscow." A few weeks later, Vorontsov told another ACDA official that the Politburo had to decide the issue, which increased the difficulty: "it was exceedingly difficult to deal with an essentially technical question in a forum which is largely concerned with political matters." Vorontsov agreed with DePalma that the issue had to be settled quickly. As he had said to Weiler a few weeks earlier, with the non-nuclear powers "gang[ing[ up" against Moscow and Washington, there was only a month or two left to reach agreement.

Documents 9a, b, and c: Tabling the Treaty with Article III
Document 9a: U.S. Mission to Geneva Cable 2290 to State Department, "Draft NPT Text," 17 January 1968, Secret, Limdis
Document 9b: U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Memorandum of Conversation, "Non-Proliferation Treaty," 18 January 1968, Confidential
Document 9c: U.S. Mission NATO cable 1393 to State Department, "NAC January 18 – Draft NPT," 18 January 1968, Secret.

In mid-January 1968, the impasse on Article III broke when the Soviets accepted the 2 November draft. On 18 January, ACDA official Robert Kranich explained to West German diplomat Adolph von Wagner that Washington had told "the Soviets that we could go no further" on safeguards. "The Soviets appear to want the NPT and to want it quickly." Moreover, while Moscow had originally seen the NPT as a "strictly anti-FRG measure," they "now realize the importance of the speedy conclusion of this treaty because of the possibility of proliferation elsewhere in the world."

That same day, the U.S. and Soviet co-chairman of the ENDC tabled the full text of the treaty. It was very close to the final text, which would later be strengthened at a few points, such as Article VI, on the importance of disarmament progress. More or less simultaneously, the U.S. Ambassador to NATO, the late Harlan Cleveland, briefed the North Atlantic Council on the treaty text, article by article, with his more detailed comments covering the "operative" features, including the articles on safeguards, freedom of access to peaceful nuclear technology, internationally supervised non-discriminatory access to peaceful nuclear explosives, and progress by the nuclear states in winding down the nuclear arms race and heading toward nuclear disarmament. Several of these proposals, Cleveland noted, had been proposed by Mexico, which had been playing a lead role representing the interests of non-aligned nations. For example, Mexico was the first government to suggest a specific article on nuclear disarmament, which eventually became the Treaty's Article VI. While the United States had wanted the treaty to have unlimited duration, some NATO countries such as Italy and West Germany wanted a definite time-limit (with an option for extension), and Washington acceded to 25 years.

The Council's reactions were mainly positive, although West Germany's Wilhelm Grewe acknowledged that his government's thinking "does not coincide with all parts of the text" and that Bonn would have to examine it "closely." Cleveland later found out that the Italian Foreign Ministry was in a "state [of[ shock at [the] sudden tabling," even though Adrian Fisher had discussed the "tabling question" several days earlier with an Italian diplomat.

Documents 10 a, b and c: "The NPT's ‘Inflexibility' Represented a Real Danger for the FRG Security Interests"
Document 10a:  U.S. Embassy Bonn cable 7557 to Department of State, "FRG Defense Council Meeting on NPT," 23 January 1968, Secret, Exdis
Document 10b: U.S. Embassy Bonn cable 7812 to Department of State, "NPT: Hesitations over FRG Tactics," 31 January 1968, Secret, Limdis
Document 10c: Department of State cable 113607 to U.S. Embassy Bonn, 10 February 1968, Secret, Exdis

A secret source within the West German government reported to U.S. diplomats on a meeting between West German chancellor Kiesinger and his defense advisers on the recently tabled draft NPT. While Kiesinger saw serious problems with the NPT in that it restricted West German freedom of action (for example, he had sought a much shorter duration for the Treaty), he stated that Bonn "should not stand in the way" and act as a "good ally." Nevertheless, he had not, however, made a decision to sign the treaty, but was "moving" toward such a decision, that is, if he could persuade Washington to provide more "flexibility" in the Treaty. That West German Finance Minister Franz-Joseph Strauss strongly opposed the NPT put another question mark over an early West German signing because of the importance of his party, the Christian Social Union, in the Grand Coalition that Kiesinger led.

It took Kiesinger and his advisers some time before they could agree on a message to Washington expressing West German concerns. While some in the government wanted to send a "rather long and legalistic" demarche, Social Democrat Foreign Minister Willy Brandt supported the Treaty (and his government signed it after he was elected Chancellor in 1969) wanted to be more "forthcoming." Thus, a letter that Brandt sent to Rusk on 9 February suggested that if Bonn's concerns about flexibility and procedural arrangements were addressed, the "NPT could play a better and more lasting role as an instrument of a progressive disarmament and peace policy."

Document 11: Soviet Motives
State Department cable 107235 to U.S. Embassy Bonn, "Soviet Motivation on NPT," 30 January 1968, Confidential.

Trying to establish why Moscow had decided to table the NPT on 18 January, along with the U.S. draft of Article III, ACDA and State Department officials agreed on the "basic assumption" that the Soviets "really want" an NPT. An interest in "putting extra layers of control" over West Germany because of a "parochial concern" about the direction of that country had been an important motive at the beginning, but in recent years, Moscow had "come to develop a broader view" of the importance of an NPT. Such developments as the Chinese nuclear tests and the Six Day War probably had a part in the evolution of Soviet policy. This could only be a positive development as far as these analysts were concerned: the NPT would serve as a "building block in [a] structure of postwar agreements" which "cannot help but have [a] positive effect on differences between East and West."

Document 12: De Gaulle and the NPT
U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Intelligence Note-88, "Does DeGaulle Want to Torpedo the NPT?" 1 February 1968, Secret/No Foreign Dissemination/Controlled Dissemination

U.S. government observers had thought that France would support West Germany's adherence to the NPT, thus "leaving France as the only nuclear power in Western continental Europe," even though Paris had been publicly criticized the NPT as a sham because it could not halt the spread of nuclear weapons or provide for effective disarmament. Recent statements by President de Gaulle and Defense Minister Pierre Messmer made INR wonder whether the French were going to take an aggressive tack against the NPT, even to the point of preventint West Germany from signing it. Not only had Messmer suggested that Japan might be a future nuclear power, during a press conference in West Germany he argued that the NPT would consolidate superpower blocs by forcing the non-nuclear state "to tie themselves closer to the nuclear powers." INR speculated that de Gaulle might be making those criticisms to prevent the consolidation of the East-West power blocs which he opposed. While INR could not be sure that this was de Gaulle's motive, if it was not, then "French behavior vis-à-vis Germany since January 18, has been careless, to say the least."

Document 13: U.S.-Soviet Disagreements over Non-Use Assurances
U.S. State Department, Memorandum of Conversation, "NPT," 15 February 1968, Secret

This conversation between George Bunn, one of the NPT negotiators, and Soviet embassy official Yuli Vorontsov, brought out some important points. Although the French Defense Minister had strongly attacked the NPT, French officials had assured the Soviets that they would not interfere in the negotiations and would "work behind the scenes to get Germany to sign."  Soviet objections to the U.S. proposed security guarantees also emerged. While ACDA director Foster had told the Soviets that the U.S. would not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states that are party to the NPT (as long as they were not engaged in an attack supported by a nuclear-armed state), Vorontsov found that position unacceptable: it would prohibit Soviet attack against West Germany, even though Washington had deployed nuclear weapons on German territory. Vorontsov even brought up a Cuban parallel, suggesting that the U.S. language would inhibit U.S. action against a Soviet nuclear deployment there, an example which did not persuade George Bunn. The U.S. refusal to "discriminate" between allies which had nuclear weapons on their soil led Vorontsov to conclude that a joint U.S.-Soviet non-use declaration was not feasible.

Another issue where U.S. and Soviet positions diverged was the agreement for a Latin American Nuclear Free Zone. On 1 April 1968, the United States signed the agreement's Protocol II, which included a non-use pledge and also tacitly authorized transit of U.S. nuclear weapons (e.g., ship visits and overflights). Vorontsov was critical of that feature, although Bunn argued that "the Soviet Union would want the same privileges for a nuclear free zone applying to Eastern Europe." Vorontsov agreed, but observed that the Soviets might not enjoy those privileges if a zone applied to all of Europe.

Document 14: India Wants a "Complete Freeze on Current Posture of Nuclear Powers"
U.S. Mission to Geneva Cable 3048 to State Department, 3 April 1968, Secret

In the wake of Prime Minister Gandhi's statement that her government could not support the Treaty, Indian Atomic Energy Commissioner Sarabhai explained to Myron Krazter, the Director of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission's international affairs division, what would make it possible for him to support the Treaty. (Note 9) Sarabahai, who was an internal opponent of a nuclear explosive program, identified a number of basic demands, several of which urged the nuclear powers to make stronger disarmament and security commitments than they were willing to make in 1968.   One was a freeze in the nuclear posture of the superpowers, essentially a stronger version of the loosely-worded Article VI. Another was for stronger security guarantees encompassing threats by nuclear against non-nuclear states.  Sarabahi also argued that "all nations should be permitted to design and manufacture PNES [peaceful nuclear explosives] or none should." That statement pointed to a weakness in the U.S. position; Washington had not yet completely rid itself of the notion (although it would eventually do so) that nuclear explosives could be used for civil construction projects, even though such devices used the same technology as weapons. India itself would use the cover of "peaceful nuclear explosives" for its first nuclear test in May 1974. (Note 10)

Document 15: Strategy at the General Assembly
U.S. Department of State Cable 142418 to U.S.Mission United Nations, "NPT and Resumed GA [General Assembly]", 5 April 1968, Secret

To ensure a successful outcome in the General Assembly's debates on the NPT, ACDA and State Department officials worked out strategy and tactics that would be followed during the weeks ahead. A basic goal was to make it possible to open the NPT to signature once the General Assembly had endorsed the Treaty. One strategy was to isolate the "new near-nuclear" states (such as India) so that they would not influence the "overwhelming majority countries having no prospect of developing nuclear weapons and whose basic objective should be enhanced security promised by NPT." While Washington wanted to avoid amendments to the Treaty, if "minor non-substantive changes will result in favorable action," they would have to be considered. One problem area, among others, was the danger that the General Assembly would post-pone action because of "dissatisfaction over willingness [of] nuclear powers themselves to undertake arms control measures." State Department officials believed that a Soviet signature on Protocol II of the Treaty of Tlatelolco would be helpful in that respect, but that did not occur until the late 1970s.

Documents 16a, b, c and d: The Australian Prime Minister "Almost Sounded Like De Gaulle"
Document 16a: U.S. Embassy Canberra cable 4842 to Department of State, 6 April 1968, Secret Nodis
Document 16b: U.S. Embassy Canberra cable 4923 to Department of State, "NPT," 10 April 1969, Secret/Limdis
Document 16c: State Department Cable 144920 to Embassy Canberra, "Australian Concerns regarding NPT," 11 April 1968, Secret, Limdis
Document 16d: Arms Control and Disarmament Agency Memorandum of Conversation, "Consultations with Australians on NPT and Status of Interpretations on Articles I and II," 24 April 1968, Secret

In earlier years, Australia, a key U.S ally in the Pacific, had looked into the possibility of developing nuclear weapons and an interest in nuclear options persisted at the highest levels. During a visit to Australia for an ANZUS (Australia-New Zealand-U.S. pact) meeting, Rusk discussed the NPT with Liberal Party Prime Minister Gorton who had strong objections to the notion of "giving up the nuclear option for a period as long as twenty-five years when [Australia] cannot know how the situation will develop in the area." Gorton claimed to support the Treaty's purposes and the "idea of non-proliferation," but Rusk reported that he "sounded almost like DeGaulle in saying that Australia could not rely upon the United States for nuclear weapons under ANZUS in the event of nuclear blackmail or attack on Australia." Believing that some of the Australian objections involved "picayune problems," Rusk suggested that the United States had to send a special mission to Canberra to address the various "misunderstandings."

The embassy and interested officials in Washington agreed with Rusk that a special mission could help to ease Australian concerns that the NPT would freeze the Australian nuclear industry in a "primitive state" as well as such specific problems as "peaceful nuclear explosives," uranium enrichment, and the conduct of IAEA inspections. Such a mission was sent in the following week and it became evident to the ACDA and Atomic Energy Commission officials who participated that Australian AEC staffers were confident "in their ability to manufacture a nuclear weapon and desire to do so on very short notice."  They would not even consider signing the Treaty "if it were not for an interpretation which would enable the deployment of nuclear weapons belonging to an … ally." Australia signed the Treaty in 1970, but did not ratify it until 1973, and that was only after the Labor Party, with less exaggerated concerns about security threats, had come into power. (Note 11)

Document 17: Pakistan Will Not Sign If India Won't
U.S. Embassy Rawalpindi cable 4412 to Department of State, "Non-Proliferation Treaty," 8 April 1968, Secret Exdis

In their dealings with the Pakistani government officials, U.S. diplomats had urged them to support the treaty and not be influenced by the Indian government's decisions. Nevertheless, from Japanese diplomats, U.S. Ambassador Benjamin Oehlert learned that the Pakistani government "would definitely not sign the Treaty unless India did."

Document 18: The NPT and the Nuclear Planning Group
Letter from Undersecretary of State Nicholas deB. Katzenbach to Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford, 10 April 1968, with attached questions and answers, memorandum of conversation, West German "non-paper," and proposed declaration, Secret

West German anxieties about the NPT were persistent; one concern was that somehow the Treaty would have a negative impact on the recently-created NATO Nuclear Planning Group (NPG) which ensured that West Germany could participate in alliance discussions of alliance nuclear strategy and tactics. Having negotiated Articles I and II of the Treaty so that they protected alliance consultations and nuclear stockpile arrangements, Katzenbach asked Clifford to reconfirm this at the forthcoming NPG meeting in the Netherlands on 18 April by declaring that the "entry into force of the … Treaty will not interfere with the work of the Nuclear Planning Group [or] the further development of nuclear defense arrangements within the alliance."

Document 19: Bonn "Would Not Be Among the First" to Sign
U.S. Embassy Bonn Cable 10869 to State Department, "Schnippenkoetter Comments on German Signature," 10 April 1968, Secret, Limdis

Anxious to avoid a domestic crisis over the NPT, the West German government wanted to move carefully before signing anything.  That Article VIII of the Treaty would include language about the possibility of review conferences every five years may have reduced some of Bonn's earlier concerns about ‘inflexibility."  Nevertheless, according to Swidbert Schnippenkoetter, a senior official at the West German Foreign Ministry, his government would be reluctant to sign the document only when there was a "text which will cause a minimum of resentment."  A major problem was divining the intentions of Finance Minister Franz-Joseph Strauss, the leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU), a major element of the governing "Grand Coalition." Given Strauss's opposition to the Treaty, the Keisinger government wanted to avoid a "premature signature debate" that could "leave deep scars of resentment in the future."

Documents 20a and b: "An Affront to Brazilian Sovereignty":
Document 20a: U.S. State Department, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, "Intelligence Note-290, "Brazilian Opposition to NPT Draft Likely to Continue," 19 April 1968, Secret/No Foreign Dissemination
Document 20b: U.S. Department of State, Memorandum of Conversation, "Brazil's Attitude on NPT," 6 May 1968, Confidential

Among the countries that were openly critical of the NPT was Brazil. As this intelligence report shows, Brazil was not going to sign because of concerns about "restrictions on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy," but also because of widespread popular feeling that the treaty was an "affront to Brazilian sovereignty." No doubt making the Brazilian position worrisome to the Johnson administration was the "apparent confidence of the Foreign Ministry that it has … the support of enough UN members to block passage of the NPT."

A lengthy meeting between Secretary Rusk, Brazilian Foreign Minister Pinto, and other Brazilian and U.S. officials may have reduced U.S. apprehension that Brazil would try to block the NPT at the United Nations. Pinto and his colleagues assured the Americans that "Brazil would not proselytize against the NPT or seek amendments to it." While the Americans tried to assure the Brazilians that the Treaty would not restrict research into the peaceful use of nuclear energy, but that what Brazil wanted—a capability to manufacture "peaceful nuclear explosive devices"—would create a loophole in the NPT. The Brazilians made it evident that they were not going to sign a treaty that, according to Ambassador Araoju, would put his country "under a technological freeze for 25 years." In response to Brazilian observations that the draft NPT did not include any security assurances by the nuclear powers about "non-use" of nuclear weapons, ACDA director Foster suggested that Washington could not make non-use assurances because it would disturb alliance relations: "We do not enjoy the privilege of possessing nuclear weapons, but we were saddled with this whether we liked it or not and it affected our alliance commitments."

Document 21: Seeking Israel's Support
Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Memorandum to the President, "Letter to Prime Minister Eshkol on NPT," 19 April 1968, Secret

Besides the problem of the Brazilian and Indian stances toward the NPT, U.S. officials were especially concerned about the prospect of an Israeli bomb and its implications for the regional Middle East arms race and U.S.-Soviet competition. (Note 12) The intelligence community already suspected that Israel was very close to a nuclear weapons capability so getting Israel's support of the treaty at the UN General Assembly could be an important indication that it might not go further. To let Israel know that Washington wanted his government's support, Rusk suggested to President Johnson that sign a letter to Prime Minister Eshkol arguing that the "NPT is crucial to the ultimate security of Israel." For reasons that documents at the Johnson Presidential Library may elucidate, Johnson did not sign the proposed text; instead, the message went to Foreign Minister Eban as a letter from Rusk.

Document 22: The Joint Chiefs Oppose a Non-Use "Precedent"
Benjamin Read, Executive Secretary, U.S. Department of State, to the Secretary, "Your Luncheon Meeting with the President Today," 23 April 1968, with State Department and Joint Chiefs of Staff memoranda attached, Top Secret
Source: Source: RG 59, Executive Secretariat Agenda for the Secretary's Luncheon Meetings with the President, box 3

The discussion between George Bunn and Yuli Vorontsov had strongly suggested that Moscow and Washington would be unable to agree on non-nuclear use assurances but the issue had not yet gone away. Senior U.S. officials recommended to President Johnson that U.S. representatives be empowered to make non-use assurances during UN debates in order to strengthen international support for the Treaty. While Rusk and Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford believed that such assurances would not weaken the credibility of the U.S. nuclear deterrence, the Joint Chiefs of Staff worried that the proposed action would establish a "precedent that could lead to further restrictions on U.S. nuclear options." Worried about the impact of the non-use assurance on key European allies, Assistant Secretary of State John Leddy recommended that Rusk reserve "the final decision to state our non-use formula" only if the tactical situation at the UN required it. Because Moscow and Washington could not agree on specific non-use language, they would only back positive guarantees to non-nuclear states that did not belong to alliances.
Documents 23a and b: The Mexican Amendments
Document 23a: U.S. State Department cable 161473 to U.S. Mission, United Nations, New York, "NPT: Mexican Amendments," 10 May 1968, Secret
Document 23b: U.S. State Department cable 162528 to U.S. Mission, United Nation, New York, "Mexican Amendments to NPT," 11 May 1968, Confidential

During the final weeks of discussion at the United Nations General Assembly, a near-crisis situation emerged. What Washington wanted to avoid—new amendments to the Treaty--was happening: Mexico was offering a number of amendments that, State Department officials believed, would threaten the "delicate compromised worked out after months of arduous negotiations, in which Mexican views were fully taken into account." What Mexico proposed were amendments to Articles IV, V, and VI that U.S. officials believed were either unnecessary or impractical. For example, for Article VI on nuclear disarmament, the Mexicans proposed negotiations on substantive measures to halt the "manufacture and perfection" of nuclear weapons. Noting that the Treaty already calls for the "cessation of the manufacture of nuclear weapons," State Department officials believed that it was impractical to "halt manufacture of nuclear weapons or their improvement" unless measures for comprehensive and general disarmament were already in effect.  Moreover, verification would require "standing guard over every weapon."

To hold the line against the amendments, the State Department urged its representatives in New York to maintain a "common front" with the Soviets and to try to persuade other delegations that it amendments would be "most unwise," not least because "efforts at perfection can only jeopardize present achievements." Nevertheless, Washington could not win this one; the State Department had to make concessions and some of the changes in language that the Mexican government had sought, for example, in Articles IV and V, were reflected in the final treaty. (Note 13)

Document 24: "There Are Very Few People Who Truly Understand the Meaning of Nuclear War"
U.S. Department of State, Memorandum of Conversation, "Nonproliferation Treaty," 17 May 1968, 1:00-3:15 p.m., Secret
 [Also published in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, Vol. XI. Arms Control and Disarmament, document 239]

During this conversation, Secretary Rusk and Deputy Foreign Minister Kuznetsov emphasized the importance of continued cooperation on the Treaty and the problem of getting support from African and Latin American countries, as well as specific problem areas, such as West Germany and security assurances. Both Rusk and Kuznetsov suggested that a more flexible approach toward amendments might be in order: if they involved only "minor changes" and could ensure broader support for the Treaty, they could be accepted. On Brazil, Rusk was not too worried, noting that Pinto had told him that his country would not "press their amendment" on peaceful nuclear explosive devices. Another problem was South Africa; Washington would have to send technical experts to Pretoria to answer questions about the Treaty. Concerned that the West Germans were sowing "seeds of doubt" about the Treaty, the Soviets were considering public pressure, but Rusk advised against that. Even though the West German leaders were divided about the merits of the treaty, he believed that Bonn would sign it.

On security assurances, Rusk was clear that the United States would only agree to positive assurances (e.g., through the United Nations); a non-use statement was plainly not in the cards. Turning to the underlying concerns animating U.S. interest in the NPT, Rusk noted that only a "few people" in the United States "truly understand the meaning of nuclear war." That the Soviets also understood the danger, Kuznetsov declared, explained why Moscow assigned the "highest importance" to the NPT negotiations.

Documents 25a and b:  "A Mistake … to Make Clear to the Arabs That they Faced No Israeli Nuclear Threat"
Document 25a: U.S. Department of State cable 17706 to Embassy Tel Aviv, 6 June 1968, Secret, Exdis
Document 25b: Israeli Foreign Minister Eban to Secretary of State Rusk, 30 June 1968, Secret

That Israel voted for the UN resolution "commending" the NPT would make the Johnson administration hopeful that it would sign the Treaty. Nonetheless, a statement by Ambassador Yitzak Rabin to Undersecretary of State Eugene Rostow suggested that the prospects of such a signature were iffy. According to Rabin,"Israel believed that it would be a mistake … to make clear to Arabs that they faced no Israeli nuclear threat." Israel wanted this to be considered a "question mark" to provide more leverage in peace negotiations with the Arab states. The "problem was therefore a psychological one rather than [a] question of whether or not Israel should have nuclear weapons." Rabin did not probably not need to add that Israeli leaders believed that the desired psychological impact depended moving forward in developing a nuclear weapons capability.

A few weeks later, two months after Rusk sent his letter, Eban replied.  While supporting the principle of nonproliferation, Eban would not make a commitment to sign the Treaty. "National security [must] obviously be Israel's first concern." Israel had "special" sensitivities that made it made it necessary to consider carefully the long-term issues raised by the Treaty. For example, the NPT's twenty-five years duration posed problems and so did the fact that "the draft treaty cannot in itself give us a sense of assurance that nuclear weapons will never become available to our neighbors."

Document 26: "It May be Imprudent for Japan to Japan to Sign the Treaty In View of the Threat of Communist China"
U.S. Department of State, Memorandum of Conversation, "NPT," 6 June 1968, Secret

Japan, the only country that had experienced nuclear war, was going to support the treaty in the United Nations, but when Rusk asked Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Ushiba and Ambassador Shimoda whether their government would co-sponsor the resolution, the answer was negative. Shimoda observed that some Japanese thought that existence of a nuclear China made it ‘imprudent" to sign the treaty, even though the security relationship with Washington made a Japanese nuclear capability unnecessary. Apparently to make a Japanese signature possible, his government had to avoid co-sponsorship because it would make it appear that the "Government did not try to secure further changes in the treaty," such as the problem of inequality in safeguards arrangements (only non-nuclear states had to accept them). (Note 14)

Document 27: "Nuclear Pregnancy"
Memo from Henry Owen, Director, Policy Planning Council, to Secretary Rusk, "After NPT, What," 10 June 1968, enclosing Policy Planning Council study of the same title, 28 May 1968. Secret
Source: RG 59, Policy Planning Council Subject, Country, and Area Files, 1965-1968, box 384, Atomic Energy-Armaments

Two days before the United Nations General Assembly approved the NPT, Policy Planning Council chief Henry Owen sent to Rusk a think piece prepared by political scientist and nuclear proliferation scholar Richard Rosecrance. Looking squarely at the limitations of the Treaty, Rosecrance argued that even with it in force, "many countries" will face pressures to "go nuclear"; legally, they can reach a state of "nuclear pregnancy" by developing their "peaceful programs to the point where a bomb can be assembled and detonated in short order." Treaty sigories could stockpile fissile materials, experiment with fast reactor assemblies, experiment with implosion techniques using conventional explosives, and develop nuclear propulsion for warships, all of which would bring them closer to a nuclear capability. Washington had limited leverage to halt such practices,  Rosecrance believed, and the most important thing it could do was to maintain an overseas political and military presence: "A major retraction of that presence, an opting out, could bring a rapid spread of nuclear weapons to other powers," possibly including Japan and Australia. (Note 15)

Document 28: More Reassurances for Bonn
Secretary of State Rusk, Memorandum for the President, "Reaffirmation of NATO at the Time of Nonproliferation Treaty Signing," 11 June 1968, Secret

Besides making secret declarations about the Nuclear Planning Group, the Johnson administration went further to assure the Germans that the NPT would not impair their security interests. Worried about the possibility that the NPT might outlast the North Atlantic Treaty, West German officials "fear that this might deprive them of the [U.S] nuclear guarantee at a time when they would not be able to develop effective alternate means of deterring a nuclear attack." To ease those fears, Under Secretary of State Rostow proposed, and President Johnson approved, a statement reaffirming security guarantees embodied in U.S. mutual security treaties. President Johnson included such a statement during a speech at the treaty signing ceremony on 1 July 1968. (Note 16)

Documents 29a and b: "The Impulse toward a Safer World"
Document 29a:  State Department Cable 194569 to All Diplomatic Posts, 1 July 1968, Limited Official Use
Document 29b: U.S. Embassy Moscow Airgram A-1579 to Department of State, "NPT Signatories," 9 July 1968, Unclassified
Document 29c: London Embassy Airgram A-3985 to Department of State, "Signature of NPT," 2 July 1968, Limited Official Use

On 1 July 1968, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart, and Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, along with representatives of many other states, signed the NPT at ceremonies in Washington, London, and Moscow. In a speech that day, President Lyndon B. Johnson, declared that the "signing of this Treaty keeps alive and keeps active the impulse toward a safer world." (Note 17) More than 50 states signed the treaty at the three ceremonies, although  key states, including India, Pakistan, West Germany, Japan, Italy, Mexico, and Brazil, among others, abstained from the event, because they were either not ready to sign or refused to do so.

Documents 30a, b and c: "The Germans Had Practically Written the Treaty As it Stands Now"
Document 30a: U.S. Department of State Memorandum of Conversation, "Non-Proliferation (Part IV of V), 23 July 1968, Confidential
Document 30b: U.S. Department of State, Memorandum of Conversation, "Strauss and the NPT," 23 July 1968, Secret/Limdis
Document 30c: White House Memorandum for the Record, "The President's Meeting with German Defense Minister Schroeder, Wednesday, July 24, 1968, 5:30 p.m.," 25 July 1968, Secret
Source for 30c: Subject-Numeric Files 1967-1969, Pol 7 Ger W

Statements reaffirming NATO and the NPG did not satisfy influential West German politicians who continued to oppose the NPT.  During a visit to Washington in July, Finance Minister Strauss told Rusk that he supported the aims of the Treaty and agreed that West Germany "should not have a nuclear potential," but worried that it would give the Soviets "rights … for permanent intervention in Germany." He noted that in recent communications the Soviets had cited articles 53 and 107 of the UN Charter, which implied Strauss argued, that the Soviets believed they held a "right to use military means" against their vanquished World War II enemies. (Note 18) Strauss also worried that NPT ight discourage European unification because it might not leave open a nuclear option for European union. Confident that the Treaty left open such an option, Rusk observed that if West Germany did not sign "they would still be open to accusation" not only from the Soviets but from Western powers concerned about German intentions. That same day, Rostow learned from West German ambassador Knappstein that if Kiesinger signed the Treaty, Strauss and his supporters might leave the "Grand Coalition," which would cause a political catastrophe.

A few days later, President Johnson met with West German defense minister Gerhard Schroeder for policy discussions, including the pending issue of a consultative agreement with the FRG on nuclear weapons use.  When the NPT came up, Schroeder said that his government had problems to "thrash out." Johnson "jokingly" (but this may have indicated some irritation) observed that this was a "surprise since he understood the Germans had practically written the Treaty as it stands now." The reference to Czechoslovakia early in the discussion was portentous because the Soviet invasion the following month created a bad atmosphere for West German and Italian decisions to sign the NPT.
Document 31: "Unhappiness over the Treaty Runs Strong"
U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Intelligence Note-605, "Italian Parliament Gives Overwhelming Backing to NPT," 31 July 1968, Confidential/No Foreign Dissem/Controlled Dissem (Note 19)

Italy was another government with internal conflicts over the Treaty. While the Chamber of Deputies gave overwhelming support for the NPT in July 1968, "unhappiness over [it] runs strong, particularly among some elements in the ForeignMinistry." According to INR, some influentials in the government believed that a policy of "permanent nuclear abstinence" meant "permanent ‘second class' status for both Italy and the Italians." While INR opined that the parliament's recent action assured early signature and made ratification a "mere formality," Italy did not sign the treaty for another year and did not ratify it until 1975, when other EURATOM states had also ratified it. 

Document 32: The "Chain Reaction Effect"
U.S. Department of State, Secretary's Delegation to the Twenty-Third Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Memorandum of Conversation, "NPT (Part V of VIII)," 6 October 1968, Secret/Exdis

During a discussion between Rusk and Gromyko during the UN General Assembly, Soviet ambassador Malik raised questions about Japan, Brazil, Argentina, and Chile.  Rusk was not too worried about Japan and but foresaw delay by Brazil because Foreign Minister Pinto wanted a national capability for "the purpose of carrying out peaceful nuclear explosions."  Brazil's delay would, Rusk believed, lead to delays by Argentina and Chile.  The "chain reaction" effect, Malik and Rusk agreed, paralleled the India-Pakistan relationship.   As it turned out neither Argentina, Brazil, nor Chile ratified the Treaty until the 1990s. Brazil wanted to keep its options open and eventually developed an indigenous capability to produce nuclear weapons. (Note 20

Document 33: "Heavy Pressure" from Moscow on Japan
U.S. Embassy Tokyo cable 12829 to Department of State, 10 October 1968, Secret/Limdis

During a lunch meeting, Vice Foreign Minister Ushiba informed Ambassador U. Alexis Johnson that the Soviets were "bringing heavy pressure" on Tokyo to sign the Treaty. Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko and the Soviet Ambassador warned the Japanese, including Prime Minister Eisaku Sato, that "it would be a matter of serious security concern to the Soviets if Japan developed nuclear weapons." The previous year, Sato had made his famous declaration renouncing nuclear weapons, so it was a matter of course for Japanese officials to tell the Soviets that they had "no intention of developing nuclear weapon" and that Tokyo would sign the NPT; it was a matter of "timing." While Japan voted for the NPT in the UN General Assembly, and signed it in early 1970, it did not complete ratification for six more years.

Document 34: "This Treaty Serves Our National Interest"
 William C. Foster, Director, U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, to Executive Secretary Benjamin H. Read, "Basic Issues Regarding NPT and Timing of Ratification,'' 22 November 1968, Secret

The election of Richard Nixon to the presidency a few weeks earlier signaled an eventual shift in U.S. nuclear proliferation policy because the new president was not as strongly as committed to the goals of the NPT as President Johnson had been. In this background paper, answering questions posed by Read, Foster provided information that may have been used to brief Nixon's transition team. Whatever the origins of this document may be, Foster's paper provided background on the administration's purposes in pursuing the NPT, the Treaty's current status, as well as the U.S. debate, identifying critics, such as Edward Teller, and answering the objections to the NPT that had been raised. Arguing that the treaty "serves our national interest," Foster emphasized the need for early Senate ratification because "any substantial delay on our part will be taken by other key signatories as a sign of lack of US interest." No significant delay in U.S. ratification occurred, however; the Senate approved the treaty on 13 March 1969 by a vote of 83 to 15.  It took another year, however, before Richard Nixon signed the instrument of ratification.



1. For "diplomatic norm," see Joseph Cirincione, Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), 31-31.

2.  Fred Kaplan, "The Real Nuclear Option: The Nonproliferation Treaty is a Mess. We have to save it anyway." Slate, 3 May 2005.

3. Draft Position Paper, "Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons,"14 August 1968, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, Vol. XI. Arms Control and Disarmament, document 44.

4. Steven E. Miller,"Proliferation, Disarmament, and the Future of the Non-proliferation Treaty," in Morton Bremer Maerli and Sverre Lodgaard, eds., Nuclear Proliferation and International Security (London:Routledge, 2007), 50-69.  For a more sanguine view of the U.S. record under Article VI, see Christopher Ford, "Interpreting Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons," Nonproliferation Review 14 (2007):  401-428.

5. For the fuel cycle problem under the NPT, see for example, Nina Srinivisan Rathbun, "The Role of Legitimacy in Strengthening the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime," Nonproliferation Review 13 (2006), 235-237.

6. Maerli and Lodgaard, Nuclear Proliferation and International Security, 4; Etel Solingen, Nuclear Logics: Contrasting Paths in East Asia and the Middle East (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007), 266.

7. For a detailed account of the developing West German position toward the NPT, see Susanna Schraftstetter and Stephen Twigge, Avoiding Armageddon: Europe, the United States, and the Struggle for Nuclear Non-Prolfieration, 1945-1970 (Praeger: Westport, CT: 2004), 182-194.

8. See Foster-Dobrynin memcon, 2 November 1967, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, Vol. XI. Arms Control and Disarmament, document 214.

9. For more on the Indian position during the NPT debates, see George Perkovich, India's Nuclear Bomb: The Impact on Global Proliferation (Berkely: University of California Press, 1999), 125-145.

10. Nina Tannenwald, The Nuclear Taboo: The United States and the Non-use of Nuclear Weapons Since 1945 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 268-273.

11. See Jacques E. C. Hyman,  "Isotopes and Identity: Australia and the Nuclear Weapons Option: 1949-1999,"  The Nonproliferation Review, Spring 200, http://cns.miis.edu/pubs/npr/vol07/71/hym71.pdf, which includes extensive bibliographic citations  to the literature by Alice Cawte, Wayne Reynolds, and Jim Walsh, among others.

12. For more on the Israeli stance on the NPT during this period, see Avner Cohen, Israel and the Bomb (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998), 293-321.

13. Mohammed I. Shaker, The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: Origin and Implementation 1959-1979 (London: Oceana Publications, 1980), 383.

14. A prize-winning Japanese study on the NPT needs to be translated into English: Akira Kurosaki (St. Paul University, Tokyo): Kakuheiki to Nichi-Bei kankei: Amerika no kaku hukakusan gaiko to Nihon no sentaku, 1960-1976 [Nuclear Weapons and Japan-US Relations: US diplomacy of nuclear non-proliferation and Japan's choice, 1960-1976] (Tokyo: Yushisha, 2006).

15. For perhaps the first reference to this document, see Cohen, Israel and the Bomb, 299.  For some of the activities that U.S. officials believed were consistent with peaceful use,  see Rathbun, "The Role of Legitimacy in Strengthening the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime," Nonproliferation Review, 236.

16. "Remarks at the Signing of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty," 1 July 1968, Public Papers of the President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson, 1968-169, Part II (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1970), 763-765.

17. Ibid.

18. Schrafstetter and Twigge,Avoiding Armgeddon, 186.

19. Also needing translation into English is an important study of Italy and nuclear weapons during the Cold War: Leopoldo Nuti's La sfida nucleare. La politica estera italiana e le armi nucleari, 1945-1991, (Bologna: Il Mulino, 2007).

20. See "The Military Nuclear Program in Brazil" by Michael Barletta, Center for International Security and Cooperation,  March 1998.