Germany and the Origin and History of the NPT
The idea of creating a Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was born exactly thirty-five years ago, in February 1960, when the first French atomic bomb was detonated in the Sahara. For the first time in history, a country had developed its own bomb independently and against the will of the superpowers. Which country would follow? In 1960, the most probable atomic weapons candidate - feared by both East and West - was the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG).
The NPT - Bonn's Death Sentence?Between 1961 and 1974, German politicians from all parties fiercely protested the NPT. Konrad Adenauer called it a "Morgenthau plan raised to the power of two"(2) and a "death sentence" for the Federal Republic. Franz Josef Strauss considered the Treaty to be a "new Versailles of cosmic dimensions"(3) and Helmut Schmidt regarded it as "questionable". In 1967, the German newspaper BILD, with its massive circulation, poured nationalistic oil on the flames with headlines such as "Dictate of the Atomic Giants", "We Do Not Want to Become a Nation of Beggars", and "How to Clobber the Little Leaguers".
Such statements seem irrational. But the controversy over the NPT was to be the prototype of a conflict woven into the fabric of NATO from its very beginnings, and continuing to the present: on the one hand, the endeavours by the victorious Second World War powers to prevent an equal, i.e. nuclear, status for Germany; on the other hand, Germany's efforts to minimize the differences in its nuclear status with respect to France and the United Kingdom.
"West Germany holds a key position", wrote The New York Times in 1967, "since Western sources concede that the Soviet Union will not become a party to an agreement unless West Germany is a signatory."(4) This key position was fully exploited throughout the NPT controversy.
West Germany's main interests were:
The criteria that Bonn, because of Germany's special interests, set for accession to the Treaty became a yardstick for the conditions that had to be offered to all future signatories. This finding is important for a realistic evaluation of the NPT. How does the NPT's negotiation history affect the non-proliferation agenda today? I would like to answer this question with three examples.
The Plutonium IndustryThe most significant result of Germany's NPT diplomacy is probably the inclusion in the Treaty of Article IV, which demands that "all the parties to the Treaty undertake to facilitate, and have the right to participate in, the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy." Thus, the research, development, and production of components that could also be used in nuclear weapons are not limited or prohibited by the Treaty in any way.
It was the German position that the nuclear status quo should not be frozen but equalized in technological terms, and in particular, that the secret knowledge of the nuclear powers should be made available to the non-nuclear signatories of the Treaty. The fact that this would considerably increase the danger of nuclear proliferation was, at the same time, a good argument for preparing oneself for all contingencies by securing a "stand-by" program. In 1967, the American scientist Catherine M. Kelleher noted, after interviewing West Germany's nuclear policy elite, that there was definitely "some support for a "just-under-the-threshold" nuclear development program similar to that presently being attempted by India and, to a lesser degree, by Japan. This would foresee an acceleration and expansion of the present efforts, to the point where a shift-over to extensive plutonium production for military purposes was possible within a period perhaps as short as a month or even a week."(6) Viewed in this way, the NPT indeed "had a proliferation effect insofar as a number of states saw themselves confronted with the problem of ensuring a future option; and that this helped push the opinion-forming process in this direction", as Rudolf Botzian, a senior governmental adviser, wrote in 1967.(7)
This was exactly the logic behind the origin of the NPT. At the beginning of the controversy, the Irish Resolution of 1961 had urged the nations of the world to go further than rejecting the proliferation of nuclear weapons and also "not to place the information needed for their manufacture at the disposal" of non-nuclear states. Thus, in the end, one aim was achieved at the cost of the other. The Federal Republic of Germany had contributed greatly to this and had profited greatly as well. In 1970, when the Treaty took effect, the German government signed an agreement on the construction of uranium-enrichment facilities, and in that same year put its first national reprocessing plant into operation at Karlsruhe. Bonn's policies were motivated by national considerations, but they inevitably changed the policies of non-proliferation globally; the resultant proliferation of nuclear-weapons technologies changed the face of the world.
The European OptionThe founding of EURATOM - the European Atomic Energy Community - in 1957, was inextricably linked to France's atomic weapons project. In Bonn, too, EURATOM was regarded as a precondition for the development of a European, or a German, bomb. In September 1956, Adenauer had declared that he "wanted to achieve through EURATOM, as quickly as possible, the chance of producing our own nuclear weapons."(8) By the end of 1957, according to the memoirs of Franz Josef Strauss, a triangular cooperation between France, Germany, and Italy had been suggested by then French Defense Minister Jacques Chaban-Delmas to produce nuclear warheads. The plan was discussed in minute detail and in secrecy, and signed by the defense ministers of the three countries. Immediately after Charles de Gaulle became President of France, however, he discarded the plan.
There has always been a link between the European Option and the dual nature of Germany's atomic energy development, which allows for commercial uses and includes a stand-by program for military purposes. In 1972, Dieter Mahncke, who later held a position of responsibility in the Ministry of Defense, conceded that the extension of "a powerful civilian nuclear industry (including the resulting military alternatives) is of importance even before the actual production of atomic weapons; the ability to produce nuclear weapons will considerably whet the interest of existing Nuclear Weapon States to prevent, jointly, the establishment of another independent nuclear power. Thus, there is a certain diplomatic value in the technical and economic ability to produce nuclear weapons."(9)
The option of a European nuclear force was the focus of the debate on ratification of the NPT in the German Bundestag in 1974. To quote the speaker of the Social Democrats, "The Treaty keeps the European Option open. Therefore, we will agree to the Treaty."(10) A statement by the German government on the ratification of the NPT declares that the FRG was prepared to accede to the NPT only on the condition that "no regulation of the Treaty be interpreted in such a way that it would hamper the further development of European integration, especially in the establishing of a European Union with its corresponding areas of competency"(11). In sharp contrast to the United States' interpretation of the NPT - which permits the transfer of British and French nuclear weapons to European control only after the establishment of a European Union which fully integrates foreign and security policies(12) - the official German interpretation additionally defines all the intermediate stages on the road to becoming a European nuclear power as being in conformity with the NPT.
The Safeguards QuestionAt a West German governmental committee meeting in February 1967, Germany's negotiation targets with regard to the safeguards question were summarized as follows: "Abolition of the control clause. Should a control clause be unavoidable (...), permanent safeguarding of EURATOM interests. Concerning control procedures (...), as few inspectors as possible; modern automatic control devices instead at important points in the nuclear fuel cycle (black boxes on chimneys)."(13))
In April 1967, during bilateral NPT negotiations between the United States and the FRG, a member of the German delegation, Wolf Häfele, was given a mandate to formulate texts on the principle of fissionable materials controls. Parts of these texts were later included in the preamble of the Treaty without any change to their wording; for example, "safeguarding effectively the flow of source and special fissionable materials by use of instruments and other techniques at certain strategic points". These new control arrangements, which were worked out during week-long negotiations in Washington, were not at all compatible with the then current regulations of the IAEA.
It is said that IAEA officials were thunderstruck when, during a meeting in Vienna, an American member of the delegation, Ben Huberman, made the results of the German-American talks public as the new, standardized NPT regulation.(14)The initial protests of those responsible in the IAEA were bluntly rejected by the Americans, with the observation that the purpose of the IAEA was not to serve itself but rather its member states.
The Häfele concept of controls was pure fiction, particularly for those facilities involving plutonium. Throughout the negotiations, however, Bonn insisted that the assignment of inspectors, and their rights, be reduced to a minimum. Bonn had made its ratification of the NPT dependent not only upon maintaining the EURATOM safeguards system but also upon the acceptance of the Häfele doctrine. In West Germany's interpretation of the NPT in 1969, it is said that the government insisted "that safeguards (...) be applied only to source materials, especially fissionable materials, and in accord with the principle of an effective securing of the flow of fissionable material at certain strategic points."(15) Although other threshold powers were also interested in having the least rigid controls possible, Bonn can still claim authorship of the following points of Article III: dispensing with facility inspections; anchoring the principle of safeguards on fissionable materials flows at strategic points; and acknowledgement of the EURATOM safeguards system.
During the Sixties and Seventies, the FRG significantly influenced the negotiation and interpretation of the NPT. This led not only to great delays but also to a considerable weakening of the Treaty's most important articles.
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